Key considerations: ability to safely get in and out of your home, locations of all doors, proximity to your sidewalk or driveway, door width
Typical modifications and cost ranges:
- Building a ramp – approximately $45 per square foot (materials and labour if built of pressure-treated wood). Depending on site specifics, there will be significant variation in costs
- Prepare site for porch lift (concrete, carpentry and landscaping) – $10,000-$15,000
- Purchase and install porch lift – $5,000-$6,000
- Widen exterior doorway – $3,000
Key Planning Considerations Back to Top
Entrances refer to all doors that provide you with access into the home – either exterior (front, side, back) or interior (typically through a garage).
To plan your entry, assess all available entry doors. Typically, one accessible entrance will suffice for access to a main-floor living space. Consider all options. The goal is to create a zero-threshold entrance that can be navigated in a wheelchair or with an assistive device. The most suitable door will vary house to house, but take into account these considerations and tips:
- Which door is closest to the ground? Ensure you measure from the ground to the finished threshold of the door.
- Which door is most easily accessible from your vehicle, driveway or sidewalk?
Doors Back to Top
The door itself needs to be 36” wide and you will need a space at least 5’ by 5’ both inside and outside the door for an appropriate turning circle.
Door hardware should feature lever handles.
In all cases, the threshold at the doorway itself also needs to be made accessible. Normally, the threshold should be 1/8” using typical weather stripping. You need weather stripping for moisture and temperature control, so a truly flat threshold is usually not achievable. However, both manual and power chair users can navigate a 1/8” threshold. Small, bevelled, low-profile metal and rubber threshold ramps are available to make thresholds easier to maneuver. They are available at medical supply stores.
What is the landscape around the door? Accessible entrances often will require a larger space surrounding the door, and access to that door sometimes will require new or changed accessible pathways from the sidewalk or driveway to the door. Accessible pathways should be at least 39” wide, preferably 48” wide. Note: Poured concrete pathways are usually the most suitable approach, as concrete paving stones, bricks or other surfaces often bring more problems.
What is the landing space immediately inside and outside the door? For all options, the space both outside and inside of the accessible doorway needs to be at least 5’ by 5’, so you are able to navigate and turn when entering and exiting. In many homes, this becomes the most challenging component of the renovation, and measurements can be tailored depending on the user and the spaces in proximity to the entry/exit.
Consider existing decks or patios that may lend themselves to a porch lift solution.
Landscaping and Site Changes Back to Top
Ramps Back to Top
A ramp is most suitable in situations where a door is less than 30” from the ground and where there is enough space on the property to accommodate a ramp. Many homeowners are able to build simple ramps to their homes, but it is important to ensure the ramp is built to code for safety and longevity.
The slope of a ramp is calculated using a rise:run measurement. Rise is the vertical distance to be achieved; run is the resulting horizontal distance to be travelled.
The required slope for ramps is a 1” increase in height (rise) for every 1’ span in length (run) – a ratio of 1:12. For example, if there were 16” between the ground and the door’s threshold, you would need 16’ of ramp (with additional landing spaces of 5’ at both the top and bottom of the ramp).
Note: While a 1:12 slope is generally appropriate and specified in the Alberta Building Code, a slope of up to 1:8 can be used in some circumstance by power wheelchair users.
For manual wheelchair users with upper body weakness, we prefer a slope of 1:20.
You will need level landing spaces of at least 5’ x 5’ at both the top and bottom of the ramp.
For each 20’ length in ramp, a level resting space of 4’ in length (and the width of the ramp) is recommended. For ramps that integrate turns, different resting spaces are required. Ninety-degree turns need a 48” x 48” turning circle space, and 180-degree turns require a 60” x 60” turning circle area.
Ramps must be 39” wide between railings. If a ramp is adjacent to a wall, it must include an edge guard along the wall side.
The total height of side rails must be 42”. Interior handrails should be installed 36” above the ramp’s surface.
Choose a slip-resistant finish for your ramp, such as a slip-resistant paint (i.e. outdoor surface paint with texture). You can also use grip strips with a heavy adhesive so the strips remain in place through the winter. Avoid plywood sheeting, as this gets slippery and icy. All exterior ramps should be cleared regularly.
Consider where water will run off the ramp surface, and ensure the ramp surface has places for drainage. Make sure the ramp is sloped in a way that will direct water away from the foundation of the home. Likewise, ensure home downspouts are directed away from the ramp surface.
While ramps are often seen as simple solutions, modifying an entry/exit can be challenging and technically complex. Ramps may also consume large areas of a yard. When installed incorrectly or unsafely, there is immense risk to users. See our list of contractors for information about who you can hire to design a ramp and who can build it.
Porch Lifts Back to Top
Porch lifts are suitable where the height difference from the ground to the door’s threshold is 30” or higher. Porch lifts can be installed at exterior doors or inside garages. They also can be good solutions for homes with existing decks or patios.
Installing a porch lift requires the following components:
- A 5x5 landing pad at the bottom/on the ground
- A power source for the ramp (110V on a dedicated circuit)
- A continuous space for the lift to travel vertically
- A gate at the top of the lift with a latch accessible from either side
Maintenance Back to Top
Ramps and porch lifts will require maintenance and proper snow removal. Wooden ramps require yearly painting to ensure the non-slip surface is intact and the wood is protected. Any porch lift installed outside the home should have a winterized package included. This is not necessary for porch lifts installed in garages.