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How to Build a Deck Ramp for Wheelchairs

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Adding a wheelchair-accessible ramp to your outdoor deck is necessary for those who need it. This can make your deck safer and easier for everyone to use. Even older pets will prefer to walk on the ramp rather than climb the stairs. Wooden or composite-material ramps are a good choice over prefabricated metal ramps because they can be made in many different ways. Whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor, a custom ramp will also match your outdoor deck better than a prefabricated ramp.

Materials and tools needed to build a ramp

Depending on the size and shape of the ramp, the type and amount of materials needed will vary. For example, you may want your deck boards and steps to look the same, or you may want to add lights to the ramp. Use this list as a reference to make your own.

  • 4×4 pressure-treated lumber or composite decking
  • 2×6 pressure-treated lumber or composite decking
  • 2×4 pressure-treated lumber or composite decking
  • composite decking boards or wood decking
  • Non-slip tread tape
  • Column bases
  • Anchor bolts
  • Post-pour anchor bolts
  • ½” x 7″ carriage bolts
  • 1/2″ x 6″ carriage bolts
  • 3/8″ x 4″ lag screws
  • 2-1/2″ galvanized deck screws
  • Joist hangers and fasteners
  • Concrete mix
  • Tubular concrete forms
Build a Deck Ramp for Wheelchairs

If you like to build your own DIY projects, you probably already have most of the tools you need to build a wheelchair ramp. If not, please refer to the list below to prepare these tools.

  • Hand saw
  • Hammer
  • Drill and driver bits
  • Chalk line
  • Framing cubes
  • Goggles
  • 4-inch level
  • Gloves
  • Chisel
  • Screwdriver
  • Circular saws
  • Sockets and ratchet wrenches
  • Masonry line
  • Leveling lines
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel
  • Back hole excavator
  • Lead hammer
  • Column leveler
  • Cement mixer/mixing basin

How to build a wheelchair ramp at home

Get a building permit or approval

In most cases, if you want to add a wheelchair ramp to your outdoor deck, you will need a building permit. This may mean you have to present drawn plans and perhaps wait for a site visit before you can begin. Get as much information as possible from building officials and local building codes, as these rules will affect how you build and what materials you use. Most homeowners associations will also have rules and standards.

Measuring the size of the ramp

When making a wheelchair ramp that follows ADA rules, there are some important measurements to keep in mind. These include the minimum width of the ramp, the maximum slope, and the height of the handrail.

At its narrowest point, which is usually from the railing to the handrail, the ramp must be at least 36 inches wide. In practice, this means that the ramp deck must be at least 42 inches wide, as each handrail must be at least 1.5 inches from any surface. There must be one handrail on each side of the ramp, 34 to 38 inches from the ramp surface. For larger handrails, the ramp deck must be larger.

Deck Ramp for Wheelchairs

Depending on your plans, the path of the ramp may require a 60″ x 60″ step. Similar space must be available on the ground floor and in front of the door in order to be ADA compliant. In most cases, the existing deck gives you plenty of room at the front door, but make sure the steps from the deck to the front door opening are no more than 3/8″

Measure the height of the ramp to figure out how long your ramp will be. This is the height from where the ramp starts at ground level to where it stops at the edge of the deck. The number of inches of rise equals the number of feet of the run according to the ADA-approved 1:12 scale. If the ramp is longer than 30 feet, or if it is done differently, it requires a landing that is 60 inches x 60 inches from the handrail to the handrail.

Planning a ramp

Look online for a wheelchair ramp style you like. Then design a design that is similar but fits your deck. You must decide if you want to build the ramp on a staircase or otherwise connect it to the deck. If the space is small or the deck is high, the ramp may need to curve or need go around the deck.

Other things to consider are whether the posts should be on the inside or outside of the ramp frame, what kind of fence to use, and how to position it from the ramp to the ground. Plan ahead and take your time. It’s easier to fix mistakes on paper than it is to move posts that are already set in concrete.


Selecting materials

For posts and frames that go into the ground, use pressure-treated lumber that can make contact with the ground. Find this information on a label made of plastic, which is attached to the end of the boards. To put these pieces together, use hot-dipped steel nails or exterior-grade structural screws. Make sure the joist hangers can be used outdoors and can be used with pressure-treated lumber.

