How to Build a Wooden Ramp for a Wheelchair
Years ago, I built a wheelchair ramp for visits from my mother-in-law. Although she is no longer alive, I still use the ramp when moving heavy furniture through the front door. I decided to take some photos and use them to illustrate a how-to article, which is what you are reading, now.
This is an easy project. I used wood and screws that were left over from other projects, so it cost nothing but two or three hours of my time and a little electricity.
As you can see in the photo, there are actually two ramps that can either be spread apart for a wheelchair, or pushed together for a hand truck or furniture dolly. When not in use, the ramps can easily be picked up and stood up behind the front columns on our front porch.
Ramp Design and Construction
Although there is not much of a step out our front door, it was enough to make going out the door a sometimes bumpy adventure. And if there was anyone in the world I did not want to bump around, it was my mother-in-law! So smoothness and safety of the ride were key.
She didn't care for the ramp's appearance, a fact that I found curious. Hey, it's a ramp. If it works, its beautiful. If you want to build one out of mahogany, stain it, and put several layers of varnish on it, I'm sure you can make it pretty.
There is a small lip on the outside of the front door threshold that the top side of the ramp sets on. One thing I did not want to happen was for the ramp to slip off that lip. So I installed a leg under the ramp right where it met the lip. I installed a shorter leg partway down the ramp so it wouldn't bow too much in the middle. If you expect a heavy load, you might want to install another leg halfway between the two I show, and/or use a thicker board.
After cutting the legs, I would set up the ramp, place the leg under the ramp, and then adjust the leg's position forward or back until it fit perfectly between the ramp and the sidewalk. I would then mark the leg's position and drive in the screws, three in each leg. If you want to make the ramp more attractive, you can mark the bottom side of the board and install the screws from the bottom side of the legs.
As a final touch, I beveled both the top and bottom edge of the ramp, in order to make that transition even smoother.
Pictures will tell the rest of the story.
The main boards are four feet long by 11 inches wide, and 3/4 inch thick. The front lip under the door is 2 and 1/2 inches higher than the sidewalk. The board used to form the front leg was cut from a 2 by 3 board, which is actually 1 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches after being milled. The rear leg is 3/4 of an inch high by 1 1/2 wide. I think I got it by trimming 3/4 of an inch off the long edge of a 2 by 3 board using a table saw.
Photos of Ramp Meeting Front Lip, Wheelchair setup
Underside of ramp with legs attached
Bevel the lower edge
I built my ramp over five years ago, so I don't remember how I did this. I think I probably used a table saw with the blade angled and the board held edge down against a fence, first one way, and then the other. The challenge would have been to hold the board steadily vertical the long way while running it through the blade. I think I remember finishing it with a hand file. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to offer them in the comment section.
Bevel the lower edge
What the ramp looks like with both sides pushed together
This ramp (or technically, pair of ramps) has served me well for over five years. Its use has been occasional, but it has definitely proved helpful and worth the effort to build. I think it only took two or three hours to build one Sunday afternoon. It was fun because I got the idea spontaneously and just built it while the idea was fresh. This is not my usual mode of operation. If you end up using the concepts in this article to build yourself a ramp, I would be interested in hearing about it in the comment section.