Our Boston Terrier, Annabelle, loves going outside during the warmer months, and it was kind of a pain. She’d scratch at a door to be let out, and then two minutes later she’d decide it was too cold/hot/rainy/windy and want back inside.
When she figured out she could throw herself at the back screen door and push it open, one of us would have to go over and shut it again (she never learned that part) to keep the bugs out. Two minutes later, she’d be scratching at the front door again. Arghhh!
Our back screen door is just a cheap wooden-framed one (basically this one) and I decided it would be easy to add a pet door into one of the lower panels. So I hopped online and expected to see a $20 or $30 option I could toss into my cart. Um, nope! I was shocked to see pet doors were in the $160-$300 range — just for flimsy plastic doors. What was wrong with the world?
I grumped about that for a few minutes and then decided I could figure something else out. Something MUCH cheaper!
I started by measuring one of the lower panels in our door. It was 13.5” wide and 25” tall, so I sketched out a door that was 13” wide and 24.5” tall to give myself a little wiggle room — you know, for swinging, hinges, etc.
I grabbed a 1×2 board from my studio and quickly assembled a frame: two vertical boards measuring 24.5” and two horizontal boards measuring 10” to slip in between.
I snipped out that screen in that panel, held the tiny door frame in place and confirmed it would fit — so far, so good. Now how was I going to hang it?
I considered using regular hinges, but none of them would allow the door to swing in both directions and then shut automatically. What I really needed was the type of hinges they use on saloon doors. Ah-ha!
I sent my handy husband to purchase a 3” spring hinge* with an adjustable self-closing speed.
Now, this single hinge was close to $30, so we decided to only buy one — a second would have been nice, but not worth another 30 bucks.
I took the hinge out of the package, read the instructions three times, played with it, and still could NOT figure out how to attach it. It was a fierce combination of plates and springs and pins, and all I could accomplish was getting it to snap my finger painfully. I blame my creative brain.
Luckily, my handy husband looked at it and knew just how to install it. (God bless him.) The door swung open and closed, and we could adjust the tension so it required more or less force to push it open.
With the complicated part figured out, I went back to prettying up the tiny pet door — adding decorative panels, white paint and even a little door knob (an old cabinet knob). I also took the piece screen cut from the panel of the big door and stapled it to the little door.
Now when our glass patio door is open, our pup is free to go in and out through her special opening in the screen door. It blends in perfectly with our real screen door, and it’s completely adorable.
Now, the saloon hinge isn’t perfect. We’ve adjusted the tension a few times so far, trying to find an ideal level where she can push her door open without too much of a “snap-back” effect. On days when she’s going in and out a lot, we loosen the tension pins enough so even a light breeze nudges the little door open and closed.
I actually keep the main screen door locked most of the time to keep her from pushing on the door and pushing the whole thing open. This works out quite well, since it also keeps the kids outside (although they are small enough to climb through the pet door if necessary, and think that’s pretty hilarious).
Now I really must make a tiny welcome mat, and maybe add a tiny mailbox for even more cuteness.