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Installing a dog door is a fantastic way to give your pet freedom and exercise, and give yourself a break from playing the doorman.
Learning how to install a dog door isn’t too difficult, provided you have the right tools and an area to work. It should only take a couple of hours to complete.
- Masking tape
- Safety goggles
You may need other tools and materials if you’re fitting the doggy door somewhere difficult or if the area needs repair work before installing. Before purchasing a dog door, you'll want to consider the placement of it; you need to think about the most convenient place for you and your dog, and think about your surfaces (you might not want muddy paws all over the carpet when your dog runs in after a rainy day!) Make sure it won’t be anywhere where there’s too much foot traffic either.
You'll also want to take note of the material where you wish to place the doggie door. There are dog doors available for wood, PVC or metal doors, screen doors, sliding patio doors and even sash windows. Doors with a hollow core, including metal doors, are no problem as long as you buy a ‘self-framing' dog door.
Once you know where the doggie door is going to be, you can start to consider what kind of door you would like. Your choice will depend on your dog’s needs and your budget. There is now a huge variety of doors available, from the classic swing door to ones that have magnets and a corresponding magnetic token for your dog’s collar. There are even dog doors that read microchips!
Some doors are designed with draught excluders and others even have an indicator that tracks when your dog goes through and shows you if he is inside or outside. Lastly, it’s really important to properly measure your dog before selecting your new dog door.
It is highly recommended that you allow an extra two inches to his height, measured to the top of the shoulder and two inches extra width, measured from the widest part of their body. This way the door is comfortable for him to use and there won’t be any worries about him getting stuck or having to crouch uncomfortably.
This is especially important if your dog is the boisterous type and likely to bound through the flap at lightning speed! So do allow him plenty of wiggle room when measuring. If your dog’s measurements are just between two sizes, go one size larger.
How to Install a Dog Door at Home
Now you’ve chosen the right product and you’re ready to learn how to install a dog door. Always read the instructions through thoroughly before getting started. Every dog door is a little different, and you'll want to head the manufacturers instructions for best results.
Wooden dog doors
For wooden doors, get a friend to help you remove the whole door from the hinges, and then you can easily lie the door on sawhorses and begin cutting. Hollow core or lightweight doors can be left up as usual.
Metal dog doors
A metal door is similar to a wooden one if it’s hinged. The only difference between a wood and metal door is the choice of tools; you may need much more powerful tools for the metal door. If you don’t have tools that are powerful enough, see if you can borrow from a friend or look into rental. Make sure you follow all safety guidelines.
PVC dog doors
It’s easy to learn how to install a dog door in a PVC door provided the bottom half is a plain panel so that the doggie door will sit flush when fitted. The first thing you will need to do is remove the beading – beading is the inner framework that holds the door panel to the door frame, and it looks like long thing strips of PVC.
You should be able to remove the beads with a chisel by edging the chisel blade into the center of one of the beads and gently hammering towards the center of the door. Once you have knocked the first one out, the others should be easier to remove. Now you can remove your center panel, and take it to your workbench to start cutting.
For PVC and wooden doors, it's entirely possible to install the dog door without taking it off the hinges first, just make sure the door is tightly closed and be careful when you’re sawing that there are no inquisitive noses on the other side. For metal doors, because of the amount of extra power needed, it’s always best to remove the door from the hinges and work with it flat.
Sliding glass doors and sash windows
Doggie doors are now available for sliding glass doors and sash windows, which are a fantastic option if you have large patio doors and little other suitable space to install a standard dog door. These types of doors are large panels, essentially an extra pane with the dog flap in the bottom.
They fit into the tracking of your sliding door or window and fit neatly and securely alongside. You can still close your sliding door or window until the point that the new panel begins, and your door can still be locked securely with no gaps between the new panel and the existing door. They are very simple to install, and come with full instructions.
It is possible to fit a doggie door through an external wall, but it’s best to consult a professional on this; if you hit wiring you could get electrocuted and you could damage crucial support structures in the wall.
Tips and Tricks
Now you’ve got your door ready and laid flat, you can start cutting. Have your measuring tape, drill, screwdriver, marker, masking tape, and a jigsaw all handy. Make sure the placement of where you’re cutting the hole for the dog door is low enough to the ground for your dog to get through easily.
Your doggie door should come with a template, so use that to mark out the area that needs to be cut (if it does not have a template included, simply measure the frame) and stick the template to the surface with masking tape.
Once that’s done, remove the template and use your drill to make four holes, one in each corner. This will give you a place to insert the blade of the jigsaw. Start from one of the lower corners and cut from point to point until you have cut all the way through and you’re left with a gap.
Now you’re ready to install your door! Most doors will have a smaller insert that fits right into the hole you have made in the door, and a larger frame that fits on both the inner and outer sides to give a secure, flush fit.
Insert the screws provided with your dog door and use a screwdriver to tighten them well. If for any reason, the door isn’t completely flush, you can use caulk or something similar to fill in any small gaps and keep the door from moving around.
Have a few practice runs with your dog by standing on the opposite side of the doggie door and tempting him through with his favorite treats. He will get used to using it after a few trips through. All done, now just stand back and admire your awesome work!
DIY Dog Doors and Tips From the Experts
Most homemade dog doors involve re-purposing a pair of car floor mats or mud flaps, but you could easily use plexiglass, heavy fabric, or a cut-to-size doormat. You’ll need to have a few tools on hand and pick up some simple supplies at the hardware store before you get going.
The DIY Guy shows the YouTube audience how to install a doggie door in a screen storm door that has a vinyl screen. He utilizes a store-bought doggie door and creates an opening to fit. There’s a quick note on measuring tips and he throws the whole thing together in minutes, using the bed of his pickup as a workspace.
Aside from the new dog door, materials used include a utility knife, silicone adhesive, and Shelby (his dog). The model of dog door he uses has a latch at the bottom so that the door can be locked in place in case you want to keep your canine inside.
In Laura Hobbs’ video, you can learn how to make a very simple door with a magnetic closure that snaps itself shut behind your dog, but opens back up with ease. She uses very simple materials that are also inexpensive. Although she has a flap that she purchased online, her design can be modified without too much hassle.
This door construction requires very little saw work and no drilling whatsoever. She puts it all together with some staples, craft store magnets, rails (like the kind used for shelving), wooden garden stakes, a curtain rod, and one two-by-four.
For a dual-flap door that protects better against wind and weather than the single-flap variety, go to vmulisano’s video. He’s got a couple of Irish Wolfhounds who need a large opening to step through on their way in and out.
Using a commercial doggie door, he makes a few modifications, saving a few hundred dollars in the process. Both door flaps have magnetic catches so they won’t let in bugs and chills.
Learning how to install a dog door isn't difficult. With a little time and patience, your dog will have a new entrance and exit and you won't have to cater to his every whine and wimper anymore. Dog doors will save you a lot of time and hassle, and they'll also keep your door from being ruined by a scratching dog.