Residential Wheelchair Ramps

Site Access – Ramps and Lifts

 A ramp allows for independent access to areas both outside of and inside a home. There are several types from which to choose based on a user’s specific need. Most homeowners will get a wheelchair ramp installed, without realizing that a vertical lift is an affordable option.

 Whichever option you choose, remember to consider the entry from the porch into the house. Creating a zero barrier entry provides a flush entry for easy access into the home. Aluminum threshold ramps provide a solution for that last step into the  house.                                                                                    

wheelchair lift1I. Lift versus Ramp:wheelchair topic

There are a few things to consider when weighing the options of a ramp or a lift.

Space Needed-

Wheelchair ramps need a lot of space. The rise ratio is 12 inches horizontal for every inch of height. Which means if you only need to get up 24” you’ll need a ramp that is 24 feet long‚ plus the landings. 

The advantage of a vertical lift is that it doesn’t take up nearly as much room.  The maximum footprint of popular wheelchair lifts is approximately 54” x 54”. They are available in different travel heights to suit your needs.

Resale Value-                         wheelchair ramp temporary

The other issue to consider when deciding which modification is best for you‚ is the resale value of your home.  A ramp is very specific to your needs and if you need to resell your home‚ you may have a hard time as not every home buyer will find value in having a permanent ramp on a home they are considering buying. Modular and rental ramps both give flexibility to the homeowner who may plan a move in the near future.

 Also‚ depending on where you are moving to‚ you may need to pay the expense of having another ramp installed again or have it relocated by the rental company.

 Vertical lifts can be disassembled and moved to a new location‚ or resold if they are not needed.  The modifications required for a lift are minimal‚ depending on the height.

Seasonal Maintenance- 

Keep in mind also that ramps will need to be cleared if you live in an area with overhanging trees that cause leaf debris. If you have a long ramp‚ it can still be difficult to roll yourself up in a wheelchair over a long distance‚ unless you have an electric scooter.

Wheelchair Lifts can be used independently and are weather proof and easy to use. Make sure you do research and get quotes on both options before you decide which option is best for you

II. Outdoor Ramp Types:

Wooden and Concrete Ramps – are site built and typically require a building permit. Site built ramps are the lower cost option for longer ramps.

These home improvement stores offer articles, videos, and a planning guide for building a wheelchair ramp:

Home Depot:


Remember: Check your local building department for permit requirements. 

 Metal Ramps and Platforms – Metal ramps as well as combination metal/wood ramps are faster to install as building permits are typically not required. Concrete footers are generally not needed. Their modular design provides flexibility. 

Remember: Check your local building department for permit requirements. 

Portable Aluminum Ramps –  Can be used for short-term applications, or for areas that occasionally require a ramp. Great solution for transition from porch/ landing into house. These ramps can be easily stored when not in use. 

Rental Ramps –                                                                            wheelchair ramp threshold2

Can come in a variety of lengths to fit specific needs. Practical solution for short term needs. Some will be delivered and set up as part of the rental, so shop for the best option. 



Once you have narrowed your selection, you will need to make some measurements before you start communicating with vendors. The last section of this chapter gives the ADA specifications for wheelchair ramps. It is a valuable resource tool. The ADA recommends 4.8 degrees of incline. You do not normally need to meet this standard for residential use (although it is recommended). In general, you do not want to go shorter than half of what ADA recommends (9.6 degrees of incline). Consult your user manual of your chair/scooter to confirm the maximum incline it is rated for and always stay within that standard.

III. General Usage Guidelines:

You, as the homeowner, may encounter the need to install a permanent or temporary ramp for ingress into and egress from your home. You will need to calculate the slope and rise for the ramp. Some facts to keep in mind:

  • Manual wheelchair with the person rolling themselves, you should stay closer to ADA’s recommendation
  • Manual wheelchair with the patient being assisted, you may go as short as half of ADA’s recommendation. Keep in mind the weight of the patient and the strength of the person assisting. The shorter the ramp, the more difficult it will be to push the wheelchair.
  • Electric Scooter or Wheelchairs should always stay within their manufacture’s slope restriction. Please consult your owner’s manual or the equipment’s manufacturer for this information. You can search online for websites that have a calculator where you plug in measurements to get an idea of your total rise.


There may be a temptation to build a ramp that is steeper than the recommended 1:12 minimum in order to conserve space or reduce costs. Before deciding to build such a ramp, remember that the steeper the ramp is, the more dangerous it becomes to anyone using it. Steep ramps have caused falls resulting in serious injuries and ramps can be so steep that the person needing it cannot use it independently.


 ADA provides Wheelchair Ramp Specifications and guidelines that most business must meet or risk penalties and legal action. Typically, residential applications are not required to comply with ADA guidelines. However, they are a good reference point for suitable ramp lengths. Contact your building code department for local requirements and additional information.

 ADA Standards Require a 1:12 slope ratio which works out to be one foot of wheelchair ramp for each inch of rise. For instance, a 20 inch rise requires a 20 foot wheelchair ramp.

 ADA Standards Require a Minimum 5′ x 5′ Flat area at the top and bottom of the ramp.

 ADA Standards Require wheelchair ramps to have a Minimum 36 inches of clear space across the wheelchair ramp.

 ADA Standards Require a Minimum Platform size of 5′ x 5′.

 ADA Guidelines for Wheelchair Ramps allow a Maximum run of 30 feet of wheelchair ramp before a rest or turn platform.

 ADA Ramp Guidelines Require handrails that are between 34″ and 38″ in height on both sides of the wheelchair ramps.

     Complete ADA Guidelines for Wheelchair Ramps

A comprehensive description and visual images for the ADA Codes for Wheelchair Ramps can be found online at in Chapter 4: Accessible Routes, Section 405 – Ramps.

 The Building Inspector’s Safety Officer will be glad to assist you.


Phone – (386) 279-4839

ada wheelchair ramp slope


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