How to Build a Front Door Wheelchair Ramp

front door wheel chair rampPassed in 1990, the American’s with Disabilities Act and publications that it has spawned have become the most importance reference point for people seeking information about wheel chair services. Though the amount of information available on the ADA website is staggering, one of the most popular portions of the site remains the information and specifications for a front door wheelchair ramp.

Recommended Ramp Slope

The ADA recommends that, in residential front door wheelchair ramp applications, you have 12” of ramp for every 3” of rise. You can use this ratio to figure out how long the ramp should be and at what angle the ramp should be built.

For example, if the porch is 24” high, then the ramp should be 8’ long. If the porch is 36” high, then the ramp should be 12’ long. You can use this ratio to figure the length for any height porch. This figure is based on the use of a manually powered wheelchair.

If the front door wheelchair ramp is going to be used by a powered wheelchair or a motorized scooter, then the ration should be 12” of ramp for every 2” of rise. This will result in a slightly longer ramp but will make it safer in icy conditions and will allow the user easier access.


When making the plans to build a front door wheelchair ramp, you need to carefully consider what materials you want to use. The deck can be made from planks in much the same way as a backyard deck or patio would be. Many people stay away from this though, because the planks can warp and cup, making it difficult to get the wheelchair up the ramp.

Additionally, the wheels can slip in between planks and get stuck if they are running the length of the ramp. The best option is usually pressure treated plywood. This is available in 4’ x 8’ sheets and is very durable.

Make sure you use a ¾” thickness to get the maximum strength. A sheet of plywood is beneficial because it can be nailed down in a way that will not allow it to warp and its smooth surface is easily shoveled or swept clean of snow and ice.

Once you have constructed the ramp you will want to treat the wood. Use a basic weather proofing wood sealer to ensure that your front door wheelchair ramp will last a long time. Some folks choose to paint it, but that will require additional maintenance in the future and paint often discolors when applied over pressure treated lumber.

Some people also choose to add strips of anti-slip tape to the ramp. You can buy rolls of this at most home improvement stores and it will ensure good footing on wet days for those who may be walking up the ramp.

photo: Noël Lee/CreativeCommons