Access doors are utilized within walls, floors, or ceilings to allow access to an enclosed space. The majority of access doors installed are relatively small allowing access to enclosed areas directly adjacent. However, larger access doors exist as well which permit passage of an entire body into an enclosed space. Such sizing is commonly referred to as ‘hand access’ (6×6 to 12×12) or ‘person access’ (18×18 to 36×36).
Access doors typically are flush or relatively flush with the material in which they are installed, so they are not in the way and to provide for a nice, clean look. The 3 primary material types available are cold-rolled steel (galvanized option), stainless steel, and plastic. Steel and stainless steel access doors come in both standard sizes and custom sizes. Plastic access doors typically only come in standard sizes because of the cost-prohibitive mold process. Some available options for access doors might be: upward swinging, inward swinging, or outward swinging: manual or self/automatic latching: keyed locks, etc. Also some styles have recessed panels to receive a finish material (drywall, stucco, tile, gypsum, etc) essentially concealing the door from view and maintaining sound control. The following are the different types and applications of access doors available:
General Purpose
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Are for standard access and use and are commonly 24″ x 24″ or less. They can be installed in walls, ceilings, or floors. The most common type has frames recessed into the wall, have concealed hinges, and latches that are flush with the surface they are installed within. General purpose access doors are for basic access needs and typically do not include high-security items or fire ratings. Material types available for general purpose access doors can be steel with baked enamel finish (interior), glavanized steel (interior/exterior), aluminum (interior/exterior), stainless steel (interior/exterior) or plastic (interior/exterior). Some common options for general purpose access doors might be draft resistance, weatherproof gaskets, ventsmovable doors, etc.
Fire Rated
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If access is required in a wall that is fire rated, typically all penetrations, including access doors, must be fire rated as well. Also these doors might be protecting vulnerable components such as exhaust systems, wiring, gas lines, and other flammables. The two types are insulated or non-insulated. A fire-rated access door is most commonly made of thick galvanized steel, fire-resistance mineral wool or rigid insulation, and smoke proof weatherproofing/gasketing. Fire ratings options are typically 1-1/2 (non-insulated, not for ceilings), 2, or 3 hour rated. Fire rated doors often have spring automatic closing systems to assure they are not left open.
Drywall Access Door
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Commonly used in residential and commercial drywall settings when utilities require periodic access for maintenance or upgrades. These often come with mounting frames and prepunched holes to be placed directly on the ‘cut-in’ drywall opening. They may be utilized during initial construction within the new wall or installed to reseal an existing wall that required access during renovation. The preferred mounting method is on wood studs or framing, though some smaller units may be installed with drywall anchors. A common type of drywall access door comes with drywall bead trim which allows the opening to be finish trimmed, so a recessed frame can be installed leaving only the door panel exposed. After paint, these types of doors can blench well with the adjacent surface. Drywall Access doors are most commonly used in crawl spaces, utility boxes, and ceilings/attics. Safety concealed doors may be an option as well which requires hand tools to remove the panel.
Exterior Access Door
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Exterior access doors allow access from the exterior into the exterior wall cavity. Naturally they must have adequate seals and be resistant to mosiiture, air, and thermal energy. Exterior access doors must also resist rust, weather damage, warping, mold/mildew, and possess general impact resistance. Galvanized steel with enamel coating is the typical choice for exterior access doors to resist the elements. Open celled polyurethane gaskets typically seal the doors upon closing protecting the inside of the wall.
Plastic Access Doors
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Plastic access doors are also popular as they do not rust, are lightweight, and are economical. A commonly used plastic is high-impact ABS or styrene plastic. They are commonly used in light duty applications and have UV stabilizers added to the plastic before the molding process, to resist breakdown as a result of sunlight exposure in exterior applications. Plastic access doors are commonly used in the following applications: low-voltage wiring or telecommunications, phone, plumbing, and electrical. Textured finishes are available to increase the appearance of the unit in visible applications.
Security Access DOors
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Made in 12 gauge (medium security) or 10 gauge (high security) steel and typically come with a lock system.
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