When choosing to have a permanent ramp installed at your home or business, there are two main options for the ramp’s material: wood and aluminum. Despite wood ramps being less expensive than those made from aluminum, the durability, practicality, and simplicity of an aluminum ramp make it well worth the extra cost.
Wood Ramp vs. Aluminum – Pros and Cons
At the surface, there may not seem to be much of a difference – but there is. Of course, everyone wants to save money, but as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” In this case, wood is (and should be) a short term solution, one that comes with yearly hidden fees, hassles, and wasted time. Simply put, a wooden ramp may save you some money in the short-term (emphasis on “might”), but the recurring costs and replacement fees will always make an aluminum ramp the better long-term investment.
Reason 1: Cost
While the building materials themselves may be cheaper, a prospective ramp buyer also has to consider the cost of building a wooden ramp from scratch. The cost of a contracted ramp is typically $1,600 to $3,200 (Source: NC State University Brochure). Those kinds of significant, additional costs can quickly outweigh the money saved by buying a wood ramp, sometimes even making aluminum ramps cheaper than wood.
Reason 2: Ramp must be maintained
As mentioned above, wood ramps come with hidden, yearly fees. The ramp needs to be pressure-treated and painted each year as the wood decays, even with treated wood. You’ll also have to be on the lookout for termites, weather-related damage, and splinters.
Reason 3: Wood is not Non Slip
When it rains, wood has a tendency to become very slippery, even in warmer climates. Can you imagine moving a wheelchair down a wet, wooden ramp without any kind of traction in the snow, ice, or rain? It’s a dangerous situation that could result in serious injuries. To help with the slippery surface, you could install HandiTreads along the surface of the ramp. This, however, would result in additional costs beyond the building and materials for the wood ramp.
Aluminum ramps can be custom-made for wet conditions. There are a variety of wheelchair ramps with different non- slip surfaces. Many of the aluminum ramps have a non slip raised button surface that is excellent for preventing a wheelchair from slipping down the ramp. Handi-Ramp carries a variety of portable wheelchair ramps, all with a black rubber non slip surface standard. The same non slip surface can be applied to permanent ramps to aid in traction.
Reason 4: Concrete Footings
Before installing a ramp the first step is digging a hole and installing concrete footings. The posts of the ramp must be dug below the frost line so that the ramp is stable and sturdy. Many hardware stores sell a bag of concrete for $4, but unless you’re a handyman, you’ll need to hire a company which could be costly. Aluminum ramps do not need concrete footings but instead rely on their own welded parts.
Reason 5: Building Permits
Where ever you live, the city will require a permit for building the ramp. This requires a trip to the town hall to fill out a permit application (along with a processing fee), then waiting for the permit to be issued. Finding extra time in your schedule can be tricky especially if you are working. Sometimes the city officials can also give you a hard time about the contractor doing the work. They may have their own history with the contractor, and not look kindly on the company doing work on their local residences or businesses.
Reason 6: Inspections
Once the ramp is finished, an inspector needs to check the level of the ramp and that construction has been done correctly. Inspections can be a real inconvenience. Oftentimes this will result in work needing to be redone, placing the burden of the extra cost on you if the contractor made a mistake during the process.
Reason 7: Ramp cannot be stored
Once the ramp is up, it is up. There is no taking it down for the winter, or removing it for protection from weather or other damage. The wooden ramp will get exposed to the elements and will deteriorate faster – even if pressure-cleaned and pretreated.
Save yourself Time, Money and Hassle, Buy an Aluminum Ramp
As they say, time is money, and in this case, in addition to the cost of the wooden ramp and the rest of the hassle, buying a wooden, permanent ramp is simply a worse investment than buying aluminum. Having a non-slip ramp that can withstand the elements and be able to be taken down if need be is a great benefit.
Do you have any experiences with wooden ramps not lasting as long as they should have? Leave a comment and share your story.
For more information on our accessibility products give us a call at 800-876-RAMP in Libertyville, IL.