"How To’s” on Purchasing a Ramp

Do you need a ramp? Do you need to replace an existing ramp? Before you make that purchase, use these tips and questions below as a backdrop in your discussions with the different dealers and contractors.

First, you must decide on which type of ramp to choose from. You have four main choices: a portable platform or suitcase ramp, a modular aluminum ramp, a modular steel ramp, or a wooden ramp.

When considering which type of ramp, keep in mind the following four questions:

What is the “rise” of the ramp?

To figure the “rise,” you need to measure the distance between the entry level and the ground. Using the standard ADA rule of thumb, which is one inch of rise per foot of run, the number of inches from door to ground equals the length of the ramp in feet, you may find that with some power chairs and scooters, you could increase the slope of the ramp. But be careful you should let safety and ease determine the length of your ramp, not price.

In most cities, you will need a building permit, and potentially an inspection and reevaluation for ramps that approach a certain size (over 30″ of rise and/or 400 sq. ft, for example).

If you need less than 10 feet of ramp, a standard-sized portable or platform ramp might be the least expensive, but don’t sacrifice safety just to get it cheap. The portable or platform types of ramps become too steep and dangerous if you need more than 10 feet of ramp.

Do you need an outdoor or indoor ramp?

Certain ramp surfaces get slippery when wet. Others allow ice to form and snow to build up on the surface. Even though each type of ramp material claims it has features to improve traction, certain ramp materials deal with rain and snow more effectively.

Also, make sure to look into the types of support and footings for the various ramps. You want a ramp that won’t sink into the ground over time. A rectangular base the width of the ramp is much better than a single post on a brick.

What do you want the ramp to look like?

Steel ramps end up looking much like the black, metal porch and stair railings many houses already have. Aluminum ramps are bright and modern looking. Wooden ramps blend in nicely with some architectural styles.

What time of year is it when you need to construct the ramp?

In winter and spring, your choices of ramps are more limited than during the summer and fall. Some types of ramps may require concrete footings, making it costly to sink a footing in frozen ground. Certain dealers don’t install ramps in the cold weather.

The next important step in purchasing a ramp is where to get your ramp. You have three main choices: medical equipment supply firms, a building contractor, or a company that specializes in designing and building ramps. Who you choose depends on four factors:

How quickly do you need the ramp?

Certain ramp providers can install a ramp within a couple days of your initial call. Others operate on much longer time frames. If your need is urgent, be sure to get installation deadlines in writing.

How long will you need the ramp?

If you expect the need to be permanent, any source might work. If you just want the ramp for a day, a few weeks, or a few months, your choices are more limited. You can ask the organizations you call if they rent ramps for short-term needs.

Also, don’t forget to consider what happens when the ramp is no longer needed or if you move. Wooden and concrete ramps require the most money and time to remove and leaving them in place may make the home more difficult to sell. Modular aluminum and steel ramps are easy to move to a new home and you can add or subtract parts to fit the new situation.

How much of the design and construction work can you, your family, or friends do?

If you know people who will help design and build your ramp, you can certainly save money. Some local grant-supported organizations offer advice on building wooden ramps, and you can order other types of ramps over the Internet.

What’s your budget?

If you can get someone to donate the time and/or the materials, it might cut your costs and help you make a decision. If not, get firm quotes and specific drawings from several sources that have good references and then make your decision based on the total package. The price of ramps range anywhere from $55 to $120 per foot of ramp. Make sure labor, freight, materials, and sales tax are all included in each quote.

Once you research the information provided above, you can make a clear decision on the many choices for constructing a ramp. You can also consult some of the resources listed below:

• Call United Way 211’s referral service. Dial 2-1-1 or 800-543-7709.

• Call the Metro Center for Independent Living Ramp Project 651-646-8342.

• Call the Senior Linkage Line at 800-333-2433.

• Visit www.directability.com for resources.

• Conduct your own Internet search. Try www.google.com.

• Contact your favorite contractor or handyman service.

• Consult the Yellow Pages under Medical Equipment and Supplies.

• Ask your therapist, or your social worker or case manager for suggestions.