Introduction: Mighty Light Pet Accessibility Ramp
Nobody likes to see their pets struggling to go up or down the stairs. Watching my grandpuppy dealing with arthritis nearly broke my heart, but then I was inspired! This Instructable is my way of helping him, and I hope it shows others in the same situation how to help their furry friends.
This construction is intended for short sets of stairs, such as from a deck down into the yard. If you are dealing with a taller set of steps, you'll need to adjust all the lengths to compensate. It doesn't need to be set to ADA standards, but it should be less steep than the stairs or it won't help the animal.
Since most ladders are less than 20" wide, the wood will slightly overhang the ladder on each side. If you don't want the overhang, simply trim the plywood to be 2" wider than the ladder; this will give you only enough edge space to allow for the side rails.
Note: My ramp has a small cutout section at the top-left; this is to allow the ramp to fit up against the foundation below the siding of the house. It is also possible that you will need to secure the top of the ramp, but that is dependent on your particular installation location.
VERY SPECIAL THANKS to my daughter Mandy and my husband Bob for their assistance throughout every phase of this project. I couldn’t have published it without all the different ways they helped me!
Note: nothing NEEDS to be stainless unless it's for outdoor use
- Drill (any kind will do), 3/8-in drill bit, 1/8-in drill bit
- 1/2" Wrench or ratchet with 1/2" socket
- Screwdriver (hand or powered)
- Table saw or router with 1/4" bit (or size to match the thickness of your plywood)
- Ratcheting bar clamps - at least 4
- Sawhorses (if you have them; helpful but not required)
- 2ft x 8ft piece of 1/4" plywood, or appropriate thickness to support the weight of your pet (THANK YOU to Lowe's for the no-charge cutting of a 4-by-8!)
- 8ft furring strips - qty 2
- 8ft 1x3" stock - qty 2
- 16ft aluminum extension ladder, separated - use the half with the ladder "shoes"
- 5/16" diameter carriage bolts, 3" long - qty 4 per rung to be connected to wood (diameter can be larger or smaller, but adjust washers & U-bolts to match size)
- 2" wide U-bolts - qty 2 per rung (bolt length doesn't matter - only using nuts & plates)
- 5/16" split-ring locking washers (at least the same quantity as the carriage bolts)
- #6 x 1" particle board screws
- #8 x 1-5/8" exterior screws
- any kind of waterproofing material suitable for exterior use (I do not have a recommendation because I used a product that has since been discontinued)
- indoor/outdoor carpeting or mats
- Liquid Nails Heavy Duty Adhesive & caulking gun to apply
Step 1: CONFIGURATION
Lay the plywood on the floor, ground, or sawhorses. Place the ladder section on top of the plywood and align them to achieve the desired overhang and position of the ladder shoes, then clamp the plywood and ladder together to prevent movement. When positioning the ladder shoes, consider the surface with which they will interact: if it is a hard surface, such as cement or asphalt, you have no choice but to use the pads, whereas if you have a soft surface, such as grass or dirt, it is at your discretion whether to use the pads or the teeth. On my ladder, having the plywood extend all the way to the end would block full swing of the shoes to allow use of the teeth, but that wasn't an issue because I decided to use the pads in combination with cement patio blocks anyway.
Decide which rungs to use to attach the wood to the ladder; mark drill points above and below both ends of each of these rungs, taking into account the length of the U-bolt plate. Repeat as necessary for all connection points; these are where the carriage bolts will come through the plywood. Remove the ladder and set it aside, then drill all the holes.
Using the table saw (or router), create a slot (aka "dado") in each 1x3" strip 1/4" up from one edge and spanning its entire length; this groove will allow the plywood to attach securely to the side rail. Test-fit the slotted rails on the plywood BEFORE applying the adhesive so you can widen the groove if necessary.
Apply Liquid Nails into the slots per the package instructions, then put the side rails back on the plywood and clamp them in place. Allow the adhesive to set, then drill pilot holes for the particle board screws; these should be spaced approximately every 15-18" along the length and positioned for the screws to go up through the bottom of the side rail, through the plywood, and into the rest of the side rail. Install the screws in all the holes and tighten.
Measure the distance between the side rails to fit sections of the furring strips as "speed bumps." They should all be the same length, but check at various points to make sure before cutting them. This is a good time to plan their spacing; if you start with one at the top edge then evenly space them two feet apart down the length of the plywood, there will be five "speed bumps". You can use different spacing to better suit your pet, but this will change the number of cuts/pieces.
Step 4: WATERPROOFING
Now it's time to protect all the wood from moisture. This step isn't entirely necessary if the ramp will only be used indoors, but it's still recommended in case your pet has an "accident" on the ramp! Use your choice of waterproofing substance to coat the entire surface of the plywood, including into the drilled holes. (You can put something like small pieces of plastic straws into the holes of the plywood to keep them open, or you'll need to pierce the dried waterproofing to insert the carriage bolts.) Make sure you include all the edges as well, and don't forget to waterproof the furring strips. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for allowing the waterproofing to dry completely.
Step 5: ASSEMBLY
Position the plywood together with the ladder section to install the carriage bolt combinations. Each fastener set consists of two carriage bolts, a U-bolt plate, two locking washers, and two nuts. Push a bolt through the plywood and into one hole in the plate; put the washer on the bolt, then screw the nut on hand-tight. Push another bolt into the corresponding hole on the other side of the rung and repeat the assembly with the same plate, another washer, and another nut. One end of one rung is now attached to the plywood. Repeat the process for all the other holes until the plywood is fully attached to the ladder, then go back and tighten all the nuts onto the bolts to secure the parts together.
Now it's time to add texture for traction with the carpeting/mats (I'm using mats, so that's the word I'll use here) and "speed bumps." Make sure to account for the side rails when measuring the mats; they should span the full width and be flush against the side rails. The furring strips will hold the mats in place so there's no need to use adhesive; this is especially important to prevent build-up of moisture between the plywood and mat. If your choice of mat is in multiple pieces, save yourself some struggle by having the furring strips cover the joints, leaving small gaps wide enough for the screws so they don't have to cut through the material. Place the furring strips across the mats (like ladder rungs) and drill pilot holes in the strips, making sure to avoid the ladder rails and rungs below the plywood. Use the exterior screws to secure the speed bumps to the ramp.
Step 7: PLACEMENT
You are now ready to place the ramp where your pet will use it! As I did, you may need to put the ladder shoes on patio blocks or other supports to maintain the level and stability of the ramp.
My daughter dubbed this "Mighty Light" because it's strong but weighs so little that even SHE can pick it up without much trouble!
Second Prize in the