Accessible House Ramp
Added on May 6, 2009
This safety-related project comes from Tim. He writes:
Here’s a woodworking project that deals with safety concerning its use. My wife’s grandmother was having a hard time getting in and out of her home, sometimes falling in the process. My wife’s grandfather (a D-Day survivor from WWII) had to help steady her and her walker as the struggled up the steps. So I volunteered to design and build them a ramp to safely and easily come and go. I know that this falls more in the carpentry side of things, but I used a lot of my woodworking skills in the process.
There were a couple design challenges to start with. First, we didn’t want to remove the existing stoop so it could be used again, sometime down the road. So the structure had to be temporary (no sinking the post or pouring footings), and the landing at the door had to scribed and fit around the stoop. The last thing was that Granddaddy wanted easy access to the back yard and his garden. So a stair with short risers was added at the second landing.
I have to say, building something that’s level is not too hard, but building something that’s out of level to a certain pitch over unleveled ground is a little more of a challenge. But with some patience and a little help from Granddaddy nailing a nail or holding a board for me while I measured, I was able to get it done.
Here’s where the woodworking came into play. I knew I would be mainly working by myself, so I built a couple portable extensions for my sliding miter saw. I did this at home in my shop before I began construction of the ramp. They supported the longer sticks and I was able to clamp stops on them to make my repetitive cuts, such as the decking (which my wife helped put down). My miter saw has a positive stop that limits the down stroke during the cut. So I used it instead of my circular saw to notch all my post. Anywhere the wood came in contact with the concrete, I used epoxy on the contact surface just as I’ve done with any outdoor furniture I’ve built. I also built a few jigs to speed things along. I built a couple support jigs to hold the railings in place and at the correct height as I screwed them to the posts. I used a countersink bit to pre-drill at the end of the rails to prevent splitting the wood. It was like a rough pocket screw. I also built a spacer jig for the balusters. It spaced them with regard to each other and the top of the handrail. All the balusters when up in under an hour.
I know this project is not “fine woodworking” but it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed being able to help two very nice people and make their lives a little safer.