How to Cut An Access Hatch
Cutting an Access Hatch
There can be lots of reasons for wanting to gain access to the area underneath a floor, but the most common is for the repair or installation of services such as plumbing or . Before the introduction of and ply floors, accessing was usually a simple matter of lifting and replacing a few boards. Sheet materials, which cover larger expanses, make access a more complicated affair, since removing sections is not really an option and small access hatches need to be cut into the floor instead.
Using the speed and versatility of an electric router, cutting an access hatch in a chipboard, ply or laminate floor need not be complicated. The techniques demonstrated here allow access to be gained with a minimal amount of disruption to the overall floor. Cutting permanent hatches also means that the area under the floor can be easily accessed whenever the need arises in the future.
and Ply Floors
Tools for the Job:
- tape measure & pencil
- electric router & ‘rout-a-bout’ jig
- A ‘rout-a-bout’ is a type of jig specially made for use with an electric router. It is fast and easy to use for those with some previous experience with routers. First mark the position of the access hatch on the floor. Attach the electric router to the special base plate, then loosely the plate to the floor, directly over the area you wish to cut. Rotate the router around the until the disc is cut all the way round.
- Remove the disc and drop in a special plastic ring, which will come supplied with the ‘rout-a-bout’.
- Finally, drop the cut disc so that it rests on the plastic ring. No or fixing of any kind is required and the area surrounding the hatch is almost as strong as the floor prior to the hole being cut. Access to the underfloor area is available at any time by simply lifting out the disc.
When a laminate or solid timber floor has been laid over a ply or chipboard subfloor, it is vital to be as neat as possible. The cut out section can be any size, but making it as small as is practicable will mean it is ultimately less obtrusive.
Tools for the Job:
- safety equipment
- tape measure & pencil
- carpenter’s square
- double-sided tape
- wood chisel
- Mark out a square on the floor 300mm (1 ft) along each side. Check each corner is a perfect right angle with a carpenter’s square. Two of the sides must also be parallel with the line of the laminate strips.
- Prepare some battens 60mm (2-1/2in) wide and no less than 10mm (½ in) thick. Stick the battens to the floor with double-sided tape, ensuring that the inside edges exactly align with the pencil marks.
- Insert a 10mm (1/2in) thick straight cutter into the router and attach the template guide bush to the base plate. Keeping the base plate down on the battens with the bush against the inside of the battens, cut through the laminate floor and the subfloor.
- Remove the section of floor and put to one side. Carefully peel off the battens and double-sided tape. Change the router cutter to a bearing-guided cutter and run a rebate around the inside of the opening, cutting down to the same depth as the thickness of the laminate.
- Use a sharp wood chisel to square up the rounded internal corners of the laminate left by the circular router cutter.
- Form a section of flooring, from some laminate offcuts, that is at least 2.5cm (1 in) larger all round than the hole in the floor. Glue the tongues together with wood , then this in turn onto the section of chipboard or ply subfloor that you saved. Put a heavy weight on top and allow the glue to dry.
- Make a paper or card template so that it just drops into the rebated opening in the floor, then clearly mark the positions of the joint lines onto the top edges. Transfer the template to the replacement floor section, noting the position of the joints but keeping it as near the centre as possible. Mark around the outside before finally cutting with a fine-toothed panel saw. Sand up the edges to remove any rough spots.
- Provided that the cutting and marking have been accurate, the panel should simply drop into position and require no further fixing. If you are confident that you will never need access later, it could be glued in place. If the panel is quite large you may want to use small brass at each corner to retain it.
Using a router is noisy and dusty so wear always a dust mask, goggles and ear defenders.
Tips of the Trade
Make sure that the router cutters are sharp to avoid splintering the top surface of the laminate.