Introduction: How to Make a Mini Ramp (DIY Halfpipe)
Let's build a mini ramp! Wait...what is that, exactly?!
A "Mini Ramp" is a skateboard ramp (think: halfpipe) that is smaller than six feet tall and doesn't contain any "vert", meaning that it doesn't go vertical in the sloped transition. The DIY mini ramp we're building here is 3 feet tall, 12 feet wide, and 24 feet long. It's the perfect size for casual skating and is awesome for beginners and experts alike.
We also have plans available on our website:
This is an outdoor ramp and we built ours in our backyard, so we're going to cover how to set up a foundation on uneven ground, how to frame it using 2x4s and plywood, how to add steel coping, how to sheath it with plywood, and how to weather-proof it so it lasts as long as possible outdoors.
We recommend watching the video above and following along with the written steps!
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- 2x4" Lumber
- 3/8" Plywood
- 1/8" Plywood
- 2" OD Steel Pipe (Schedule 40)
- Exterior Latex Paint
- 2.5"Exterior Screws
- 1.5" Exterior Screws
- 1/2" Galvanized Bolts/Nuts/Washers
- 12" x 12" x 8" Concrete Footings
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Step 1: The Foundation!
The ramp we're building is 3 feet high, 12 feet wide and 24 feet long. Whatever the exact size of your ramp, you're going to need a flat piece of ground to put it. It's important that the ramp sits on level ground, so in a perfect world, it would sit either on a flat concrete pad or at the least on a wide level space. In our case, our yard is neither flat nor level so we had to fix that.
We start by laying out exactly where it will go in the yard and then use Concrete Footings (12" x 12" x 8") and put one at each corner. Because our yard slopes downhill, the ones at the top get buried quite a bit and the ones at the other end are above ground. We use a line level to ensure all 4 corners are level with each other, as well as square and evenly spaced.
Because the ramp is heavy, the foundation will settle a bit over time. To help keep it level for a long time we put a 3-4" thick layer of gravel underneath each of the footings.
For the rest of the ramp, we'll put 2" thick concrete pavers every 4 feet along the length of the ramp.
Step 2: The Sloped Transitions!
The first bit of construction is to layout and cut the sloped transitions that make up the sides of the ramp. For this ramp, we're building four different quarter pipes and each one has a transition on each side. So, we need to make 8of them.
These are cut from 3/4" plywood and we can get two transitions from one 4' x'8' sheet. To lay them out, we start by putting two sheets side by side on the ground and marking the pivot point which is 6' 3.5" from the bottom and 2" in from the side. Since 2x4s are 3.5" wide, this will give us a 6' radius slope. Once we have it marked, we'll put in a screw and then tie a string to it. We'll then measure a 6' length of string and tie a pencil to the end and use it to draw the radius on the wood.
(This part is easier to see and understand if you watch the video from Step One.)
Next, we measure the back side to 2' 11.25" up from the bottom and then square that line across until it meets the curve we just drew. There is a small notch for the coping where that top-line meets the slope that is 1.25" tall and 1.75" deep.
Once everything is laid out, we then cut the shape out with a jigsaw and use it as a template to mark the other seven pieces and cut them all out, being careful to get them all as close to the same as we can.
Step 3: Framing the Quarter Pipes!
We're building four quarter pipes: two that are 8' wide and two that are 4' wide. We'll then bolt one of each together to give us a 12' wide ramp. The next step is to cut all of the 2x4s that will be used to frame each quarter pipe, so to get the right length we have to subtract the width of each of the 3/4" plywood transitions, which means subtracting 1.5".
That gives us a 2x4 length of 94.5" for the wider ramps and 46.5" for the shorter ones. Once we have these lengths, we then cut all the 2x4s down to length for all four quarter pipes. There are (34) 2x4s needed for the two wide ramps and another (17) needed for both the shorter ramps.
