“Just How Hard Can It Be To Put In A Ramp?”

Consumers might be thinking to themselves that putting in a ramp can’t be all that difficult – totally unaware of some of the standards that we like to follow because they make ramps much safer to use. Take a couple of boards or some plywood and lean the approach or bottom edge on the ground and prop the inclined or top edge against a step or porch. How hard can it be? 

Clearly, there should be more to it than this – regardless of who is doing it, but in many cases, it gets the job done. It may not be pretty, but it can be called a ramp. done. Nevertheless, would we want to use such a ramp or have someone we care about depend on a ramp “constructed” in this manner?

If someone contacted us about installing a ramp for themselves or a loved one because they didn’t know how to go about it or didn’t want to try a makeshift one, would we know how to proceed? Would we determine why they need it (other than to gain access to their home), for how long (both in terms of a time estimate and the length of the area it needed to cover), how much weight it needed to support, where it needs to go (front door, side door, garage, or elsewhere), or what other factors might factor in deciding what to install?

What if we weren’t the first ones who were called but rather we were called after a failed homemade attempt or some other inadequate solution?

Depending on what their needs, requirements, urgency, and budget might be, it may be a relatively simple matter, or it may take some real planning and time to get it done.

Obviously, it could be as simple as putting in a temporary ramp, but what does the homeowner or tenant want – and what do the local codes or property owners association have to say on the matter of ramping? Can it be done as a temporary improvement – if that’s what the client wants – or does it have to be done as a permitted and inspected structure?

Is the objective just to provide a way to reach the entrance safely and easily from the driveway or sidewalk (near the street or connecting to the driveway), or are there other expressed desires such as aesthetics, size, materials, surface, and ease of access and use? How is the weather going to be a factor?

What is the length of the proposed ramp from the bottom to the top, and how much distance does it need to cover? There is an effective limit to how much lift they can provide and still be usable so make sure that a ramp is the appropriate solution.

Then there’s the matter of what it’s made of and whether it can be substantial enough to serve the client.

We may want to consider an alternative – again depending on what the client wants, how much time is available for us to do the construction before it needs to be used, what building requirements may need to be met, and the length of time (if known) that it needs to last.

Rather than a temporary measure, we may want to consider – and discuss with the client – building a permanent inclined walkway to cover the desired distance in a straight line, gently curved, or switch back style. That walkway can have a concrete, brick, or other type of hard, non-slippery surface, and it can be designed with planting areas along either side depending on how much space is available to create and deliver it.

When the inclined walkway is done, it can potentially be much longer and rise a greater distance a traditional ramp. It can also look like it is a normal part of the home – designed as a landscaping feature as much as being a function ramp. It can be an extremely attractive and desirable addition to the home – one that adds value.

Regardless, there is a lot of thought, planning, and preparation that enters into the installation of a ramp or sloped walkway.


Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the “Aging & Accessibility” groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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