Not everything you put behind a wall stays hidden forever. Whether it’s your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit controls, ductwork, a confined space, electric wiring, or plumbing, sometimes we need to utilize what we’ve tried to hide away from view. Thankfully, that’s where access doors come into play.
This blog will explore the ins and outs of access doors, what they’re used for most frequently, what isn’t covered by the access door category, and what you need to consider before selecting the access door for your space.
What Is an Access Door?
An access door is a point of access for a space behind walls or other areas. Access doors and panels are meant to be inconspicuous, allowing them to blend into the spaces around them to be as visually appealing as possible. Commercial and residential spaces almost always have some type of access door for an attic, crawl space, plumbing, HVAC, and storage.
Difference Between Access Door and Access Panel
Access doors and access panels tend to be used interchangeably, but there are a few distinct features that identify each one. For example, access doors tend to be larger and more substantial, while access panels are smaller and usually made to be flush with the surrounding space. When choosing between the two, think about how often you will need to use the access and how much space you’ll need.
Types of Access Doors
- General-purpose access doors
- Fire-rated access doors
- Drywall access doors
What Are General Purpose Access Doors?
General-purpose access doors are made for what the name implies – they meet general needs for building construction, HVAC, plumbing, and electric access. You can use general-purpose access doors for indoor and outdoor applications, as well as in walls and ceilings.
Regarding installation, general-purpose access doors can be recessed or flush with the surrounding wall. In addition, the frame is made in one piece, making it easy to install while providing maximum clearance. Since they are made to fit standard applications, general-purpose access doors are made in the most common sizes and styles. While they are sufficient for most applications, you should choose a fire-rated access door in areas that must meet fire safety regulations.
What Are Fire-Rated Access Doors?
A fire-rated access door is made to meet the requirements for protecting against damage in case of fire. Fire-rated access doors have an airtight seal to ensure that flames, heat, and smoke cannot penetrate the door. In addition, these thick, stainless steel access doors have smoke-proof gasket seals to make them safe.
Fire-rated access doors can be insulated or non-insulated. Insulated fire-rated access doors are installed to provide access to utilities inside stairwells and other areas requiring fire-resistance standards. Insulated doors feature multiple inches of insulation separating the inside and outside door panels.
Fire Ratings for Access Doors
Fire-rated access doors are tested, approved, and rated by UL Solutions, also known as Underwriters Laboratories, a global leader in the testing, inspection, and certification industry. When purchasing fire-rated access doors, it’s critical to understand the different ratings and whether or not the product is appropriately rated for your needs.
What are the 5 UL Safety Ratings for Fire Rated Access Doors?
- UL Class 350 1-hour
- UL Class 350 2-hour
- UL Class 125 1-hour
- UL Class 125 2-hour
- UL Class 125 3-hour
The numbers in each category tell you two things:
- The temperature
- A length of time
The UL Class Ratings tell us how long an access door – or other material – will remain under the listed temperature when exposed to high heat. For example, an access door for HVAC that is fire rated at UL Class 125 2-hour will keep the temperature from exceeding 125 degrees for two hours.
Why Use Fire-Rated Access Doors?
Using an access door for HVAC is helpful for more than being able to protect access to essential equipment. In addition to smoke and fire dampers, fire-rated access doors for HVAC help prevent smoke and heat from spreading through different parts of a building in the event of a fire.
Places like hospitals and other large commercial buildings need to consider how they will evacuate people and protect property in an emergency. For example, with an HVAC designed to shut down when exposed to heat – like a fusible link fire damper – you can prevent smoke from being carried throughout the building via the ductwork. However, it’s critical to have fire-rated access doors to protect the systems that keep that technology up and working.
Although a fire-rated access door may not stop the overall damage to a building, it allows rescue workers valuable time to combat the fire before it spreads and helps give employees and occupants extra minutes to evacuate safely.
What Are Drywall Access Doors?
Drywall access doors are used to access areas behind drywall, such as the metal or wood framing. These access doors maintain the appearance of the drywall while still allowing contractors, plumbers, electricians, or HVAC technicians to access important areas.
Access Doors for Security
In addition to access doors for HVAC, another common type of stainless-steel access door is for security. For example, access doors that require restricted access can be installed in medical institutions, prisons, and other facilities. Security access doors can be made with fire-rating, concealed hinges, bolts and locks, and non-removable barrels.
What Products Are Not Considered Access Doors?
Although it may be easy to group all access doors into the same category regardless of where they are located, it’s essential to recognize that access doors do not include floor or roof hatches. Instead, these hatches belong in separate product categories and come with different options and additions to suit different needs.
Where to Buy Access Doors for HVAC?
For decades, Lloyd Industries, Inc. has manufactured access doors and other HVAC and fire prevention products. So whether you need air control dampers, CRD boots, louvers, security bars, or smoke dampers, Lloyd Industries has the expertise to help you complete your project safely and on budget. Explore the website for answers to frequently asked questions about fire dampers and in-depth knowledge resources through the blog, and contact the friendly and helpful experts with any questions.