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Continuing Education – Efficiencies with Prefabricated Stairs, Access Platforms & Ramps

UPSIDE’S Continuing Education

Step It Up: Increased Efficiency with Prefabricated Modular Stairs, Access Systems, & Ramps

Does your project need to step it up when it comes to stairs and safety? Our CE course discusses prefabricated modular metal stairs, access platforms, and ramps that are as easy to reconfigure as they are to assemble. Participants will not only learn about relevant codes from OSHA, IBC, and ADA regarding stairs, ladders, and handrails, but they will also learn how to specify modular stair components and configurations to best facilitate code compliance and increase site productivity.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Compare and contrast conventional stairs versus modular stairs and access systems as they relate to efficiency, sustainability, and productivity.
  2. Determine which modular stair components and configurations will best suit your application for improved flexibility now and in the future.
  3. Identify relevant and updated codes from OSHA, IBC, and ADA regarding stairs, ladders, handrails, and ramps and discuss how modular stair and access systems can help facilitate code compliance.
  4. Illustrate the cost- and time-efficiency possible through the utilization of modular stairs and access systems by analyzing case studies.

Design Category (CSI Division): (05) Metals

line level

How to Measure Wheelchair Ramp Ground Slope

ADA Requirements

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires wheelchair ramps to have a slope no steeper than 1:12 so that people in wheelchairs can go up and down without assistance. This means that for every inch of rise in the threshold, the wheelchair ramp must be 12 inches (one foot) long. For example, a door threshold height of 25″ requires a 25′ ramp along with a 5’ x 5’ threshold platform. Any threshold that is more than 30″ off the ground requires at least one resting platform in the middle of the ramp to break it up. Why? Because the ADA requires a resting platform for every additional 30′ of ramp run. Therefore, if the threshold is 32″ high, one resting platform is required; if the threshold is 62″ high, two resting platforms are required.

What you will need

  • Stakes
  • String or twine
  • Hammer
  • Line level
  • Tape measure

Why is it Important To Measure?

In a perfect world, every construction site would be completely flat, but all site workers know that is not the case. Therefore, ground slope measurements are required to make sure that the slope of the handicap ramp is accurate. If the ground is sloping upwards from the door threshold, the ramp will likely require less ramp material than if the ground is flat or sloping downwards. This typically means that the ramp will be less expensive if the ground is sloping upwards and more expensive if it is sloping downwards.

wheelchair ramp measure slope diagram

Diagram 1

The 30″ threshold height correlates to a 30′ ramp because the ground is neither sloping upwards or downwards; it is completely flat.

Diagram 2

On the left side of the building, the ground is sloping upwards, which means that the 30″ threshold will require a ramp that is less than 30′. On the right side of the building, the ground is sloping downwards, which means that the ramp will have to be longer than 30′. It will also require a resting platform in the middle of the ramp that will add an additional cost. A resting platform is required for every additional 30′ of ramp run.

Where to Measure

Slope measurements need to be taken where the wheelchair ramp will sit, so you will first need to figure out the best layout. To determine the best layout:

  • Measure the height of the door threshold
  • Determine the required ramp length
    • For every inch of rise, a foot of ramp run is needed (i.e. door threshold height = 20”, so ramp run = 20’)
    • Make sure to account for the required 5’ x 5’ platform at the door threshold
    • Remember, for every additional 30′ of ramp run, an additional 5’ x 5’ resting platform is required
  • Note any obstacles or space limitations
  • If there are no obstacles or space limitations, the ramp layout does not matter; choose the preferred layout
  • If there are obstacles or space limitations, a switch back ramp or L-ramp would be best
  • If there are two buildings side-by-side, a common platform ramp could be used to maximize space utilization

Once the layout is determined, measure the ground slope every 10′ in the direction(s) that the ramp will travel. To measure an L-ramp, measure from where the threshold platform would sit to where the first platform would sit in increments of 10′. Then measure from the platform down to where the ramp would end.

standard wheelchair ramp layouts

How to Measure

  1. Take a measurement from grade to the finished floor at the entrance (FFE (finished floor elevation) = _____ inches)
  1. Hammer a stake in the ground at the entrance door and tie a string to it.
  1. Hammer a second stake in the ground straight out from the building at approximately the location where the threshold platform will end (typically 5’4” away from the building), and tie the string to it from the first stake making sure it is taut.
  1. Place a line level in the center of the string and move the string up or down until the line is level.
  1. Measure the distance from the ground to the string at the first stake (S1 = ______ inches) and measure the distance from the ground to the string on the second stake (S2 = ______ inches)
  1. Calculate the ground level relative to the finished floor elevation (FFE) by using the following formula:  FFE_2 = FFE + (S2 – S1)
  1. Hammer a third stake in the ground approximately 10’ from stake 2 in the direction of the ramp travel.  Tie a string from stake 2 to stake 3 and make sure that the string is taut.
  1. Place a line level in the center of the string and move the string up or down until the line is level.
  1. Measure the distance from the ground to the string at stake 2 (S2 = ______ inches) and measure the distance from the ground to the string at the third stake (S3 = _____ inches)
  1. Calculate the ground level relative to the FFE @ stake 2 by using the following formula: FFE_3 = FFE_2 + (S3 – S2)
  1. Repeat this process every 10’ to the approximate location of where the ramp will end
Where to Place Stakes
Calculating Slope
Calculating Slope

