Building a Mini Ramp in Your Own Backyard


finished DIY mini ramp

Are you an old man that likes to build things and has been regularly watching Almost- “Cheese and Crackers” since it came out?  I am, so I built a Mini Ramp in my backyard! With the help of DIY skate and my own experience, I decided to take on a challenge. Here’s how I built my own mini ramp.

Why Build a Mini Ramp?

I have wanted to skate a mini ramp ever since I started skateboarding as a kid.  Sadly, I never found one to skate.  There were no skateparks when I was growing up and the ones that came later in my life were of questionable quality and never had a mini ramp.  As the skateparks near where I live were being built better in quality, they always had a bowl and transition sections, but they were still missing a simple mini ramp. 

My city had an indoor skatepark for a few years, and it had 2 mini ramps; a 5-foot mini, and a 4 foot with a spine.  This is where I learned to pump, and some simple lip tricks.  I loved just simply pumping back and forth. The sound of the wheels hitting the coping, the speed, the burning in my thighs had me hooked.  I was extremely broken up when the indoor park had to close.  I wasn’t sure when I’d ever get to skate a mini ramp again.  

Flash forward a couple years, and I have finally hit a point in my life where I have the space and means to build the one thing I have wanted for a good part of my life.  So, why the heck not build a mini ramp?!

What Construction Experience Do You Need?

I have been building things since I have been able to pick up a hammer.  I have built several sheds, decks, garages, and even my own house.  My father imparted his lifetime of construction knowledge on his son.  Over my decades on earth, I could not tell you how many construction projects I have been a part of.  It seems like I have always had something on the go, or have been helping someone.

I have been building different kinds of ramps since I was a little kid with a banana seat bike.  But we didn’t have the internet back then, so ramp construction was all trial and error.  I built ramps with no bracing so they collapsed.  I used too thin of plywood so I crashed through the ramp.  I built the transitions too steep so I got thrown.  They were mostly a disaster, and unrideable.  But there were some that were just right, and I had days of fun with them.  Now I understand the importance of building things the right way.

How Do You Engineer a Ramp Properly?

Simple answer: You don’t! Unless you are a civil engineer.  There are a lot of factors to consider in building a safe and skateable ramp structure.  Your safety is important.  Skating an unsafe ramp exponentially increases the risk in the already risky activity of skateboarding.  Sorry for sounding like a Dad.

Nowadays we have the internet.  There are so many sites and videos and how-tos on ramp building that are available to us with the click of a mouse.  There are also several books.  Thrasher’s “How To Build Skateboard Ramps” still stands as the top authority on building ramps.  You can also buy ramp kits online from several different companies.  

I researched mini ramp plans for several months to pin down plans for the perfect ramp for me.  I needed something that wasn’t too steep or too mellow.  It needed to be designed to last so I could learn tricks and progress my mini ramp skating for the next several years.  

I used diyskate.com for my ramp plans.  DIY Skate has all kinds of ramp plans; from mini ramps to quarter pipes to fun boxes to benches, and even a plan for building your own skateboard deck.  I decided that the 3 foot Mini Ramp plans on DIY Skate were exactly what I needed.  Check out the link.  You will find very professional plans that include CAD drawings and detailed step by step instructions.  I am very impressed with the quality of information, and the quantity of information.  You would be able to build a decent skatepark just using the plans on diyskate.com.  I am extremely happy with the results of my Mini Ramp so I recommend using DIY Skate.

How hard is it to build a Mini Ramp?

It depends on how comfortable you are with construction and building things with wood.  If you have little experience building things please ask an experienced friend for help.  If you have experience in construction, it is fairly simple.  But you cannot take any shortcuts, or miss anything.  Measure twice and cut once. 

It took me about 30 hours to build it by myself.  I found it to be a medium difficulty level.  It was easier than building a garden shed, but more difficult than building a patio or deck.  I recommend having someone to help.  It would have gone a bit faster and easier for me if I had assistance.  The most important thing I have found, when building anything, is to not rush.  Make sure that you are doing things properly the first time.  It is really hard to stay calm as your ramp is coming together.  I was dying to skate it, but had to take a breath and make sure I was doing things the right way.  This ramp probably cost me about $700.  That is a decent chunk of change, so you don’t want to screw up and waste that investment.

The Building Process

I am not going to explain to you step by step how to build a mini ramp.  The good people at DIY Skate have done an excellent job of that. I am going to take you on a photo journey of my experience building a 3-foot mini ramp.  I will give you some tips and things to watch for that I learned while building this beauty. Enough rambling from me.  Let’s get into it!

Location Location Location!

