Sliding Glass Door Threshold Ramps
Nothing brings the outdoors indoors better than a set of sliding glass doors. The floor to ceiling panes of glass visually join a family room, kitchen or basement with an outside deck, patio or porch, creating one glorious space. This unique appeal has made the sliding glass door a ubiquitous feature in millions of homes across America.
One of the characteristics that virtually all standard sliding glass doors features is a raised u-channel that holds the movable portion of the door horizontally in place as it slides open and closed.
To help reduce the trip and fall hazard of the sliding glass door frame, and to comply with building codes, manufacturers often create a rounded or beveled threshold on both sides of the door to reduce the risk of the u-channel becoming an accessibility barrier to those in a wheel chair or scooter, and a trip and fall hazard to all of us.
For most single-family homes, local building codes and inspectors are fairly lax when it comes to drop-offs from a sliding door to an external porch or deck. It’s not uncommon to find an outside deck that’s several inches below the frame of a sliding glass door.
It’s interesting then that the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Accessibility Guidelines are fairly rigorous when it comes to sliding glass door accessibility in commercial and public buildings. For example, according to the ADA, sliding door thresholds must not exceed ¾ inch in height on either side for exterior sliding doors, are applicable only for commercial and public properties, they are an important benchmark for safety.
Similarly, the International Building Code, an important set of residential and commercial construction standards outside of the United States, recommends a maximum rise of 1/2″ for sliding glass doors. The image below provides a good visualization of how both the ADA and IBC consider a rise of less than an inch a serious impediment to someone in a wheel chair or scooter.
In this perfect world – where every builder or do-it-yourselfer knows and follows building codes – there would be no need for a threshold ramp for someone who uses a wheelchair or scooter for mobility.
But, that’s not reality.
In most residential applications you will find that not only is the threshold higher than ¾ of an inch, a trip and fall hazard in itself, but that the vertical distance between the threshold and walking surface are different on the inside and outside of the sliding glass door.
And frankly, there are some darn good reasons why a sliding glass door might be several inches above a patio or deck. For example, if you live anywhere where it snows, a sliding glass or french door that’s less than an inch above a deck is an invitation for water from melting snow to enter the home. There’s no sense solving one problem only to create another.
So, what should a homeowner do to find the right threshold ramp for their sliding glass door? Read on!
Begin By Measuring the Interior and Exterior Threshold-to-Floor Height
To find the right threshold ramp for your home, you’ll need to take three specific measurements.
First, measure the distance between the top of the sliding door threshold and the floor on the interior side of the door. Whether your flooring is wood, tile or carpet, determine the rise from the flooring to the top of the u-channel bottom track threshold.
Second, measure the distance between the top of the threshold on the exterior side of the door and the porch, patio or deck on the outside.
With these two dimensions, we can determine if you need a threshold ramp for one side of the door, or both the inside and outside of your sliding glass door. In most residential situations, the bigger challenge is the exterior side of the door where we often find wooden decks, concrete slabs, or patios significantly more than ¾ of an inch below the sliding door frame.
The final measurement we’ll need is the width of the opening of your sliding glass door. This measurement will suggest how wide an appropriately sized ramp will be for your unique installation.
The Rise of the Threshold on the Exterior Side is Often the Key
In most instances it is the rise of the exterior side of the sliding door, from the deck or ground to threshold, that creates the largest barrier to overcome. Building codes notwithstanding, it is common to find that there’s a significant step-down between a home and the patio, porch or deck below.
The reasons for this are many. Let’s start with the design and installation of the door. Virtually all standard sliding glass doors are designed to be installed on the footer of a wooden framed home. This universal design maximizes the probability that height of the threshold on the interior side of the door will not exceed ¾ of an inch because of standardized building practices that set the relationship of the interior floor to the footer.
By contrast there’s often a step down from the inside to the outside of a home via a sliding glass door. One reason for this is that decks and patios are often intentionally made lower than the floor of the home to keep wind driven rain or snow from entering through the seals of the sliding glass door. In fact, Family Handyman, the respected DIY publication, recommends that exterior decking be 2 to 3 ½ inches below the threshold of the sliding door! (photos of sliding glass doors with large drop-offs)
For a household with accessibility needs, a threshold height of even 1 1/2 inches high means that a loved one in a scooter or wheelchair would need assistance to safely navigate through the door.
Now That I’ve Got the 3 Measurements, How Do I Determine What Ramp I Should Buy?
Well, that depends. Is portability important to you, or do you imagine having the ramp permanently installed? Does it snow in your area and do you use this sliding door in the winter? Where does cost fit into your equation?
You can start by reviewing our Threshold Ramp resource page that can help guide you to the right solution and purchase.
Because there are so many variables, we invite you to reach out for the help from a threshold ramp expert. At Handi-Ramp we offer free, over-the-phone consultations at 800-876-7267. Our ramp experts can help you decide what threshold ramps are the safest, most convenient and affordable options for your home or business.
Here’s one example why consulting an expert is so important. One of the most popular types of threshold ramps for sliding doors are rubber ramps. Made from recycled material, these solid rubber ramps typically come in vertical rises of a half inch from 0.5 inches to 2.5 inches. Once you’re above 2.5 inches, the jumps in size can be an inch or more. Let’s say that in your home the exterior side of the threshold is 3.5 inches above the deck or patio, right in the middle of the 2.5 inch and 4.5 inch options. What size rubber ramp would you choose? Do you select one that’s an inch below the sliding glass door threshold, an inch above, or do you find a different ramp completely?
The Handi-Ramp experts can answer these and many more questions, providing you with the safest, most cost effective solution for your needs. Call the threshold ramp experts today at 800-876-7267.