written by
Ryan Penn

A Consumer’s Guide to Accessible Wheelchair Ramps

Independent Living FAQ Ramps Safety Wheelchair Lifts VPL 15 min read , October 28, 2023

Welcome to this comprehensive Buyer’s Guide on Residential Ramps, brought to you by Mobility123, your trusted experts in home accessibility solutions. Choosing the right accessibility option for your home is a critical decision that involves a multitude of factors ranging from practicality and aesthetics to regulations and cost. Whether you are weighing the benefits of modular versus wooden stick-built ramps, pondering the optimal slope, or considering space-efficient alternatives like Wheelchair Lifts, this guide has got you covered.

In this guide, you will discover:

  1. The pros and cons of modular ramps compared to wooden stick-built ramps, including the nuances of material, durability, and footings.
  2. Recommendations for slope incline, both minimum and maximum, aligned with ADA guidelines and practical usage.
  3. Insights into the aesthetic implications of both ramp types, and how they integrate or stand out within a residential setting.
  4. Information on installation timelines to help you plan your project efficiently.
  5. A detailed overview of overall costs, including material, installation, and long-term maintenance expenses.
  6. A thorough look at wheelchair lifts as a viable and sometimes preferable alternative to ramps, especially when space is at a premium.
  7. By the end of this guide, you will be equipped with the knowledge to make an informed choice tailored to your unique needs, living conditions, and budget.

Modular Ramps Vs. Wooden Ramps

Modular Ramps:


  • Aluminum: This is a lightweight and corrosion-resistant material, making it a common choice for modular ramps. It offers the benefit of long-term durability.
  • Steel: Though heavier and potentially prone to rust, steel is another material option that tends to be more affordable. It usually comes powder-coated for added durability.


  • Prefabricated Sections: Modular ramps come in pre-fabricated sections, which are assembled on-site. This speeds up the installation process.
  • No Footings Required: Generally, these ramps don't require footings because they rest on leveling feet or pads, reducing the impact on the existing property.


  • Expandable and Reconfigurable: Because modular ramps are made up of segments, you can easily expand or reconfigure the ramp in the future. This is advantageous if you plan to move or need to adjust the ramp's layout.


  • Maintenance: Aluminum ramps require minimal maintenance, often just routine cleaning. Steel ramps may require periodic painting or sealing to prevent rust.

Regulatory Compliance:

  • ADA Guidelines: Most modular ramps are designed to meet ADA guidelines, offering features like handrails and edge protection right out of the box.

Wooden Stick Built Ramps:


  • Pressure-Treated Lumber: This is the most common material used for wooden ramps. It is treated to resist termites and decay but will require periodic maintenance like painting or staining.
  • Composite Decking: Known for its durability and resistance to weathering, composite decking can outlast traditional wood. However, it's important to note that this added durability comes with a significantly higher price tag. Opting for composite decking could be a long-term investment in ramp longevity, but budget considerations should be factored in.


  • Custom Built: Wooden ramps are usually built on-site, which allows for a high degree of customization but also requires more time for construction.
  • Footings: Unlike modular ramps, wooden ramps usually require concrete footings for stability, which involves digging, setting forms, and pouring concrete. This adds to both the time and cost of installation.


  • Design Flexibility: Wooden ramps can be built with unique turns, landings, and aesthetic features like decorative railings or integrated planters. However, any alterations or expansions in the future will require additional construction work.


  • Maintenance Requirements: Wood is prone to wear and tear, rot, and possible termite infestation. Regular maintenance, like sealing, staining, or painting, is required.

Regulatory Compliance:

  • Local Building Codes: Wooden ramps often have to be designed to meet local building codes, which may be more stringent than ADA guidelines. It's essential to check these codes beforehand.

By understanding these nuanced details about modular and wooden stick-built ramps, homeowners can make an informed decision that aligns with their needs—be it the need for rapid installation, long-term durability, customization, or compliance with specific regulations.

Recommended Ramp Slope | Minimum & Maximum

ADA Recommendations

  • 1:12 Slope: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines recommend a slope ratio of 1:12. This means that for every one inch of vertical rise, there should be 12 inches (or one foot) of ramp length. This slope is generally accepted as providing a safe and comfortable incline for independent wheelchair use, as well as being manageable for an assistant pushing a wheelchair.
  • Handrails and Landings: The ADA also recommends features like handrails for ramps with a rise greater than six inches and landings for ramps longer than 30 feet. These elements further improve safety and accessibility.

