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Old 02-12-2020, 06:31 PM
Napier is offline
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Tell me about building or installing an accessibility ramp


Ms Napier's knees are facing surgery and she's had difficulty walking for years -- as it is, she basically no longer goes down into the basement because of the stairs, and she's talked about getting a wheelchair to make things like shopping easier. Maybe she'll get knee replacement surgery and turn things around entirely, but I'm getting nervous that instead this could become the reason we have to suddenly sell our house, which I'm not eager to do. So I'm wondering about a ramp for our main entrance.

We have a "raised rancher", in which the upper level is intended as the entire living level and the lower level was originally an unfinished basement and is now set up as my shop and office area. I think we have about ten feet of altitude between the driveway and the front door, and the shortest possible path is about 70 feet but we could pretty easily fold a 150 foot path if we needed to.

So, I can picture building one from scratch (I built a tiny one for moving equipment into and out of an outbuilding). But if it's for humans with mobility limitations, especially for humans in wheelchairs, is it a special situation? For example, do laws govern the dimensions? Does medical insurance pay for it, and under what conditions? Is it tax deductible? Are there "Ramps R Us" companies that streamline all this? Is it a plus or a minus when we do eventually sell the house?

Personal experiences would be welcome.

Thanks!
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Old 02-12-2020, 06:36 PM
Napier is offline
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By the way, I'm researching this online too. But it's somewhat surprising. homeadvisor.com has a reference saying a standard ramp is 30 inches high. I figured they'd go all the way from the ground to the building entrance....
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Old 02-12-2020, 07:04 PM
Dag Otto is offline
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There are standards for ramps, dealing with maximum slope, width, railing, etc. I'll try to look them up, I was looking into this about a year ago for my parents. As for the 30", that sound like a height between landings, which are required at certain heights.
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Old 02-12-2020, 07:11 PM
doreen is offline
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Every one inch of rise requires one foot of ramp - so a 10 foot rise would require about 120 feet of ramp. I think the "standard ramp is 30 inches high" is a reference to a requirement that there must be a rest area for every 30 inches in rise so that for a ten foot rise you would need 120 feet of ramp and an additional distance for the platforms.

As far as personal experience, my mother has knee problems and has had both of them replaced. She frequently took/takes the stairs instead of the ramp, because the extra walking distance causes her more pain than the steps will. Whether it will be a plus when you sell the house, that's going to depend on exactly how it looks- something like this might be a plus but something like this might not be.

Since you mention she's talking about getting a wheelchair, you might want to consider an outdoor wheelchair lift

Last edited by doreen; 02-12-2020 at 07:16 PM.
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Old 02-12-2020, 07:19 PM
Dag Otto is offline
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BTW, maximum slope is 1:12, so 12 inches of run per foot of rise. For 120 inches (10 ft) of rise, you are looking at 120 foot long ramp plus the required landings landings. Depending on the layout, the l landings could be where the ramp changes direction. Landings have dimension requirements also. Google ADA ramp requirements and you'll find more information. I don't know if you need to follow ADA requirements for a residential ramp or not, but if you build it to those standards you'll have a useable ramp if mobility goes from walking unassisted to using a walker to using a wheelchair.

Last edited by Dag Otto; 02-12-2020 at 07:20 PM.
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Old 02-12-2020, 08:17 PM
Civil Guy is offline
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Um, I let my Civil Engineer license lapse since retirement, and anyhow, it wasn't for your jurisdiction. Still, I've done a fair bit of looking over the standards as implemented by California. That is, YMMV.

The maximum slope of 1:12 is for the short ramps used to climb curbs. The maximum slope for other situations is 1:20. Yes, there's probably a resting landing required for every 30 inches of rise. Makes sense if you think about it: how would you like to get tired of pulling yourself along, but with no good option of letting loose for awhile.

Yes, those ramps can get to be long suckers.
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Old 02-12-2020, 08:39 PM
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Generally private residences are not required to meet ADA ramp requirements for slope and landings on ramps. Just be sure to confirm that with your local building code inspectors. But I humbly recommend exceeding the ADA minimums if you can afford it.

ADA compliant landings need to be a minimum of 5 feet long along the direction of travel. If the ramp makes a 90 degree turn at the landing then that means a 5ft x 5ft landing at a minimum.

Wheelchairs do ok with minimally sized landings but if you choose to go with a mobility scooter in the future an ADA minimum standard ramp may not have large enough landings for the scooter to make a turn - depends on the turning radius of the scooter. IMHO, designing for larger landings is a wise move.

If there is a door on a landing be sure to make that landing extra large to provide sufficient turning radius for the wheelchair while allowing the door to swing freely. It is no fun trying to open a door while you are trying to fight rolling backwards down the ramp because there wasn't enough room on the landing to rest level while opening the door.