Pros & Cons of the 5 Most Common Ramp Materials

[Infographic] How to Measure for a Wheelchair Ramp

Must-Know ADA & IBC Guidelines

Test Your Knowledge of Wheelchair Ramps

Complete 2010 ADA Guide

Table of Ramp Length with Platforms Calculations

Ramps for Modular Buildings – Planning Your Ramp Configuration

There are many factors that you must consider if you are planning on installing a modular building ramp because every site is different. Follow this guide so that you take the necessary site measurements.


Why does my ramp have to be a specific length?

The ramp must comply with ADA regulations if it is going to be used by the public. ADA regulations require a 1:12 slope which guarantees that the ramp will not be too steep for someone in a wheelchair to use. It also requires a landing area at both the top and bottom of the ramp which must be at least 60” x 60”. If there is no existing landing platform at the threshold, then you will need a platform that connects the door threshold to the top of the ramp.

How wide does my ramp need to be?

Most standard ADA products have 48″ clearance between the handrails.  This specification covers ADA and IBC 2009 compliance across the United States.  The outer edge to outer edge of the ramp is close to 60″, but there ends up being only 48″ between the handrails after taking the handrail material, the standoff between the handrail and the guardrail, and the guardrail thickness into consideration.


Why do the width and length of the building matter?

If you need to have a switchback ramp, but there is no room for it to switch back in front of the building, you may have to wrap it around the side of the building. Knowing the length and width will help you determine the best layout for the ramp. 

Why is the door swing important?

If the door’s hinge is on the right, then the ramp has to move to the left (from birds-eye  or front view) so that the door does not block the ramp when it is opened. The same concept applies to a door with a hinge on the left.

If you need the ramp to go in the opposite direction than the door allows, additional platforms are needed.

Double doors and recessed doors also require additional platforms to have an adequate turning radius for a wheelchair.


Why is the slope of the ground important?

If the ground is sloping down, additional ramp sections might be required in order to maintain a 1:12 ratio. If the ground is sloping up, fewer ramp sections may be required. View the in-depth guide on how to measure sloping ground.


Why do I need multiple platforms?

To be compliant with ADA regulations, you need a 60″ x 60″ resting platform for every additional 30 feet of ramp. This means that if your door is more than 30″ above the ground, you will need at least a 30-foot ramp and a resting platform that will add an additional 60 inches to the ramp length.


Is one configuration better than the others?

No. Choose the configuration that best suits your site given any barriers that might be there and the allotted space you have. If you have limited space on the sides of the building, a switchback ramp would probably be best, but if there is a tree that would prevent the ramp from switching back, an “L” ramp or straight ramp would be better.

What if there are obstacles in the way, but I can’t avoid them?

Sometimes it is easier to relocate or remove an obstacle instead of trying to configure a wheelchair ramp around it. If relocating or removing it is not possible, then you may need to use a larger platform to push the ramp past the obstacle, adjust the layout, or use a custom access system to avoid it. 

After preparing the site, contact a ramp manufacturer for a quote.

Upside Innovations manufactures modular-style aluminum ramps and installs nationwide. Aluminum is the most durable commercial-style ramp that requires minimal maintenance and can typically be assembled in a matter of hours. 

More resources:


How to Clean Aluminum Ramps

Cleaning Untreated Aluminum Ramps

Aluminum is a light, but strong material that is common for outdoor, commercial applications because of its weather-resistant properties; aluminum doesn’t rust because it forms a natural layer of oxide. Oxidation is a confusing process because it is a form of corrosion, but, unlike oxidation that occurs on other metals, it does not jeopardize the structural integrity of the aluminum – it actually strengthens the material. Oxidation creates a protective barrier against water and rust, but it can make the aluminum less attractive overtime. Cleaning the ramp will decrease the chances of severe oxidation.

Step 1: The first step is to make sure that all debris including mud, dust, and leaves are all cleared off the ramp. To do this, you must start at the top of the ramp with a stiff-bristled push-broom, and sweep all the debris down the ramp; the edge guards that run along both edges of the ramp prevent the debris from being pushed over the sides. The stiff-bristled push-broom is recommended to clean out the grooves of the ramp, but don’t try to scrub the ramp with the broom as it might scratch the aluminum.

Step 2: After brushing off the aluminum ramp, rinse it with water and mild detergent such as dish soap. Use a generous amount of dish soap over the length of the ramp, and put a concentrated amount on tough spots. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Next, hose off or lightly pressure wash the ramp to remove the soap and dirt. It is suggested to use filtered water if possible because unfiltered water may contain sulfur, chlorine, fluoride, and other minerals that could be damage the aluminum over time. Make sure that all dish soap is washed off before the wheelchair ramp is used.

