Installing Ramps: What to Consider

The mesh design of this Amramp product allows rain, snow and other condensation to pass through instead of collecting in slippery puddles. Photo courtesy Amramp

Sometimes it seems all the world is a staircase. The one place that should have ramps is your home

Ramps are a safe way to replace steeper sets of stairs. Following are some hints on what to consider when building ramps:


Safe ramp lengths should be one foot for each inch of rise. This means a slope of 1:12. For example, if you have two 7-inch-high steps or a total of 14 inches in rise, you need a 14-foot-long ramp.

Exceptions to this guideline are if you have very strong arms or use a power chair. In these situations, you may be able to use a steeper ramp. However, the 1:12 ratio is recommended.


The recommended width for ramps is 36–48 inches. A 48-inch width is usually convenient if you use marine plywood, since it comes in sheets of 4×8 feet.

Railings and Edges:

Railings are best placed approximately 32 inches high and securely fastened to the ramp. They can be made of 2×2-inch or 2×4-inch lumber, or 1-1/2-inch diameter pipe.


Curbs at least two inches high should be where there is a drop off the side of the ramp to prevent a wheelchair caster from going over the edge.


Ramps exposed to the outdoors can become extremely slippery and dangerous unless a proper nonslip surface is used. Adhesive nonskid strips, ribbed rubber matting, or a rough roofing material can be used. A broom-swept surface works well for a concrete ramp. A painted surface is not adequate, as it can be very slippery when wet. Surfaces should not be rough enough to make wheelchair travel difficult or unpleasant.


For a long-lasting ramp, treated lumber such as plywood, concrete, or 2×4-inch slats placed crosswise is recommended.

Safety Consideration

If you must use a steep ramp, you may want someone to back you down it to prevent you from falling out of your wheelchair.

You can find ramps at many resources ranging from specialty companies to home improvement stores. For example, you may check out Lowe’s, which offers the Gatehouse Custom Access Ramp System. It is reportedly an affordable, do-it-yourself modular system that combines the style of a custom-built wood ramp with the easy installation of a traditional aluminum modular ramp. Many styles are available ( / 800-GO-LOWES). Whatever you choose, make sure your ramp is based on the guidelines above.


Much of the preceding information is from the popular PVA resource Yes, You Can! A Guide to Self-Care for Persons with Spinal Cord Injury. The book is available at

For more information about home accessibility, contact the PVA Architecture Program, 800-424-8200.


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