Guys, it’s come to this: We’ve reached the end of the Internet, our TV and movie queues are dwindling, I’ve read several books, we’ve completely organized our garage and I’ve started to paint again. And since it’s been raining for 40 days and 40 nights—or more like 400—here in Tennessee, we’ve been doing all the indoor projects we can until things dry up. So when better to build a dog ramp for Ella than in the midst of a crisis forcing us to stay at home?
But why a dog ramp?
Why can’t she just use stairs, you may ask? Ella, while almost 10, has the pep in her step of a much more youthful pup, but she’s also been plagued with a shaky knee that slides in and out of socket for much of her adult life. Her vet regularly monitors it and said unless it seems to be hurting her, then we should just let it be. Though we do give her plenty of CBD treats, just in case.
We did get a second opinion via an orthopedic surgeon for dogs to whom our vet referred us, but she also recommend against surgery. I mean, have you seen Ella? She weighs less than seven pounds, and her bones are the size of a chicken’s. I can’t imagine someone operating on her fragile joints.
Still, Ella’s always been an athlete, but a couple times while living at the Victorian, her furry paws caused her take a tumble on our back stairs as she transitioned from the carpeted last stair to the unforgiving hardwood. This gave her a complex, a bit of stairs PTSD if you will, and made her no longer want to go up and down them, at least indoors. She’s fine darting up and down our back patio and garage stairs, go figure, but it’s likely just because she has slightly more traction beneath her.
Then, we moved to the Cedar House
I’m not going to lie: When we started looking at houses 18 months ago, one of the parameters was a ranch-style home. We wanted a single story both for our own ease, but also mainly for Ella’s. I mean, she’s our child and top priority—we’ve got to be looking out for her, right? So the Cedar House seemed like a perfect fit from every angle. Other than the front entrance and the patio and garage stairs, the only interior step is this one right here.
Only, here’s what we did not anticipate. That single stair that goes down to the great room we use for everything? Ella still won’t go down it. Which means, she’s constantly barking at SVV and me, her slaves, to put her up or take her back down. It’s exhausting, being subjected to the whims of a tiny, bossy dictator. So we decided quarantine was the time to fix that.
Materials for a dog ramp
SVV had been saying for the past year that we needed to build a dog ramp, then last week, we saw a friend on Facebook doing something similar for her senior dog and immediately dropped everything and followed suit. Given that we always have scrap wood laying around, and SVV is not lacking for tools, it just took one quick, no-contact run to Lowe’s for the remaining materials.
- Half sheet of plywood (4′ x 4′ x 3/4″)
- 2 oak strips (4′ x 1/4″ x 2″)
- 1 piece of brass carpet trim (it’s actually bronze-colored aluminum)
- 3 brass screws
- 2 rubber bushings
- Carpet samples or cork board for your cushioned surface
Total project cost: $23
We already had the plywood, so if you don’t have scraps laying around, estimate another $10 or so in material costs. We’re about to install carpet in both of our offices and the master bedroom, so the carpet scraps we used were the samples for that. You can get free carpet samples at your local supplier or online (ours are from Philadelphia Commercial).
You’ll also need to keep these tools handy:
- Tape measure
- Table saw (you can cut these pieces with a skill saw, but be sure to use guides for safety)
- Chop saw
- Sheet metal snips
How to make a dog ramp
Now that you’ve got your materials and your tools all laid out in your makeshift shop, here’s how we built our own dog ramp, no blueprint or prototype needed.
Step 1: Measure and cut the plywood
We used the sample carpet sizing to determine the exact width. Ours ended up being exactly 17 inches wide. The length was a best guess estimate once we cut the width and will vary depending on how many steps you’ve got. When making the saw cut for the length, set the saw bevel to about 25 degrees to get the top leading edge closer to the flooring and a clean look. Sand to remove splinters and sharp edges.
Step 2: Measure and cut the brass threshold
This will serve as the lip that anchors your ramp to the stair and keeps in in place. Again, sand down the edges of the aluminum to prevent snagging and injuries. The edges are razor sharp after they’ve been trimmed to fit.
Step 3: Measure and cut the side trim pieces, then nail them in place
SVV ripped the entire trim piece down to 3/4″ first, chopped it in half, then measured the final cuts directly on the plywood edge to match the bevel.
Step 4: Glue down the carpet and let dry
If you’re not a fan of using glue, it’s just as easy to staple the carpet to the ramp. We wound up gluing down two carpet samples in a line to create a train so Ella had some traction via the run-off that sits on the actual floor. This proved clutch to her actually using it. The thrust when she first jumps is where her problem lies since she spins out. That little bit of grip in the launch zone provides her with enough confidence to punch the gas pedal up the ramp.
Step 5: Attach the metal threshold, add rubber feet, and you’re done!
The angle of the brass trim, designed for smoothing transitions between various levels of flooring, proved a perfect fit for the angle of the ramp. It also serves as a latch to hold the top section on the ledge. The rubber feet, secured with super glue to the bottom, keep the entire contraption from slipping off the ledge and crashing down.
NOTE: this is not suitable for children or adults to use as a walking plank. A more secure fitting would be required for heavier creatures.
So, the real question: How does Ella like her dog ramp?
The first time we put it down for Ella to use, what did she do? Have the confidence to finally use that single stair, but of course! In fact, she acted as if she’d never had a problem with the stair in the first place. *face palm*
But now that it’s been there for a week and she’s gotten used to the concept, she’s a ramp regular and uses it on her own to go up and down that treacherous stair. The cats, being cats, sometimes decide to camp out on it so she can’t get by. Assholes.
What home renovation tasks are you tackling to keep yourself busy?