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Knowing When It's Time to Replace a Wood Ramp

If you have a wood ramp that provides access to your home and it’s looking a bit worn, it may be time to ditch it for a better solution.

This is especially true for ramps that are used on a daily basis by multiple people. Regular traffic at a relatively high volume naturally causes a faster decline in the structure and its safety due to the constant wear and tear.

The key to replacing a wood ramp is knowing the first signs of deterioration in order to maintain the safety of everyone using the ramp. If you see any of the signs of deterioration we discuss in this article, we recommend reaching out to our Customer Service team to talk about a long-term solution for your location.

Hint 1 - image of warped wood

Warped Wood  

Have you ever noticed that wood doors are a little harder to shut during the summer time? That’s because wood expands in warmer weather. And in winter months, the wood condenses, thanks to the cold weather that rolls in. When the wood is indoors, this isn’t a major issue, but when it’s outdoors, exposed to the elements and is being utilized to create a structure such as a ramp, this can present some major problems. When the wood is in contact with moisture in the air it can warp, creating inconsistencies in the boards. This issue is particularly prominent in humid climates along coastlines.

After wood gets wet, it dries at different rates. Wood that dries faster also shrinks faster, creating a variety of shapes that do not necessarily allow for safe access. The ends can pop up, the boards can completely twist, or they will round out altogether making an obstacle course out of the ramp. Check your wood ramp for the following warped shapes:

illustration of wood when it bows
illustration of wood when it kinks
illustration of wood when it twists
illustration of wood when it cups
illustration of wood when it crooks
Hint 2 - image of rotten wood

Rotten Wood  

Specific conditions must be present in order for wood to rot: oxygen, warmth, and moisture. When these elements come into play, fungi can plant itself on the wood and suck the life out of it.

This is particularly dangerous because the rot can compromise the integrity of the structure and it may not be able to handle the weight that it was originally built to support. Check the safety of your wood ramp regularly by looking for:

  • Localized fungi growth
  • Soft and spongy surface, with a darker ring around affected wood
  • Dry, cracked areas (could possibly crumble to the touch)
  • Damp, musty smell
Hint 3 - image of wood with loose nails

Loose Nails

Both conditions above can cause nails and screws to come loose in the wood, which creates a variety of safety hazards. When nails pop up, they can cause individuals to trip, pop a wheelchair tire, or even cut someone. If the nail became loose due to warped wood in a wet environment, there is also a possibility that rust was present. As we all know, a foreign object with rust can cause Tetanus, yikes!

If a nail becomes loose or even worse, goes missing, this can also decrease the structural integrity of the ramp. Look for the following signs that nails are a potential hazard for a ramp:

  • Corroded nails
  • Nailhead “standing out”
  • Missing nails
  • Rickety railings or board

Other materials that can be used for an access ramp include aluminum, steel, and concrete.

We recommend aluminum as it requires the least amount of maintenance in the long run, and is not at risk for deterioration once installed. An aluminum ramp provides far more safety than other materials available and ends up being less expensive long-term after figuring in installation, labor, labor permits, and maintenance costs that are associated with other ramp material options.

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