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Access doors for knee walls

Darin's picture

I am looking for some ideas on doors that I can use for access to the areas behind our knee walls.  I've placed a couple within closet areas, so aesthetics are not a problem there, but there will still be four exposed in the second floor bedrooms.  I thought I had seen something on BT before about some neat ideas for the access panels.  I have insulated the roof, so the entire kneewall is within the conditioned space, so insulating the doors will not be an issue.  The "holes" are rough 36" high X 30" wide.

If anyone can provide some ideas for aesthetically pleasing doors, or post some pictures, I would appreciate it.  I am sure this has come up before, but I did not find much on a search of previous posts.

Thanks to all for your help and here's to a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!


(post #100091, reply #1 of 19)

My favorite way to close off spaces of the size you mention is to build simple access panels and then mount them with magnetic catches (the kind you would use for cabinet doors). I generally make them in a slab style with 3/4" birch ply.

I have done some so they blend in with the wall, and others I have done in a decorative manner (inlays, etc.), so they function like a piece of art.

Sorry, I don't own a digital camera.

"It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts."

John Wooden 1910-

******************************************************** "It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts." John Wooden 1910-2010

(post #100091, reply #2 of 19)

I built this for a bathtub access hole. It could be fancied up and bigger for your situation.

bathtub_access_shelves.JPG37.1 KB

(post #100091, reply #3 of 19)

I've never considered taking pictures of the darn things!

I've used solid style shutters, cabinet fronts with their doors, and made custom doors. For spaces where there is no need for regular access, but onlt for access to service such as junction boxes or a fan vent , I use a square of baltic birch, router detail the edge, paint it and screw it over the hole.



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(post #100091, reply #4 of 19)

I'm in the exact same situation as you.  I have a cape and totally air-sealed the roof (and behind the knee walls) with Icynene foam.  Now I have all this room behind the knee walls for storage.

A builder friend said to try using wooden "shutter" doors like the kind you hang on the exterior of windows.  Just build a plywood box and attach the doors.  There's also a thread on the Fine Woodworking "knots" forum with a picture of a kneewall cabinet system that a guy built.  Just do a search for knee wall.

Toolfanatic (a.k.a. The man formerly known as "Toolfreak")

(post #100091, reply #5 of 19)

Thanks for your suggestions!  Keep them coming, I'm sure we'll all learn something that someone has done that makes you say, why didn't I think of that!  That of course is the real beauty of BT!

Two of these access areas will probably be used somewhat frequently for storage so a working door would probably be a good idea.  I was thinking that it will difficult to male the doors seem invisible, so I was considering making them a small door like the suggestions about using a shutter.  The other though that I had was to buy 2'8" X 6'8: masonite 6 panel doors and cut them into two smaller 32-34 inch high doors.  I know they are hollow core, but you can easily add blocking to the "open" ends and use magnetic cabinet door stops and a small cabinet style handle.   I might try one just for grins since I have an old door from before the renovation.  If it looks good I'll post a picture.  If not, I hope you guys will come up with more ideas for us to consider.

(post #100091, reply #6 of 19)

I like Doodabugs idea.

Make them deeper, fancy them up to look like built-in bookshelves, add some real books and decorative doo-dads, make sure the hinges are beefy (and concealed) and you end up with the hidden entrance to the secret room

You got any little ones who would love a secret room?

(post #100091, reply #12 of 19)

Maybe overkill, but where there was a 5' high knee wall, I built a custom false fireplace with bookcases on either side that are removeable (with difficulty). The access panel? It's the back of the false fireplace.

Don K.

EJG Homes      Renovations - New Construction - Rentals

(post #100091, reply #7 of 19)

To conceal them the simplest approach is a raised-panel wainscotting.

Another approach is to hide the opening behind a bookcase.  Various techniques can be used to assure a smoothly-operating hinge opening even with a loaded bookcase.


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(post #100091, reply #8 of 19)

What I did in my own master bath kneewall was inset an upper penninsula cabinet, open both sides into the knee wall. I ordered a 1/4" face panel stained to match. I then top hinged a solid door (MDF)on the attic side, placed the trim panel at the back on the inside so it looks like a solid cabinet and voila, storage with virtually undetectable access.

Let's not confuse the issue with facts!

Let's not confuse the issue with facts!

(post #100091, reply #9 of 19)

why not buy a cheap 30" wide slab and cut it down to 36" tall?


might have a pic ... I usually get a hollow core door and builkd a jamb ... prehang it ...

and away ya go.


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    Buck Construction

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(post #100091, reply #10 of 19)

This is in my attic bedroom. I built a custom door "box" from 1" plywood (had some scraps...), insulated it, installed foam molding and hung it with Jeep Wrangler hinges and a couple of closet door ball-spring catches.


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(post #100091, reply #11 of 19)

I had two knee walls that needed access. I installed book shelves between the studs, and integrated the access doors into the shelves.

The doors are built out of two pieces of 1/2 plywood on each side with a 1 inch core of rigid foam. They were weather stripped againt the jam to seal the space (see attachment)


Edited 1/2/2006 2:03 am ET by TTF

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(post #100091, reply #16 of 19)

Hey there's a Beaver fan!


Go Beavs!

(post #100091, reply #18 of 19)

Well said - go beavs!

(post #100091, reply #13 of 19)

I usually get a solid door cut down to right size, jamb & weather strip it around all four sides and install.  They go into unheated space though. 

What does this situation in my life ask of me?

What does this situation in my life ask of me?

(post #100091, reply #14 of 19)

The top floor of my parents's house had quite a number of dressers, bookcases, and deep cupboards built flush with the kneewalls, some of which could be slid out for access to the attic spaces. The backs and sides of all these units were insulated, and the casings were used as a sort of rim to be pressed tightly to the wall.

This was all 1920's stuff, built of dark knotty pine in a sort of romantic lodge style. The rooms of this floor also contained desks, a vanity, closets, a knicknack hutch, magazine racks, additional bookcases, cupboards, cubbies...all of dark knotty pine and all built in. Only the headboards and the chairs weren't built in, though they did match. Almost unbearably charming.

(post #100091, reply #15 of 19)

"I am looking for some ideas on doors that I can use for access to the areas behind our knee walls"


Why make it look like a door?  Not like you are going to be using it regularly, right?

Easy enough to make a removable panel out of drywall or particleboard that is flush with the wall and hardly noticeable if properly fitted and taped in.  Screws, magnets or Velcro all do a good job of holding it in place.  Add a small hole for a screw when you need access.


(post #100091, reply #17 of 19)

I have my supplier build a clamshell to fit. The use MDF for the door slab.

(post #100091, reply #19 of 19)

For a project in my bathrom I used some premade unfinished slide-in drawer units and secured them w/ screws instead of nails. I picked them up from an unfinished furniture suplier where I live.  Works great.  3 Drawers per unit.