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You Did What at Your Age?

I Rebuilt a Ramp

In 2011, my father built a ramp in anticipation of using it to move my mother in and out of the house in a wheelchair. She was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which gradually paralyzed her muscles while her mind stayed healthy. My part in building the ramp and later replacing the top of it several years ago was to paint everything. Dad doesn't like to paint. 


When the chip board again became soft enough to step through this year, it was time to replace the ramp top again. But when we took the top off, we saw that the support boards had rotted, too. We decided to rebuild everything except for the railing, and when I say “we,” that meant I would do the bulk of the work. 


I have never liked chip board, so that was the first change in the design. I ordered the lumber online from a local lumberyard and we drove in, they loaded us up, and we were on our way. I bought 2x6 boards to use for the top of the ramp so it looked like an extension of the deck. I had bought four 2x6x12 boards to support the planks. I learned how to use a heavy duty SkilSaw to cut the angle on the 12’ boards, which was a little scary, but I didn’t trust my dad to do it. He isn’t as physically strong as I am now. I used safety goggles and held on for dear life, and cut the boards just fine. 


I used Dad's chop saw to cut the 2x6 boards to three-foot lengths. I love this saw since it is bolted to a wooden box and very secure. I painted all of the boards before I attached them to the existing rail supports and new support boards. The portable drill made it go fast. Instead of two additional pieces on the bottom of the ramp, we shortened it by two feet and just used one piece, thanks to my nephew RJ’s redesign suggestion and help adding that last piece. 

It isn’t the official length for a wheelchair ramp, but we haven’t used it for a wheelchair since my dear mother passed away in 2013. The grandkids sure have enjoyed playing on it, though, and it’s easier to carry heavier items into the house. Our blind and deaf dog always uses the ramp to get to the back door. The 2x6 boards are solid. The ramp doesn’t even wiggle when walking on it, and I’m so proud of how it turned out.


The only problem is that the newly painted ramp rails made the deck rails look dingy. So I repainted the deck rails. Then the bright white deck rails show how awful the deck floor looked. So we scraped and stripped the paint on about 1/3 of the deck (never want to do that again), and I repainted it. Then the newly painted deck made the back door look cruddy, so I repainted that. 


I refuse to look up at the deck ceiling and rafters. : )

Donna Van Cleve

July 2020

House & Vehicle

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