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Best (and inexpensive) way to warm an outdoor disability ramp? Answered

I recently had a disability ramp built for the entrance to my home.  It is made of pressure treated lumber and deck boards.  I am putting down rolled roofing to help with slipping.  I would like to make it so that it could keep it warm to prevent snow and ice build up.  I was thinking of doing a solar water heater to feed piping underneath the ramp, but not sure if this is the best way to go.  I also considered purchasing some sort of heat tape to go under the rolled roofing.  What does the community think?



3 years ago

The really best solution is to think out of the box and use a different ramp material altogether. Forget wood, forget paint, make the top out of expanded steel. The stuff with the diamonds. All the ice and snow falls through (well it can get ice coated but it usually chips off). As a material it might cost more initially but the no need for anything more than basic maintenance will offset that.


Vyger's suggestion of expanded
steel or Al as the ramp material has become a Building Code standard in a
lot of states for safety and insurance concerns, plus the ramp can be
tweaked to allow for re-alignment post installation. Additionally, the
VA and Fed agency requirements have updated to metal as the new standard
material, with the states following in their codes. The idea of a
permanent 'housing' (sides & roof) to protect the ramp may increase
your property taxes as a new 'addition' or building.

Tcoyle & Wired doing an overlay is doable if
your ramps will take and permanently stand up to the extra weight of
the steel and spacers (think weight both Live & Dead, then throw in
torque at the turns) plus any drainage that can't be sent away from the
ramp pylons. One other thing to consider with steel is heat, both from a
permanent point of view ('boiling' painted surfaces, maintenance of
those surfaces, etc) and should you or anyone else fall on it during the

Instructables has run contests in the past that have come
up with a lot of low tech low drag ADA type adaptations, just visit the
various contest pages. Yeah, its a lot of reading (!) but worthwhile as
one slides down the razor blade of disability and adaptive med
insurance coverages, consider making a spread sheet of URLs, topics ISP
numbers as it will become a DIY manual- read cheaper and better $$
spent on solutions. I hope this helps. Sorry about the long replies as I
did tech engineering and design in the past along with a decade+ to
cogitate on this.

That would have been an awesome solution. I guess I could even overlay the expanded steel on top of the ramp too.

+1 That will work nicely !

Don't know why i didn't think of that >.<

BTDT currently. First off, you're better off using some of the new deck paints with grit mixed in rather than roofing paper. Should you tag a side rail, it is easily repaired and roofing paper WILL break loose, with disastrous results to you & your device.

My ramp is made of the same materials as yours, and I've had to deal with snow accumulation etc.

When heavy snow is forecast, I bungee cord blue tarps to the handrails, with the high end of the ramp being a single tarp to the low outside ends. This acts as a single sloped roof to dump accumulated snow. I'll add some images or drawings later.

Now for heating the ramp, I've wrestled with the Solar v. Heat Tape question, its still unanswered. The folks that originally built the ramp, an AIA & ME saw the merit of using heat to clear things, but in the long run thought that it would prove disastrous given materials, stress points (attachments) on slopes, plus the freeze/thaw cycles taking long periods of time to work. Another nasty point, is water getting into cracks and freezing along with damages there.

I realize this isn't what you wanted to hear, but I've been using the ramp for better than 12 years. The only expense has been getting it sanded & repainted every three years.

When spring rolls around I will probably paint with grit. Just too cold right now to paint unfortunately. The rolled roofing is a temporary solution.

A lot depends on what sort of bad weather you expect to suffer.

If the air temp is freezing for a significant amount of time then solar heated water will also freeze.

Heated tape is perhaps the best option, Underfloor heating systems abound.

Perhaps you can combine with solar panels to offset the cost.

Of course you could build a porch over it to protect from the frost

+1 On the porch; In the long run will work the best.

Keep in mind you may not have to de-ice the whole ramp. I imagine you could run a pair of "tracks" for a wheel chair and keep them wide enough for an able-bodied person to use as well. Then either you piping on heat tape would only have to cover half of the ramp's surface, helping reduce energy costs.

I would suggest the heat tape you mentioned, and hook it up to a timer. I also second Desert's Idea on the Paint with Grit mixed in. Would work better and probs last Longer then Roofing Tiles.

A more saterical (And NOT Reccomended) Idea could be a Re-Circulating brine waterfall down the ramp >.>


3 years ago

Maybe using an old fashion infrared heat lamp would work. That way you heat only the surface and water, ice, snow should just evaporate away. The key of course would be to make the surface a dark color so it could absorb the light. And if it got to cold it might not work. I don't know if there are high power infrared LED lamps but if there are it would keep the energy use down. I could see a problem with it collecting local dogs and cats, but then they would keep the snow melted also.