DEAR TIM: I'm convinced you know a great deal about shed ramps. I have to build a shed ramp because the ground around my shed slopes. It doesn't seem that shed ramp construction would be that difficult, but I don't want to start until I have an outdoor shed ramp plan. What is the maximum slope you can have on a shed ramp? Do you know how to build a shed ramp with wood? I want the ramp to be safe and very sturdy, because my riding lawn mower is quite heavy. Jerry McG., Lees Summit, MO
DEAR JERRY: Although I have built my fair share of shed ramps, I don't know if you could say I am a shed-ramp guru. But I can give you some tips that will allow you to construct a wood shed ramp that with not shudder or snap as you drive your lawn tractor up and into the shed. I suggest we copy the way I built my own shed ramp.
The shed ramp project is not very difficult, however it will require some unusual cuts with a circular saw. On a scale of one to ten with ten being the toughest job, I would rate this project a 2.5.
Let's discuss the slope issue. The steepness of the ramp can be a safety issue when you are both on and off the lawn tractor. If the ramp is steep and you have not cleaned it for a year or so, it might develop a slippery algae covering. When this algae gets wet, it is more slippery than a wet bar of soap. Just walking down the ramp may have you on your posterior faster than you can say "Whooops!". If you try to drive a lawn tractor up a slippery ramp, it is possible for the tractor to slide sideways and tip over the ramp. You can get severely injured if this happens.
For this reason, you want to minimize the steepness or slope of the shed ramp. I feel the maximum slope should be no more than 3 inches of vertical rise per horizontal foot of run. My shed ramp has this slope and it rises 24 inches from the ground to the shed floor. The total length of my ramp is 8 feet. Try to make your ramp as long as possible so the slope is less than 3 inches for every foot of run.
If a ramp is steeper than this, you might also have a problem when the lawn tractor pulls into the shed. My lawn tractor has a belly mower. The belly mower can scrape the top of the ramp and prevent the tractor from entering the shed. Lawn tractors with snow plows might also have an issue with a steep ramp. The blade may dig into the ramp if you try to drive the lawn tractor up into the shed.
My shed ramp is constructed with treated lumber 4x4's, a treated 2x4 and treated three-quarter-inch-thick plywood. I spaced the 4x4's two feet on center as they project away from the shed. Since my ramp is 6-feet wide, I needed four 4x4s.
The ends of the 4x4s are notched using a circular saw. This notch allows them to rest on the 2x4 which is through bolted to the end joist of the shed. The notch is only one and one-half inches deep and perhaps an inch high. The two cuts that make up the notch are 90 degrees to one another, but the one cut is not parallel with the end of the 4x4.
The 2x4 is bolted to the side of the shed joist so the top of the 2x4 is 2.5 inches down from the top of the shed floor joists. If the shed floor has three-quarter inch flooring, this will allow the treated plywood of the ramp to line up nearly perfectly with the top of the shed flooring.
Once the small notches are made on the ends of the 4x4s, you can set them on top of the 2x4 and toenail them into the side of the shed joist. Use special hot-dipped galvanized nails that are 3.5 inches long.
After all of the 4x4s have been secured to the 2x4 ledger board, you cut the plywood to length and nail it to the 4x4s. Use hot-dipped galvanized nails for this task, but they only need to be 2.5 inches long. If you can get ring-shanked nails, they will hold better. Use a nail set to drive the nails slightly below the surface of the plywood. Your lawn-tractor tires will love you for this.
Shed ramps can also be made from aluminum or other metal. There are any number of companies that make ramps that can be placed permanently or used only when you need access in and out of the shed. Some ramps are slightly wider than the width of the lawn tractor tires. These must be placed very precisely so the tractor does not flip over.
If you build a solid-wood ramp like mine, you can use real rubber mats to make pathways for yourself and the lawn-tractor tires. Real rubber, when wet, is not slippery. Get rubber mats that have some bumps on them that will give you superb traction. Clean the ramp and rubber mats on a regular basis to remove any dirt, algae or moss.