Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair
Ask a Question or Search InspectAPedia
InspectAPedia ® Home
STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS
AGE of a BUILDING - how to determine
ARCHITECTURE & BUILDING COMPONENT ID
BEST CONSTRUCTION PRACTICES GUIDE
BOOKSTORE - INTERIORS
BUILDING NOISE DIAGNOSIS & CURE
BUILDING SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
CARPETING, SELECTION & INSTALLATION
DECK & PORCH CONSTRUCTION
ELDERLY & VETERANS HOME SAFETY
FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR
HOME INSPECTION SAFETY HAZARDS
LIGHTING, EXTERIOR GUIDE
LIGHTING, INTERIOR GUIDE
MOBILE HOME INSPECTIONS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
NOISE CONTROL for FLOORS
ROT RESISTANT LUMBER
SAFETY HAZARDS & INSPECTIONS
SAFETY: Elderly & Veterans Home Safety
SAFETY for ELECTRICAL INSPECTORS
SOUND CONTROL in buildings
Splits in Structural Wood Beams
STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS
WOOD FLOOR DAMAGE
Building access ramp specifications & codes: this document provides building code specifications, sketches, photographs, and examples of defects used in inspecting indoor or outdoor building access ramps and related conditions for slip and fall hazards, general safety and proper construction. Also see BARK SIDE UP on DECKS & STEPS.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
At left our photo illustrates a large access ramp crossing a busy highway in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Below we also discuss the best methods to improve the safety at an improperly sloped or slippery building access ramp.
Also see Kitchen Design, Accessible and Bathroom Design, Accessible. For a complete list of articles on stairs, railings, and ramps, their inspection, trip hazards, and good design, see STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS - INSPECTIONS, CODES. Also see Building Safety Hazards Guide. Here we include references to key documents on building codes and stair and railing safety.
This article explains and illustrate the requirements for safe, useable interior and exterior access ramps in buildings. Readers should note that the design specifications for permitted slope and other specifications for ramps that are not used for building entry or exit, such as curb cuts, are different from those used at building entrances.
For example a steeper slope may be permitted on non-access ramps. For complete details about building access ramp construction: slope, width, railings, non-slip surfaces, steps, landings at ramps, etc. See the standards, code, and ADA references at the end of this document.
The combination of a sloped surface with conditions that can make that walking surface slippery, especially at outdoor building access ramps, forms a falling hazard at both ramp ascent, and ramp descent for nearly everyone. These hazards are particularly increased if the ramp pitch is too steep. The desirable ramp slope standard, one inch of rise in 12 inches of run (about 8.3 percent slope), has been adopted by most building codes regardless of whether or not the access ramp is specifically for people with disabilities.
Our illustrations below describe the recommended slope range for ramps, fixed stairs, and other structures.
If a building access ramp (also called an egress ramp) is located within an accessible route of travel and is used as a means of egress (exiting from a building), the ramp slope should be 1:12 (4.8 degrees, 8.3 percent) or less in the direction of travel. This standard is reflected in at least four building standards: UBC 1003.3.4.3, BOCA 1016.3, ADA 4.8.2, IBC 1010.2, and is elaborated in an excellent book that we recommend on stairs and ramps, Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, by Bakken et als.
If the ramp is NOT located within an accessible route of egress (say a ramp giving access between the street and an elevated sidewalk), the slope of the ramp may be a little steeper (1:8 rather than 1:12, or 7.1 degrees, or 12.5 percent) in the direction of travel.
Incidentally, depending on terrain, a ramp may slope upwards towards a building entry/exit door, or it may slope downwards towards the entry door. In either case, the ramp slope rules and standards are the same and the trip/fall hazards are essentially the same.
How to measure the slope of an access ramp
Ramp Slope Example 1: if your ramp is twelve feet long (144 inches) and the rise is twelve inches (12 inches) then the slope of the ramp is 12:144, or simplifying, dividing both sides of the equation by 12, the slope can be written as 1:12 - which meets the desired ADA standard.
Ramp Slope Example 2: If the ramp is twelve feet long (144 inches) and the total rise is four feet (48 inches) then the slope of the ramp is 48:144, or simplifying by dividing both sides of the equation by 12, the slope of this ramp is written as 4:12 (and the ramp is too steep, likely to result in a fall).
