Ramp plans – and contest!

ramp plans

Yesterday I was checking out Tim Kulas’ new bowl progress at Bowl Surgeon. I noticed Tim had a few computer renders of his work in progress. I was surprised by the high-tech at first, given his philosophy of dumpster diving for the majority of his wood. Then I learned it was done with some free 3D software called Google SketchUp. It inspired me to download it and work out a sketch for an idea I have for some home improvement on my garage. Originally I had dreams (delusions, really) of tearing down my small garage and re-pouring the foundation to make it wider, and adding a second story for a mini ramp. Besides money, the biggest drawback is the massive pine tree (bigger in scale than the picture above) about 5 feet away from the back corner. I couldn’t reliably dig up the sidewalk that separates the garage from the tree. I don’t want to damage the tree. It’s gigantic and I don’t want it falling on my house. It’s already causing the sidewalk to the back alley to buckle up a little. Tim’s approach and free software inspired me to have a look at tearing off the existing roof and building an overhanging top floor with a ramp.

Honey, I’ll be out working in the garage…

The first floor of my my garage as it exists is just taller than the garage door and has a sagging peaked roof on top. It’s in the far back corner of my property with an overgrown alley in the back. A sidewalk to the alley separates the garage from a deck that juts out from the corner of the tree. The tree is one of a pair, much too big for me to get my arms around, and very tall. The existing garage is about 12ft wide. Basically, I’m hemmed in by trees and fences, and I need the first floor of the garage for all the crap I have accumulated as a homeowner. A bike or kids toys can go upstairs, but a lawn mower and a couple of motorcycles that don’t work are kind of hard to lug up stairs. I think what I will do is knock off the roof and build a second story that overhangs the sidewalk and has a flat slant roof for maximum headroom.

ramp plan renders

The finished project would have enough room for a ramp that was about 15′ wide, 3′ tall with about 8 feet of headroom at the highest point. I’ve seen a much smaller situation work before. The house immediately to my right has a bigger garage that has a much taller pitched roof and sits next to a retaining walls on a lot that is a good 2-3 feet above mine. They should even out nicely. How will I get up there? How about a ladder under the overhang that pops up under the back platform? I can make a trap door for it. Maybe I can scavenge one of those fire escapes you see in the movies where the stairs are on counterweights and hinges that swing up when not in use. Fancy. The face will either have one big sliding door or two swinging barn doors.

ramp plan renders

The “after” renders above have the side wall of the top floor exposed to reveal a ramp. I sent these sketches to some friends who said we would fall out the side when we bailed. Ha ha. Also, the tree branches wouldn’t poke through the building in real life. The tree was just one that came in the library of models. The actual tree has a wider trunk and no branches until the bottom third of the second story. Check out this animation.

Of course, once I emailed my renders, the peanut gallery had their say…

JF suggested tearing down the fence and my neighbor’s garage.

ramp plans

Mark Conahan suggested tearing down the neighbor’s house as well.

ramp plans

As far as google SketchUp goes, I was able to get these done in a couple of hours starting from scratch. I spent too much time trying to figure out how to get exact dimensions (which I couldn’t) and practically no time with tutorials and directions. Overall it’s a pretty good approximation of scale and not bad for free, quick and dirty. As you saw above, it also includes some basic animation tools. It renders Quicktime movies that are much better in quality before uploaded to YouTube. I’d need to spend more time with SketchUp if I was going to actually use it for something like a proposal, but I think it’s good enough to get past my wife’s planning process committee.

Open contest:

Design some skateable structure with Google SketchUp. It runs on Mac OS X and Windows, plus it’s free. Send in your renders and I’ll set up a gallery where viewers can vote on their favorites. They can be still shots, no need for animations. The winner will win… err, I dunno, something. How about a Creature skateboard that we got sent for review? Contest ends.. let’s say… September 1st. More details to come.

Here are some more stills of mine to get you stoked. Click to enlarge.

ramp plan renders

ramp plan renders


  1. Pure genius!

  2. Some sort of large nylon cord netting stretched across the open-face would do the trick of holding bailed boards and peoples in without the claustrophobic factor creeping in.

  3. Good idea, but I’m more worried about rain! This is Oregon and I’m building for my winter sanity. The wind and the rain tend to blow towards that side too. I was thinking recycled skylights in the roof, but a some windows on that face wouldn’t be a bad idea. I want to be able to keep the noise down though.

  4. Put remnant carpet on the walls… that will really suck up the sound… I’ve heard of people putting in on the underside of the skate surface as well. Sand in the coping (steel pipe) would help too, but I kinda wanna hear the grind sound.

  5. Concrete coping would keep the noise from the skating down, so would loud music! For a ramp that small i think a 4 1/2 ft tranny would be good… is there any way you could do a rectangular bowl instead of just a mini?

  6. Concrete coping and loud music droning out the skateboard noise- good answer!

    I thought about a bowl, but a wooden bowl seems out of my skill set. Who knows, I’m just in the planning stage. Once I get the addition built I may change my mind. It would help if I knew someone in Portland who has built a wooden bowl to get a little on-site advice… Anyone? Who built the bowl in D.O.S.?

  7. nweyesk8 on June 20, 2007 - Reply

    Phil tetter is an excellent craftsman when it comes to wooden bowl corners. He lives in Newberg.

  8. i have a 5 foot mini ramp i built in my back yard , with a few problems . so im fixing it and starting to build some corners as a friend is donating a 1/4pipe , so ill make another 1/4 , put it all together and hopfully have a bowl.
    ill try and take many pictures and post how i did it and what went wrong .

  9. My cat’s breath smells like catfood.

  10. jaydee on July 9, 2007 - Reply

    design for your garage or anthing?

    what are the specs? floor size and roof height?

  11. Design for anything. No specs. Whatever you want.

  12. marek on July 10, 2007 - Reply

    jaydee, thats a donald plus death box…

  13. how do u get sketchup to make it curve for the halfpipe?

  14. Chris on July 18, 2015 - Reply

    Ha Ha! Legend. Epic.

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