To frame the quarter pipes, we screw in one upright 2x4 on each corner of the transition, one laid on its side at the top of the slope, and then one every 8" (upright) until we reach the bottom. We also put them along the top spaced at 8" apart and then lastly we cut some shorter pieces that go under the 2x4s at the top for added support for the deck.
When screwing the 2x4s to the plywood, we use 2.5" exterior screws and we use two screws for each side.
Step 4: Positioning, Leveling and Squaring!
With all four quarter pipes built, we carefully position them all on the footings we made earlier. They're obviously heavy, so be careful moving them around! Once all four of them are in position, we then need to ensure that they are square to each other, and as level as possible.
This is the point when you'll add the concrete pavers underneath the ramps, spaced at 4', to support the weight of the ramp.
To do this, we used a line level and ran it across all four corners, making small adjustments until we were happy that it was square and completely level.
You may find you need to either raise or lower the concrete footings to get things level. If this is too difficult, another option is shimming underneath the ramp with wood to get the exact height you need.
Step 5: The Flat Ground Sections!
In between the quarter pipes, we'll use the same techniques to build two flat ground sections that connect everything together.
One of them is 8' wide and 8' long. The other is 4' wide and 8' long.
Once again we'll subtract for the width of the two 2x4s on the ends, which is 3", and that gives us a length of 93" for the wider section and 45" for the shorter one. It takes (15) pieces of 2x4 for the wide section and (9) for the shorter one.
Once assembled, each section gets moved into place. We offset the short and long pieces from the ramps so that the seams do not all align. This gives it more strength when we bolt it all together in the next step!
Step 6: Bolting the Pieces Together!
With everything in place and aligned, we'll now use 0.5" galvanized bolts and secure everything together. We clamped the pieces together so that everything would stay in place and then drilled holes for the bolts through both pieces.
For the quarter pipes, we put two bolts along the top, two along the bottom, and two along the slope. For the flat sections, we put two bolts along each edge, which secures the entire structure together.
Step 7: The Steel Coping!
Along the top edge of the slope and sitting in the notch is going to be the steel coping. This is used for the skateboard to slide across when you get to the top of the ramp. It has to be steel because it takes a beating from the skateboard, plastic or any softer metal like aluminum will dent or get broken.
For each side, we need a piece of 2" black steel pipe that is 12' long. We had to go to a metal supply store to find this since our local hardware stores didn't carry anything this large.
The exact pipe we used was 2" OD Schedule 40 Black Steel Pipe.
The pipe sits squarely in the notch, but to attach it securely to the ramp, we'll need to drill holes every 2' along its length and then screw it to the ramp. On the front of the pipe, we drill a hole that is 3/8" diameter, and in the same place in the back we drill a smaller hole that is 3/16". The hole in the back is wide enough for a screw to pass through it and the hole in the front is a bit wider to make room for the head of the drill.
Drilling through steel is difficult! We recommend using cobalt drill bits for this, as well as using a lubricant like a 3-in-1 oil to keep the drill bits lubricated as they're cutting. It's possible with lower quality drill bits but can take a very long time.
Step 8: The Plywood Sheathing!
Next, we'll sheath the entire ramp in plywood! We start with the upper decks and we use 3/4" plywood for this. This is the flat area on top where you stand. We make sure the front side is pushed tight up against the coping and then cut trim it to be flush with the back edge.
For covering the ramp face, we're going to use two layers of 3/8" thick plywood and then a final layer of 1/8" on top. Start by pushing a sheet of 3/8" tight against the coping and screwing it down to the 2x4s below. Repeat it all the way across the ramp, making cuts as needed until the entire thing is covered.
It's important to have help at this step so that you can have one person push down hard on the sheet of plywood so it bends into shape, while you or another person screws it down.
The second layer of 3/8" goes on next, but we want to offset it from the layer below so the seems don't fall in the same place. Start by ripping a sheet in half and then repeat the process by pushing it tight to the coping and working your way down. It uses the same amount of material but offsets everything by half a sheet.
