How to Install an Access Panel in Drywall

  • 3-4 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 90-120
What You'll Need
Drywall saw
Access panel door and frame
Caulking gun
Utility knife
Masking tape

If you need to be able to get behind a wall and access a pipe or wiring, an access panel is the best way to do it without affecting the integrity of the wall. Installing an access panel in drywall is fairly easy with the right tools. Given that you know the location of the wiring or pipe you need access to, the job is a matter of cutting into the drywall, clearing out a space and attaching a small door.

Step 1: Locate the Fixture

Whatever needs accessing, make sure you know exactly where it is. Ideally, before you hung the drywall you took accurate measurements of the fixture’s location, whether it is a valve, wiring hub or removable pipe cap. That way, when cutting the drywall, you will know precisely where to install the access panel. Otherwise, the process will be somewhat blind. If you cut into the drywall but make a mistake, you will have to patch it. Basically, it is best if you know the precise location of what you need to access.

Step 2: Cut a Small Hole in the Drywall

Check your measurements by cutting a small hole into the drywall right at the point the fixture should be. Use the drywall saw. This starter hole will let you know where you should install the access panel.

Step 3: Trace the Access Panel Frame

Hold the access panel frame in position against the wall. Make sure it is even and trace along the inside edge. The small hole you first cut should be contained within the traced box.

Step 4: Cut Out just Around the Traced Area

Once again, take the drywall saw and cut just outside of the traced area. The lip of the access panel frame requires that the hole be a bit bigger on all four sides to allow it to fit in. The extra size should be no more than ¼ inch on all sides.

Step 5: Fit the Frame

Test out the frame to make sure it fits snugly in the cut-out hole. If it is too tight a fit, take the drywall saw and saw along the edges of the cut to make the hole bigger. Be careful not to make the hole too big, though.

Step 6: Glue the Frame to Drywall

Load up the caulking gun with the adhesive and cut the tip off of the tube. Apply a bead of glue around the under surface of the frame on the side that sits flush upon the drywall. With the glue in place, put the frame into the opening and press it against the drywall. Be sure that all sides of the frame contact the drywall equally.

Step 7: Tape to Hold Frame in Place

Stick several pieces of masking tape over the frame that is at the moment bonding to the drywall. The snap-on panel cover or door may be attached the next day after the glue has fully dried.

Once adhered to the drywall, the access panel will provide a convenient means of getting to the backside of the wall at a particular point. Paint the access panel right along with the drywall, although remember not to seal the door or panel shut with paint.