Williams Brothers Corporation of America Defining Quality One Access Door at a Time

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Types of Access Doors

An access door is a versatile piece of building architecture that comes in variety of types to serve a variety of purposes. Access doors may allow access to an enclosed space behind a wall, floor, or ceiling. Though some are large enough to accommodate human beings, most are much smaller, because they simply need to grant access to small spaces or compartments that are located immediately behind them.

Most access doors are designed to align with the surfaces in which they're installed, allowing them to stay out of the way for both aesthetic and practical reasons. Others are designed to maintain your building's structural integrity, fire safety, privacy, and other important requirements.

At Williams Brothers, we specialize in nine different types of access doors. All of our doors meet or exceed a variety of different expectations and needs, but they're all constructed with high-quality materials and available with multiple installation options. Before you decide which door or doors to buy, learn more about the features that make each type of access door unique.

1. General Purpose Access Doors

The name says it all. General purpose access doors are designed to serve general but important purposes, and most are suitable for indoor or outdoor use. They may be installed in walls or ceilings, and unless their dimensions are 24' x 24' or larger, they feature recessed frames, concealed hinges, and flush latch releases that prevent them from interrupting the surfaces in which you install them. If you don't have to accommodate specific fire codes or conceal high-security items, general purpose access doors may be the best option for you.

Within this category, your options range from basic steel doors with baked enamel finishes to premium doors that were laser-cut from sheets of stainless or galvanized steel. General purpose access doors include draft-resistant doors with vents and weatherproof gaskets, removable doors that increase mobility in confined spaces, and temperature-controlled doors that come with key code locking options. However, they usually don't meet the safety regulations associated with specific fire risks.

2. Fire Rated Access Doors

Some access doors are specifically designed to meet high safety standards and follow fire safety regulations. Any opening in a wall or ceiling will create additional risks in the event of a fire, so it must be fully sealed with an air-tight door that prevents drafts. However, some access doors must maintain this seal even when they're open, and many must conceal electrical wiring, exhaust systems, HVAC elements, gas lines, and other flammable materials.

Only a fire-rated access door is guaranteed to safely conceal these elements and prevent the transference of heat, flames, and smoke. Materials such as mineral wool insulation, thick galvanized steel, and smoke-proof gasketing allow fire-rated doors to accomplish this important task. Some also include features for specific applications. For example, if you need an access door to ventilate gas or grease out of an enclosed space, such as a kitchen, you need a fire-rated door that won't become hot to the touch. If an indoor space is exposed to outdoor air flow or vice versa, it's especially important to install an access door that is reinforced with heavy-duty steel and sealed with airtight gasketing.

Fire rated access door options include upward swinging or inward opening doors, self-latching or automatically closing latches, automatic or manual panel releases, and piano hinges that open a full 180 degrees for greater range of motion. Exhaust shafts and ductwork systems often come with heightened risks, so some shafts are only appropriate for walls, but most fire-rated access doors are suitable for ceiling or wall installation.

3. Drywall Access Doors

Most residential and commercial walls are composed of drywall that fills in a skeleton of wood or steel framing. In order to install new electrical or plumbing elements into an existing wall, you often need to cut into the drywall, but the new opening will break the wall's seal and leave your indoor spaces vulnerable to heat gain, outdoor elements, and other insulation concerns. Drywall access doors restore this seal while preserving your access to the spaces behind them, and they also maintain your walls' original appearances with paint finishes, flush frames, and other discreet features.

Of course, drywall access doors are often installed during the initial construction process. These doors often include recessed, perforated steel frames with drywall bead flange, which allows you to finish installing the drywall over the frames themselves, so that only the door panel is exposed. Others have welded aluminum frames with inlayed drywall that resists moisture and mildew. Crawl spaces and utility boxes are two of the most common applications for these drywall access doors. If you don't have to open them regularly and don't want kids or strangers to access the important elements behind them, you may even opt for a concealed safety system, which requires you to use tools to open or remove the panel.

4. Plaster Bead Access Doors

If your walls or ceiling are made of plaster rather than drywall, you'll need an access door that doesn’t interfere with the structural integrity of the plaster surface. Plaster is less resilient than drywall and requires a different installation method, so you'll need a strong frame that prevents chipping and accommodates extra plaster around the door. Look for a plaster bead access door with a recessed frame that will support plaster and allow the door to stay flush with the rest of the surface.

One of our plaster bead access doors has an expanded flange around the edge, which allows you to finish installing the plaster without compromising the wall's structural integrity. This extra-wide flange is made of galvanized steel that may support up to 3/4" of plaster. Another option has galvanized casing and an expanded metal lath around the door, which preserves the acoustics of the original plaster surface. This is ideal if you want to control sounds for privacy or performance purposes.

5. GY Plaster Lightweight Gypsum Ceiling Doors

Gypsum, also called calcium sulfate dihydrate, is a versatile mineral used in chalk, fertilizer, and multiple forms of wall and ceiling plaster. It comes in board or tile form, and both are common in indoor ceilings that require a lightweight, sag-resistant, and sound-insulated material. Whether your gypsum ceiling is concealed by a paper liner or composed of individual gypsum tiles, you'll need an access door that is lightweight enough to sit inside the gypsum without increasing its overall weight or minimizing its fire, sound, or sag resistance.

Fortunately, gypsum is one of the most environmentally-friendly access door materials. Gypsum ceiling access panels are actually composed of a gypsum base and a mixture of recycled post-consumer glass. If you install your access door among gypsum tiles, you may not even need a frame. However, if the ceiling is next to drywall, you can connect a frame to the adjacent wall with lightweight studs.

