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Part 5 — Building A Home Wheelchair Ramp: Making A Plan And Ordering Materials

Now that we’ve reviewed the characteristics of building a home wheelchair ramp — including important safety features — it’s time to draw up a plan and order materials.

For our purposes, let’s assume we’re going to build a ramp that covers 29-feet of sloped surface, including two level landings that will each be 58″ by 98 1/2″.

To cover the length needed, two 116″ modules (joists with ramp surfacing) and two 58″ modules will be constructed.

Draw an overhead view of the wheelchair ramp and make several copies.

On the first copy, determine the number of landings and modules needed. Describe the materials needed for the ramp.

Begin a materials list, keep a separate page for each landing and module ordered so that during construction pieces can be matched to their intended purpose.

On the next copy of your overhead view, determine the number of support structures needed and describe the materials needed.

You can estimate how long each 4×4 needs to be by adding 34″ to the distance between the wheelchair ramp surface and the ground for each post location.

Remember that the legs of the posts do not have to be equal in length. Also, if you are placing 4x4s in the ground for handrail support at the bottom of the ramp, add at least 2′ for each sunken 4×4.

Determine the 2x6s needed for the cross-supports for the landings and modules. Add this material to your list.

Now determine if 2×4 diagonal bracing is needed, keeping in mind that diagonal bracing is needed when the top of the cross support is more than 21″ off the ground, and that diagonal bracing is needed on each side of the 4×4 support posts.

Also, determine the number of gussets you will need and the number of 1′ x 1′ plywood pads needed for the base of the support posts (32 1′- square pads can be made from a 4×8 sheet of 3/4″-thick plywood).

Determine the number of 3/8″ carriage bolts needed to connect modules and wheelchair ramp landings together (three per connection.)

To determine number of 1/2″ carriage bolts, remember 4×4’s with diagonal bracing require 10″ bolts, 4×4’s with gussets require 8″ bolts, and 4×4’s bolted to only one cross support require 6″ bolts.

The next step is to determine the dimensions for the guardrail/handrail. Decide if you are going to use plowed 2×6 for the top handrail or if you will have a 1 1/2″-round handrail.

On the overhead, view of the ramp determine the lengths needed for the guardrail. You should have an equal number of 2x6s and 2x4s. Use the longest possible continuous 2×6 for your top railing.

The last step is to determine the amount of lumber for steps or boardwalks that might be needed.

You are now ready to combine all of the lumber needed onto one materials order form.

Keep the individual component sheets to refer to during construction. This will reduce the chance of using the wrong lumber for a particular component.

Materials form and construction images:

Here’s a sample materials order form for a wheelchair ramp project.

Here’s construction instructions to build a 58″-long x 42″-wide ramp module.

Here’s construction instructions to build a 116″-long x 42″-wide wheelchair ramp module.

Here’s construction instructions for a tall wheelchair ramp support structure (posts and bracing) for 42″-wide ramp modules.

Here’s construction instructions for a shorter wheelchair ramp support structure (posts and bracing) for 42″-wide ramp modules.