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How-To Guide

How to Build a Handicap Ramp

 Updated on: December 16th, 2021

How to Build a Handicap Ramp

As the population ages and longer lives become more commonplace thanks to advances in medical science, the need for handicap-accessible spaces becomes all the more pressing. Public spaces are required to comply with guidelines laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but to ensure you or your loved ones can comfortably age in place you may need to make some modifications to your home as well to ensure greater mobility.

For this reason we have a number of modular ramps in stock for our customers to take advantage of, and they lead the market for a number of reasons. Aluminum ramps in particular are quite popular; this lightweight metal can be a godsend for people who have trouble moving bulky items around.

In addition, ADA requirements can be complex to navigate. Questions about angles, slopes, and other criteria can be tough to follow when taking on a DIY project.

However, building your own handicap ramp is still a possibility for avid DIY enthusiasts. Read on for more tips about how to build your own home handicap ramp.

Supplies

  • Belt sander
  • Level
  • Framing nailer (nail gun)
  • Power drill
  • Circular saw
  • Chop saw
  • Masonry bit
  • Galvanized roofing nails (necessary to withstand harsh weather)
  • Shims
  • Pressure-treated wood boards (varies by the size of your project, also pressure-treated wood is absolutely necessary if the ramp is to be used outdoors)

Steps

Cut Frame Pieces

Keep in mind that the ADA says any platform (think of a landing on a ramp or staircase) needs to be at least 5’x5’. This size is required because it allows wheelchairs to easily and safely turn around if they need to. Use your chop saw to cut the pieces to the appropriate sizes. Getting all of your wood cut at this stage (doublecheck and trust all of your measurements!) gives you the chance to save quite a bit of time later in the process.

Create the Frame

Your ramp’s frame should be thought of as a “skeleton” upon which the boards will be laid that will actually support your weight. Build this part carefully, as it will set the tone for the rest of the project, and don’t forget to add cross joists for additional stability.

Place the Frame

Once you’ve completed building the frame, add it flush along the edge of the doorway and make sure that it’s level in all directions. Again, don’t forget that anything you do early on will affect the rest of the project, so make sure that everything is squared away. If things are out of level, simply add some shims here and there until everything is straight. This can frequently involve a degree of trial and error but trust your level to point you in the right direction.

Attach Frame to Building

Now is the time to break out your framing nailer. Attach the ramp to the house using a nail about every 8 inches to ensure that you have a suitable amount of support and strength.

Add Ramp Supports

This next part is tricky; you need to use your saw to cut angled pieces of wood that are going to make up the actual ramp. These are difficult cuts, as they need to be angled down to a point to allow for an angle to form. Once you’ve cut three of these, attach them to the side of the landing frame.

Add the Deck Planks

Finally, use additional boards to start building the actual deck surface. Use the framing nailer to attach these boards to the frame. It’s okay if there’s some overhang. Once they’re all attached, go back through with the circular saw and trim off all of the excess wood from deck planks that’s hanging over the edges, and you’re done!

If you decide to go the DIY route, remember you’ll need to frequently consult ADA specifications (which can be confusing) as you’re working, and you’ll likely need at least one or two other people for at least a few of the steps.

If you wish to significantly simplify the process of modifying your home, consider purchasing a modular ramp from our collection. Take the first steps now to make your home more comfortable for aging in place.