Of course, you can also choose to use composite decking material. This material is strong and durable and has better resistance to mold and moisture than pressure-treated lumber. By choosing composite decking material, you can make your outdoor deck last longer.

Placement of signs

Use batter board and mason’s twine to make a square grid using the 3-4-5 method. You can use one or more sides of the current deck. Use a lead hammer and writing paint to show where to dig post holes or lay foundations.

Wheelchairs Decking-Ramp

Dig the holes to the proper level or set the footings and have someone check them if needed. You can put 4″ x 4″ posts in the holes with the concrete, or you can level the concrete and attach the posts with post brackets and concrete screws after the concrete has been set. You can also put the anchor bolts into the wet concrete and then put in the post clamps after the concrete has dried. Placing cardboard tubes in the holes will make it easy to level the concrete.

Always put the end of a post that was not cut at the factory into the hole. In fact, if you cut treated lumber, you should never put the side that was cut into the ground without first putting in a wood preservative. This is because the treatment performed at the mill only penetrates deep into the wood. Cover the tops of uncovered posts with covers, or cut them at an angle so that water can run off them.

Build the frame structure

Most of the time, it’s faster to build the ramp sections first and then secure them to the supports. After putting the framed sections together, get some help to put them in place. If your ramp goes through the deck steps, you will need to cut notches in the stringers so that the end of the ramp is flush with the deck surface. The depth of each hole will depend on how steep the ramp is, how high the steps are, and how thick the deck boards are. Try to place the crossbeam between the stringers where the handrail posts are located. This way, you can use antler bolts to hold the posts in place on both sides and at the bottom.


Adding Deck Boards

No matter what kind of wood you choose, the ramp should not be slippery in any weather. If you want to use wood deck boards, you should ask the company that makes them if they can be used for ADA ramps. If they are not, you can add “grab strips” (non-skid wheel straps) to make them compliant.

If the boards are treated and then dried in a kiln, leaving a 1/8″ gap between them. If your boards are still wet from the sealer, you should close the space between them by 1/16 inch. If the boards are dry and light, leave 14 inches of space between them. Lay the deck boards with the bark side up and drill pilot holes so the wood won’t break. Don’t worry too much about making sure the ends of the deck boards are flat. Draw a line with chalk after laying them down and then cut the ends so they are flush.

Don’t use plywood for ramp decking. It’s too slippery when it’s wet or cold, and it cracks or rots more easily than room-temperature wood.

Adding Railings

To be ADA compliant, handrails must be at least 1.5 inches in diameter, have at least 36 inches of horizontal space between them, be placed between 34 inches and 38 inches above the ramp deck, and run continuously from the top to the bottom of the ramp. Simple stairs made of wood or metal that you can buy off the shelf are easy to place, at least along straight sections. When the ramp changes direction and the railing must turn, it becomes more difficult. You can get a more professional look and save time with a handrail kit. They sell parts that are easy to assemble, shortening the time it takes to install.


If the ramp is 30 inches or more above the ground, you must add horizontal boards or vertical rails between the posts. The boards or rails should not be more than 4 inches apart. The appearance of the ramp can also be improved by adding railings.

How much does it cost to build a ramp?

Building a wooden wheelchair ramp yourself will cost you the cost of materials plus the value of your time. To figure out the cost of the goods, simply add up the prices of the things on your list. If you build an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp out of wood using simple materials and a simple plan, it will cost $40 to $50 per foot. If you add lighting, railings, or other architectural features, the cost will go up.

It’s more difficult to guess how much time you’ll need. It depends on the size and shape, how skilled you are, and how much help you get. The longer it takes to build a ramp, the larger it will be. Installing a wheelchair ramp on uneven ground or in a small area can be difficult.

Of course, if you’re not too keen on building your own DIY ramp, you can hire a contractor. Any contractor who knows how to build a deck should be able to build a wheelchair ramp on your deck. ADA-compliant wooden wheelchair ramps can cost between $100 and $250 per square meter.

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