21st Nov 2022 -

What are access panels?

An access panel, sometimes known as a roof hatch or loft hatch depending on its use, can act as a robust and reliable form of protection. Access panels are easily removable doors or panels which conceal standard building engineering works. Depending on what they are used for, access panels can come in various sizes. When installing access panels, they allow access to areas including ceilings, floors and walls. 

What are they used for?

Access panels are frequently used to provide access to shut-off valves or pipework and drains which may be needed for occasional repair. This can be in a house, office or commercial environment. The most widely-used place to install access panels are bathrooms, usually on the rear side of the plumbing walls. It is also quite common to install an access panel to provide easy access to communication wiring systems and electrical equipment.

While it is not unusual to use pieces of standard plywood or chipboard as makeshift access panels, the reality is that this is not a good long-term solution. Using high-quality, reliable panels, which come with pre-built frames and removable flush metal doors or plasterboard doors, will help provide secure and easy access while being sturdy and long-lasting.

Access panel sizes and dimensions are measured from the back of the frame. When it comes to installing access panels, we highly recommend you add 5mm to the structural opening. For example, a 600mm x 600mm access panel would need a hole size of 605mm x 605mm for the best fit.

An off-white tile access panel on the floor of a bathroom or kitchen ready for a repair access panel job.

Types of Access Panels

When installing access panels, the type you choose will depend on the project you are working on. It is not the best practice to use the same access panel for all areas of a house or commercial building, as they all have different features and uses. Below, we have outlined what you need to know about each type:

1. Fire-rated access panels

They can carry up to two hours of fire protection as well as provide excellent water protection and resistance. Access panel doors are versatile and multi-functional. You can create additional storage space behind the wall. They come with either removable metal or plasterboard doors and can be easily installed to match existing ceiling tiles and materials.

2. Plasterboard access panels

These types of access panels can be plastered and painted over, which will do a fantastic job of concealing both the door and frame. A plasterboard access panel has a beaded steel frame with a plasterboard door and the lock is concealed by a threaded steel bung.

They are designed to be wet plastered into the ceiling space or wall. The door can be skimmed with plaster to create a discrete look. If you need access to electrics or plumbing works, a plasterboard access panel is an ideal solution as you will not have to tear the drywall down to get to everything.

3. Metal access panels

With a removable flush metal door, metal access panels and doors are easy to handle. A metal access panel is anti-tamper and offers excellent security while still being relatively lightweight. They are more durable than plastic, fire resistant and specifically designed to be installed in dry-lined ceilings and walls. Metal access panels are generally more expensive to install than plastic ones. 

4. Plastic access panels

Installing plastic access panels is a cost-effective and easy method of reaching wall voids. The framing is designed to be sealed directly onto a structural opening, with the door being easily removable. They are mainly used for household purposes, such as access ceiling panels, and are quick and simple to fit. 

5. Air-tight access panels

Primarily used in settings including hospitals, air-tight access panels allow only the smallest amount of air to travel through the panel. Airtight access panels are proving more popular as they can help to improve insulation in a building. All panels are tested for the level of air leakage and are graded in classes 1-4, with class 4 allowing the least amount of air to pass through. 

Want to view our range?

  1. 6 - 8 Working Day Delivery

    • Loft Hatch Size: 550mm x 700mm
    • Clear Opening size of 520 x 620mm
    £94.99 £113.99
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    • Powder coated RAL 9010 30% gloss
    • Budget Lock
    Price from: £39.99 £47.99
  3. Price from: £104.99 £125.99

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Building Materials Nationwide has got you covered

We have a brilliant range of access panels on our website, including fire-rated options. No matter your budget or requirements, browse our varied selection and buy confidently. You can give the team at Building Materials Nationwide a call for expert advice on which option will work best for you. 

We can offer specialist guidance and premium products for all your future construction projects. We also work with industry customers to offer a personalised and bespoke service. Sign up for a trade account where you will gain access to more than 25,000 products. You will also gain access to a personal account manager and flexible credit options.