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How to Build an Access Door in Drywall

Stan Mack

Access doors built into drywall allow people to reach areas that need occasional attention. For example, some plumbing fixtures are prone to failure. Rather than rip out the entire wall or ceiling to find these fixtures, many people just build access doors that they can quickly open to handle the problem.

Larger access doors, such as those that lead to attics or crawl spaces, allow people to move items in and out of long-term storage. Keep in mind that you should determine the size of the hole based on how you plan to cover it.

  1. Search for the wooden studs near the area where you want to build an access door, using an electronic stud finder. Place the stud finder on the surface and move it slowly around. Watch for its lights to indicate the presence of a stud. Note the direction that the studs run. Mark their locations with a pencil.

  2. Mark out the desired dimensions of your door with the pencil. Use a long straight edge and a level if you need the door to be even and level. If you intend to install a hinged door, cut the hole to suit the size of the door.

  3. Score the drywall along the penciled dimensions of the door, using a sharp utility knife. Use enough pressure to break through the paper surface of the drywall, but not so much that you snap the fragile razor blade.

  4. Break out the interior of the scored area, using a hammer. The drywall will break along the score lines. Use a drywall rasp to smooth the edges of the hole.

  5. Attach a hinged door to the wood studs or place a painted piece of wood or other covering in the opening. For example, most small access doors only need to be a panel of wood slightly larger than the hole. To install a hinged door, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, you'll attach the hinge hardware to a stud on the inside of the hole, then attach the hinges to the door.

  6. Cover the rough edges with plastic J-bead, a type of edge trim. Use heavy-duty scissors to cut the J-bead to size for each side of the hole, and then slip each one on. The end result will be an even, consistent edge.