Where are you putting your ramp?  Depending on the size of mini ramp you are building, they can take up quite a bit of real estate.  Make sure the place you are building your ramp will have enough room for the footprint of the ramp, as well as enough space overhead.  Luckily I have a huge back yard to put my ramp in, but I had to cut some low hanging branches down to make headroom.  If you are going to build your ramp indoors, make sure you have the headroom.  You don’t want to smash your head on the ceiling!

 Footing or base of a mini ramp

Placing your ramp on a concrete pad is definitely the best.  But building a concrete pad is also extremely expensive.  I did not have that luxury.  I put my ramp on a footing made from concrete blocks I purchased for $100 from Kijii (like Craigslist). My ramp is about 8-foot x 24 foot in dimension and I ended up using about 34 blocks to support my ramp.  I roughly laid out my blocks about 4 feet apart where the ramp would be going.

Tracing the Transition

mini ramp tracing transition
 

Lay out 2 sheets of 3/4″ plywood, and measure for your transition height. Use a 2×4 and a pencil like a compass to get a smooth line.  It is not recommended that you use a piece of string.  There is plenty of room for error with a string.

You only need to trace out one side this way.  Once you cut this one out, you will use it as the template to trace the other 3 transitions.  This will help to ensure that the transitions are all identical.

Cut the Transitions and Lumber

Cut the mini ramp Transitions and Lumber

I cut the deck portion of the transition with a circular saw.  I can get a nice straight cut this way.

cutting mini ramp with a Jigsaw

Cut the transition part, and the notch for the coping with a Jigsaw.  GO SLOW!! You don’t want a wobbly cut that will leave you with a bumpy transition. 

cut out mini ramp side wall

Use the freshly cut side to trace out the next 3 transition pieces.  You can get 2 pieces from one 4×8 sheet of 3/4″ plywood.

finished mini ramp transition side

These cut transition pieces will make the sides of your ramp.

2x4 lumber and a circular saw

Cut your 2×4 lumber to size.  These will be screwed to the 3/4″ plywood pieces we just cut out, and will be used to frame the transition and deck as well as to frame the flat bottom.  We will call these 2x4s “Joists” now.

The cutting can be done with a circular saw, but a chop saw or compound mitre saw would be ideal.  I actually used a table saw because I don’t have a chop saw, and my battery-operated circular saw doesn’t work great for cutting 2×4.

Mark Your Transitions & Flat Bottom Boards Where the Support Will Go

marked flat bottom wooden boards

You will need to mark where the joists will get screwed to the plywood sides.  8″ centers will give plenty of support on this ramp.  I lined up all the side pieces together and marked them all at the same time so they would be uniform.  I marked the top side of the plywood so I could mark them all at once, and didn’t have to try and line up the marks on the sides.

marked 2x4 for mini ramp frame
 

Mark the two 8 foot 2×4 that you will screw joists into to make the flat bottom.  A trick I learned from framing walls is to line the two boards up together and mark them at the same time.  This minimizes the chance of error, and helps keep you framing nice and square.

Frame the Transitions and Flat Bottom

mini ramp frame in progress

Screw four of the joists to the 3/4″ Plywood sides.  Now it will stand on its own.  Frame the flat bottom, and screw the 3 sections together.  I used 8 Bolts and nuts to attach the flat to the transition sections.

Level the Entire Ramp

If you are building on a concrete pad, it should be leveled, and you shouldn’t need to level the ramp much further than that.

If you are building the ramp on footings, you will need to level it.  There are 2 ways to do this depending on the equipment you have.  Both should get you the same result.

Method 1:

Use a transit.  This is a specialized piece of equipment used by surveyors to check level and determine how to level roads and footings for buildings.  I borrowed one from a friend once to level the footing for a house.  They require 2 people.  One on the stick, and one looking through the transit.  They also make laser transit systems.  If you don’t have access to this equipment use

Method 2:

Use long pieces of wood and a level.  This is essentially the method I used.  I used the framed ramp as my long pieces of wood, and a level.  I added dirt underneath my concrete blocks to bring them up to level.  I checked all areas of the ramp going in all directions to ensure the footing would be level, and therefore the ramp would be level.

mini ramp frame

Here is a little tip if you are building on Terra Firma (solid earth): Frame the two sides and flat bottom with just enough joists so they stay square and together.  You will still have to level your footing blocks for the entire ramp. I levelled the left transition side only and then fully framed it.  I then realized that the entire ramp needs to be levelled and fully framed sections are very heavy to move around.  

mini ramp frame levelled

Now that your ramp is in place and levelled, you can look and see where you may want to add more concrete blocks for footings.  It is important that your entire ramp is supported, not just the outside of the ramp.  If you add more footings, make sure they are level and the ramp sits on the footing properly.

