Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why we should have cared more about electives in school

$3,000.  That's right, THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS!  That's the internet calculator cost for hiring a pro to build the handicap access ramp I had planned for my parents house. 

My parents had a rough ending in 2013.  Dad had a wreck (not his fault) totaling the car, and mom suffered a minor heart attack and major stroke.  The immediate result was a weakened state and loss of function of both mom's right arm and right leg. 

What do you do when your family doesn't have a stack of 150 Benjamins laying around to fund the new ramp?  DIY baby! (Do it yourself).

I'm sure some of my collegiate peers thought, "I have a degree in theology, my days of manual labor and silly elective classes are over!"  How wrong you were my friend.  Our schools were wise to try to round us out by offering a plethora of electives.  Taking drafting, shop class, computer class, and extra maths in high school are part of what prepared me to do this project myself.  And home ec class helped me fix some of my own meals to save money too!

The Plan.
Here's an ADA based ramp that I patterned my design from.  Email me if you want the .pdf file I found of this.
I knew I would need a plan to tackle this job, and to let dad turn me loose in his back yard with construction tools.  I hopped on Google Sketchup (Free 3D drafting software) for a few hours, and here's the 26' ramp I came up with. (Click a picture to zoom in).

The Estimated Cost.
By building the entire ramp virtually in Google Sketchup, I was able to calculate an entire cost of $916.99 which includes a 5% buffer for my oversights and mistakes.

The Delivery
Because some delinquent driving on a revoked license with no insurance pulled out in front of my dad's truck on a rainy Monday (yes, another wreck, and on the day I was supposed to start construction), my work was delayed till Tuesday morning when I could rent a Home Depot F250 ($20/hr) to haul materials with.
The only time I've ever been grateful for a Ford.

The Actual Ramp
My uncle Larry had a sweet one man auger (an oversized drill bit with a weed eater motor) for me to borrow, which helped out setting ninteen 4"x4" posts in the ground for this project.  There's about 40 lbs of concrete and gravel under the earth supporting each of these posts.  
Here's the Tuesday progress photos.  

On Wednesday another uncle, Mike, came over to help me with framing and beginning decking. I quit a bit early this day to visit mom in the hospital and go to Wednesday evening Bible study with wonderful friends at Antioch Church of Christ. 
Here's the Wednesday progress photos. 

Thursday was colder than an Eskimo's freezer in Alaska.  I was pretty much on my own, but got the rest of the decking and the toe rail installed. 
Here's the Thursday progress photos. 

Friday was a good day to wrap it all up.  I spent a lengthy time building and installing custom made extra wide steps and stringers as well as installing the handrails. 
Here's the finished Friday progress photos.  Sorry, it was dark when I wrapped it all up at 8 pm. 

The Final Cost.
Since I donated my labor and used my own tools, the final materials cost came out to $871.  That's just a shade better than the $3000 estimated by that internet calculator.  Because of the love and care of some dear people, the entire ramp was furnished to mom and dad absolutely free of charge.  My friends, God is good.

Where we go from here...
 Mom is making great progress, but still has a lot of rehab to do.  The doctors let dad bring her home over the weekend for a couple hours using a wheelchair (the ramp had just been finished and worked great!).  We still have some work to do on parts of the house to make them more accessible.  For now though, my parents and this collegiate theology major sure are grateful for those elective classes I took all the way back in high school.  What about you?

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