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Posts in rampscape
Do I Really Need a Ramp as I Age?

This answer is: not really. It depends on how well you plan changes to your home!

Ramps are mostly a utilitarian tool for houses with steps to enter. I’ve never known anyone to say that they would LOVE to have a ramp attached to their house. More people would rather have a zero step entry.

But if life sneaks up on you and you have little time to plan, a ramp is a good option to keep in mind to keep that ability to get in and out of your house. Let’s go over what types of ramps exist!

Photo of modular ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of modular ramp by Upside Innovations

Modular ramp:

Modular ramps are cost effective in that they can be prepped in one location and assembled in another. They are reusable, which is great for low income families or people who need to move to a different home. Modular ramps are considered a temporary structure and require no permit to build.

Here’s a link for more information on how to build a modular ramp from a local non profit in Minnesota. You can even add stairs to this model!

Permanent ramp:

Photo of wooden permanent ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of wooden permanent ramp by Upside Innovations

You do need a permit from your city to build a permanent ramp. These ramps are typically made of aluminum, wood, or concrete. Consider building this type of ramp if you are planning to live in your home for a lifetime.

Permanent ramps are the most expensive ones on the list. Make sure that you are satisfied with the design of the ramp before you build! Any last minute changes could be VERY expensive!

I would also double check and make sure the surface of the ramp will resist feeling slick from rain or ice. Have you ever pushed or pulled something with wheels up a hill or ramp when it’s slippery? If you haven’t, it’s NOT easy! I don’t want my ramp to turn into a slide if I can help it!

Transportable ramps:

I grouped the following ramps together because they are all designed to be set up and taken down frequently over a few steps: telescopic, folding, and suitcase. They are typically made of aluminum and some sort of anti-slip tape or treads.

Photo of telescopic ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of telescopic ramp by Upside Innovations

Telescopic ramps have two separate troughs for the right and left wheels of a wheelchair. This is a bad choice for scooters due to the third wheel in the middle!

Photo of foldable ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of foldable ramp by Upside Innovations

Folding ramps come in a variety of different sizes and are either bi-fold or tri-fold. They are foldable in order to conserve space when stored. People typically use these ramps to get in and out of a wheelchair accessible van.

Photo of suitcase ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of suitcase ramp by Upside Innovations

Suitcase ramps are bi-folds with handles to make it less awkward to carry. They vary in length from two to six feet, which makes it convenient to throw in the trunk of a car if you’re travelling or visiting family or friends.

Always check the weight limitations that transportable ramps can support. For instance, power wheelchairs can weigh up to 250 pounds alone! You definitely want to have a ramp that can support the power wheelchair plus a person.

Threshold ramps:

Photo of threshold ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of threshold ramp by Upside Innovations

This type of ramp is used to maneuver over a small barrier, like a door threshold or a curb. They’re made of rubber or metal and are very lightweight. Threshold ramps work on heights from ½ to six inches, so please don’t try and stack them if you need a height exceeding that (speaking from experience!).

Rampscape:

Lastly, let’s talk about my favorite type of ramp, the rampscape. They incorporate landscaping and grading to create a gradual incline to the threshold.

Photo of rampscape by Innovate Building Solutions. It doesn’t look like a ramp!

Photo of rampscape by Innovate Building Solutions. It doesn’t look like a ramp!

In my case, I would love to make a rampscape to my back door, which is the main entry in and out of my house. I’m planning on grading the dirt and pouring a concrete sidewalk that will make a gradual slope to my back door. This will eliminate the steps and make my door a zero step entry!

Rampscapes are beautiful, have great curb appeal, and stand the test of time. If you put in a rampscape, then anyone with any ability can visit your home! I have relatives who have a hard time walking and climbing steps. A rampscape would allow my relatives and wheelchair users to effortlessly go in and out of my house.

How cool is it to be the house everyone can visit?

Let me give you two tips for consideration when using ramps. First, try to place an overhead cover above your ramp. This helps with weather protection, especially if your ramp becomes slick from rain, ice, or snow. Overhead covers keep you dry and comfortable while self propelling wheelchairs, fumbling for keys, opening the door, etc.

The second thing to remember is that ramps with a rise of one inch to one foot (1:1) is the most ideal.

Why is that?

Well, have you ever pushed anyone in a wheelchair up or down a ramp? If the slope is more than 1:1, you are working VERY hard. This leads to increased physical labor for caregivers and a higher chance of injury.

Heck, I feel my body working harder when I’m walking up a steep hill by myself! I don’t want to work too hard when I’m helping somebody else!

Make sure you have the space for the length of the ramp you need. The rise at my back door is 14 inches, which means I need 14 feet of length for my ramp to be 1:1. Personally, I have the space to do that in my yard.

Now, if you don’t have the space for that, you may need to install something else besides a ramp, like a vertical lift.

Your takeaway from this tip should be: steep ramps are pains in the BUTT! Make sure you’ve got the room to make a ramp with a gradual slope. Steep ramps make it hard to get in and out of the house, which makes it so people never want to leave the house. Not leaving the house is very bad for your health!

I hope this article helps you plan for a ramp (or NO ramp) in your future. Personally, I don’t want to have to deal with ramps to get in and out of my home EVER. With my experience as a caregiver and occupational therapist, I’ve found that ramps can be treacherous.

That’s why I’m planning my rampscape while I can easily climb stairs, not when I struggle getting in and out of the house.

Do you use ramps at home? What type of ramp do you have? Tell us what you think about it in the comments below!

Remember, you better do it before you need it!

(Thank you to Upside Innovations for their great article on types of ramps!)

