The attic access door is often the name used to describe push-up-type access panels, knee-wall doors or any type of entry point into the attic space. The most common of these is the push-up-type panel that is simply drywall or plywood held in place by simple wood trims. These panels are often found in hallways, closets, garage spaces or areas of the home where the panel will not be highly noticeable, yet provide easy access for storage or maintenance. Adding an access panel to your attic is usually not difficult.
Select a closet ceiling or hallway ceiling with good floor space underneath, since you will need to use a ladder to access your attic. Move a stud finder across your ceiling to locate the joists. Mark each joist location with a pencil. Your joists should be 16 to 24 inches on center. This is wide enough for a panel.
Measure and draw the width between the joists and 28 to 30 inches for the length of the panel. Use a narrow drywall saw and cut along your joist lines first. You should feel the saw touching the side of the joist as you cut. Make your cross cuts using a utility knife. You are trying to save the drywall panel so work slowly to make clean cuts. Keep in mind when you lower the panel, fiberglass will fall, so protect your eyes, face and hands and be prepared to push the loose fiberglass to one side.
Measure between the joists and cut two boards to fit, one on each side of the opening. These should be at least 2 by 6 inches in size. Insert each board just beyond the cut line where you removed the drywall. Toenail the board into the joist so that the bottom of the 2-by-6-inch board is level with the bottom of the joist. Use three to four nails or screws per board end.
Cut the drywall 1/2-inch smaller on each side. Cut 1/2-inch plywood the same size as the smaller drywall. Apply construction adhesive and attach the drywall to the plywood.
Measure and cut 2-inch trim to fit around the opening in the ceiling. The trim should overhang the opening by a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch toward the center. This will form a lip to hold the access panel flush with the ceiling.
Cut insulation to fit on the plywood side of the access panel. Staple twine to the plywood and crisscross the insulation with the twine front to back and side to side without compressing the insulation. You want the insulation to be held in place when the panel is closed.
Add wood fill and caulk, and paint your new ceiling trim to match other trim in your home.