Aluminum vs. Wooden Ramps: Which Should I Install?

When you have a wooden wheelchair ramp that is no longer in good safe shape, you’ll need to replace it. What’s not so obvious, though, is what type of new ramp to install. Should you just go ahead and order another wooden ramp, or perhaps look for an alternative?

We recommend that you consider installing an aluminum ramp. Aluminum wheelchair ramps are excellent accessibility solutions, which outperform wood in many ways.

Learn more about aluminum vs wooden ramps. If you’re thinking about a third option, consider a vertical porch lift vs. a wheelchair ramp.

1. Material

Aluminum combines strength with minimal weight. It’s also non-combustible. Perhaps most important in Ottawa’s climate, aluminum ramps are highly weather-resistant; they quickly shed rain and snow (especially if they’re perforated), resist ice buildup, and tolerate most brands of ice melt well.

Modular aluminum ramps, manufactured in sections, are particularly easy to assemble or disassemble and take with you when you move.

Nevertheless, there are a few drawbacks to aluminum. This material is prone to denting and less discreet in appearance than wood (though you may be able to choose from a few custom colours, which are less intrusive than shiny silver).

Wood offers a nicer appearance and can be painted or stained to coordinate with your house exterior. Still, it is much heavier in weight and less weather-resistant than aluminum.

2. Durability

Aluminum is long-lasting and durable, with a weight capacity of up to 450 kg, more than enough to support a wheelchair user, their wheelchair, and assorted wheelchair accessories. In addition, an aluminum accessibility ramp can be removed and stored when not in use, further extending its life.

Wood is much less durable. It’s vulnerable to direct sunlight as well as snow and ice buildup and might mould in overly damp conditions. Over time, wooden ramps can also rot, crack, splinter, chip, or become infested with insects.

3. Cost

Aluminum usually costs more initially, though its installation and maintenance are usually cheaper. Modular aluminum wheelchair ramps are available as rentals.

Wood is inexpensive to buy — as well as to build if you’re doing it yourself. On the other hand, you’ll need to consider additional costs, such as the value of your time plus expenses for future maintenance.

4. Installation

Aluminum ramp installation takes a few hours at most. Because the parts are prefab and precut, you need only a few basic tools to DIY. The ramps have integrated “feet” and do not require digging into the soil or pouring concrete footings. What’s more, the aluminum surface often offers built-in anti-slip traction in the form of ridges or raised buttons.

A potential disadvantage with aluminum ramps is that they are sold in standard sizes — which could be a problem if you have an unusually shaped site.

Wood ramp installation takes 2 days when done by a professional, longer if you do it yourself. According to the Ontario Building Code, you will need a permit because a wooden ramp is considered a permanent structure.

However, the installation of a wooden ramp can be fine-tuned to fit your requirements precisely if, for example, you’d like angles or curves.

5. Maintenance & Adjustments

Aluminum ramps need minimal maintenance; all you’ll have to do is sweep or shovel off any snow and tighten the screws as necessary. Then, it’s simple to alter the ramp configuration or to customize it with individual components like landings or handrails. Two problems with aluminum wheelchair ramps are that they tend to dent, and they are challenging to paint if you want to change the colour.

Wood will need an initial coat of paint or stain to protect it against snow, rain, and humidity. This finish must be reapplied every 1-2 years. Once the building process is complete, the wooden ramp will be a permanent fixture, which cannot be adjusted.

Conval-Aid’s Aluminum Ramps Are A Wise Choice

Are you interested in knowing more about aluminum ramps? Talk to a specialist at Conval-Aid. We’ll provide in-depth, expert answers to all your questions about aluminum ramp installation.