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4 Types of Materials for Commercial Ramps

Most commercial-grade ramps are built out of four different types of materials: wood, aluminum, steel, and concrete.

The type of material you choose depends on why the ramp is being built and where it’s being built. For example, if the access solution will need to be relocated at any point in the future, you’ll want to choose a material that can easily be removed and transported. A commercial ramp that will be outdoors needs to remain in good condition through the seasons with minimal maintenance. Below we walk through the pros and cons for each of the four main building materials and the best situations for using each of them.

What Are the Different Types of Ramp Materials?

image of wood texture

Wood

Pros: The material itself is generally inexpensive, which means lower cost up front for the ramp. Many property owners also prefer the aesthetic of a wood ramp over a metal one, giving the property a quainter feel.

Cons: Wood ramps take several days to build, which means higher labor and building permit costs. Building a wood ramp requires careful measurement and cutting—a single mistake can cause extensive reworking as well as wasted material. You must also have the required saws and other tools for the installation. Ramps made out of wood require quite a bit of maintenance after the initial build as well, because wood rots and warps faster and easier than other materials. Regular cleaning and sealing are required to limit this, but it still does not completely stop the decay. When it comes time to remove a wood ramp, you’ll not only need to factor in the labor costs once again to take the ramp down, but you’ll also have to figure out the disposal of the materials. Wood can also be naturally slick when there’s mist or rain, requiring extra safety precautions such as tread tape.

image of aluminum texture

Aluminum

Pros: Aluminum modular ramps are great for creating customizable access solutions for any commercial space. Since the modular parts are shipped pre-made, experts can install and take down an aluminum ramp system in a matter of hours. Aluminum is the lightest of the materials, making the parts easier to maneuver and install. This makes aluminum ramps great for both temporary and permanent solutions.

An aluminum ramp in a commercial building will last for many years to come and will stand up to the harshest of environments, along with repeated everyday use. They are virtually maintenance-free, requiring little more than an occasional hosing to rinse off mud or debris. The long lifespan of an aluminum ramp gives a great return on investment.

With their permanent, slip-resistant surface and smooth, continuous handrails, these ramps ensure safe access for all individuals.

Cons: Due to the material and pre-assembled parts, these ramps typically cost more money upfront, though the shorter installation time and reduced labor costs help to balance that.

image of steel texture

Steel

Pros: A steel ramp allows for a design that enables customization for any property. Steel is an inherently strong material. 

Cons: While harder than aluminum, steel easily rusts over time, especially in wetter climates. This creates an increased need for regular maintenance to ensure a safe access system. It also creates added hazards if the corrosion goes unnoticed and affects the ramp’s integrity. Additionally, steel is also very heavy, which increases the effort required for installation and makes for a difficult tear down for temporary situations. It may be stronger than aluminum, but when it comes to the strength-to-weight ratio, aluminum surpasses steel.

image of concrete texture

Concrete

Pros: Concrete ramps are a low-maintenance option that is also very durable. They have a high weight capacity as well, which is great for regular, repetitive use of the ramp.

Cons: Installing and removing a concrete ramp can be very costly and take quite a bit of time and prep work. Concrete must be mixed correctly and given time to cure, otherwise the material can fail. Over time concrete ramps are also prone to cracks and deterioration, requiring occasional repairs. This is especially true if you live in a climate with a cold winter, where freeze-thaw cycles rapidly widen cracks. Lastly, it’s difficult to build a customized concrete ramp, so it may not be possible to construct it if the existing building does not allow for it.

At EZ-ACCESS, we specialize in modular access systems built from aluminum.

Commercial wheelchair ramps need to be able to withstand the elements and heavy traffic. EZ-ACCESS has used aluminum as our ramp material of choice for four decades because it’s what gives our customers the safest and most durable accessibility. Our mission to reduce mobility barriers starts with providing only the best access solutions for our community. If you want to know more details about installing an aluminum ramp for your commercial application, reach out to our Customer Service team for a customized solution.


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