Where Will You Need The Ramp?
Knowing where you need to have the ramp is one of the first questions you should answer. Before you shop for a wheelchair ramp, spend considerable time mapping out all of the places around the home where it would be appropriate for you to have it built.
It’ll likely replace steps, and you will have to build over raised thresholds or other barriers that stand between the sidewalk and your home.
Are there any steps leading to the front or back entry doors? Which of these is more accessible?
If you have steps from your garage into your home, consider that you will have to build over these obstacles.
Any doors with raised thresholds or lips will have to be built over as well. In some cases, you may have to modify or replace the entryway door.
If there’s a threshold between the floor and the shower in your bathroom, you will want an interior ramp so that you can safely walk into and out of your bathroom and the bathtub, specifically.
How Long a Ramp Do You Need?
It’s likely that you will need a professional to help you assess just how much ramp you need. For a 1-inch rise, you will need a 12-inch run at 4.8 degrees. The exact number of inches in total vertical height is going to be equal to the number of feet in length you need. So, if you have two 5-inch high steps that you need to build a ramp over, you would need to account for 10 inches total in height.
This means that you’d need a 10-foot long ramp to the entry.
For a 2-inch rise, and a 9.5 degree angle, you will need to calculate the ramp distance by dividing the total vertical height in inches by 2. So, a 2-inch :12-inch ramp is the largest that should be installed, which includes portable ramps used by occupied wheelchairs and scooter systems.
Many wheelchair ramps can be built to these specs, but you should verify the building parameters before you have a contractor start on the project.
If you need a 3-inch rise for a 14.5 degree angle, divide the total vertical height in inches by 3. Then, take that number as the steepest incline that your ramp should have. It should never be used by wheelchairs or scooters as the incline is too steep and is unsafe for that use.
Tips For Placing a Ramp On A Home Entrance
If you’re planning on installing a ramp to the front entryway, consider putting up an awning to cover the entrance. Keep the ramp angle low, and the threshold low as well – less than ½ of an inch.
Consider installing wider doors – at least 32 inches in width, with a swing-away hinge to allow a wider access for wheelchairs, strollers, scooters, and other mobility devices.
Consider installing lever-style door handles instead of knobs, which are easier to use and operate, especially as you get older.
Install an easy-to-reach lock that’s user-friendly. Many home automation systems now allow smartphone accessible locks, along with other home automation features that let you control virtually everything and anything in the home.
Another thing to consider installing is non-slip surfaces on steps and ramps, a peep hole at the appropriate level so you can see outside without having to open the door, curb cuts and ramps at the driveway to make it easier to navigate your way to your entryway, a highly visible street number and doorbell, and adequate lighting.
When building your ramp, it should ideally have a 1:20 rise and run if it’s outside (exterior ramp to an entryway or garage), and a 1:12 rise and run for interior ramps.
Any landings of 60 inches by 60 inches should be well supported and, if the ramp warrants it, make sure you do install a landing instead of one long ramp. At either end, you should also have landings to allow for safe turnaround and stopping.
The ramps should be at least 36-inches wide with an anti-slip surface.
There should be handrails on either side, even if you don’t use them, for safety.
There should also be soil filled around the ramp to eliminate drop-off points. Again, this is for safety.
Roy Dickan graduated from Purdue University with a degree in industrial management. He has established businesses that include home building, remodeling, and ambulatory assistance. Mr. Dickan currently resides in the greater Raleigh, NC area.