Step 3: If there is dirt on the ramp still, use a towel and dish soap to scrub the area. Do not use steel wool or scour pads because these materials can scratch the aluminum and give it a dull appearance. Do not use harsh cleaners like baking soda or alkali-based cleaners as these can cause discoloration. If you want to try a new type of cleaner, test an area on the underside of the ramp to see if it discolors the aluminum.

Step 4: If the wheelchair ramp has already oxidized, try spot-treating the oxidized areas with an aluminum cleaner like Aluma Kleen or Aluma Bright.

Cleaning Powder-Coated Aluminum Ramps

If the aluminum wheelchair ramp is powder-coated, there is less chance of oxidation because the powder-coating provides an extra layer of defense. However, it is possible for the layer to be breached and form oxidation spots. Most of the cleaning steps are same as non-powder-coated aluminum, but the powder-coating is a little more delicate than the aluminum.


Step 1: Brush off the ramp, moving from top to bottom, with a stiff-bristled push-broom. Do not try to scrub the wheelchair ramp with the broom as it might scratch the aluminum.

Step 2: The most efficient way to clean outdoor aluminum ramps with a powder-coating finish is with a pressure washer using filtered water on low pressure. Use a mild detergent such as dish soap, and DO NOT use chlorine or harsh cleaning solutions. A high-water pressure and harsh cleaning products can damage the powder-coated finish. The commercial cleaning solutions will clean the surface, but they also remove micro layers of finish. The layer might later become hard and crack while losing its protective barrier.

Step 3: As stated above, use a soft brush or cloth to clean the surface; do not use anything that has hard bristles or a scratchy pad.

Step 4: To keep powder-coated wheelchair ramps looking nice, try a high-grade, non-abrasive car wax that contains U.V. blocker and/or U.V. inhibitors. Be sure to wipe off residual wax because it could bake in the heat and cause permanent staining. It is recommended, as with any other product applied to the ramp, make a test area on the underside of the ramp. 

Related Articles

Handling Snow and Ice on Your Ramp

Material Properties

Test Your Knowledge of Wheelchair Ramps [10-Question Quiz]

ADA Compliant Logo

ADA Ramp Requirements Checklist

Below are ADA ramp requirements that must be followed in commercial applications so that the public can have equal access to all buildings. Make sure your wheelchair ramp is ADA-compliant.

Ramp Slope

The steepest slope that an ADA ramp can have is 1:12 which means for every inch of threshold rise, the ramp must be at least 12 inches (one foot) long.

If you’re unsure about how to do the calculations, use the ramp slope calculator.

ramp slope


The ramp length is directly related to the height between the ground and the bottom of the door, along with the required slope. For example, the door on your building is 40 inches above the ground. To ensure that your ramp is not steeper than the 1:12 ratio, your ramp needs to be 40 feet long.

Platform Landings

Number of Resting Platform Landings

Following the ADA ramp requirements, the maximum rise for a single ramp run is 30 inches. That means that the maximum length is 30 feet, so one additional platform landing is required for every additional 30 feet of ramp. Why? Because the landings serve as resting areas, the Americans with Disabilities Act determined that after 30 feet of continuous run, a resting area is needed.

Ramp Length (ft.)Landings Required
wheelchair ramp Landing requirements illustration

Landing Size

  • Width: the landing must be at least as wide as the widest ramp run that connects to the landing.
  • Length: the landing length must be at least 60 inches without obstruction.
  • Change in direction: if the ramp changes direction, you need a landing with a clear space that is at least 60 inches by 60 inches.
  • Doorways: if there are doorways that lead onto a landing, see the following ADA ramp landing requirements.
ADA ramp landings must be at least 60" long and as wide as the widest ramp section

Guardrails and Handrails

Clearance between handrails

The minimum clearance between the ramp handrails is 36 inches so that a wheelchair can fit between the handrails with ease. View all ADA ramp handrail requirements, including length, perimeter, location above the walking surface, and more.

Baluster spacing

Balusters are required on ADA ramps to protect against falling. The balusters must not be spaced farther than 4″ apart from one another so that a child cannot slip through the space.


The guardrail, which is different than the handrail, must be at least 42 inches from the walking surface to prevent people from falling over the side of the ramp.

Edge protection

Edge protection is required along the edges of an ADA ramp run and landing. There are two types of edge protection to choose from:

  • Extended ground surface: the ramp and landing walking surface must extend at least 12 inches past the inside edge of the handrail
  • Barrier/kickplate: you cannot have a gap larger than 4 inches between the ramp or kickplate and the bottom of the guardrail.

We get all of our information from the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Our Services

Our team designs, manufactures, ships, and installs ADA & IBC-compliant stairs, ramps and canopies to fit YOUR custom project. Our experts will work with you throughout the project to ensure your installation is correct to your specifications and code compliant.

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