Stuart’s Deck, Part 2: How to Build an Access Ramp

Stuart has now lost his legs to diabetes. He will be in a wheelchair and needs access to a ramp. Because his porch is up so high, a straight-shot ramp would be more than 50 feet long to satisfy his local building codes. Instead of that, we need to have a ramp that takes up the other side of the back of his house.  We need to build two landings and three ramps to make this work with the slope he needs.



I took a photo of the area we need to use for the ramp, uploaded it to my iPad, and used the ArtStudio app to finger-doodle in a basic idea of what we are planning to build here.




We’ve got the first four posts poured in for the first landing now.  Holy %$#&, this ground is unbelievably hard packed and rocky.  Not the little gravel rocks either, these are large-potato-to-football-sized rocks, and it’s just above freezing out here too. This took way too much time!




On to the easier parts now, I’ve attached the outer box boards, then spaced the inner joists to be no more than 16 inches apart.




We added decking to it today also before calling it a day.  We didn’t get nearly as far as I would have liked today, but that largely had to do with the post holes we had to dig that took all our time and energy. I let the excess of the boards hang over because I prefer to draw a line from end to end and saw it off with a circular hand saw instead of cutting each piece to a measurement. I find that I get much straighter lines this way.




We wanted to add the first ramp today instead of boxing in the second landing. Why? Well, we are still sick of digging holes for posts from yesterday, and we are procrastinating that effort and building the first ramp instead. This first board has been laid on top of the landing and the deck.  This is a neat little trick to find the angles of the cuts we need (if you don’t know it); lay the board over the beginning and end points, hold a level or straightedge flat against the faces and draw the line. Cut at those lines, and set it in your brackets!




We got the three joist boards attached with brackets. We also used some of the cut ends to add braces between the joists so they don’t wander off over the years. Obviously, we also needed to leave enough space so that the decking would be even with the decking of the landing and the deck.




This is as far as we made it today because the Old Boy had a few things come up and I needed to drive him around town a bit. We also got distracted at Lowe’s with some folks we knew and ended up talking for about an hour.




I brought some planks back with me to my house to cut them for the decking on the first ramp.  Tomorrow we can just show up and screw them in.  Stuart’s house has a very limited electrical system (knob and tube), and we can only use one tool at a time.  This is a big time killer!




We’re just showing up for the day and getting the mason strings set out for the second landing.  To keep it to the local building codes, we had to remove one of Stuart’s cherry trees. This was also a big time killer, because this tree meant a lot to Stuart and it took some convincing.








While we’re waiting for the cement to firm up on the second landing’s posts, we added the decking boards that I cut last night at home. The basic idea is starting to form up now.




We’ve got all four posts dug out, cemented in, braced up, and ready for building tomorrow.





Boxed in now and ready for decking.




We started out today by adding in the three joist boards we needed for the second ramp (same method as the first), and adding decking. We also checked the codes again, and I realized that I needed two more (ugh…) posts to firm up the ramp.  You can see here that these have been added before we began the decking for the ramp.




This is me pretending to be tough.  I am so worn out just from digging these holes!




We ended tonight having made quite a bit of progress, which hasn’t been the case until today.  The third ramp is now attached, and all but a few decking boards are in place.




Here is how this whole thing ties into the deck as of now.




We got a little ambitious and added in a few of the handrails before leaving for the day, as well as the last few decking boards on the ramp.




We had two holes left to dig, and I just could not do it.  Jason, my brother-in-law, came over to give us a hand when he heard what we were up to. Thank God, because I didn’t have to dig out these last two holes! Thanks to Jason and my old man for taking care of that.  Sometimes you just don’t want to do a certain task and it’s so nice to have a hand!




Because I was able to build instead of dig today, I started on the handrails while the dudes were digging.




I got all the way around except for the final ramp because we need to set the posts in the holes that Dad and Jason are digging right now.




Here’s another photo of where we are now.




The balusters are next, so I am working on cutting them, pre-drilling the screw holes, and fastening them in.




I’ve got two panels installed now.




I’m up to three panels finished now, and moving quickly.  Another very productive day so far!




I’m ending for the day here with four panels of balusters completed.




Back at it today with the balusters!




Ending here for the day. So sick of pre-drilling holes, yuck!




End of day today.  We were hoping to be all done with the whole thing today because Stuart got his Jazzy scooter and wants to start using the ramp so he can get out of his house and zoot around the neighborhood in his new whip.




We sprang for the expensive cement and got the fast-setting stuff for the last two posts so we can work on them later today. We’ve got them in place now, fastened to the joists, and put the last handrails in. Here you can see that the final edge from wood to cement will need a bit of help for a smooth transition.  We’ll come back to that later since Stuart’s scooter can bump up this 1 1/2″ edge for the moment.




This corner piece and the two final handrails are the last of the balusters we need to cut and install.




No more balusters!  We are all done with that part now, and we are beginning to be proud of our project because we can see the whole thing now. It is actually going to be a pretty good-looking wheelchair ramp once it is stained up to match the deck!




Tonight we came back and cut and installed the top of the handrail.  This is the flat piece on top of the handrail that gives people somewhere to grab and covers the baluster tops also. We are almost done!




The handrail now goes all the way up to the deck




Tomorrow we will come back and add a steel plate to the bottom edge so there is a smooth transition from the cement to the ramp and we are all done! Stuart’s church branch is going to provide the Boy Scout force and stain to get it totally finished, and then it’s a done deal.




My dad is thoroughly pleased with this project because he spends a lot of time over here at Stuart’s and he knows that he helped out a lot on this project, as well as the deck. They will be bragging about it for years!

This project was paid for by Stuart’s church branch and his sons. My father and I were honored to install everything and come up with the plans.  We have a lot of love for Stuart and were happy to help him out.  Many thanks to my Ol’ Man, Scotty, who helped out a lot more than he thinks.  Being a stroke survivor and unable to read, he thinks that he is totally useless and void of any worth in the world, but this photo proves otherwise!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s