Building A Wheelchair Ramp Railing

by Bill Brown
(Westlake, Ohio, USA)

I have to build a ramp with railing for wheelchair access to the front of my house.

The rise and run for the ramp. It will rise 16" above grade, so it will not be very tall. But with the addition of the railing, the top of the railing will be at a minimum of 50" above grade.

I am building a platform/deck about 5' wide x 14' long along the side of the house. Then it turns and the ramp runs parallel to the house following the sidewalk 16' minimum for the ramp.

I am constructing the framing for the deck and ramp using treated lumber. The deck boards and the fascia will be composite material. The posts for the railing will be buried in the ground and extend above grade sufficiently to connect the railing and something decorative on top of the posts like solar lights.

I do not want to paint or stain the framing lumber, because of the time of year. What I was looking at was a composite sleeve/wrap to cover the post and then a composite or vinyl material railing system.

I think I am limited to the spacing requirements of the railing system in order to comply with the building code requirement for 200lb. horizontal load for the railing. The post spacing will have to be something like 5' max. Am I thinking in the right direction.

Editor's Comments:

You are thinking this through correctly. However, just a couple of comments for you to consider.

Slope of Ramp

Your slope is about 8% and just make sure you are not greater than the maximum allowable slope. I am not familiar with that but will check and update this post when I get it.

Post Spacing Of Railing

If you are installing a manufactured railing system like an aluminum or vinyl railing with the posts sold as part of the system, the manufacturer will have engineering guidance stating the way to secure the posts to the surface and the maximum post spacing.

This will be designed to withstand not just the design load of 200# but as a safety factor of 2.5 times.

When you build a railing yourself using wood posts you have to figure this out yourself of build it using some components that connect the posts to the framing and have some kind of testing behind them.

Several hardware systems and post anchors come to mind: FastenMaster has a specialized screw system, USP, Simpson and DeckLok have a joist reinforcing bracket and Titan Building Products has a surface mounted post anchor all of which have some engineering.

But when you are setting your posts into the ground and extending through the joists to become the railing posts you are going to have a post that is way way beyond the code minimums. You could space it easily at 6'.

Hope this helps

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