Minimum Slope

  • Steeper Slopes: While the 1:12 ratio is the gold standard, some jurisdictions might allow steeper slopes, such as 1:10 or even 1:8, especially for ramps with short lengths or when space is constrained.
  • Risks: It's important to note that a steeper slope may make it more difficult for individuals to navigate the ramp, particularly if they are using a manual wheelchair or if the ramp is wet. Steeper ramps may also pose a safety risk during descent.

Maximum Slope

  • Flatter Slopes: If space allows, flatter slopes such as 1:16 or 1:20 can be installed. These are easier to navigate but take up more space, which might not be feasible for all residential properties.
  • Elderly and Fatigue: A flatter slope is particularly beneficial for the elderly or those who may experience fatigue easily.

Contextual Factors

  • Space Constraints: The available space for the ramp will often dictate the achievable slope. In smaller yards or confined spaces, achieving a 1:12 slope may be challenging, which might require opting for a vertical platform lift instead of a ramp.
  • Local Regulations: Always consult local building codes and regulations, as some jurisdictions may have their own guidelines for ramp slopes. This can include requirements for permits and inspections.
  • Climate: Weather conditions can also affect the suitability of certain slopes. For instance, in icy or rainy climates, a steeper ramp could become slippery and hazardous, making a flatter slope more advisable.

By taking into account these multiple dimensions—ranging from legal guidelines to practical considerations like space and climate—one can make a more educated choice in selecting the optimal slope for a residential ramp.

Ramp Appearance & Aesthetics

Modular Ramps

Aesthetic Flexibility:

  • Limited Choices: Modular ramps, often made from aluminum or steel, offer fewer customization options compared to wooden ramps. The industrial look may not blend seamlessly with every home aesthetic.


  • Functional Surface: These ramps usually feature a grooved or patterned surface to improve traction. While functional, this does limit your choices in terms of appearance.


  • Neutral Colors: Modular ramps often come in neutral colors like silver, black, or gray, which can somewhat mitigate their industrial look, making them more adaptable to different exterior color schemes.


  • Add-Ons: Some modular ramp systems offer limited add-ons like decorative spindles or side panels to improve their appearance, but these are generally not as flexible as customization options for wooden ramps.

Wooden Stick Built Ramps

Aesthetic Flexibility:

  • Unlimited Customization: Wooden ramps can be tailored to match your home's exterior perfectly. Whether it's a particular shade of paint, specific type of wood, or a unique railing design, the sky's often the limit.


  • Surface Treatment: Wood surfaces can be slippery, especially when wet. This necessitates a non-slip finish or additional grip tape, which can also influence the ramp’s appearance.

Design Harmony:

  • Integrated Features: Wooden ramps can be designed to include additional aesthetic features like planters, benches, or even decorative pillars, allowing them to serve dual purposes and integrate more harmoniously with the home and garden.

Climate Adaptability:

  • Material Choice and Paint: Depending on the climate, the choice of wood and paint can be customized to withstand local weather conditions, providing both durability and maintained aesthetic appeal over time.

Contextual Considerations:

  • Neighborhood Consistency: The look of the ramp should ideally be consistent with the overall character of the neighborhood. A ramp that stands out too much may affect the perceived and actual resale value of the home.
  • User Preferences: Personal preferences of the end-user are important. For some, the ramp isn't just a functional requirement but also a part of their living space that they'll see and use daily. Therefore, aesthetic considerations might carry significant psychological weight.

By understanding these nuanced aspects of ramp appearance, homeowners can make a more informed and satisfying choice, balancing functionality, aesthetics, and various contextual factors.

Ramp Order to Install | How Quick?

Modular Ramps

Installation Time:

  • Quick Setup: Because these ramps are pre-fabricated, they can usually be installed in a matter of hours or within a single day. This makes them an attractive option for urgent situations.

Installation Process:

  • Less Intrusive: Modular ramps often require less groundwork, meaning there's less disruption to the property. They are generally surface-mounted and do not require deep footings or concrete pouring.

Professional Requirement:

  • Installation Expertise: While the installation is quick, it's still generally advised to have modular ramps installed by trained professionals to ensure they meet safety standards and are correctly leveled and aligned.

Wooden Stick Built Ramps

Installation Time:

  • Longer Duration: Unlike modular ramps, wooden ramps are typically custom-built on-site. This involves a longer installation time, usually ranging from several days to possibly a week or more, depending on the design's complexity.

