Wood vs. Aluminum Ramps

We all know there are many material options to consider when purchasing a commercial ADA ramp for wheelchair access. Two of the most popular materials people typically consider are wood and aluminum. While project cost is important, it is also important to meet the project specifications and make the best choice for the building tenant and the people who will be using it.

Here is a technical analysis of the different types of ramp material on the basis of tensile strength and corrosion resistance.

When it comes to wood vs. aluminum ramps for commercial use, here are the 3 main reasons to choose aluminum.

Wood vs. Aluminum: Cost (Material & Installation)

People often perceive a wood ramp to be less expensive than an aluminum ramp because the raw material typically costs less. However, installing and maintaining a wood ramp is much more expensive than aluminum which makes the overall cost much higher.

Wood Cost:

Material cost: A wood ramp costs an average of $108 per linear foot according to Fixr.com, so a 30′ ramp would cost about $3,250. If you add a 5’x 5′ platform which is required at the door, it would cost a total of about $3,830 for material.

Install time: A 30’ wood ramp with a platform takes roughly (2) 8-hour days for two carpenters to cut and install.

Install cost: To build the ramp, you will likely need two carpenters ($40 each per hour) for the two days. That means that labor costs will be roughly $1,300. In total, a wood ramp costs about $5,200. Plus, you will have to factor in the price of a building permit which usually costs a couple hundred dollars.

Aluminum Cost:

Material cost: Aluminum ramp manufacturers charge a wide range of prices because there are different grades of aluminum as well as varying size and load requirements for commercial versus residential. You can expect to spend between $3,500 and $5,000 on material for a 30’ commercial, aluminum ADA including a 5’ x 5’ platform.

Install time: You don’t need any prior experience to install an aluminum ramp, and it takes about 3-5 hours to complete the installation of a 30′ ramp.

Install time: A novice can install an aluminum ramp system on his/her own, so the installation cost would be basically free if you decide to install it yourself. Installation costs for an aluminum ramp are typically less than half the cost of a wood ramp installation.

Aluminum and wood installation and material cost for wheelchair ramp
Aluminum and wood ramps initially cost about the same amount of money when you consider installation cost.

Wood vs. Aluminum: Maintenance

Wood Maintenance:

Wood requires a lot of attention and maintenance to keep it in decent condition. Maintenance costs include:

  • Yearly paint or stain touch-ups to protect against moisture
  • Termite prevention and/or treatment
  • Replacing warped or rotted pieces
  • Replacing non-slip grip tapes on walking surface because they will wear down and lose the grip

Aluminum Maintenance:

Aluminum requires very little to almost zero maintenance because it never rusts, which is the main reason why other metals loses its structural integrity. The only maintenance aluminum ramps require is to clear off any snow, brush, and mud that builds up on the ramp.

Check out our suggested maintenance for aluminum ramps.

Wood vs. Aluminum: Ease of Assembly

Wood Ease of Assembly

Building out of wood is extremely time consuming and tedious, and it’s difficult to get all the walkways and platforms level.

One of our installers, who also builds wood ramps and decks, describes building a 30′ wood ramp as such:

“Wood [takes] 2 or 3 days, assuming you can even build one to suit a picky building inspector or fire marshal. If I build one, I’ll buy steel or aluminum handrail components for it, because that’s about the only way to satisfy all the code requirements. We have done a fair amount of building a wood common landing between numerous buildings, but then installing aluminum rails, ramps and steps on that.”

– John B.

Aluminum Ease of Assembly

Our prefabricated aluminum ramp sections consist of 3 components:

  1. Ramp walking surface
  2. Guardrails with pre-welded balusters and standoffs
  3. Handrail pipes

Prefabricated products are always faster to assemble than products you have to build on-site. Our prefab ramps take a few hours for a novice to assemble.

This is how simple our prefabricated ramps are to put together:

Prefabricated Ramp Section Assembly

Wood vs. Aluminum: Slip-Resistance

Wood Slip-Resistance

Wood can acquire a slimy, slippery film from moisture accumulation, and you must apply grip strips to the surface. You will need to replace these strips multiple times throughout the life of the ramp to maintain the ADA-required coefficient of friction.

Aluminum Slip-Resistance

Aluminum ramps have a slip-resistant decking that provides better traction than wood ramps and are much safer for the people who use them. Upside Innovations uses a solid, extruded decking with small, raised ridges for traction.

Rotting wood ramp
Old, rotting wood ramp that has become very slippery
Aluminum Ramp with Non-Slip Walking Surface
Aluminum ramp with non-slip decking that remains intact
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