How to Build a Doggie Door

The doggie door should be tall and wide enough to fit his torso through.
The doggie door should be tall and wide enough to fit his torso through. (Image: Joe Belanger/iStock/Getty Images)

Some people require no more workout than the stand-up-sit-down exercise program afforded by the family dog. Pete goes out, sniffs around, and 30 seconds later is whining to come back inside. A doggie door offers the well-trained pooch the ability to enter and exit the home without your intervention. Installation takes a little time and elbow grease, but the freedom it provides Pete is worth the time and effort.

Measuring Your Dog

The most important element of building a doggie door is making certain Pete can fit through it once you've finished installation. The door doesn't provide much freedom if Pete can't get through it. Take your measurements carefully. With Pete in a standing position, measure from shoulder to shoulder or hip to hip, whichever is wider, and then measure from Pete's shoulder to his chest or belly, whichever is wider. To determine the necessary height, measure from Pete's shoulder to the floor. Add 2 inches to each measurement and note your findings.

The Right Door

Pet retailers and home improvement stores offer a great selection of doggie doors, most of which install in an exterior door with a framework around a hole and a flap for Pete's easy exit and entry. Styles are available for storm doors and sliding glass doors; some can be wall-mounted. Regardless of where you decide to do your shopping, be certain to arm yourself with your measurements so you'll select the right size of door.

Preparing the Port

After you've selected your doggie door and read the instructions, remove the entry door into which it will be installed. Lay the door flat on sawhorses. A work bench will suffice, but sawhorses afford you the ability to move around your project. At this point, you'll need the height measurement you took of Pete, the distance between his shoulder and the floor. Measure from the bottom of the door and mark the shoulder height of your dog. Most doggie doors come with a template to help you measure the doggie door entryway, or port, properly. If not, be certain to measure your door property according to the measurements of your commercial doggie door. Always leave 3 inches between the bottom of your doggie door and the bottom of the door into which it will be installed.

Installation and Rehanging

Install the doggie door according to the manufacturer's instructions, as specifics vary from one doggie-door type to another. Use a drill and a reciprocating saw to cut the doggie-door hole in the exterior door. Place the outside frame of the doggie door on the underside of the port and mark where the screws will be placed. Using a quarter-inch bit, drill screw holes at the marks you made. This will ensure that your screws will line up properly. Place a square of weather stripping inside the frame of your doggie door before you install it. Put the frame in place and add the screws and nuts provided with the doggie door. Rehang your door. To weatherize, run a line of caulking around the doggie door.

For the DIY Expert

Doggie doors afford great freedom, but they can put a dent in the family budget. If you're an experienced DIYer, you may save by custom-making doggie doors. Use the same measurements you took of Pete as your guide. You can fashion a couple of strips of scrap sheet metal, some scrap trim for framing, and new or recycled automobile floor mats into a doggie door similar to those available commercially.

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