If you're a perfectionist like we are, you can then use a flush trim router to trim all of the edges of the plywood so everything is perfectly flush and nice looking. :)
Step 9: The Top Layer of Plywood!
Technically, we could stop at this point...but we're going to add one more layer of thinner plywood on top to give it a much smoother ride. We're going to use a 1/8" thick hardwood plywood but there are many different options people use for the top layer, depending on your budget. There are even skate ramp specific materials like Skatelite that are weather-proof and built just for this.
Masonite is a great option for indoor ramps, but as you've seen in the full video...
we tried it and it went very badly. :( Always consider your weather situation.
The main thing to consider for this is that since we're building an outdoor ramp, it's going to get rained on...a lot. We don't get snow here, but we do get a tremendous amount of rain so we want to make sure that whatever we use doesn't get ruined by water. If you live in a very dry area, masonite might be a better choice for you. Whichever material you use, we recommend putting a small 1/16-1/8" expansion joint in between the sheets to account for any wood movement. As the moisture in the air changes with humidity, wood will move a little, so we want to leave room to allow for this.
When we install this final layer, we rotate it 45 degrees and put it on diagonally. This makes it so all of the seams are angled and your wheels will never hit a seam at the same time, leading to a smoother ride. It also helps so that the screws aren't all in the same place as the layers below it. (Also, it looks awesome.)
We started by aligning one edge and working our way up and across. Since it's a perfect 45-degree angle, it actually takes the same amount of sheets as if you were putting them on straight...you just end up cutting a few in half at an angle to fill in the triangle areas.
Lastly, and most importantly, you really don't want any screws sticking up on the top layer...so we used a countersink drill bit on each screw hole so that screws are slightly below the surface. You really don't want to fall on the ramp and slide across a screw sticking up...that would be bad. So, make sure each and every screw is slightly below the surface!
In the end, after all three layers of plywood, the coping should be about 3/8" above the riding surface.
Step 10: Painting the Mini Ramp!
If we just left the plywood as is, it might last a little while outdoors but the rain and humidity would ultimately ruin it pretty quickly. In order to protect it and keep it lasting as long as possible, we painted the entire thing with an exterior latex house paint. We used the same color as our house so it matches a little better in the backyard.
We taped off the steel coping and did coats of paint on the entire thing. We then used a flexible acrylic "elastomeric" caulking in all of the expansion joints on the top layer of plywood. Since it's flexible caulk, it leaves room for wood movement from the humidity but still keeps water from penetrating underneath the wood. We then did a final layer of paint on everything!
It's been several weeks now and it seems to be holding up to the rain fairly well. Depending on your situation, you could also drill some small drainage holes in certain places so you don't get standing water on the ramp when it rains.
Step 11: Extras! the Climbing Wall and Slide!
Our son is currently two years old so he's too small to ride a skateboard still, but we wanted him to enjoy the ramp in the meantime so we added a basic climbing wall to the back of it as well as a plastic slide! He can now climb up and down the ramp and then slide down either the ramp face or the slide off the back. He plays on it all the time and it's been great to see him getting familiar and comfortable with the ramp before he can even push on a skateboard. :)
We basically just screwed the board and slide into the back of the deck so it was secure and that's all we needed to do. We also made sure there were no screws sticking out of the bottom so we can climb around underneath it and have fun.
Eventually, we'll add a railing up on the top so he can't fall off the back but for now, he's never out there unsupervised so that will be a future project.
Step 12: The Results!
Like most projects, we had a bunch of unexpected things happen but ultimately we were successful in creating an AWESOME backyard mini ramp that we can all enjoy together. We're excited to be able to give our son the option to get comfortable on and enjoy the ramp as he grows up. We're not sure if he'll like skateboarding yet, but at least he'll have the option to ride a great ramp. :)
Thanks for reading! Want to see more of our projects?