While it’s nice to always have Fido and Morris by your side, many of our pets appreciate the freedom that comes with a dog/cat door. If you have a secure outdoor space, it means they can go out when they need to (especially if you aren’t home to take them out), get more exercise, and just enjoy some fresh air whenever they feel the urge. And while it is possible to install a pet door yourself, you may want to hire a professional as depending on the type of door and location, installation can get a little tricky. We talked to Slava Kepper, a contractor in the San Francisco Bay Area and highly-rated professional on Thumbtack, to find out everything you should consider before getting started.
Decide What Kind of Door to Get
There are lots of different types of pet doors and you’ll need to do some research to figure out which one fits your needs, including reading lots and lots of reviews, but the basic options are:
- Traditional Flap Door – This is the “standard” dog door with a vinyl flap. It might be a security concern if your pet is large, but if you have a small dog or if it leads to a secure area, you’re probably fine.
- Hard Plastic or Sliding Door – These allow you to close or lock the door and keep your dog or cat from using it if you need to keep them in or if you have safety concerns.
- Automatic/Electronic Door – If you want to make sure the only thing coming and going through the door is your pet, this is the way to go as the door will only unlock and open when your pet tries to go through it due to a chip in their collar.
Figure Out Where You Want the Door
For the most part, a pet door can be installed almost anywhere: they can go in “people” doors, windows, walls, sliding glass doors, and more. What you need to decide is how much construction you’re willing to do (going through a brick wall, for example, would be quite a task), and where you want your pet to be when he exits. This is also where a contractor comes in as Kepper points out, you won’t actually know for sure what’s going on inside your wall until you open it up.
Make Sure Your Pet Will Fit
Kepper points out the most important thing is that your pet actually fits through the door. And they definitely aren’t one-size-fits-all because though a Yorkie can fit through a Great Dane’s door, it doesn’t work the other way around. If you are going to use the door for a variety of pets, you need to be sure it’s low enough for the smallest pet and tall enough for the biggest guy or gal. And the door flap needs to be light enough for the littlest guy to push through You also need to take into consideration your pet’s age. Is he fully grown? Are you positive? Once you’ve figured all of that stuff out, here’s how to measure for your door:
- Height – You’ll want it to be two inches higher (at least) than your animal’s shoulder height.
- Width – Again, it needs to be at least two inches wider than the broadest part of your pet (the shoulders or the hips). And you should probably leave a little room for weight gain. It happens to the best of us!
Consider Your Energy Bill
If you live in a climate where you need to air conditioning or heat, you may want to look into an energy-efficient pet door as the cool air or heat will escape every time it’s opened. You may need to spend a little more upfront, but in the long run, that will save you money.
Think About Spending the Money to Have It Professionally Installed
Unless you’re incredibly handy, you probably want to have a professional contractor install the door as any mistakes can prove costly. A professional will also make sure the door is going to work with where you want to put it and will be able to point out (and hopefully solve) any possible obstacles, like electrical lines etc. Kepper says it usually costs around $350 to $500 depending on where he’s installing the door and what happens when he opens things up.
Slava Kepper owns a construction company in San Francisco. He and his team do everything from small handyman jobs to new construction. You can find him on Thumbtack.