Wheelchair ramps offer wheelchair users freedom - but only if constructed properly. Some wheelchair ramps are difficult to use or even dangerous, so hiring a professional familiar with ADA guidelines and one that has experience with building ramps is essential. There are some factors which will affect the cost of the construction of your ramp that need to be taken into consideration.
Slope is the most critical safety concern when designing a ramp. For a permanent wheelchair ramp it is usually best to use the lowest slope possible - which means you will need to have the longest wheelchair ramp that you have space for. A steep wheelchair ramp is difficult to climb and can be very dangerous because of the risk of tipping backwards. Also, think about utilizing the ramp in poor weather such as rain or snow - the lower the slope, the easier it will be to use and the safer the user will feel. So, the lower the slope, the longer the ramp and most contractors charge by the linear foot.
Some ramps are designed for manual wheelchairs, some for electric wheelchairs, some for unoccupied wheelchairs and others for occupied. Be sure to talk to your professional about how the ramp will be used. Too often, improper ramps are built because the weight specifications are not taken into consideration. The more weight that is needed to support, the more time will be needed to properly construct the ramp.
Flat surfaces or level landings are necessary at the bottom and top of the wheelchair ramp. If there is no level landing at the top, it will be nearly impossible for the user to open the door. A landing at the bottom may be important for the user to stop the wheelchair before making a turn so they don't end up in the bushes. If the length of the ramp is very long, include level resting platforms in the middle so that users may take a break if they get tired.
The types of materials for ramps vary but below are some commonly used materials that will influence your cost:
Aluminum is an excellent material because it is resistant to corrosion, strong as well as lightweight. But aluminum is expensive and lightweight aluminum may be flexible and bend or wobble. It must have a textured finish or material that will grip tires well.
Wood needs to be maintained to prevent warping and rot. Otherwise, in time, the wheelchair ramp may become difficult to use or even unsafe. Wood can be slippery when wet, so it must be finished with a material (such as sand grit strips) that will allow access in rainy weather.
Steel is heavier than aluminum but also may be less flexible, more secure and less expensive. However, unprotected steel can rust or corrode so galvanized steel is recommended. A textured surface is important to prevent slippage.
Concrete with a rough textured surface is possibly the ideal material for a permanent wheelchair ramp, though very expensive.
To save money, talk to your professional about modular wheelchair ramps. These types of ramps are often prefabricated and delivered disassembled so that your professional can put them together for you. However, you need to provide accurate measurements or you may have some surprises during installation! If you decide to go this route, work with your professional to hire a reputable company that offers a return policy and a warranty.