If anyone living in your house has difficulty using stairs, a ramp can make your home safer and more accessible.
To help you make the right choice, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers these tips on how to select or design an access ramp:
Ramps are particularly useful for overcoming changes in level of up to about 760 mm (30 in.) from the ground level to the level of the entrance. Ramps for greater changes require a great deal of space. Installing a lift or residential elevator may be a better strategy.
There are typically two approaches: landscape and structural. The landscape approach incorporates landscaping, gently sloping walkways and grading to overcome changes in level. It is generally limited to smaller changes in level. The structural approach involves building a ramp structure.
The run (length) of the ramp will depend on two primary factors: the overall rise (vertical change in level) and the slope. Most people find that a slope of between one in 15 (for every one inch of change in height the ramp must be 15 inches in length) and one in 20 is safer and easier to use. The less steep your ramp is, the longer it will have to be.
Ramps should also be a minimum of one metre (39 inches) wide. This does not include handrails, guardrails or other structural components. If someone who will be using the ramp has a walker, wheelchair or scooter and has some difficulty steering in a straight line, a wider ramp may be required.
All ramps must include a landing at the top and bottom, as well as at any point where the ramp changes direction or exceeds a maximum of nine metres (30 feet). Ramp landings should be at least 1.525 metres (five feet) long. If the landing is located where the ramp turns or changes direction, it should measure at least 1.525 square metres (five square feet), or as large as 2.1 square metres (seven square feet) if it needs to accommodate a scooter or large wheelchair.
Since the ramp may also be used by people who are walking, make sure there are at least 2.1 metres (seven feet) of clear headroom above the ramp and any landings.
Handrails are required for any ramp steeper than one in 20. If handrails are not required, it is still a good idea to install a raised lip or edge to prevent
someone in a wheelchair from rolling off the edge.
Ramps should be well-lit to create a welcoming area and ensure they are safe and easy to use. Other recommended safety features include colourcontrasting handrails and tactile, coloured strips across the top and bottom of the ramp. Ramps should also always end on a sidewalk or the driveway, not directly onto a road.
If you are building an exterior ramp and live where there is lots of snow or rain, a covered ramp would be ideal. If this is not possible, consider locating the ramp on the side of your house that is least likely to be affected by snow drifts or wind-blown rain and choosing durable materials so the ramp can be shovelled.
Before starting construction, contact your local building department to find out if you will need a permit.
For more information or a free copy of the “About Your House” fact sheet on ramps, visit our www.cmhc.caor call CMHC at 1-800-668-2642.