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Let’s Build a Ramp: Ramp Installation Information for the Accessible Home

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One of the key home modifications that can increase accessibility for individuals with mobility challenges is the installation of an accessibility ramp. Ramps can remove the physical burden of stairs in and around a home, including for wheelchair users. Currently, there are approximately 2.7m wheelchair users in the US and this number is projected to grow significantly due to increased longevity and the growing aging population. We will cover ramp costs—both core and ancillary—as well as design and materials considerations and insights on ramp improvements.

Where to start?

To start, prices for ramp installation vary based on location, labor, materials, and design, but the national average cost ranges from $1,400 to $3,000 (source: Fixr, Homeadvisor). When planning for ramp installation, think first about the location of the ramp and its use. These two answers will guide your design decision making process and help determine what additional attributes to consider. Below we’ll dive deeper into five key areas to consider –location, frequency of use, and length, materials, and type — when designing the perfect ramp to meet your needs.

What are the standard ADA requirements for a wheelchair ramp?

Before getting into specifics, it’s helpful to understand some key concepts and terms. This section serves as an introduction to the American Disability Association (ADA) standards for a ramp. The ADA Standards are based on minimum guidelines set by the Access Board. Image 1 below outlines each section of ramp requirements that should be included in your design. Two key considerations of design are the running slope and the cross slope. The running slope is a proportional measure of the vertical rise of the horizontal length of the ramp (Image 2). The slope can be expressed in degrees, a percentage, or pitch. It is critical that the running slope is uniform and consistent along the length of the ramp as any variations in slope can impede the experience and use of the ramp. The cross slope is the width of the ramp, perpendicular to the direction of travel. The cross slope is critical as to ensure the ramp isn’t too narrow and it’s easier to transition to a flat service from the ramp.

accessible ramp requirements
Image 1. (Source: American Disability Association Accessibility Standards)
Image 2. Depiction of running slope of ramp

How should I decide the location of the ramp in my home?

Where the ramp is installed in the home will be user-specific, and can be determined by answering the question “what barrier is the ramp user looking to reduce?”. Ramps can be installed between two rooms in a home to increase movement, in the garage, out the front or back door, and many more places, depending on the user’s needs.  

When installing a ramp inside, typical choices for ramp material type are aluminum, rubber, and steel. Outdoor ramps will consist primarily of aluminum, concrete, steel, and wood. The material used for outdoor ramps may differ by use case, but the key considerations are that the ramp is always safe and can withstand the weather (e.g., precipitation, heat, etc.) in the local area. We’ll cover additional considerations around materials below.  As stated above, the primary driver of cost is the length of the ramp and then the material type. Though outdoor ramps can range from 10 to 40ft, indoor ramps are typically no longer than 4ft.

How frequently will this ramp be used?

After a user has decided where a ramp should be located, the next step is to evaluate how frequently the ramp will be used. Normally, a daily average will help the user and the home modification provider determine the weekly, monthly, and yearly impact to the ramp. Though the location will determine the possible length the ramp can be, the location of the ramp is also critical to the frequency of use of the ramp. As much as the front door may seem like the location a ramp is used the most frequently, in our user reviews, a ramp from the garage to inside the home was used more. This is the case for both primary wheelchair users and caregivers.

What safe materials can I use for a wheelchair ramp?

Determining the material to use for a ramp is a critical decision that should be made early in the design process with a home modification provider. Beyond the sturdiness of the ramp, it’s critical to assess the frequency of use, weather-conditions (if outside), and cost of the material. Ramp materials are priced by material per linear foot (Table 1).

MaterialAverage Cost per Linear Foot (Materials Only)
Rubber$50 - $175
Wood$125 - $300
Aluminum$160 - $350
Concrete$225 - $400
Steel$200 - $400
Table 1. Ramp material costs (Source, Fixr Cost Estimator, Home Depot)
Rubber
Rubber is the most affordable material for a wheelchair ramp. The main use cases for a rubber ramp are mini-ramps and short distance (e.g., less than 3 ft) threshold ramps. Though affordable, rubber is not recommended for wheelchair ramps or long distances as the material is NOT made to withstand heavy weight. In homes, due to its non-stick surface and ease of cleaning, users may use rubber ramps for shower entrances, between rooms and side exits.

Wood
Wood is a top choice for many home modification providers when building a ramp based on its affordability, availability, and ease in installation. The main consideration for wood ramps is the upkeep by users. Typical wear and tear will happen, but the primary issue that adversely effects a wood ramp is when the wood rots or warps. It’s recommended that wood ramps have primer and slip-resistant coating used to increase traction applied annually.

 

Aluminum

If a user prefers a metal ramp, aluminum is a common choice due to its light weight, strength, and low maintenance. Also, many home improvement stores sell pre-built aluminum ramps! Over time, it’s critical to assess the aluminum ramp for structural damage, which can be a bend in the metal, loose nuts or bolts, or an uneven surface on the running or cross slope of the ramp.