What Do You Need? A Zero Step Entry!
Front entry with zero step entry. Photo by the Journal of Light Construction

Front entry with zero step entry. Photo by the Journal of Light Construction

A zero step entry is a doorway to get in and out of your house with ZERO steps.

You know what’s a shame though? Less than 3.5% of homes in the U.S. have one zero step entry according to Joint Center for Housing Studies (2011).

Now, of course, I hope that figure has gone up since 2011. But I highly doubt it!

When I drive around and see new construction for houses and apartments, you better believe I’m rubbernecking to see if they’re putting in one entryway with zero steps!

But here’s the unfortunate truth: I see steps to go inside the front door, back door, and garage door.

Why do builders do this?

Because they do what they know. Builders don’t obsess about accessibility the way occupational therapists like me do!

I understand people think that a couple, two, three stairs won’t hurt anybody from going in and out of their house. But it actually does in the long run.

Let’s try an experiment:

I want you to carry something that requires two hands, like a laundry basket, across level flooring for ten feet.

I’ll wait here. . .

Okay! You’re finished! Great! How much effort did you put into that? How hard are you breathing? Can you still hold a conversation? Are your muscles tired?

Now, I want you to carry that same object up and down at least two stairs. If you have more stairs, try carrying your object up and down all of your stairs.

After all of your stair climbing, how much effort did your body put in to carrying an object up and down the stairs compared to no stairs at all?

As we age, this “simple” task of carrying objects up and down stairs becomes more difficult. Even though I’m in my 30’s, I notice I exert more energy to carry things up and down stairs compared to carrying things across the floor.

I hate to burst your bubble, but there will be a day when it’s harder for you to carry things up and down the stairs. It may be due to a back injury, arthritis, heart condition, etc., etc. You just never know!

So if you DON’T have a zero step entry, what can you do NOW to make sure you’re set for the future?

Start planning your zero step entry for your home!

Front zero step entry with portico and rampscape. Photo by Sutton Group Preferred Realty

Front zero step entry with portico and rampscape. Photo by Sutton Group Preferred Realty

It can be any entry you desire! The front door, the side door, the back door, the garage door, etc. You pick what works best for you and your house.

You can convert an existing window into a zero step entry door! If you’re creating a door out of a non-existing door, make sure to have the doorway width measure 36 inches for plenty of room to maneuver in and out of the house.

An issue that may come up is the fact that the main level of your house is not the same as the ground outside.

I have that EXACT same issue! So let’s dive into the problem solving process for my humble abode.

This is my back stoop with uneven pavers and rubber mats! This is a work in process, my darlings!

This is my back stoop with uneven pavers and rubber mats! This is a work in process, my darlings!

The problem for my house is the front and back entryway both have stairs to go inside. I would choose to make my back door zero entry because it’s closest to our driveway. There are several options I can think of off the top of my dome:

Wooden ramp from driveway to front door. Photo by Wheelchair Special Needs Project.

Wooden ramp from driveway to front door. Photo by Wheelchair Special Needs Project.

1) Install a ramp at the back door and create a minimum 6’x6’ landing for space to open the door and walk inside and outside. The ramp incline would need to gradually rise one foot per inch from the ground level to the height of the door threshold.

In my case, I would need 14 feet of ramp to accommodate the 14 inches from the ground to the top of my threshold. I would also make the ramp width at least 60 inches to allow plenty of room for a wheelchair user.

2) Install a rampscape at the back door. Rampscapes are ramps made by grading dirt to make that gradual incline to the door threshold. They look very pretty when landscaped with whatever materials you choose. I would lay a 6’x6’ concrete patio by the door, a 60 inch wide concrete sidewalk on the rampscape, and add lots of plants around it!

Rampscape from the driveway to the front door using pavers with a gradual incline. Photo by Schafer Construction

Rampscape from the driveway to the front door using pavers with a gradual incline. Photo by Schafer Construction

3) Install a vertical lift. A vertical lift is a platform that takes you from ground level and elevates you to the main threshold, like an outdoor elevator! I would still create a 6’x6’ landing to allow enough room to open and close the back door. This option would definitely require an overhead above the vertical lift to protect it from rain and snow.

Vertical platform lift next to small porch with four steps to enter door. Photo by Mobility Express

Vertical platform lift next to small porch with four steps to enter door. Photo by Mobility Express

All of the options above would cost thousands of dollars. The most inexpensive option would be installing a ramp. Personally, I would install an overhang or portico to cover the landing above the back doorway to avoid all forms of precipitation, especially after witnessing Missouri imitating Siberia this year!

Although I don’t have the funds at the moment, I can discuss this with my family, look for ways to fund a zero step entry, and ask for bids to help me select the best option and plan. Creating a zero step entry is a three year goal for me.

If you’re looking into building a new home, then you will spend the least amount of money to create a zero step entry!

Let’s say you wanted your zero step entry to be your garage door. Tell your builder! They can grade the site to ensure you drive into your garage and effortlessly step in and out of your home.

Sometimes, people are concerned that the only style of house they can build to include a zero step entry is a patio home.

NOT TRUE.

If your builder is not willing to make at least one zero step entry and keep whatever style of house you choose, then they do not have the creativity or desire to move outside of their comfort zone.

You can build ANY style of house and have at least one zero step entry.

Whichever doorway you choose, remember: it’s best to have the doorway covered above and to make sure water will drain away from the door. Water is bad inside of the house.

Contact me to help you create a zero step entry! You better do it before you need it!

Do you have a zero step entry? Show us pics. If not, what are your plans? Share in the comments below!