Installation Process:

  • More Involved: The process is generally more disruptive to the property. It often requires digging for footings, setting up forms, and waiting for concrete to cure, aside from the carpentry work itself.

Professional Requirement:

  • Skilled Labor: Wooden ramp installation often requires a variety of skilled labor, including carpentry and possibly masonry for the footings. These specialists may need to be scheduled in advance, which could further extend the installation timeline.

Contextual Factors

  • Weather Conditions: External factors like weather can significantly impact installation time. For example, wet or freezing conditions can delay the curing of concrete footings for wooden ramps or even halt installation work altogether.
  • Permitting and Regulations: Before beginning installation, it’s crucial to check local building codes and permit requirements. Obtaining the necessary permits can sometimes add delays to your timeline, more commonly for wooden ramps that are permanently altering the property.
  • Project Complexity: Both modular and wooden ramps can become complex depending on specific features such as turns, landings, and customizations, which will extend installation times. Planning for these complexities in advance can help manage timeline expectations.
  • Resource Availability: The availability of skilled labor and materials can also be a deciding factor. While modular ramps are usually readily available, custom wooden ramps might require ordering special types of wood or other materials that could add to the project’s duration.

Understanding the variables that influence installation time allows homeowners to manage expectations and plan more effectively, whether they are responding to an immediate need or planning a ramp as part of broader home renovations.

Ramp Cost | Modular Vs. Wood

Modular Ramps

Material Costs:

  • Standardized Pricing: Modular ramps, especially those made from aluminum, tend to have a more standardized pricing model. This predictability can be beneficial for budgeting purposes.

Installation Costs:

  • Labor Efficiency: Given the speed of installation, labor costs are generally lower compared to custom-built wooden ramps. This also minimizes the additional costs that can arise from delays or complications during installation.

Maintenance Costs:

  • Minimal Upkeep: Aluminum or steel ramps usually require less maintenance, thus incurring lower long-term costs. Regular cleaning is often sufficient, though steel may require periodic painting to prevent rust.

Wooden Stick Built Ramps

Material Costs:

  • Variable Pricing: The cost of wood can vary significantly based on the type and quality you choose. Customizable features, such as special railings or integrated planters, can also add to the material costs.

Installation Costs:

  • Labor-Intensive: Given the custom nature of wooden ramps and the various skill sets needed for construction—from carpentry to potentially masonry for footings—the labor costs can be high. Additionally, unexpected complexities can result in cost overruns.

Maintenance Costs:

  • Regular Upkeep: Wooden ramps usually require more maintenance, such as sealing, staining, or painting, to protect against weather conditions and possible termite infestation. These costs can add up over time.

Contextual Factors

  • Geographical Location: The cost of both labor and materials can vary based on geographic location. For example, in areas where skilled labor is scarce or expensive, installation costs can be higher.
  • Permitting and Inspections: Obtaining necessary permits and inspections may incur additional costs. This is usually more relevant for wooden ramps, which often require more in-depth reviews to comply with local building codes.
  • Resale Value: While ramps can improve accessibility, their impact on a home's resale value can vary. A well-designed wooden ramp that harmonizes with the home’s architecture may enhance value, while a poorly designed or conspicuously industrial-looking ramp might detract from it.
  • Financing and Grants: There are financing options and grants available to help offset ramp installation costs, especially for individuals with specific medical needs. Such financial aids can significantly influence the overall cost factor.

Understanding the full spectrum of costs—immediate and long-term—provides a more comprehensive financial picture, allowing homeowners to make informed decisions that suit both their needs and budget constraints.

Ramp Alternative | Wheelchair Lifts

Wheelchair Lifts

Space Efficiency:

  • Compact Design: Wheelchair lifts, also known as platform lifts or vertical platform lifts (VPLs), are especially useful where space is limited. They require a significantly smaller footprint than a ramp with a gentle slope, making them ideal for urban homes or tight spaces.

Installation Time:

  • Varied Duration: Installation time can be comparable to that of modular ramps if you're opting for a pre-fabricated lift. Custom lifts or lifts requiring significant alterations to the home might take longer to install.

Aesthetic Considerations:

  • Sleeker Look: Wheelchair lifts are often designed to be less obtrusive and can sometimes be installed in a manner that makes them almost inconspicuous when not in use.