Concrete

If a user desires a long-term solution, in the range of 10 to 20 years, many will decide on concrete as their material of choice for their ramp. Concrete ramps are aesthetically pleasing to homeowners, as they match driveways, porches, and the home’s design. Moreover, concrete ramps are normally the most durable, weather-resistant, and least expensive to keep up. The downside of a concrete ramps is the upfront cost, as labor for setting concrete can be expensive. Additionally, the installation time for a concrete ramp can be longer than for other ramp materials.

Steel

Steel is another durable material for ramps. Due to its texture, steel ramps have built-in traction and dry easily, which is why many use the material for outdoor ramps. Though similar in cost to concrete, steel is not as permanent of an option as concrete, making it easier to remove. Due to the nature of metal, steel runs the risk of rust and corrosion, so the upkeep is a consideration should a user choose this material.

What types of wheelchair ramps are available?

Determining the material to use for a ramp is a critical decision that should be made early in the design process with a home modification provider. Beyond the sturdiness of the ramp, it’s critical to assess the frequency of use, weather-conditions (if outside), and cost of the material. Ramp materials are priced by material per linear foot (Table 1).

Ramp TypesAverage Cost (Labor Included)
Threshold$100 - $1,350
Portable$100 - $3,500
Modular$500 - $4,000
Semi-Permanent$1,250 - $3,000
Permanent$1,400 - $3,500
Custom$2,000 - $8,000
Threshold

If a doorframe is higher than the floor, a threshold ramp is an ideal choice. These ramps are smaller, shorter length ramps installed in doorways and entryways. The typical materials used for threshold ramps are aluminum and rubber. In addition to durability, it is critical these ramps are great for traction as a user changes levels quickly with a threshold ramp. Either material offers slip-resistance in their texture but be wary of aluminum’s chance of corrosion and rust.

Also, a threshold ramp can be a standalone or bariatric ramp. As the name states, a standalone ramp is self-supporting, with adjusted supporting legs to accommodate different heights. Please confirm weight requirements prior to installing a stand-alone ramp. A bariatric ramp is bolted to the entryway and is focused on safely bearing heavier objects and loads. Users of electric mobility scooters often use bariatric ramps to enter their home from the garage.

Portable

When convenience is a key need, portable ramps are wonderful choice for users. Portable ramps are primarily used for individuals experiencing short-term disability (e.g., post-operation) and renters. These ramp types can be moved between homes, rooms, and for traveling. Additionally, portable ramps come in a variety of types and prices.

Portable Ramp TypesAverage Cost (Labor included)
Folding$150 - $725
Telescoping$150 - $750
Roll-up$300 - $1,200
Track$250 - $2,500
Pathway$600 - $4,000
Source: Fixr.com Cost Estimator, Home Depot)
Folding

Portable folding ramps are normally aluminum and slip resistant. Due to their convenient nature, many refer to these ramps as “suitcase” ramps. These ramps are great for traveling purposes and are one of the easier portable ramp types to pack when you are on the go.

Telescoping

Portable telescoping ramps have a locking mechanism that is easy to adjust. A user can have this type of portable ramp adjusted to the desired distance, and they are very easy to set up to accommodate for height differences.

Roll-up

Portable roll up ramps are convenient options for users as they are lightweight and flexible, like folding ramps. Users alter the ramp to be shorter or longer depending on the need and roll-up ramps include great traction for wheels of various design.

Track

Portable track ramps come with two individual tracks that align to the wheels on each side of a wheelchair or motorized scooter. These ramps are lightweight and are typically made of aluminum. They can be folded and configured to the preferred length and are well-suited for traveling.

Pathway

Typically made of aluminum, portable pathway ramps are equipped with many safety features included, like handrails. These portable ramps come with a variety of styles and features to meet the needs of users.

Modular

Modular ramps are normally pre-built ramps that are delivered in sections, which enables easier and quicker installation by professionals. With modular ramps it is critical to have accurate measurements! The most common material types for modular ramps are aluminum and steel.

Semi-Permanent

A common compromise for users is a semi-permanent ramp, which offers a lot of the same convenience as a portable or modular ramp, but with the durability of a permanent ramp. These semi-permanent ramps need a lot of consideration regarding the frequency of use and upkeep, due to their temporary nature. Based on our research, a common semi-permanent ramp for accessibility needs is modular aluminum.

Permanent

Homes with regular wheelchair users or multiple seniors are most suitable for a permanent ramp. With a cost higher than most ramp types, having frequent users of the ramp can justify the investment. The materials used for a permanent ramp are dependent on the same considerations as above, but given the permanent nature of the ramp, concrete and steel are typically used due to their durability. To confirm the permanent nature of the ramp, these ramps are firmly anchored into the ground.

Custom

A custom ramp is a long-term project and normally anchored to the ground or house with the intention of the ramp being permanent. The materials used can be any of the materials listed above, normally concrete or steel. The main decision points of a custom ramp are like those listed above, the labor cost to design a custom ramp is the variable that drives cost the most.

We hope this was helpful in covering what you will want to consider when installing a ramp in your home. In future posts, we’ll cover additional ramp-related topics like ramp insurance and 10 tips to ask a contractor before you start a project. Thank you for checking this post out, and if you need help finding a local contractor in your area for a wheelchair ramp installation or just have any additional questions, please lets us know at support@accessrose.com

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