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When faced with the need for a wheelchair ramp, four basic material options are available: wood, steel, concrete and aluminum. Each has plusses and minuses. The two most popular options for home-owners are steel and wood.

When most people need a ramp, they often automatically think of a wooden ramp because that’s all they have seen. If there’s a handyman in the family, people think installing one is an easy, cheap job. For a skilled contractor, building a ramp is not a difficult task, but amateur carpenters often forget the importance of factoring in the proper elevations and slope. A ramp that is too steep is very dangerous because it becomes difficult to push someone in a wheelchair up a steep slope.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets guidelines for safe wheelchair ramps. According to the ADA, a slope should measure 1 foot of length for every inch of rise. For example, if you have 3 stairs at the front entrance that are each 7 inches high, the wheelchair ramp should be at least 21 feet long. Proper railings are another safety feature. Ramps over 6 feet long or 6 inches high must have handrails. A platform at the door provides a level surface and should extend at least 2 feet beyond the door to allow the door to swing open and provide a safe level space for someone in a wheelchair to open or close the door and turn around.

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