Building a Handicap Ramp Outdoors

Taking into account that the purpose for building a handicap ramp is to provide a safe incline for anyone with a handicap to enter a building with a raised entrance, if you are going to build this kind of ramp, you will need to be sure it is safe for the handicapped person who will be using it.

First, consider the ramp, itself. Will you want to construct it of wood or concrete? Will it be built for an existing building or for one under construction? If it is to be built while the building is under construction and if it is to be constructed of concrete, you will probably want to build it at the time that the building's concrete steps or sidewalks are being poured.

If you plan to build a wood ramp, there are certain factors and conditions you will need to consider that are different from those related to building a concrete ramp. Tools, also, will be different. For a wood ramp you will need:

  • hand saw or circular saw
  • drill with 1/2" bit to drill holes for carriage bolts
  • ratchet to tighten nuts
  • tape measure
  • carpenters square
  • level
  • cordless drill driver

But whether your ramp will be constructed of wood or concrete, you will need to follow certain standards:

  • Ramp Incline: 1:12 ratio (for every inch of floor rise, the ramp should be 1 foot long)
  • Ramp Width: 3 feet minimum
  • Ramp Length: Maximum 30 feet without a landing between beginning and end. For a longer ramp, there should be a  rest landing every 30 feet.
  • Handrails: Handrails on both sides, minimum of 2 ½ feet above ramp surface, maximum of 3 feet above ramp surface.

In addition, it will be helpful to include the following.
(a) 2-Inch Wheel Guard that will prevent a wheel from a wheelchair from slipping off the ramp or landing.
(b) Rough Surface Texture such as indoor-outdoor carpet, adding sand or crushed walnut shells to epoxy when surfacing the ramp to prevent slipping from rain, snow, or ice.

For wooden ramps, you will need information specific to building these kinds of ramps.

  • Foundation Footings: placed every six feet, so as to form a 6' X  4'  rectangle with post bracket embedded in its top surface.
  • Materials: pressure treated or rated for outdoor use.
  • Screws and Bolts: galvanized to protect against rusting.

In building your ramp, you will need to take into account the person who will be using it. Their size, strength, and capabilities should help determine the incline, width, length, and surface of the ramp you will be building.