Operational Speed:

  • Quick Access: A lift can provide quicker access to different levels compared to a ramp, especially over significant vertical distances. This is often appreciated by users who might find the long journey on a ramp tiring.


  • Higher Initial Cost: The upfront costs for a wheelchair lift are generally higher than for a ramp due to the mechanical components involved and potentially more complicated installation procedures.
  • Maintenance Costs: Wheelchair lifts also require regular maintenance to ensure their mechanical parts are in good working order, adding to long-term costs.

Contextual Factors

  • Electricity Requirement: Wheelchair lifts require a power source, making them less ideal during power outages unless equipped with a backup power source.
  • Safety Features: Lifts come with safety features like emergency stop buttons, but users need to ensure that these features are regularly checked and maintained.
  • User Autonomy: Lifts can often be operated independently, making them a suitable option for individuals who prefer a more autonomous method of mobility without relying on slopes or assistance.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Like ramps, wheelchair lifts must comply with specific safety standards and building codes, which can vary by jurisdiction. These regulations might dictate the lift’s design, safety features, and how it should be installed.
  • Resale Value Impact: While a lift can be an attractive feature for future potential homeowners who require accessibility, it could also narrow the pool of interested buyers, thereby affecting the home's resale value in ways different than a ramp would.

Understanding the intricacies of opting for a wheelchair lift as an alternative to a ramp can help homeowners make well-informed decisions that meet their unique requirements. This choice hinges on balancing multiple factors, from immediate practicalities to long-term implications.

Accessible Ramp Buyers Guide Overview

Thank you for investing your time in reading this comprehensive guide on residential ramps and optional wheelchair lifts. Our aim has been to offer you an in-depth look into the various facets of choosing the most suitable accessibility option for your home. From the intricacies of materials and design to the complexities of compliance and cost, we have strived to leave no stone unturned.

When it comes to making such a significant decision for your home and quality of life, expertise and experience matter. That's why Mobility123 stands as your go-to expert in the field. With a rich history of providing top-notch accessibility solutions, including a specialized in-house construction division, we are uniquely positioned to guide you through every step of your journey toward a more accessible home.

Contact Mobility123 today for personalized assistance in selecting, installing, and maintaining your residential ramp or wheelchair lift. Our commitment to excellence ensures you will receive the best advice and highest quality of service in the industry. Let us help you make your home a sanctuary of mobility and independence.

  1. What are the main types of residential ramps available?
    The main types of residential ramps include modular aluminum ramps and wooden stick-built ramps. Mobility123 offers solutions in both categories to cater to different needs and preferences.
  2. How do I determine the best slope for my ramp?
    The recommended slope for a residential ramp varies but generally follows ADA guidelines of a 1:12 ratio. Mobility123 can help you determine the optimal slope based on your specific circumstances.
  3. Can I install a ramp myself?
    While some ramps like portable or modular options may offer DIY possibilities, it's generally advisable to have ramps professionally installed. Mobility123 provides expert installation services to ensure safety and compliance.
  4. What is the difference between modular and wooden stick-built ramps?
    Modular ramps are usually made of aluminum and are pre-fabricated, while wooden stick-built ramps are custom-built on-site. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, which Mobility123 can elaborate on to help you make an informed decision.
  5. How much does a residential ramp cost?
    The cost of a ramp varies widely based on material, length, design, and installation complexity. Mobility123 offers a range of solutions to fit different budgets.
  6. How quickly can a ramp be installed?
    Installation timelines vary. Modular ramps can often be installed within a day, while custom wooden ramps may take longer. Mobility123 provides efficient and timely installation services.
  7. Can I use composite decking material for a wooden ramp?
    Yes, composite decking is an option for wooden stick-built ramps. It is more durable but also significantly more expensive. Mobility123 can provide this as an alternative material option.
  8. Is a wheelchair lift a good alternative to a ramp?
    A wheelchair lift can be an effective alternative, especially in space-constrained areas. Mobility123 offers wheelchair lifts as part of their comprehensive range of home accessibility solutions.
  9. Do I need a permit to install a ramp or lift?
    Most local jurisdictions require permits for installing ramps or lifts. Mobility123 can assist with navigating the permitting process as part of their service offering.
  10. How do I maintain my ramp or lift?
    Regular maintenance varies by the type of ramp or lift you choose. Mobility123 offers maintenance services and can guide you on how to keep your ramp or lift in optimal condition.

Contact Mobility123 for your personalized accessible ramp quote.

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