DEAR MIKE: We have a new puppy and we need to add a pet door for him. I really don't want to cut a hole in the wall for the door. Anyway, I saw a pet door insert that fits into the sliding glass door, so that there is no cutting necessary. Is this type of door a good idea? -- Martha B.
DEAR MARTHA: While the Plexiglas insert sounds like the greatest thing since sliced bread, it does have its drawbacks. I would be concerned about security. If I was a burglar and was surveying a house for entry, the easiest way in would be through that insert.
The insert is a piece of Plexiglas with a thin metal frame around its perimeter. At the bottom of the insert is an opening with a rubber flap so your dog can go in and out. You can install the insert and go beyond what the instructions tell you and screw it to the surrounding metal, but it still will be the easiest way in. It is, however, better than having stained carpeting.
Although it depends on the manufacturer, the instructions will typically tell you to install the insert in between the strike jamb and the sliding door. If you choose to use this method, be aware that you will have to remove the locking mechanism from the jamb and mount it on the side of the insert. Also, if you use this method and have a security alarm on the door, you will have to move the alarm contacts.
On a sliding glass door, you have a piece of stationary glass that is secured to the top and bottom jambs and the sliding glass door which allows passage.
I would suggest avoiding the aforementioned hassles and installing the insert between the stationary glass and the side jamb.
The insert itself is easy to install, but moving the stationary glass away from the jamb may not be. The stationary glass has a metal frame and it will have an "L" bracket at both the top and the bottom. Remove the screws that hold the brackets to the top and bottom jambs.
You will have to pull the glass along the track to give you enough width to install the insert. The width of the insert will vary depending upon the size of the pet door opening, but you shouldn't have to move it more than a foot or so. The glass may need some prodding to move. Once you get it free it will slide easily along the track.
Install the weatherstripping (included with the insert) along the sides of the insert. Just peel the backing off and stick it on.
The insert is held in place by spring tension at the top. Place the bottom of the insert into the same track as the stationary glass. Push the insert all the way over to the side jamb so that the weatherstripping is compressed.
At the top of the insert will be two knobs. Loosen the knobs until the springs push the top of the insert against the top jamb. Give the insert a final push against the jamb and tighten the knobs. Push the stationary glass back against the insert so that the weatherstripping is compressed against it. Predrill holes for the "L" brackets and screw them into place to resecure the stationary glass.
It's a good idea to secure the insert as much as possible along the perimeter (on three sides anyway). The insert will have a void between the Plexiglas and the edge of its metal frame. Use self-tapping screws and secure the frame of the insert to the lip of the door's track. Space the screws about every foot along the vertical side and at each corner.
It won't be burglary proof, but then again if you have a big, hungry dog, you shouldn't have anything to worry about anyway.