How to Build Handicap Ramps or Steps


Wheelchair ramps allow people in wheelchairs and motorized scooters to access buildings and spaces more easily. They can, however, be expensive to purchase. Building your own wheelchair ramp may be an economical solution. Strict federal and local guidelines govern the process of building wheelchair ramps and should always be consulted before beginning the process. Ramps come in all sizes and lengths, and you can construct them from myriad materials. Wood is the least expensive material to use, although it ages more quickly than cement or steel.

Make the Sides

Step 1

Check the guidelines issued by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for specifics on ramp construction. Your city should have a planning department office. Call it to see if there are any local laws governing wheelchair ramp specifications and obtain any necessary permits.

Step 2

Use a pencil or chalk to draw the sides on the thicker sheet of plywood, the 3/4-inch sheet. Start by measuring down the long edge of the plywood sheet. Make a mark at 6 feet. This will be the bottom edge of one side of the ramp.

Step 3

Use the T-square to measure 6 inches directly above the previous mark and make another mark. Draw a straight line from that mark down to the corner of the plywood sheet forming a triangle that is 6 feet long and 6 inches high.

Step 4

Cut this triangle out of the plywood sheet, using a saw. This is the first side of the ramp. Use it to trace another triangle out of the same plywood sheet. This will be your other side of the ramp.

Add the Skeletal Structure

Step 1

Cut the 1x4 into two 4-foot pieces. These will be the joists -- horizontal supporting members -- that run from side to side up the center of the ramp. Starting from the bottom, make marks every eight inches along the slope of the sides.

Step 2

Screw the two 1x4-inch pieces at the first two marks starting from the bottom. Use two screws per side. The joists at the front of the ramp should be placed horizontally and flush to the ground.

Step 3

Cut the 2x4s in half, making a total of eight 4-foot pieces. Screw the 2x4 pieces into the sides, two screws per side, at every other mark. Add an extra 2x4 joist to the bottom, back corner of the ramp.

Add the Smooth Surface

Step 1

Measure 6 feet along the 8-foot edge of one of the 3/8-inch plywood sheets and make a mark. Measure and mark at the same distance along the other side and draw a line between the two marks.

Step 2

Saw along the line and you're left with a sheet of plywood that is 4x6 feet. Lay this sheet over the second sheet and trace it. Cut the second sheet. If you plan on adding a final layer of Masonite or Skatelite to smooth out the ramp, use this sheet to trace a line on the sheet and cut it as well.

Step 3

Screw the plywood sheets and Masonite or Skatelite to the ramp. Place the first plywood sheet over the skeletal structure and, using wood screws about every foot or so, screw the sheet to the 2x4-foot joists. Add the second sheet of plywood following the same procedure and then the finishing sheet of Masonite or Skatelite.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always consult the ADA guidelines before constructing a handicap ramp.

Things You'll Need

  • (5) 2X4s, 8 feet long
  • (1) 4X8-foot sheet of 3/4-inch plywood
  • (2) 4X8-foot sheets of 3/8-inch plywood
  • (1) 4X8-foot sheet of Masonite or Skatelite (optional)
  • 4 to 6 lbs. of 2 1/2-inch wood screws
  • T-square
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil or chalk
  • Radial saw
  • Power drill with screwdriver bit


  • Access Board: ADA Guidelines for Ramp Construction
  • Mobility Advisor: ADA Wheelchair Ramp Specs

Who Can Help

  • Americans with Disabilities Act Homepage
Keywords: ramp building, home additions, mobility solutions

About this Author

Evan Town has been a professional writer and consultant in Los Angeles, California for over 5 years. His writing has been featured on HGTV's hit show, "House Hunters" and ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Towne holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts and is an active member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

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