Improve accessibility and safety by swapping stairs for ramps in your home or yard.
by Laura Gaskill. Houzz Contributor. I cover topics ranging from decorating ideas, product picks, Houzz tours, and interviews with designers and architects, to the monthly home maintenance checklist.
If you or someone in your household is in a wheelchair, ramps are a must for navigating between the levels of your home, both indoors and out. That doesn’t mean they need to be purely utilitarian, though. By working with an experienced pro, you can have a ramp that is safe, stylish and perfectly suited to the style of your home. And because they are safer than stairs, ramps can be a good choice for homes with young kids … plus, they’re just more fun. Get all the facts on adding this feature to your home or yard below.
Project: Add a ramp.
Why: Wheelchair accessibility may be the most obvious reason, but it’s far from the only one. A ramp is also helpful for aging-in-place design, and it’s more fun (and safer) than stairs for young children. With proper planning, a ramp can fit into indoor and outdoor spaces just as well as a traditional staircase, providing visual interest, function and fun. If you plan to sell your home eventually, a well-designed ramp could even make your home more appealing to a wider range of buyers.
Who to hire: For an interior ramp, an architect or designer will be able to create a custom one that not only fits your space, but is integrated well with the design and style of your home. From flooring choice to the shape and style of the railings, an interior ramp works best when it echoes the style of the rest of the home.
For an exterior ramp, look for an architect or a landscape architect whose work appeals to you. A landscape architect is especially well suited for integrating ramps with plantings and other outdoor features, but some architecture and design-build firms also have this experience. A peek at portfolios along with a phone conversation or online chat should make it clear what type of work the person or company is equipped to do.
Important note: If you are looking to build a wheelchair-accessible ramp, choose an architect or a designer who is familiar with Americans With Disabilities Act design standards. Following these standards will ensure that the grade of the ramp is safe; the path is wide enough to maneuver a chair on; the flooring material is a safe, nonslip surface; the path is well lit and so on.
Cost: For design and installation, the price can be around $2,000 for a relatively simple, small outdoor ramp. For larger and more elaborate custom designs, the cost can range from $3,500 to $8,000 — consider it on par with the price of having a new interior staircase built.
Your choice of materials will also affect the cost. Concrete or synthetic decking, for example, would be on the lower end of the price range, and fine hardwoods used on an interior ramp on the higher end. By working with your architect or designer, you should be able to choose a material that fits the style of your space and your budget.
Best time to do this project: For an interior ramp, any time of year is fine. For outdoor ramps, plan to have the work done during warm weather.
Typical project length: A small ramp (equivalent to two or three steps) with a straightforward design can be completed in about two weeks, depending on your site. Larger ramps (the size of a staircase between floors) and more intricate designs can take six to eight weeks or more. If adding a ramp requires major restructuring of other areas of your home, consider the timetable similar to that of a major remodel.
First steps: Decide where you want the ramp to go and think about why you are having it installed. Is it for accessibility, for aging in place or purely for fun? What is your budget and timetable for this project? Answering these questions will help when you contact pros.
Although the architect or designer you choose will give you design guidance, it will be helpful to be familiar with what you like. Save photos you like to share with your designer to make sure you are both on the same page.
Ask friends for recommendations, browse listings on Houzz and create a short list of pros you think could be a good fit for your project. Ultimately, it’s important to choose someone whose work you admire and who you feel you can work well with.