Mighty Light Pet Accessibility Ramp

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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!

Supplies:

Note: nothing NEEDS to be stainless unless it's for outdoor use

Tools

  • 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)

Materials

  • 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.

Step 2:

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.

Step 3:

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.

Step 6:

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!

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    12 Discussions

    1
    nic.bryan.73
    nic.bryan.73

    1 year ago

    What is the maximum height this specific ramp design is good for? Like could it be used to get up into the bed of a pickup truck with the tailgate down, or would that make it too steep?

    0
    CathyNoyb
    CathyNoyb

    Reply 1 year ago

    I think the height of the pickup bed should determine the length of the ladder. My daughter’s deck is just shy of 40 inches vertically from the grass below, and the ramp needed to be no more than 9 feet long because of the faucet on the outside of the house. For me, the eight foot ladder section, half of a 16 ft extension ladder, was just right.

    If you want to make the same type of ramp to go to a higher point, you would need a longer ladder. A quick calculation for a reasonable angle is one foot of ramp for every five inches of rise. Measure in inches from the edge of the open tailgate straight down to the ground, then divide that number by five to get the length of the ramp in feet: 40 inches of height divided by 5 equals 8 feet of ramp. To make it less steep (longer ramp), divide by a smaller number: a 10-foot ramp would be 4-to-1. Just keep in mind that the advertised length of an extension ladder will be twice as long as the ramp because you’ll only be using one half of it.

    Hope that helps!

    0
    nic.bryan.73
    nic.bryan.73

    Reply 1 year ago

    It does help. So for my 36" tailgate, I would need a ~8 foot ramp. Which would mean making it 2 parts so it can be folded in half.

    0
    CathyNoyb
    CathyNoyb

    Reply 1 year ago

    Let me know if you make it. I'd really like to see a picture of your version!

    0
    CathyNoyb
    CathyNoyb

    Reply 1 year ago

    Yeah, 8 feet of length sounds good, and it might be doable with a 4-foot twin folding step ladder. You would probably need to modify the top after removing the spreaders. That would allow you to let it lie flat either folded or extended. If that works, add two lengths of plywood that meet in the middle and you're good to go!

    0
    garg11
    garg11

    1 year ago

    I think to buy from amazon is the cheapest way... ($39.00-$49.00) unless you already have everything for project for free.

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    0
    anoukaimee
    anoukaimee

    Reply 1 year ago

    Yeah... and I'm pretty sure that my dog wouldn't get on that thing on Amazon: looks pretty flimsy. You get what you pay for.

    0
    CathyNoyb
    CathyNoyb

    Reply 1 year ago

    For me, the ladder was the most expensive item but not excessively so. I'm only using half of it for the ramp, so the other half is still available for odd jobs around the house.

    That pre-made ramp is easy and lower cost, but my grandpuppy would not be able to use that item because it's much too short to be at the proper angle.

    0
    phoe
    phoe

    1 year ago

    I wonder whether the rungs of the ladder would be wide enough for the dog to navigate if you fastened the plywood directly to the rungs, then flipped it over, so the rungs themselves act as the "speed bumps". That way you could probably do away with making sides to it as well.

    0
    CathyNoyb
    CathyNoyb

    Reply 1 year ago

    My grandpuppy, Chris, is an oversized Sheltie who is about 18 inches tall at the shoulder. A bigger dog might not be comfortable walking between the rails of a standard ladder because it might be too narrow, while a smaller dog might have trouble with the height of the rungs compared to the length of its legs.

    I did consider putting the plywood directly on the rungs, but the ladder was only 17 ½” wide and my daughter wanted it to be 20” because that is half the width of the steps you see under the ramp. The extra width gives Chris the option to turn around on the ramp, which he is quite fond of doing!

    1
    untbunny
    untbunny

    1 year ago on Step 7

    Looks like the Sheltie is living the High Life! Great solution to a common challenge.

    0
    CathyNoyb
    CathyNoyb

    Reply 1 year ago

    Indeed, he’s moving much better now with a ramp! No more challenging stairs to hurt his aching shoulders!