Gypsum access door options include drop-in and hinged panels, and each option is composed of the same glass and gypsum composition. Because this material also resists the warping and sagging associated with condensation and humidity, they're ideal for spaces that contain ventilation ductwork.

6. Acoustical Tile Access Doors

Some plaster bead access doors allow you to maintain acoustic control of your indoor spaces, and many types of access doors will block sound from passing through them. However, acoustical tile access doors are designed specifically for sound-absorbing ceiling tiles and wall panels. These are perfect if you need an access door that will blend into your acoustical surfaces while allowing sporadic access to a space or compartment behind them.

These doors are among the most discreet options available, because the panels themselves are often recessed, allowing you to install an acoustical tile directly over them. Optional gaskets are composed of closed cell sponge materials that meet sound control ratings or smoke seals that resist smoke and odors. You may even order your acoustical access door in a wider variety of sizes, in order to fit the dimensions of your custom acoustical installations. Recording studios, interrogation rooms, and other sound-controlled environments often incorporate these "hidden" access doors, which remain invisible to the casual observer.

7. Exterior Access Doors

Most access doors allow indoor access to features that are installed within a building. However, some elements must be accessed from outside, and this requires a door that will not expose your building to outdoor weather elements and temperatures. Because you cannot control the conditions that will affect the panels and frames, exterior access doors must also resist rust, warping, weather damage, mildew, and excessive wear and tear.

Steel and stainless steel are attractive, scratch-resistant options for indoor spaces, but their enamel coatings eventually wear away when they're exposed to condensation and precipitation. Galvanized steel, on the other hand, is composed of steel that was dipped in hot zinc and then coated with primed enamel. This prevents weather-related damage, but the door's various parts must also resist rust in order to function as intended. Open-celled polyurethane gaskets protect the inside components, while close-cell neoprene sponge surrounds the back and keeps the panels airtight. Key codes and recessed locks offer additional security for external doors in public or exposed outdoor spaces.

Aluminum is another weather-resistant option, and it's lightweight enough to allow easy access to large openings. Protective gaskets and an attractive mill finish complete the aesthetic requirements and allow these doors to easily blend in with external fixtures. Fuse boxes, pool plumbing systems, HVAC controls, and even outdoor storage compartments are common uses for exterior access doors.

8. Plastic Access Doors

Unlike metal access doors, plastic doors will never rust or fade. They're too lightweight to work in heavy-duty applications, but because the plastic panels are often reversible with built-in UV stabilizers, they do resist sun damage and maintain their original appearance over time. Plastic access doors are ideal for Internet, phone, plumbing, and electrical applications in indoor spaces, and they come with textured finishes that prevent a flimsy, low-quality appearance.

Our plastic access doors are made of high-impact ABS or styrene plastic. Removable styrene panels are ideal if you want to customize the appearance of your access door, because it can be painted to blend in with your wall. It's also easier to install; simply caulk the reverse side of the frame and press it into place. To install an ABS plastic access door in tile surfaces, you'll need to use grout and flexible adhesives. To install the frame and door into a drywall surface for electrical purposes, take advantage of drill points and knockouts that allow easy mounting. Studs and joists allow you to support the frames if necessary.

9. Williams Brothers Roof Hatches and Floor Doors

We prioritize quality at William Brothers, and to us that means your access doors must meet rigorous safety, durability and versatility standards. If you need an access door that opens into an underground space or attic, trust our exclusive line of floor access doors and roof hatches to serve all your installation needs. These spaces require particularly heavy-duty doors, because floor hatches must withstand foot traffic while roof hatches must resist outdoor weather conditions. Insulation is also a significant concern, which calls for galvanized steel or aluminum and heavy-duty locks, hinges, and handles.

Each option is suitable for specific surfaces. For example, one of our fire-rated floor hatches is recessed and reinforced with heavy-duty tile or concrete to accommodate stone, ceramic, terrazzo, or other thick flooring styles used for architectural and interior design purposes. We also redesigned our heavy-duty roof hatch with an exclusive steel composition for extra durability, and added black-and-yellow warning tape that draws attention to the curb and lid when the hatch is open.

If you need a floor hatch to access the space below a carpeted room, opt for our aluminum access door with a metal lip, vinyl grip, and a grooved door seat that accommodates a noise-controlling cushion. If you need a fire-rated floor hatch, choose an aluminum option that passed a two-hour fire rating test and is reinforced with a diamond plate that sustains significant weight.

Find The Access Door Type You Need At Williams Brothers

Access doors are common fixtures in many different types of buildings, from private homes and apartment complexes to commercial and industrial facilities. However, these special doors come in many different sizes, finishes and types, and it's important to know exactly which access door you'll need for your specific purposes. Now that you've learned about the specific materials and applications that distinguish each of our nine main categories from one another, you can explore the options within those categories.

Williams Brothers is proud to offer access doors that accommodate multiple price ranges, climate conditions, and fire safety requirements. In addition to the access doors that fall under these nine classifications, our inventory also includes security doors and safe access doors that protect confidential and valuable items; airtight and watertight doors that are suitable for extreme elements and pressure levels; and railing systems that reduce the risks associated with floor doors and roof hatches. Contact us for more information about our access door options.

Williams Brothers Corporation
Corporate Office
1330 Progress Drive
Front Royal, Virginia 22630

Western Distribution Center
Reno Nevada 

Toll Free Phone 800 255-5515
Phone 540 636-4444
Toll Free Fax 800 822-5001
Fax 540 636-4455

Toll Free Phone 800 255-5515
Phone 540 636-4444
Toll Free Fax 800 822-5001
Fax 540 636-4455

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