How to Build a Wheelchair Accessible Deck
LESLIE: Now I’ve got John in New Jersey on the line who’s looking to build a ramp. How can we help with that project?
JOHN: Hi. I’m looking to have an elevated deck off my house and the house is built on a slab, so we’re about a foot above grade. And I’m looking for some advice as to how high I should make it and what the best way would be to get up to it.
TOM: OK. So you definitely need a ramp to get up to this deck that’s going to be about a foot off grade?
JOHN: Well, I use a wheelchair or a walker and it would be easier than trying to navigate the steps.
TOM: Oh, OK. Sure. OK. So, you’re about a – do you think the finished height’s going to be about 12 inches off grade?
JOHN: Well, that’s where the foundation stops: where the door frame is and so forth.
TOM: OK. So let me tell you why that’s important to know. Because the ramp – I mean the pitch for the ramp is 1:12. What that means is that to drop an inch, you need to go out 12 inches. So if you need to drop 12 inches, that means you need a 12-foot ramp. So it’s important to know that because now you know how long you have to count for the ramp space.
So, for example, if you were going to build a deck and then have a ramp be sort of to the end of one side of it, you could have a deck that’s maybe, say, 15 feet deep, 3 feet for sort of a landing. You take the ramp; bring it up the side. You go 12 up with the ramp, another 3 feet for the landing and you’re there. So that’s the kind of thing you need to think of when you’re planning this out. You need a 1-inch drop over 12 inches for a safe ramp height.
JOHN: OK. So the further I had the deck away from the house, the more gradual the incline should be.
TOM: Higher. The higher (inaudible at 0:15:42).
LESLIE: The higher.
TOM: Yeah, the higher it is on the house, the longer the ramp you’ll need.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think, probably, to accommodate this sort of run of the ramp, you might want to put it on the side rather on the front edge. You know, this way it can sort of run that same length or depth of the deck, if you will.
JOHN: Right. And the deck itself would absorb some of the run then. OK.
LESLIE: Well, it would end up being – exactly. It would end up being on the side; this way, you don’t have to have something so much larger along the front edge.
Now, I wonder, Tom, if you’re expanding a deck like that, do you need any sort of special permitting or variances with the town or your neighbors to …?
TOM: Well, you certainly need permits, no matter what you do. I would not do this without a permit. And the ramp space itself is going to sort of count towards the maximum decking space. There could be some relief, depending on your situation, but I would definitely start with a call to the Building Department to find out what you’re allowed to do, John, before you just build it.
JOHN: OK. I will give them a call and we’ll go from there. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.