Providing accessible ramped entrances to existing homes

Homes built before 1999 were designed and constructed without making provision for reasonable access to the entrances for either visitors or residents. It’s also well documented that many people are now living in their homes for longer. 

Consequently, the housing stock that existed prior to 25 October 1999, is likely to have to undergo adaptation to accommodate the needs of residents who might, through age or illness, need to have improved access into their homes.

Invariably, the front door of a pre-1999 home will incorporate a step up to the ground floor. The step up is typically 150mm high (6-inches) to assist in damp-proofing precautions to the ground floor. However, there are many examples of homes on sloping sites, where ground levels and gradients to front entrances can be much more challenging from an access perspective.

This short article focuses on a typical change in level of 150mm high between ground floor and outside ground/path level. Level changes that are greater than 150mm or are accessed by steep paths – either upward or downward – may not be suitable for ramped access, and it might be that a stepped route is all that can be provided safely.

house ramps

As a result, such cases will need more detailed consideration and we recommend seeking the advice of a design professional such as an architect or qualified designer.

Building Regulations and access ramps 

Building work to alter a home’s entrance is controlled work and is notifiable to the local authority as it is classed as a material alteration of the building – work that affects building regulation requirement M (access to and use of buildings).

To facilitate compliance with the building regulations guidance on access ramps can be found in Approved Document M Volume 1: Dwellings (2015 edition with 2016 amendments). Additional guidance is also provided in Approved Document K: Protection from falling, collision and impact.

In every case the approach route should be safe and convenient for everyone, including older and disabled people and wheelchair users. It should adopt the shallowest gradient that can reasonably be achieved and be step-free where possible.
Normally these provisions will apply to the principal private entrance (typically a front door) but where this is not possible, access to a suitable alternative entrance would be reasonable. For example, a side or rear door. 

door ramp

To enable most people to approach the dwelling, approach routes to the accessible entrance should comply with the following.

A ramp is defined as any route having a gradient (slope) steeper than 1 in 20 up to 1 in 12. Ramps should never be steeper than 1 in 12 as this makes the route of travel unsafe for everyone who uses the ramp, disabled and non-disabled alike. 

A ramp steeper than 1 in 12 should never be installed and professional advice should be obtained on how to provide a safe and accessible route for all users where there is the likelihood that a ramp might be too steep.

If it's practical to install a ramp, then the following features should be incorporated. 

Detailed guidance on threshold details can be found in the NBS publication – ‘Accessible thresholds in new housing - guidance for house builders and designers.’ Whilst this guidance is targeted at new build homes, it can be equally applied to adaptations for level or ramped access routes provided to existing homes.

Ramps and the landings abutting entrance doors, should be designed to direct surface water away from the threshold using falls, drainage slots and channels, as well as the design of the door threshold itself – including its sill and water bar (threshold unit). The diagram below provides an indication of the types of features to be provided and might include.

ramp diagram
ramp floor