Prefab that doesn’t suck. (?)

Prefab ramp kits

We can all agree that prefab ramps in skateparks blow, but what about for home use? Prefab ramp kits have been around in various forms for a while. They are usually pretty expensive, especially when allow for shipping. Personally, I’ve never quite understood the appeal of them, but for the mechanically challenged or just plain lazy, it takes the guesswork out of the critical aspects and drastically cuts down the actual build time. What’s new in the world of prefab ramps for the home? Computers. CNC (Computer Numerical Control) means that these kits can be cut out by a computer attached to a router instead of by hand, allowing for the possibility of cheaper and better designs. Compare two ramp kit companies (products, not ad models!) after the jump

U-Build It – Jim Bell’s Skateboard Ramps

First up is Jim Bell’s Skateboard Ramps. The U-Build It ramp kits appear to be just a side to his main business of building private skate ramps. The kits are made from hand selected pressure treated lumber. Jim’s skeleton pieces have weight saving holes cut out of them and are pleasing to the eye to look at. The instructions and overall package make this look like a slick IKEA package. It looks polished and simple. In fact, on the web site there is video of three little kids who must be around 10 years old, assembling the ramp in what we are told took only an hour. The design for mounting the coping, which is usually one of the more tricky spots, looks to be well thought out.

Jim Bell Skateboard ramps

Jim’s web site is slick as well, but one thing noticeably absent are the dimensions on the finished ramp, which look kind of small. This ramp looks like it would be a fun project to work on with kids. More fun than building one from scratch? Probably not, but again, for those without the skills, experience or time it’s a good way to go. Then there’s money. $399 plus $50 shipping is what you are going to spend. I’d bet you could buy comparable materials at a home improvement store for under $150. However, the end result with this kit is a ramp that is going to look manufactured and slick.

Jim Bell Skateboard ramps

OC Ramps

Next up is a company called OC Ramps. Rumor has it that Seth Cohen gets all his ramps there. These kits have a much rougher finished look to them. The top ply is “smooth brown film faced water resistant surface” that they claim is “way better than masonite!” I don’t know what the mystery surface is, but the U-Build It ramp uses regular masonite. They will also try to sell you something called “Skate Paint” which is “specifically designed for wood skate products” but appears to be regular polyurethane.

OC Ramps

The web site for OC Ramps may be kind of corny looking, but they have the specs and materials of the ramps clearly labeled. There are kits for bigger sizes and even mini-pipes. For comparison’s sake, the smallest quarter pipe costs $499, shipping included. Your finished ramp may not look as nice as the U-Build It version, but it will definitely be taller. Will it be stronger? There’s no way to tell since the web site doesn’t have any pictures, schematics or video that show the structural elements, so it’s kind of a crap shoot. If you don’t want to They will even ship it assembled for an extra fee $250.

OC Ramps

Final Comparison

Both ramps feature wheels on back for moving, and pressure treated exterior wood. Both companies are small operations in California that appear to be run by people who are skaters and not playground or home-improvement companies.

U-Build It looks like a highly finished product, right down to the directions. U-Build It is $5o cheaper. A comparable size OC Ramp would be much heavier. Exactly how big is the U-Build It and what are the specs? Who knows?

OC Ramps come in different sizes. The smallest OC Ramp is not much more expensive than the U-Build It ramp, but it’s noticeably larger. How well are they constructed? Who knows, since there are no good views of what you are actually buying. To distract buyers from that, OC Ramps has a much cuter spokesmodel, even if the wide angle lens makes her feet look freakishly large.

Of course, not having ridden either of these, it’s hard to tell which one is better. The U-Build It ramp looks like it would be a clear winner if it was bigger, except that the horizontal supports that the surface adheres to seem to geared towards a lighter rider. I don’t have a lot a faith in it holding up in the long term for older, or more experienced riders. You can’t really tell what you are getting with the OC Ramp, but from the limited views they offer, it seems like they may have skimped in the supports as well. The 8 foot wide half pipe only has two transition supports, while the U-Biuild It quarter pipe has 3 and it’s 4ft wide at most.

My advice, if you have the time you can save a lot of money by doing the whole thing yourself. There are free plans are all over the web and your sense of satisfaction will be greater. Sure, it might end up janky, but your slams will still hurt the same amount. If you are a divorced parent trying to buy your child’s love, or if you have more money than time and skills, either one of these ramps would work. Then again, you could but one of those portable and collapsable ramps for near the same amount of money. If you’ve got the space, you might as well go bigger OC Ramp.

11 Comments

  1. nweyesk8 on January 29, 2007 - Reply

    next will be pre-fab “styles” and “tricks”, oops too late. whatever happened to skateboarders being seen as artisctic types, willing to use imagination in everything we do?

  2. For those who opt for the DIY route, http://www.rampplans.org is a great site…

  3. my ramp cost $500. 2.5′ tall 10′ wide with 6′ flat bottom and 2′ deep platforms. And pool coping. Build it yourself.

  4. My ramps were the cost of 7-8 boxes of screws. Go scavenging!

  5. Mine was about $1000. 16′ wide 3’6″ tall. Pipe coping, 2′ and 4′ decks, Paint and I bought a few tools. I bought a couple of tools for the project too. Oh yeah and a fiew pier blocks.

  6. thanks for this Randy. I have neither the skills or the time to build one myself, so I might well go this route.

  7. danimal on January 30, 2007 - Reply

    finished one recently with some friends 4 ft tall 16 wide, steel cope, i think the total is around $1200 .

    even steven hawkins can’t disprove this equation: prefab = poo

  8. You should be able to 50/50 grind and frontside rock any decent ramp. Ramps have curvy featrures that when skated can be fun. Some people have barbacues next to their ramp.

  9. Thats cool, but you should go to http://www.RampsLab.com which sells their ramps prebuilt at near the same prices.

  10. Where do you recomend to buy the materials to make your own miniramp, I have looked in homedepot with the shopping list provided in the DIY websites and the cost is much higher than what they say it is…

    • Bozo Texino on September 6, 2013 - Reply

      If you have any friends in the building-industry, they can often get lumber at a discount. I get materials for about 20% less than retail through a buddy.

      Barring that, try Rebuilding Center, Reuseit, or any similar building-material recycling-entitiy in you area. Try independent lumber yards, too. If you’re paying cash, ask for a cash discount. If it’s a large order, ask for a break on the price given the volume.

      And don’t rule out Craigslist. Often, people are giving away ramps (usually of dubious construction) and with a little elbow-grease and some ingenuity, you can easily rework the lumber into your project.

      Word to the wise: Don’t reuse fasteners!

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