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How To Build A Wheelchair Ramp Off A Deck

How To Build A Wheelchair Ramp Off A Deck

Did you know that every year, thousands of people end up in the emergency room because of falls? A large percentage of these falls happened due to the lack of accessibility in certain areas. If you have a deck and want to make sure everyone can enjoy it (even in your home), then building a wheelchair ramp off of it is the perfect solution.

We’ll show you step-by-step how to build a ramp off a deck that’s sturdy, safe, and easy to use. From selecting the right materials to creating a small slope, we’ve got you covered. 

Tools and Materials Needed to Construct a Ramp

Here’s a list of tools and materials you’ll typically need to build a wheelchair ramp:

Measuring Tools

  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Level

Safety Equipment

  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Ear protection

Construction Tools

  • Circular saw, or miter saw
  • Electric drill and drill bits
  • Screwdriver set
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Socket set
  • Hammer
  • Chalk line
  • Shovel
  • Post hole digger (for footings)
  • Wheelbarrow (for mixing concrete if needed)
  • Trowel (for finishing concrete if required)
  • Utility knife
  • Carpenter’s pencils

Fasteners

  • Lag screws or bolts
  • Nails or screws for decking and framing
  • Concrete anchors (if attaching to a concrete surface)
  • Washers and nuts

Pressure-Treated Lumber

  • 2x4s or 2x6s for the frame and supports
  • 2x8s or 2x10s for the decking
  • 4x4s for the ramp posts (if needed)

Plywood or Decking Material

  • 3/4-inch plywood or composite decking boards for the ramp surface

Ramp Surface Material

  • Non-slip surface material like grip tape or rubber matting

Concrete (if using footings)

  • Bags of concrete mix
  • Gravel or crushed stone

Hardware

  • Galvanized or stainless steel screws, bolts, and nails to resist rust

Ramp Handrails (optional)

  • Pressure-treated or aluminum handrail components
  • Handrail brackets and fasteners

Concrete Blocks (if needed for support)

  • Concrete blocks to support the ramp frame

Finishing Materials

  • Paint or sealant to protect the wood (if desired)

Ramp Edging (optional)

  • Edging material to secure the ramp surface

Wheelchair Ramp Plans and Permits

  • Detailed construction plans, if required by local building codes
  • Permits and approvals from your local building department, as necessary

Anti-Slip Surface Coating (optional)

  • Non-slip paint or coating for added traction on the ramp surface

Accessories (optional)

  • Threshold ramps or transition plates if there are height differences
  • Weatherstripping to seal gaps if necessary

Steps for Building a Wheelchair Ramp

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the step-by-step process of constructing a wheelchair ramp that complies with Australian standards and regulations.

Step 1: Assessing Accessibility Needs 

Before diving into the construction of a wheelchair ramp, it’s crucial to assess the specific accessibility needs of the users. Consider the types of mobility devices used, such as wheelchairs or scooters, and the potential users’ physical capabilities. This assessment will help determine the ramp’s appropriate slope, width, and design.

Australian standards stipulate that a maximum slope of 1:14 (7.14%) is permissible for a wheelchair ramp. However, it’s often advisable to aim for a gentler slope of 1:20 (5%) to ensure ease of use and safety.

You should also consult local building codes and regulations to ensure compliance with specific requirements in your area.

Step 2: Obtaining Necessary Approvals 

In Australia, the construction of wheelchair ramps typically requires approval from local authorities and compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA).

Before you begin, consult your local council or relevant government agency to determine the required permits and approvals.

It’s essential to adhere to the DDA guidelines, which mandate accessible design and construction standards for public spaces.

These standards encompass factors such as ramp slope, handrail design, and the use of non-slip surfaces. Compliance with these regulations ensures the ramp is accessible and safe for all users.

Step 3: Designing the Ramp

A well-thought-out design is the foundation of a functional and compliant wheelchair ramp. Start by creating detailed plans that specify the ramp’s dimensions, location, and materials.

When designing the ramp, consider the following key elements:

Ramp Slope: As mentioned earlier, aim for a maximum slope of 1:14 but preferably 1:20. Ensure the ramp’s length accommodates this slope within the available space.

Width: The minimum width of a wheelchair ramp should be 900mm, per Australian standards. However, consider a wider design to allow for easy passage and maneuverability.

Landings: Include level landings at the top and bottom of the ramp and at any turns. These should measure at least 1,500mm by 1,500mm to provide adequate space for users to maneuver.

Handrails: Install handrails on both sides of the ramp, complying with Australian standards regarding height, spacing, and grip size.

Non-Slip Surface: Choose a non-slip surface material for the ramp, such as slip-resistant paint, tactile indicators, or rubber matting.

Step 4: Site Preparation 

Prepare the construction site by clearing any debris, obstructions, or vegetation that may hinder the building process or obstruct the ramp’s path. Make sure the area is level and well-drained to prevent water pooling, which can be hazardous.

Ensuring the attachment point is structurally sound for ramps connecting to a building. Install ledger boards securely into the building’s structure to support the ramp.

If your ramp design necessitates footings, dig holes and pour concrete to create stable foundations. Ensure that these footings are level and well-aligned to maintain a consistent slope for the ramp.

