How to Install a Pet Door

A golden retriever sticking its head through a dog door in a residential home door

Pet doors are a great way to help your pet easily go in and out as they please. Pet doors also make your life more hassle-free so you can worry less about letting your beloved furry friend go in and out of the house. Luckily, installing a pet door by yourself is an easy do-it-yourself project that requires some basic tools and skills. You and your pet will both be happier with the extra freedom and more time to be active outdoors.

Before You Begin

Golden retriever going through a doggie door onto a back patio

Before beginning, choose a door and find a space in the house to fit the door. Many different pet door designs are on the market, some even with special electronic gimmicks to schedule times when your pet door is open or closed. This option can be great for some pet owners who would otherwise worry about their dog or cat wandering around outside after dark. Otherwise, a simple flap door is a great option for most pet owners.

Once you’ve chosen your pet door, it’s time to get the dimensions right. Grab your fur baby and start measuring them. The most important measurements are their height and width, to help you determine the size of the door. A good rule of thumb is that the width of the pet door should be 2 inches wider than the width of the space between your pet’s shoulders. Similarly, the height of the pet door should also be 2 inches taller than the measurement from the top of your pet’s shoulders to the bottom of their chest. This will ensure that your dog or cat can comfortably and freely move in and out of the door opening without getting stuck or feeling too uncomfortable to ever want to use it. Once you’ve measured your pup or feline, you can choose the best opening size of your pet portal. Be sure to consider the size of the opening of the pet door, not the size of the hardware itself.

Next step, find a place in your house to fit the pet door. Most people install pet doors on regular exterior doors because it’s easier, less intrusive, less permanent, and easy to reverse once the pet door is no longer needed. In-wall pet doors exist as well. If you prefer to install a pet door in your wall, it will require a little more work and money. You will want to invest in a heavy-duty door, add insulation around the door, and pick a place where you won’t be cutting into any essential plumbing, insulation, or electrical wiring. For the sake of ease, we’re going to focus on how to install pet doors indoors instead of walls.

Mark Placement

A woman marking the white wall with a red carpenter's pencil

Once you’ve received your pet door and picked its place, it’s time to install. Most pet doors come with a pet door template to initially trace on the door so you can easily cut along those lines. Using a pencil, trace the pet door template onto the area where you will put the pet door. Be sure to mark any screw holes as well for good measure. Also, mark the inside corners of the pet door opening because you’ll also need to make cuts here.

Drill Holes

Builder or worker drilling with a machine or drill.

Next, using an electric drill with a 1/2 inch drill bit, make screw holes at the center point of each marking. These holes are for mounting the hardware, so be sure they’re accurate. Follow the instructions from the manufacturer to ensure accuracy, which means fewer holes or cracks to fill up later and makes for a smoother aesthetic.

Cut the Opening

Carpenter cuts plywood on a electric circular saw

Using a handsaw, cut the opening along the pencil lines to cut the opening for the pet door. Start in one corner and slowly make your way around the outline, cutting as close to the pencil line as possible.

Install the Frame

Beagle coming through dog flap

Once the opening is cut, it’s time to insert the interior and exterior frames of the pet door. Take the exterior frame, which is the side of the pet door with no flap, and insert it into the opening from the exterior side of the door. This side of the frame should sit flush against the surface of the door. Using the supplied screws, hold the exterior frame securely in place to keep the frame straight, and drill the screws into place where you marked the holes for the screws. Be sure to drill the screws in tightly to ensure the frame is secure.

Next, take the interior frame, which is the one with the flap, and insert it on the interior side of the door. Using the pencil marks as guidelines, drill the provided screws into place to attach the interior frame to the inside of the door. Congrats! Your doggie door is now attached! For finishing touches, use some caulk to seal the frame and prevent outside air from seeping into your home.

The next step is to train your dog (or cat) to use the pet door. We recommend treats! Though, the best treat is that they can now have the freedom to go outside to play whenever they please.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.