What Are the Differences Between Wooden and Aluminum Handicap Access Ramps?

When you're adding a handicap access ramp to your home, your two main choices are adding either an aluminum access ramp or a wooden one. Both are sturdy and can be designed with the proper slope for wheelchair or walker use along with landings that allow them to be installed in small spaces. However, there are some major differences between them that affect which one is right for your home. To find out how wooden handicap access ramps compare to aluminum ones and how to figure out which is the best choice for you, read on.

1. Cost

Wooden handicap access ramps are often more expensive than aluminum ones. For many people, this is a surprising fact — after all, the wood itself is less expensive than aluminum.

However, the cost of a handicap access ramp installation also needs to take into account how involved the installation process is. The companies that sell aluminum access ramps design them in a modular fashion — the pieces of the ramp can be quickly attached together, and few tools are required. Wooden access ramps, on the other hand, are permanent additions that require concrete footers. The installation process takes much longer, which drives up the cost. Since aluminum access ramps are easy to install, adding one to your home is overall less expensive than hiring someone to build a wooden access ramp.

An additional benefit of the fact that aluminum access ramps are modular is the fact that they can be easily disassembled. If you move, you can simply disassemble your ramp and take it with you. You may have to purchase some additional pieces in order to fit it onto your new home, but you'll already have quite a bit of the material you need. Wooden ramps, on the other hand, are a permanent addition to the home you install it at. If you move frequently and need your home to be accessible, the portability of an aluminum handicap access ramp keeps accessibility costs very low.

2. Appearance

Even though wooden access ramps cost more, many homeowners choose to install them instead of aluminum simply due to their appearance. Unfortunately, manufacturers don't offer aluminum access ramps in a wide variety of colors and styles — you're mostly limited to unpainted, metallic aluminum. They're highly visible, and it's hard to blend them into your landscaping.

Wooden access ramps look more natural, and they can also be stained or painted in order to help them blend in with your home and the surrounding landscape. Since they're constructed from scratch, you also have more choice in a wooden handicap access ramp's design — for example, you can choose the wood that's used for the ramp or the appearance of the handrails. With careful design decisions, wooden access ramps are often more aesthetically appealing.

3. Maintenance

Aluminum handicap access ramps don't require much maintenance at all. You'll have to wash any ice, snow, dirt, and debris off of the ramp periodically, but the ramp itself is much more resilient than a wooden ramp. Wooden handicap access ramps have similar maintenance requirements to wooden decks. You'll need to paint, stain and seal the ramp every year or two in order to protect it from moisture and rainfall.

If you don't keep up with maintenance on your wooden access ramp, it can begin to rot away — this makes it very dangerous to use, and you'll either have to repair it or replace it entirely depending on the level of damage. Aluminum ramps, on the other hand, aren't susceptible to either rotting or rusting, so they don't have any special maintenance requirements other than cleaning.

Overall, the best choice for your home comes down mainly to aesthetics. Aluminum handicap access ramps are less expensive, require almost no maintenance and are portable. These are all major advantages over wood. However, wooden access ramps are a good choice for homeowners who don't like the appearance of aluminum. Regardless of which one you choose, it's important to have it designed and installed by a handicap access ramp installation professional — this will ensure that it's safe for you to use.

For more information, companies like Quick-Deck, Inc., can help.

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