Step 5: Set the Posts

You can use batter boards and mason lines to create a square grid that aligns with one or more sides of the existing deck. Employ the 3-4-5 method to ensure accuracy in the placement of the grid.

Use a plumb bob and marking paint to mark the exact spots for the post holes or footings. Afterward, excavate the ground to the required depth for the base, dig the post holes, and evaluate them for any necessary inspections.

Subsequently, place your 4″ x 4″ posts in the dug holes along with concrete or level the concrete and attach the post with post brackets after it cures.

Secure the post brackets with concrete screws for added durability. Taking these steps will ensure that your new deck is structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.

An alternative approach for attaching a post bracket involves setting an anchor bolt into wet concrete and then attaching the frame after the concrete has cured.

To make the process of leveling the concrete easier, tubular cardboard forms can be inserted into the holes.

Put the uncut factory end of the posts into the hole. When using treated lumber, one should avoid placing the cut side on the ground without first applying a wood preservative.

The factory-applied treatment only penetrates a certain distance into the wood, making the exposed cut side susceptible to decay.

To avoid this, one should cover the exposed tops of the posts with caps or cut them at an angle to allow water to shed off easily. These measures are crucial to ensure the longevity and durability of your structure. 

Step 6: Constructing the Frame 

The frame serves as the structural support of your wheelchair ramp. Construct it using pressure-treated 2x4s or 2x6s, ensuring it matches the dimensions and slope specified in your design.

Attach the frame securely to the building or footings, ensuring it is level and square. To reinforce the frame’s stability, use diagonal bracing.

This will prevent any sagging or shifting over time. If your ramp includes turns or switchbacks, plan the frame carefully to accommodate these changes in direction while maintaining a consistent slope.

Step 7: Ramp Surface and Non-Slip Coating 

Once the frame is in place, install the ramp’s surface material in time. Use 3/4-inch plywood or composite decking boards, securing them to the frame with screws or nails.

Ensure the surface material is flush with the edges and free of any protrusions that could pose tripping hazards.

To meet Australian standards for slip resistance, apply a non-slip surface coating to the ramp. This coating can be in slip-resistant paint, tactile indicators, or rubber matting, providing users with secure traction even in wet conditions.

Step 8: Installing Handrails 

Handrails are a crucial safety feature of wheelchair ramps and must adhere to Australian standards. Use pressure-treated 4x4s for the posts and attach them securely to the ramp frame or footings.

Following Australian guidelines, handrail brackets should be installed at the appropriate height and spacing. Install handrails securely to the brackets, ensuring they extend beyond the top and bottom of the ramp for ease of access. Properly designed and installed handrails offer users vital support and stability.

Step 9: Finishing and Testing

Before using the ramp, apply a protective finish to the wood, such as paint or sealant, to protect it from weathering and rot. Regular maintenance of the finish will prolong the life of your wheelchair ramp.

Conduct thorough safety checks to ensure the ramp is stable and secure. Test handrails, fasteners, and the non-slip surface material to ensure they meet Australian standards and provide adequate support and traction.

Finally, invite users to test the ramp to ensure it meets their needs and comfort levels. Make adjustments based on their feedback to ensure the ramp is genuinely accessible and safe.

Step 10: Ongoing Maintenance and Compliance 

The construction of a wheelchair ramp is not a one-and-done endeavor. Regular maintenance and inspections are essential to ensure compliance with Australian accessibility standards.

Look for loose or damaged components, splinters, or sharp edges that could pose safety hazards.

Inspect the ramp for signs of wear, water damage, or rot, and address any issues promptly to maintain the ramp’s structural integrity. Keep the ramp clean and debris-free, as clutter can be a tripping hazard.

By staying vigilant about maintenance and compliance, you’ll ensure that your wheelchair ramp continues to provide safe and accessible entry for all users, reflecting Australia’s commitment to inclusivity and accessibility standards.

How Much Does It Cost to Build A Ramp in Australia?

The price can fluctuate due to the type of ramp, materials chosen, labor expenses, and any additional features required for compliance with accessibility standards.

A typical rule of thumb in estimating the cost per linear foot is to consider the complexity of the project and the materials used.

For a basic, portable ramp made of materials like aluminum or rubber, the cost per linear foot in Australia can be relatively affordable, ranging from approximately $100 to $250 per linear foot. These ramps are typically easy to install and suitable for temporary use, making them a cost-effective choice for short-term accessibility needs.

Modular ramps, which are pre-fabricated and offer more durability than portable options, can cost between $200 and $600 per linear foot. These ramps are often chosen for temporary and permanent installations, balancing cost and functionality.

Custom-built ramps are the most expensive option, tailored to specific locations and requirements. The cost per linear foot for custom ramps in Australia can range from $600 to $1200 or more.

These ramps are designed to meet unique accessibility needs and often include features such as handrails, non-slip surfaces, and compliance with local regulations.

Labor costs also play a significant role in the overall expense of building a wheelchair ramp per linear foot. Professional installation ensures that the ramp meets safety standards and local building codes, which can add to the project’s cost.

Labor rates may vary based on location and complexity, so obtaining quotes from local contractors is advisable.

Ending Note

Careful planning, quality materials, and professional installation are all critical components for creating a practical and durable wheelchair ramp that meets Australian accessibility standards. DIY wheelchair ramps are possible, but it is crucial to ensure safety and compliance when undertaking this type of project.