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I live in a condo, and next to both of my closets, I have an "AC unit" (not exactly, but close enough for this question) in the ceiling. The access panels for these units have a door frame (for lack of a better word) around a panel on two hinges which is just what looks to be a kind of particleboard. There's a small door in it that allows ventilation with a filter, but for maintenance we need to open the whole panel. I've included a picture and video below to try to better show what's going on here.

https://imgur.com/a/XxpIBbP

The issue here is that the large vent door is secured using screws through the door into the frame, and these wear out a bit more every time we open the door. I'd love to use something like this (https://www.homedepot.com/p/Everbilt-2-1-2-in-Black-Barrel-Bolt-20354/203340003) but it seems like the doorframe doesn't make that possible, since i dont have a good place to put the side of the latch that is not on the door itself. The door isn't thick enough to put a normal latch in there either. I'd prefer to do something minimal since this generally works, but putting in a different access hatch may be necessary.

Does anyone have any ideas how we can secure the door and make it last?

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  • Whatever you do, the latch should hold the door tightly against the frame so that air flows through the filter and not through a gap around the bigger door. I would avoid something like a barrel bolt that, if the door is a tight fit, will require you to use both hands working overhead to push the door tight and align and engage the bolt, which can be hard at the best of times. A solution where you can easily engage a screw-type latch and then tighten it with one hand would be easier.
    – jay613
    Mar 18 at 14:28

3 Answers 3

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There are many ways you could secure the panel. Kinda depends how "flush" you want the fastener. You could:

  1. Install a threaded insert into the frame, and use an appropriate-sized machine screw (possibly even a thumb screw so you don't need a tool to open) through the door.

  2. Install a hasp type latch and simply stick a dowel through the hasp.

  3. You don't show us the panel "jamb," but you might be able to install a door/gate latch if it's got some meat.

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The barrel bolt linked in your question can be used if you change a few things.

Because the door is thin plywood, you would fasten the barrel plate to the door using countersunk (flat head) machine screws and nuts, rather than with the wood screws supplied with the unit. On the back side, the screws would be secured with fender washers under the nuts.

On the jamb side, use a chisel to create a flat spot for the catch/reciever, fasten with the supplied wood screws.

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  • I suspect the OP will need longer screws than the supplied ones, simply to get through the drywall on the jamb side. An alternative (to chiseling) could be to simply screw a spacer block to the panel, screw the T-bar part of the latch to the spacer, and screw the jamb part of the latch directly on the trim piece.
    – Huesmann
    Mar 18 at 14:15
  • @Huesmann, yup spacer under barrel plate would work, but it looked like the trim on the jamb side was not a flat shape; if it's not flat, it will need to be made flat so it can line up with and receive the bolt. Mar 18 at 14:23
  • You're right, it's not flat—looks like door casing—but the the bolt receiver could be located on the outside edge which looks close enough to flat. Another thing to note would be that the latch would be better located in the center of the long edge, rather than where the current screw appears to be located.
    – Huesmann
    Mar 18 at 14:28
  • @Huesmann Thank you both here. As noted, the frame is close to flat but not completely. I think it's close enough to flat to make this work though, and the spacer is a good idea to get past the lip of the frame. The issue was brought up about needing the door to be airtight so air goes through the filter, can I get either of your thoughts on this? Mar 20 at 0:08
  • @DaveMcGinnis simply adding some foam rubber weatherstripping foam (e.g. Frost King at Home Depot) around the edge of either the frame or the panel would seal it sufficiently, I'd think. You'd need to measure the spacing between them when the panel is closed (after you install your new latch). Maybe a blob of modeling clay, close the panel, measure how much squishing the clay does? Then buy the weatherstripping that's maybe double that thickness?
    – Huesmann
    Mar 20 at 13:54
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I would use hanger bolts. This type of hardware has a wood screw thread on one and machine threads on the other. Install the woodscrew end into the frame. Drill or use the original holes in the door for the machine screw to pass thru. You could use a decorative knob for toolless removal or standard nuts with a washer to protect the door to retain the panel.

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