Wheelchair ramps provide access to those who can’t use stairs to get into their home. Not all houses come with wheelchair access, though, which means that you might have to build your own ramp to give yourself or a loved one the independence to come and go as they please.
Although building a wheelchair ramp may seem like it would take a long time to master, the building process is actually not too difficult. However, you must have the correct permits and ensure that your structure is up to code. So, learning how to build your ramp the right way is imperative.
This article will go over the steps of legally building the wheelchair ramp you need for your home so you’ll have everything you need before building. From the permits to the materials used, we will go over all that you’ll need to know before starting your project.
Check Your Permits
Depending on where your home is, there are permits that must be secured before any work can be done. There are usually certain specifications that ensure the ramp is up to code and is of the correct size and weight to be safe for others. Plus, if permits are not handled beforehand, this could cause you to have to tear your work down later.
NoVA Building Codes
The building codes in your area may differ if you are part of a Homeowners Association (HOA), and each city may have their own sets of rules to abide by. In addition to ensuring that your ramp is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you also need to check your building codes and make sure you aren’t unknowingly breaking any rules.
Plan Your Design and Materials
To start your wheelchair ramp, you need to have a plan to work with. Because you are adding this ramp onto a building that is already there, you will need to work around the space limits and items that could be in the way.
Some homes have front porches that you can build the ramp off of, but if you have stairs that could be an issue, then planning a way to get rid of them or work around them will be necessary. You will also want to decide on the slope of the ramp and determine what materials will be used to create this ramp.
If the primary user is the owner of the house, then building a sturdy option that is permanent might be the safest way to build it. However, if you have a parent or guest who visits every so often, then having a ramp that is removable may work better for your home.
You also want to think about which entrance you will attach the ramp to. If your front door has lots of landscaping and stairs in the way, then opting for a ramp on the backdoor may make more sense. If you have an entryway on the side of your house, then you may want to place the ramp there for an easier construction job.
Going with the path of least resistance may be better for new builders, so choosing to add to an entryway that has the most space available will likely be your best choice.
Consider Spatial Limits
One of the biggest issues with building a wheelchair ramp is the limited space you may have to deal with. If your home is low to the ground, this may not be much of a problem. However, if you have stairs or concrete steps that lead up to the front door, then working with the existing items will be tricky.
Also, the length of the ramp should be considered before you start building to ensure that you have room for the ramp you want. Having a long U-shape may look nice, but if your yard doesn’t have the space for the entire ramp, you could end up redoing some of it if this isn’t figured out before the ramp construction.
Not all ramps are straight. If you have a smaller space, going with a U-shape option might be the best way to accommodate the length and width needed for a proper ramp. This allows you to fit a longer ramp into a shorter space. Also, if your home is raised or the patio sits higher off the ground, then you will need a longer ramp to make it safe for wheelchair access.
If you make the ramp too steep, it could be unsafe for the user and defeat the purpose of building it in the first place. So, extending the shape outward may allow you to have the length needed without taking up too much space.
What’s the Right Size for You
Along with the building codes and permits that tell you what the options are for your home, you will also need to make sure the ramp is the right size for your home. You don’t want to build the ramp too big and take up space if the user has plenty of room to navigate. You also don’t want to make it too small for you or your guest to be able to use it.
So, what is the right size? It may be best to stick with average measurements for wheelchair ramps to start. This means that you will need to build the ramp at least 36 inches wide – this includes the railing; without the railing, the ramp should be 42 inches wide – with a rise or slope that is not exceeding 30 inches in height.
The length will be determined by the rise of the ramp, but it is typically no more than a 1:12 ratio. This means that if the porch of the house is 12 inches off the ground, you will need a ramp that is twelve feet long to account for the slope.
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Knowing how to build a wheelchair ramp is not common knowledge, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult task to finish. With the instructions and tips from this article, you will be able to construct your ramp in no time. If you run into any problems along the way, give Dirt Connections a call to get advice or get a free estimate!