Finish Framing the Mini Ramp

finished mini ramp frame

Finish adding all the required Joists to your ramp.  Check again that everything is still level.  I had to add a few shims under some of the joist so they would sit properly on the footing blocks.

Screw on the Coping and Sheet the Decks

attaching the coping to mini ramp

Predrill the coping, and screw it to the 2×4’s in the notches.  You can start the screw with your screw gun, but will need a screwdriver if you don’t have a long enough bit to finish off the screws.  I had to use a screwdriver to finish the screws.  It sucked.  I should have bought a longer bit.  Also, try not to drop screws inside the coping.  I lost 2 screws inside mine and cannot get them out.  Now my coping makes a cool rattling sound.

Screw the 3/4″ plywood deck pieces onto the deck.  Butt them tight to the coping.

Sheet 2 Layers of the Ramp

(In a bonehead move, I sheeted the first layer of plywood and failed to take any pictures of the process.)  

Sheet the First Layer:

mini ramp sheet attachment

Start by sheeting the top of the transition.  Place the 3/8″ plywood against the coping.  It would have really helped to have a friend help hold down the plywood for me.  Sheet from each transition side into the centre.  You will likely have to rip the centre sheet down.   

It is crucial that all the screws for the first layer of plywood are screwed into the joists.  Use a chalk line to mark where the joists are.  I also marked where all my screws were going to go.  I marked them 1 foot apart.  I don’t want screws from the next layers to line up.

Clean off the entire surface of the ramp with a broom or brush.  It is very important that no debris is between the layers of plywood.  I cleaned after securing each sheet of plywood.

Sheet the Second Layer

mini ramp attaching surface plywood

Here you start with the half sheets of plywood.  This is so the joints don’t line up with the joints of the first layer.  Be sure to mark all joists with your chalk line.  Some joints may not line up with a joist.  That is ok.  Secure them to the first layer below.  You are adding a 3rd layer anyway.  I marked my screw 6 inches apart from the screws from the first layer so they wouldn’t line up.  I put the first screw 6 inches from the edge of the ramp and each subsequent screw are marked 1 foot from that.

Sheet the Final Layer

finished diy mini ramp

Because my ramp is going to be outside I put down a layer of roofing tar paper to help protect the sheeting and joists underneath. You need to decide what materials you want to use for your final layer. You want something durable and fairly smooth. Materials like Skatelite or Gaterskin is definitely preferred and made for ramps but they are very, very expensive.  Masonite is often used for indoor ramps.  

But, I live in Canada and my ramp is outdoors and will be exposed to our harsh climate. Masonite is out of the question for me because it does not hold up to rain or snow at all.  I went with Select grade fir plywood.  It was the most cost-effective option that will hold up and have a smooth surface for riding.

Sheet your ramp as you sheeted the first layer.  I chose to go with 3/8″ plywood instead of 1/4″ that was on the plans.  I felt that my coping was sticking out a bit too far, and I wanted the extra 1/8″ to fill in the gap.  My feeling was correct.  The coping sticks out the perfect amount for me. Now you have a perfect mini ramp.  Good work!

Protecting Your Ramp

If your ramp is outside like mine, you are going to want to protect it from the elements as best you can.  The minimum you will want do is to cover it with a tarp to keep the rain and debris off of it when you are not skating.

It would be a good idea to build the ramp from treated lumber.  I did not use treated lumber because the cost of it would have made the ramp unaffordable for me to build.  Instead, I will be painting the ramp with Barn Paint.  It is a very cost-effective alternative to other exterior paints, and I have heard others recommend it.  I’m not sure how I feel about the color red, but I can always paint it a different color if I need too.

In Conclusion

Building this mini ramp was an awesome experience.  It was not horribly difficult, but I took my time to ensure that things were done precise and correctly.  I didn’t want to end up with an unskateable piece of garbage after all my hard work.  I could not be happier with the result.  This is going to give me years of enjoyment.

(I actually just finished building it last night.  I was only able to ride it for about 1 hour until it was too dark.  As I write this, I am crying because it is raining outside and is supposed to rain for the next 3 days.  All I want to do is skate my new mini ramp.  Woe is me!!!)

 

 

William

I love all aspects of skateboarding. There is no better feeling than flowing through a skate park, having a curb session with a Homie, or cruising down the street. That "tick-tick tick-tick" sound of a skateboard rolling over sidewalk cracks alone gets my adrenaline up. Nothing gets me as pumped, or as energized as skateboarding.

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