Ramps

wellspringOctober 29, 2008

SoEverybody is saying to me, "maybe you should turn those stairs into a rampÂIt would be safer."

I broke my leg when I slipped on the middle step of five concrete steps connecting a "lower patio" to the grade level of our backyard. It's a standard split or bi-level feature. The half-basement or lower level of our raised ranch is not a full basement depth below grade. Our family room has an exterior door that walks out to a lower level patio about 12 foot square. Somehow you gotta get out of that hole, hence the five steps from the below grade level up to a sidewalk that then connects with the main patio situated behind the garage.

The particular situation isn't what I'm asking about at the moment. I'm just wondering about ramps in general.

If you say ramp to most people, I think their first impressions are "geriatric" and "disabled". I think ramps have occasionally been mentioned around the edges of project descriptionsÂmaybe by Bahia?Âand there they sound like a more organic part of the design. Can ramps be beautiful? More so than stairs? Do they always "stick out" making some sort of statement about the inhabitants of a home? Are we all going to wish we had this kind of access some day?

I also know that ramps take up more real estate. Could someone give me the information on what slope meets code (I know this may vary from state to state, but I'm looking for a good "rule of thumb".)

Also, are well designed and constructed ramps usually more expensive than stairs? To me, it seems that they would beÂ

It seems to me that a ramp could be an intriguing design feature. Anyone have a favorite ramp-in-the-landscape description?

Tell me what you think about ramps. Do you wish you had them? Think they are an ugly nuisance? Find the neighborhood kids want to use them as skateboarding challenge courses?

What else?

Wellspring

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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

When we bought and renovated this place 9 years ago, I wanted ramps to the front and back porches. What I envisioned was a curved ramp (to double back on itself to save space) with the outer wall doubled so I could have a 'hanging garden' in the outer wall. The architect's design was beautiful but it was going to cost a small fortune because it would have needed full concrete footing and walls. So we ended up going with porch lifts with lattice screening walls so we could cover thenm in vines to hide the lifts a bit. I would have preferred the ramps but we just weren't prepared to spend the amount they would have cost.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 10:44AM
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inkognito

Aesthetically ramps are inferior to steps, imagine Italy with ramps! There is a house near here that has a long winding ramp, (I'll take a picture and post it not today; its snowing!) that is not only ugly but takes up a lot of space which is the other negative. I wish I could be more positive, perhaps a contraption like a Tommy Gate would work.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 4:24PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

A ramp THROUGH a garden that has some topography is just a sloped walkway, isn't it? Like the one Laag posted in response the lady who wanted to put a pathway with switchbacks up a steep yard. But I think that still had steps in it. A ramp TO a house is different as it needs to be elevated.

A sloped walkway with a raised planting alongside is just nice landscaping.

KarinL

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 6:25PM
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laag(z6CapeCod)

Most of us associate "ramp" with "ugly", but that is often because of the circumstances that they have to fit into. More often than not, it is a ramp to a door of a building that has conventional framing.

Wellspring has a much easier situation because she does not have to deal with a wood rim joist and 8" of clearance between siding and grade. That situation forces a drop off that requires rails in order to keep fill away from the wood of the house.

The maximum slope that is allowed under the AmericanDisabilities Act (ADA) is 1' of rise in 12' of run (8.33% slope). Anything over 5% is considered a ramp and requires specialized rails. If it is under 5% (1' rise in 20') it is just a sloped walk.

I don't believe that you need to met any standard for ramps on a residential property if it is not the primary access to the house, but you should check that.

ADA has a limit on how long the ramp can be without a landing. It is 30'. Whenever there is a change of direction, there needs to be 5'x 5' clear with a maximum slope and cross slope of 2%. This eats up a lot of real estate when you think that a 30' ramp only climbs only 30". That is the same height as five 6" risers and only four stair treads. The diffence is that the ramp is at least 26' longer than the set of steps.

Another concern is that a long walk sloping down into this lower area is going to have water runoff coming down it. That may or may not be a big deal.

People tend to find that wood ramps are often a less complicated way to go because you don't have to deal with retaining earth, runoff, and more people have the skill set to build them. The problem is that aesthetically they are bulky and not very appealing.

A good compromise solution for you might be to have a landing in between two sets of steps so that you only have to deal with two or three at a time.

This picture shows a 5% ADA access to a building (5% or less = no rails needed). The thing that allows this is the masonry porch (original design was sono tubes) and the amount of space to work with. Notice that there are 2 risers to the steps in the foreground. The walk comes away from the porch at 5% for 10' and then back to the photographer at 5%. This replaced a typical ADA ramp that was originally designed for it.

The rear of the building did not lend itself to this and has the same ramp that would have also been on the front of the building. I don't know if the picture will be big enough to see the big ADA ramp at the far left. Also notice the dip in the walk that was designed to allow for drainage. That was not an error, but part of the design.

The ramp at the rear was designed by the building architect and was very nicely done. The situation in the rear did not have a masonry porch and the grade had to remain flat for other reasons. I did the site design for the front access, the walkways, the turf, retaining walls, and the parking lots. I did not do the landscape design.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 9:06PM
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