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Building Home Wheelchair Ramp — Part 1

How do you build a wheelchair ramp for your home? First of all, decide the type of ramp that best fits your budget, your home and the person using it.

View an example of a “post-and-beam” home wheelchair ramp:
Option 1: Berming

Berming is basically constructing a ramp with concrete, blacktop, patio blocks or even treated wood decking. The grade along the path is built up with dirt or sand..then a wheelchair-ready walkway is made from the above materials. As long a the total rise doesn’t exceed 18-inches from the origin point (driveway, street, sidewalk) to the home entry (front door, patio), berming can be an economical way to build a compliant, wheelchair-accessible ramp to a house. Anything more than an 18-inch rise usually calls for a permanent, framed structure.

Option 2: Solid Construction

Solid construction for a wheelchair ramp usually involves a ramp made out of concrete to create a one-piece structure. While these are infrequently used at homes, solid construction wheelchair ramps are the most stable. They can, however, be among the most costly options.

Option 3: Post-And-Beam

A majority of home wheelchair ramps are of the “post-and-beam” construction type. These structures are typically built with wooden framing, supported by posts.

First, the posts. One option is to sink posts vertically into the ground — below the frost line — into holes filled with sand, gravel or concrete. The other option is to pour concrete into the hole and install an anchoring bracket on top, into which the posts are bolted.

As for the wheelchair ramp itself, horizontal beams are attached between the posts to frame the perimeter of the structure, which will include not only the ramp itself — but landings as well. The surface of the ramp is attached to joists that are installed at right angles to the beams.

When it’s time to attach the lumber to the joists, lay, for example, 2×6’s perpendicular to the director of travel, spaced with a slight gap (about 1/4-inch) through which rain, snow and dirt can fall.

As for the type of wood used in this project, it should be naturally resistant to decay (redwood or cedar, for example), or treated with chemical preservatives.

The width of a “post-and-beam” wheelchair ramp can range from 36-inches to 48-inches, depending on the personal assistance or mobility equipment involved. 36-inches may be appropriate for someone walking or using a cane, crutches, or a walker. For someone using a wheelchair, 42-inches to 48-inches is appropriate. That’s also an acceptable distance for two people walking side-by-side.

Next: Why is slope critical?