Wheelchair Ramps for Homes: Before You Buy!

Modular wheelchair ramps are available in a wide range of configurations, materials, and models. Configuring a custom wheelchair ramp by yourself is no easy task, so we are here to help you! Below are the questions you must answer before ordering your modular wheelchair ramp. 

Questions to Answer Before Ordering

  1. What does it take to install a ramp and will you need assistance?
  2. Are you able to take measurements and photos of the assembly site?
  3. What is the rise?
  4. Does this ramp need to be ADA compliant? 
  5. Will you need any flat platforms?
  6. Will you need any unique ramp segments?
  7. Is this a straight ramp design?
  8. What do your local ordinances and building codes require for you to install a ramp? 
  9. Do you have an HOA and what do they require for you to install a ramp? 
  10. What ramp material will you need?

Once you have answered each of the questions above, email your answers to ramps@rehabmart.com. Please attach all pictures, sketches, diagrams, etc. in your email. A dedicated Rehabmart team will work with a group of engineers to configure your ramp design; this process usually takes 2-4 business days. Once the final ramp design is approved, a Rehabmart team member will contact you with a quote and you will be ready to checkout!

Diving Deeper into Each Question

1. What does it take to install a ramp and will you need assistance?

Before beginning on the ramp quote process make sure you understand the undertaking. Rehabmart does not offer assembly and installation services for ramps. Someone with basic technical knowledge should have the skills to install a short ramp however we highly recommend contacting a local contractor. Some of the skills important for ramp installation are:

  • Cut and solder steel
  • Install concrete anchors - if needed
  • Predrill holes for screws

2. Are you able to take measurements and photos of the assembly site?

Taking photos and recording measurements is the most important part of the process of building a ramp quote. Your dedicated Rehabmart Ramp Coordinator will work with this information to build the most accurate ramp for your needs.

Some hints for photos and measurements:

  • Take photos of the entryway where the ramp will be located
  • Take photos of the surrounding property and any objects that may pose an obstacle to a ramp
  • Take photos of where the prospective ramp will end
  • Measure the rise of the stairs/ledge being covered by the ramp
  • Measure the width of your doorway
  • Measure the distance between the ramp’s beginning and the expected endpoint

Keep reading to discover what these measurements mean...

3. What is the rise?

The rise concerns the distance between the bottom of the stairs or ledge needing to be ramped over to the top of the stairs or ledge. This measurement determines what the slope of the ramp will be. We make sure that the slope is appropriate for use and, if necessary, that it is ADA compliant.

4. Does this ramp need to be ADA compliant? 

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) introduced a number of requirements for ramps, most importantly the slope of ramps and the use of landings for rest. ADA-compliant ramps require at least a 1:12 ratio of rise to run (slope). An ADA-compliant ramp must have a flat landing at both the top and bottom of each run. Your ramp may need to be ADA compliant if you plan to sell your house or business, or if your local municipality requires it. We recommend checking your municipality’s website for this information. Read more on the Guide to the ADA Accessibility Standards. Homeowners Associations also may mandate ADA compliance for ramps or may indicate that houses may not have any new existing construction. You should clear up any of these questions with your HOA before beginning the ramp quote process.

5. Will you need any flat platforms?

Flat platforms are sometimes optional and sometimes required. An ADA-compliant ramp must have a flat landing at both the top and bottom of each run. When a ramp must change directions, either to avoid an obstacle or to make sure the ramp fits within certain space restrictions, a flat platform must be used to facilitate the turn. In order to stay ADA-compliant, an intermediary platform at a turn must be at least 60” x 60”.  

6. Will you need any unique ramp segments?

Sometimes your ramp may need unique ramp sections, like a switchback or unique turns like an S-turn or an L-turn

Switchbacks are used to turn a ramp around 180 degrees. These are useful in situations where there is limited space to fit a longer ramp. S-turns are useful for navigating around an obstacle without having to change the ramp’s direction while L-turns provide a standard turn similar to adding a platform but are a little larger with more navigating room. 

7. Is this a straight ramp design?

Sometimes, a ramp can be as simple as a straight design coming off of the landing. These designs are best for situations in which there are no space constraints and no obstacles.

8. What do your local ordinances and building codes require for you to install a ramp?

This is an important question for anyone looking to build a ramp, but especially for businesses and public-access buildings. You must check with your local municipality before any building project and ensure you are following all codes and regulations. We recommend starting with this website Contacts for Building Codes By State. If you will be working with a contractor, you may also ask them as they will be familiar with codes in your area.

9. Do you have an HOA and what do they require for you to install a ramp?

As we mentioned earlier in the article, having an HOA may limit the kinds of construction you may undertake. Always consult with your HOA before beginning a ramp quote and ensure you are following the appropriate guidelines.

10. What ramp material will you need?

Modular wheelchair ramps are made out of aluminum, steel, or wood. Each material has its own list of pros and cons. Variables you should consider are the weather in your area, the composition and strength of your soil, how much your ramp will be used, your budget, building codes, and HOA requirements.

Aluminum

Pros

  • Most cost-effective material
  • Lightweight and can be reconfigured or moved in the future
  • Usually the feet sit on concrete pads, so no permanent modifications
  • Standard color is silver, but can be upgraded with a black or green powder-coat
  • Available with an open mesh or solid surface
  • Open mesh surface is best for climates that often receive snow or rain

Cons

  • Can be dented
  • Silver ramps easily stand out, which sometimes is not visually appealing

Steel

Pros

  • Known for their durability
  • Usually a 800-pound weight capacity, depending on the manufacturer
  • Ideal for temporary or permanent usage
  • Usually the feet sit on concrete pads, so no permanent modifications
  • Available with an open mesh or solid surface
  • Open mesh surface is best for climates that often receive snow or rain

Cons

  • Potential to rust
  • Usually about a 3-year warranty, depending on the manufacturer

Wood

Pros

  • Attractive natural look
  • Can be painted or stained to match your home
  • Can easily blend in with pre-existing wooden structures (wooden deck or porch)
  • Strong and dependable

Cons

  • Normally requires concrete anchors, so it can't be adjusted after installed
  • Most expensive material, due to the high shipping cost of transporting heavy lumber
  • Slippery = Not ideal for climates that often receive lots of snow or rain 
  • Wood might need annual repainting or staining

 

Once you have answered these questions, contact us to configure your modular wheelchair ramp. We have a resident ramp expert that is ready to help! Please reach out to ramps@rehabmart.com.

Lastly, if you need a simpler alternative, check out our Portable Wheelchair Ramp category. 

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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