We have a couple of dogs, one of which is a giant puppy who wreaks havoc on pet doors. After a couple of screens became casualties to her being just a little too large for the door, we decided to build our own. The key features we were looking for included durability, size, and transparency (so we wouldn't lose any of our view).
Ultimately we came up with this solution which involves utilizing vinyl strip door material along with an extra screen channel from a make-your-own screen kit. This is just a prototype, and was fabricated in an afternoon using hand tools and a rotary tool, and while it looks a little rough, it does the job well. Since we used an old screen door, our next plan is to build our own screen door from scratch so the result is a little more attractive.
Materials and tools:
- Fiberglass Screening
- Screen Retainer Spline
- Spline tool (this one is very handy, has a blade for trimming screen and cutting spline)
- Sliding Steel Screen Door
- Screen window framing (we used this kit)
- Vinyl strip door replacement panels (we got ours fromStripDoorsOnline.com)
- Pop Rivets
- Pop Rivet Gun
- Straight Snips
- Rotary Tool with metal cutting wheels (like these)
- Drill and bits
- Tape Measure
- Scratch Awl
- Safety Goggles
- Plenty of room to work
Step 1: Measure Door
Determine the desired height of your pet door. We determined ours needed to be 37" from the bottom of the screen door, which puts the top of the pet door just below the door handle.
Be sure to measure both sides and check for level, mark the door with a scratch awl.
Step 2: Measure and cut frame
Using one of the channels from the screen kit, measure the overall width of the screen door, then cut the channel to length as pictured. Be sure not to just measure the inside of the screen door, as you will need some extra channel to fasten to the screen door frame.
Step 3: Notch screen channel
Now that you have your screen channel cut to the width of your screen door, you can begin to modify the channel so it can be fastened inside the screen door. The key here is that you want the spline to fit all the way around the top of the screen door, so to do that we need to measure and mark the width of the spline channel on the door on the frame strip. See the picture for more detail.
After measuring, make a cut on the inside mark with the rotary tool.
Step 4: Notch channel
Using the pictures as a guide, remove material from the frame piece so that only two side "cheeks" remain. These will be fastened on to the screen door so that our frame will fit nicely across the middle of the door, with screen up top and pet door on the bottom.
Step 5: Notch Screen Door
Wrap the cheeks you created in the previous step around the screen door so that the spline channels are together. Using the scratch awl, you can now mark on the door where a notch needs to be made so that the frame piece, what will be your cross member, fits in and makes a proper 90 degree angle for the spline to fit. See the pictures for more detail. Make your cuts using the rotary tool and remove the excess with pliers. Remember, the metal is likely to be hot.
Step 6: Fasten cross member to door
Now that you have made your cuts, test fit the cross member into the notch on the door and adjust if necessary. If all is well, drill a small hole through the cross member cheek and the door frame. Secure with a pop rivet, as pictured. Also pop rivet the cheek on the other side using the same process. Repeat on the other side of the screen door. Be sure to check for level before you drill.
Step 7: Screen the door
Now that your screen door has it's new cross member, screen the top half of the door. The extra bit of tension will aid in the next step and help ensure the door stays square.
Step 8: Install Strip Door
Lay the door strips on the screen door so that you can arrange the strips properly. The strips should have a 1" overlap on the top, bottom, and sides for a 6" wide strip. These enables pets to move in and out easily, while still providing adequate coverage so bugs don't get in. Be sure the strips are square, level, and even.
Working from one side of the screen door to the other, drill holes through the strips and the door and secure with pop rivets. This process is made much easier if you have a small bench drill press, but we did ours by hand to show it can be done.
Step 9: Trim bottom of strips
Allowing for sufficient overlap, trip the bottom of the strips with scissors, making sure to cut straight and even all the way across the door.
Reinstall the screen door and enjoy!