6 Amazing Reasons to Choose an Aluminum Wheelchair Ramp

Wheelchair ramps, also known as handicap ramps, access ramps, scooter ramps, and mobility ramps are designed to make homes, buildings, and other areas accessible to people who use wheelchairs, scooters, or other mobility devices, or simply cannot climb stairs due to limited motor dexterity or weakness. Available in multiple styles and designs, permanent and semi-permanent ramps are the most common, installed as part of a building’s initial construction or added later as a modification.

Wheelchair ramps can be made of a variety of materials, but the most common options are either wood or aluminum. And while they both serve the same purpose, to increase access to a home, building, or area, there are some key differences that can impact your decision to choose one over the other.

1. How permanent do you need the ramp to be?

Wooden ramps are a more permanent access solution, ideal for an attractive addition to a long-term residence. However, once they are sized, cut, and installed, wooden ramps cannot be easily removed or adjusted, both because they are custom built from scratch, and because they often require permanent concrete anchors as part of the installation. 

Aluminum ramps, on the other hand, are often modular, like these manufactured by National Ramp, meaning that the components are pre-fabricated off-site and then assembled and installed at the location. Many aluminum ramps feature sliding legs that allow sections of the ramp to be raised or lowered for adjustable support and a customized fit, even enabling adjustment if you make modifications to your home, or if your needs change over time.

2. Do you plan to move or to resell your home?

If you need a permanent ramp, but are looking to maybe sell your home in the future, then it’s important to consider how your ramp might impact your ability to do that. Wooden ramps are traditionally considered more “attractive,” featuring strong, classic hardwood that is often easier to match to your home. However, wooden ramps often require concrete anchors to ensure safe use, meaning concrete has to be poured into the ground around each support leg, making them incredibly difficult to remove or adjust once they’re installed, which can lower the value of your home. 

Aluminum ramps usually do not require these anchors, and while they may seem more industrial, they are often available in a range of attractive colors to give them a homey feel and help them match your own taste and decor. Aluminum ramps often have the added benefit of being lightweight and easy to remove, store, and even re-use if needed, giving them a level of versatility that just cannot be achieved by their wooden counterparts. This also important for your home’s value, because it allows you to remove the ramp with virtually no damage to your home or yard.

3. What’s your budget?

Installing a wooden ramp is significantly cheaper than installing an aluminum ramp up-front, so if you’re looking for a ramp now and you only have a set budget to work within, a wooden ramp might be the better option. However, the added requirement of professional contractors, inspections, possible concrete anchors, and yearly maintenance may push the wooden ramp well beyond the cost of the aluminum ramp when you consider the expenses as a whole and over time, so make sure you shop around and carefully compare your options before making a final decision.

4. How much time and energy are you willing to devote to installation?

Once the lumber, aluminum ramp components, or other materials for a ramp have been purchased, it will then need to be installed. Usually, a wooden ramp will need to be installed by a licensed contractor or a team of experienced builders, and often requires a professional set of builder’s tools in order to complete the job. 

A modular aluminum ramp comes complete with pieces already cut and sized, and some even come with an assembly kit so they can be easily installed by the homeowner, business proprietor, or a handyman, using household tools. Installation time can range between 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the system design, while a wooden ramp may take several days to a week depending on the contractors.

Once the ramp is finished, the local municipality often will need to inspect the ramp to ensure its compliance with local building codes and ADA guidelines. For this reason, it’s extremely important to ensure that any contractor or builders you use are well-versed in local codes, because if they make mistakes, you will often be required to pay a fine out of your own pocket, and then also deal with the added cost of rectifying any problems. Aluminum modular ramps often save you this headache, by offering a pre-built solution that will be more likely to comply with codes, and even if there is a mistake, these ramps are easier to adjust and reset with less cost.

5. How much maintenance are you willing to do?

Wooden ramps require regular maintenance with pressure-treatment and paint each year to prevent rotting, and even treated wood will require maintenance every few years at a minimum. Besides the normal wear-and-tear on wood, considerations must also be given to weather-related damage, termites, chips, and splintering that can often occur over time.

Aluminum ramps, on the other hand, require minimal maintenance, with the worst damage that will typically occur to them being minor dents and dings. Most aluminum ramps feature a powder-coated finish that will withstand wear-and-tear, resist rust and corrosion, and will not need to be painted or refinished. 

6. How’s the weather?

If you live in a cold or rainy climate, it’s important to take this into consideration when choosing a wheelchair ramp for your home. Wooden ramps can often become slippery in wet conditions, and even if non-slip treads are added to help reduce slipping, water can pool on the surface which can cause problems for your wheelchair’s mobility or even freeze and turn into ice to cause even more risk of slipping.

Aluminum ramps often provide the option to select a perforated surface that encourages water and other debris to drain through and not stand on the surface of your ramp. Additionally, aluminum ramps include the added option of choosing a surface that features ridges, or other high-traction designs that make slipping and sliding less of a worry even in cold or wet climates.

Summary

Wheelchair ramps are an essential tool to provide safe, unhindered access to homes, buildings, and areas otherwise difficult to reach by people who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices. As with most tools, choosing the right ramp for the job or environment is important to ensure a positive outcome, keeping you safe and happy for years to come.

Whether you choose a wooden ramp, an aluminum modular ramp, or even a portable ramp, it’s important to consider all your options and the ways each solution can affect your life so that, ultimately, you end up with a product that you’re happy with and functions the way you want it to in your life.

For more information on how to choose a wheelchair ramp and what our picks are for the best wheelchair ramps, best portable wheelchair ramps, and best threshold ramps, check out our full selection of articles and resources at Caregiver University. If you're comparing your options, looking at what's on the market, or ready to purchase your own wheelchair ramp, come visit Rehabmart.com and let us help you out.

Author:

Co-Founder of Rehabmart and an Occupational Therapist since 1993. Mike has spent his professional career working in multiple areas of Occupational Therapy, including pediatrics, geriatrics, hand therapy, ergonomics and inpatient / outpatient rehabilitation. Mike enjoys writing articles that help people solve complex therapeutic problems and make better product choices.

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