There are contractors who specialize in ramp building. I do not know of a nationwide chain but your local disability services advocacy group can probably provide a referral to an experienced local contractor.

Last edited by Iggy; 02-12-2020 at 08:40 PM.
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Old 02-13-2020, 08:53 AM
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Medical insurance, whether Medicare or private, doesn't pay for any kind of building modifications.
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Old 02-13-2020, 09:23 AM
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If you need something more compact, how about a lift like those made by this company: https://ascension-lift.com/

No doubt there are others - I searched for 'external wheelchair lift'.
  #10  
Old 02-13-2020, 09:40 AM
aceplace57 is offline
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I hired a concrete contractor to pour a sidewalk into the backyard. He also poured a ramp that connects to the existing deck.

A local welding shop made the wrought iron hand rails. Railings are very important. They prevent anyone from falling of the edges of the ramp.

The ramp looks nice and doesn't hurt the resell value of the house.

Last edited by aceplace57; 02-13-2020 at 09:42 AM.
  #11  
Old 02-13-2020, 09:53 AM
Dewey Finn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier View Post
Ms Napier's knees are facing surgery and she's had difficulty walking for years -- as it is, she basically no longer goes down into the basement because of the stairs, and she's talked about getting a wheelchair to make things like shopping easier. Maybe she'll get knee replacement surgery and turn things around entirely, but I'm getting nervous that instead this could become the reason we have to suddenly sell our house, which I'm not eager to do. So I'm wondering about a ramp for our main entrance.
My mother (currently in her 80s) was told for almost a decade that she should have knee replacement surgery but kept putting it off. But she eventually had it a couple of years ago and is very happy with the results. She has much less pain when walking or climbing stairs. And the surgery itself, even though it's really serious stuff, is relatively quick. I think the actual operation was less than two hours. I saw her delivered to the patient room at noon and within about four hours they had her walking down the hallway. So I recommend that you encourage your wife to get the surgery.

That said, if you still need a way to get up the stairs, one of my father's doctors has a wheelchair lift like the one linked to by bob++. No idea on the cost, but a ramp that goes up ten feet isn't going to be cheap either.
  #12  
Old 02-13-2020, 10:13 AM
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The ramp into my mom's house rises 30 inches to meet the deck. It's 16 ft long and pretty steep. We didn't have the room to make it any longer.

You'll need a lift to rise 10 ft. That's way to high for a ramp.
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Old 02-13-2020, 10:45 AM
Dewey Finn is offline
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Another thing; you said your shop and office were downstairs. What happens if you're the one who has trouble negotiating stairs? I think you should seriously consider moving to a one-story house.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:28 AM
Napier is offline
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Thanks, everybody! Here are some thoughts:

Maybe a ramp can't work here. If it has to rise no more than 1 in 20, that means 240 feet of incline. There'd be four increments of height if we limit them to 30 inches, so that's three landings of at least 5 feet each, which now makes 255 feet. That's about 1/20 mile. Maybe it's really impossible.

The driveway and the entrance are around a corner from each other, too. If we did some excavation and put in about 30 feet of boardwalk at the 10 foot high level, we could have an outdoor lift.

I'm finding contradictory references about how one can pay for all this. The subject still needs more work.

As to whether I lose mobility, well, I'm 62 and trail hiking is my hobby, 5 miles a week typically in the winter and more in the warm weather. No sign of serious trouble yet. But who knows? Ms Napier has had trouble walking for years. My best guess is that I'll be using stairs for another 15 years or so, and probably won't live 25. I've often reflected on choices I would have made differently if I were buying my house with what I know now. But I've only owned this one house, for about 35 years now. I'm trying to imagine how a house move would impact retirement plans.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:35 AM
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I am having difficulty visualizing the house. How many entrances do you have into the house? Do you have a flat entrance into the lower part of the house? If so why not just keep the wheelchair there and put a stair lift on the stairways between the upper and lower level? [And if she ever also needs a wheelchair on the upper level you could keep a separate one there.]
https://101mobility.com/blog/stair-lift-cost/

If you want the best advice I think you should post some photos on one of the free photo listings sites and link to them--when people can see the exact situation they can come up with better ideas.
  #16  
Old 02-14-2020, 01:10 PM
Hari Seldon is offline
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Just my WAG: I think you ought to seriously consider moving. My wife and I lived in our house for 47 years and really loved it. Neither of us had serious problems with stairs--yet--but schlepping the laundry from the basement to the second floor was getting more and more of a nuisance. We moved into a condo last summer and have not regretted it.
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Old 02-14-2020, 03:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
My mother (currently in her 80s) was told for almost a decade that she should have knee replacement surgery but kept putting it off. But she eventually had it a couple of years ago and is very happy with the results. She has much less pain when walking or climbing stairs. And the surgery itself, even though it's really serious stuff, is relatively quick. I think the actual operation was less than two hours. I saw her delivered to the patient room at noon and within about four hours they had her walking down the hallway. So I recommend that you encourage your wife to get the surgery.
Yep- knee replacements can add a LOT to quality of life for some people. My grandmother had one of her knees replaced when she was in her early 80s, and it was so successful that she got the other one replaced as well the following year, as it was holding her back from doing what she wanted.