Our ramp and guardrail photo (left, Poughkeepsie, NY) illustrates that ramps are used as crossways or footbridges as well as direct building access ramps. This ramp is placed level and crosses a small creek on a college campus.
The guidelines for guardrailings and slip protection apply to these structures as well.
With its open steel grid walkway this ramp is quite slip resistant under most weather conditions. Notice that the guardrailings include the required extensions at the entry to the ramp.
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, by Bakken et als. provides clear and well-thought out explanations of how and why people slip and fall on stairs, walks, and ramps.
Section 20.2 in Bakken et als. discusses ramp design specs and falls on ramps. The following quotes are from that text:
Principal Causes of Ramp Falls:
Static Coefficient of Friction - How Slippery is the Slope of Your Ramp?
In the cited text and other engineering references, SCOF is the static coefficient of friction. Page 23 in the above text gives the SCOF requirements for slopes of various inclines. A 1 in 12 slope, which is an 8.3 percent slope (the recommended pitch by most sources) is bracketed by SCOFs for two slopes: a 0.93 SCOF for a 9.3 percent slope, and SCOF of 0.625 for a 6.25 percent slope.
Visual Clues Affect the Chances of Falling on a Ramp
In other words, using an improper and ineffective "anti slip" coating (such as ordinary paint) might actually increase the risk of falling not only for being a potentially surprise slip surface itself, but also because the presence of such a coating provides a visual clue that would be expected to lead a pedestrian to think that the surface had *extra* slip resistance when in fact it does not. Be certain that any anti-slip paints or add-on non-slip tread materials used on a ramp are intended for that use.
The text also includes material on ramp railings (that can be a visual clue about ramp height, slope, and dangers), and on other ramp markings as they also affect ramp safety.
Typical building code specifications for access ramp non-slip surface requirements & surface maintenance conditions
How to make access ramps less slippery
Remove slippery materials: clean algae or other slippery materials from the surface - if necessary using deck cleaner and a power washer. Where possible, correct the underlying conditions that cause algae or other debris collection on a ramp surface - sometimes simply by cutting back overhanging tree branches, the added sunlight will reduce algae growth as well as frost or ice formation.
Improve ramp surface traction: for a ramp that will be used for both wheelchairs and walking pedestrians, install anti-slip tread materials or use an anti-slip paint; be sure that you select outdoor-rated materials if the ramp is outside.
For a ramp that is used only by walkers (no wheelchairs) some builders install cleats, typically 16" o.c. across the ramp but in our opinion, the cleats can themselves form a trip hazard and may violate building codes. Instead, if the ramp is so steep that you are considering cleats, fix the ramp slope, as we discuss below.
Correct a slippery, too-steep building access ramp by extending its length and thus reducing the pitch or slope, OR by lifting the low-end of the ramp up, building a
step up at its entry end so that the ramp slope itself is reduced to a safe degree, in both cases combined with the steps above.
I.e. change the ramp length or lift its low end and add a step up, so as to keep the ramp slope to no more than 1 in 12. But adding a step at the lower end of the ramp, reducing its slope, only works for ramps that do not need to be wheelchair accessible.
Requirements for Guardrailings & Handrailings at Access Ramps
A Comparison of Building Codes Specifying Hand Railing Requirementsfor Access Ramps
Commentary: This section provides for the safety and maintenance of handrails and guards. See Section PM-702.9 for additional requirements.
PM-702.9 Stairways, handrails and guards: Every exterior and interior flight of stairs having more than four risers, and every open portion of a stair, landing or balcony which is more than 30 inches (762mm) high, nor more than 42 inches (1067mm) high, measured vertically above the nosing of the tread or above the finished floor of the landing or walking surfaces. Guards shall be not less than 30 inches (762mm) high above the floor of the landing or balcony.
Florida Handrail & Guardrail Requirements & Codes for Access Ramps
See PLATFORMS & LANDINGS, ENTRY & STAIR for details about platform & landing location & size requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about access ramp building codes, construction, safetey requirements
Questions & answers or comments about access ramp building codes, construction, safetey requirements.
Ask a Question or Enter Search Terms in the InspectApedia search box just below.
Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.