How to Make Access Panels in Drywall

Written by vickie van antwerp
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How to Make Access Panels in Drywall
Install an access panel to reach plumbing hidden behind a wall. (tools #4 image by Adam Borkowski from Fotolia.com)

Access panels allow you to reach vital plumbing areas that are hidden behind a wall. The ideal situation is to plan them when building your house. Unfortunately, many homes were built without access panels leaving homeowners the task of installing them or getting caught off guard when a plumbing leak happens in the wall. Don't wait for a plumbing emergency to install an access panel, be prepared. You can also place access panels in areas to reach crawl space, attics, or any space you want hidden yet accessible.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Drywall
  • Screwdriver
  • Screws
  • Nails
  • Measuring tape
  • Safety goggles
  • Hammer
  • Utility knife
  • Heavy duty construction adhesive
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Brush
  • 2x4 or 2x6s
  • Handle-optional
  • Trim
  • Pencil
  • Mitre box

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Determine where the access panel will be located . Draw a rectangular area with a pencil and ruler. Cut the drywall out with a utility knife. Adjust the size of the opening when the area is exposed if necessary. Make the opening large enough to reach all the piping. Check the area for studding that will act as a base to install the panel.

  2. 2

    Measure and cut studs to the correct size. The panel should have studding to attach to around the perimeter of the opening. Install studs where needed. You can install studs horizontally between existing studs to give added support if necessary.

  3. 3

    Measure and cut the new panel to fit around the perimeter smaller than the whole by half the width of the studding. This allows for the panel to fit in the opening directly on the studs. Make the cut as straight as possible. If the drywall begins to crumble along the edges, use a little adhesive to stabilise. The drywall thickness depends on the thickness of the existing drywall. The drywall thickness is normally a half-inch for interior walls.

  4. 4

    Install the drywall panel with screws starting with the corners. Measure the opening and cut and mitre trim that covers the edges of the panel and exposed studs. Use screws to secure panel for easy removal when you need access. Try to match the screw colour with the paint in order to leave the screws exposed.

  5. 5

    Prime the panel and trim. Paint the number of coats necessary to achieve the desired coverage. Consider installing a handle on the panel for easier access if the panel is not in a conspicuous area.

    Use the same steps when installing an access panel in an eave.

Tips and warnings

  • Match screw colour with paint colour.
  • Place handle on access panel for easy removal.
  • Place a picture over the panel if it is high enough where guests will see it.
  • Install an access panel before an emergency plumbing leak happens.

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