I think she spent a few days in the hospital, but she was discharged and walking around within the week.

Last edited by bump; 02-14-2020 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 02-16-2020, 12:59 AM
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Canadian income tax allows deduction of the costs of home accessibility modifications, so you should check your federal/state tax codes for this, as well.
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Old 02-16-2020, 03:35 AM
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Get a lift or move. 10 ft is too much for ramps. And if someone ends up needing to move a manually powered wheeelchair up the ramp, they will take quite some time.

A lift would also be better if snow and/or ice is an issue.
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Old 02-16-2020, 03:47 PM
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I also vote for lift or move - speaking as someone who is half in a chair and half on crutches. I also invested in having the most advertized bathroom reno company rip out the mid 60s cast iron/enamel bathtub and put in a custom walk in shower - total after it was done was around $4000. It has more grab rails than required, a fold down shower seat, and the regular shower/handheld shower combo so I can have my shower adjusted to my height, and mrAru can stand under the regular shower. My stair lift was from Acorn, and as I recall it was $2800 installed. Both made an amazing difference in quality of life here. I just wish I could have convinced my dad in installing them 15 years ago. *sigh*

However, one can find a ton of wonderful single story ranches out there, and you can even have custom ones built [I love modular home companies] to suit any taste.
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Old 02-16-2020, 06:18 PM
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We were in our fifties when we had to leave our 2-story home with living quarters upstairs, office and laundry downstairs. Hauling groceries, firewood and ash, laundry, furniture etc was good exercise but hard on knees. (We really worked to get our church organ up the stairs.)

We designed our current 1-level modular home with aging in mind: low-rise wide-tread outside steps with 2, 3, and 4 feet ascents, the lowest set for ramp conversion; walk-in shower with seat; no fucking fireplace. Had we kept the 2-story place, we'd have dug into savings to retrofit an elevator (there was space and support for it).

Our 2-foot-high side-door steps face a clear 40-foot line along the house for a 1:20 slope so we're set there. The covered side porch will need to be expanded slightly to fit wheelchairs if needed, hopefully in the far future.

You've received many good suggestions. I'll go with this: if you can't retrofit power lifts, it's best to move into a single-level house. Ranch style; mid-century modern; modular; pre-fab. (My old desert cinderblock jackrabbit shack sat on a concrete slab with front, side, and back door rises of 3 inches.) Any of these are suitable.
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Old 02-16-2020, 07:35 PM
Napier is offline
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I have received many good suggestions here, yes. Thank you to everybody.

The more I look at things the more convinced I become that a ramp is not a real possibility.

I do believe that by installing about 40' of elevated straight walkway, starting with a deck at the front door, continuing along the front wall of the house, and extending a few feet beyond the end of the house, we could reach an access to the driveway. There would be space there to have a lift that would travel 10' vertically. There would be some excavation. Our electrical power and cable internet & phone is buried there but I suppose either the walkway could extend further, or maybe we could move those utilities. I don't like that this walkway would be immediately adjacent to my bedroom window, so the first thing strangers would see is a full view of the bedroom, but maybe some stained glass windows would fix that (at the cost of being able to look outside).

It's hard to see how Ms. Napier could enter on the lower floor. We'd have to convert the sliding glass door to a door one can unlock from the outside, but then the stairway between basement and living floor is pretty narrow. The top of the stairs is a laundry area that is too small as it is, and a tight U turn through a door and between cabinets to get into the kitchen. It's hard to imagine maneuvering a wheelchair through all this even if the stair lift took up no space except for the size of a small chair, and that's with having wheelchairs kept at the top and bottom of the stairs. For years now, the basement has been exclusively my space, and she stomps on the floor when she wants me, never coming down here at all.

But the idea of buying a different house is frankly just horrifying. We are trying to make it through a bathroom facelift, where we're replacing the fixtures, furniture, paint, and flooring. We're not changing anything about the functionality or content or layout of the bathroom, just replacing old stuff with new stuff. She's frantic, having anxiety attacks, having stress symptoms in her chronic diseases, and yelling bitter recriminations pretty much every day -- and the contractor hasn't even started yet, he starts first thing tomorrow morning. And this is all for the bathroom I use, not her bathroom. The idea of making a significant change to the house just seems prohibitively difficult. Choosing a new home seems flat out impossible. It's hard to even try to push my thinking ahead on this; I just want to put my head in the sand. Though people tell me that's not as successful as I might wish, for preventing aging.
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