How to Remove a Dog Door From a Wood Door and Repair the Damage
Do you want to know how to remove a dog door from a wood door and then repair the damage to that door?
You’re in the right spot.
I need to caution you. This is not a beginner woodworking project, but it is totally doable with patience and the right tools.
We had a solid wood door that we deemed was worth the effort to remove the dog door and repair the hole that had been cut into the door to make way for the dog door.
Here are the steps we took to return this door to its (almost) original glory.
Step #1: Unscrew the dog door and remove all the door components.
The dog door may be screwed in on both sides of the door, so check for that if you are having difficulty. Once the screws are out, the frame should just pop out of the door.
Then you’ll be left with something charming like this…
Step #2: Assess the Damage and Make a Plan
This may be the part of the process where you say, “Heck, no!” and proceed to reinstall the dog door or just buy a new door all together. There’s no shame in that game.
If you still want to move ahead, you need to assess how your door was constructed and come up with a repair plan. As you can see from the below picture, our door had the typical tongue and groove construction. We suspected some wood pegs had also been used to secure the various door panels together.
Every door is different, so the steps in your repair plan might look a little different than ours. Also, you might come up with a better way of doing things!
We’ll assume you’ve already purchased materials to repair the door. If not, now is the time to take measurements (use the existing door pieces as a guide), make a cut list, and purchase any needed lumber or other supplies.
Step #3: Remove Any Parts of the Door You Won’t Reuse
Instead of trying to repair just the hole left by the dog door, our plan was to rebuild the bottom third of the door.
That meant we had to cut out all the parts of the door that we weren’t saving.
This is the “it gets worse before it gets better” phase. Yes, it’s going to be a little painful.
Repeat after me:
“It’s fine. Everything is fine.”
This might look worse, but at least we have a clean slate to work with.
As you can see, we left the lock stile and hinge stile in place. Those are the vertical strips of wood that run up the entire outside length of the door.
If you look closely at the below photo, you can see the groove where all the panels slid into the outer door frame (the lock and hinge stile). You can also see the wood pegs at the very bottom of the door. Those pegs will need to be drilled out to make room for the new pegs.
After the wood pegs are drilled out, you may need to clean up the existing groove.
We used a hand router to do this work.
Step #4: Cut, Sand, and Dry Fit New Door Panels
This will be different for every door, but our door needed four new pieces: two panels, one mullion, and one bottom rail.
We made two new inset panels from 1/4-inch plywood.
The vertical center support that goes between the two inset panels and is called a mullion and was made from a 2×4.
The bottom rail was made from a 2×12.
Step #5: Secure the Bottom Panel with Wood Pegs
With your door pieces dry fitted together, add clamps to the pieces so they won’t move while you drill through where you want the wood pegs to be.
We used 1/2-inch dowels for our wood pegs. There were four pegs on each side of the door. The length of your pegs will vary based on your door, but ours were approximately 8 inches long.
It’s important to note that when this door was originally constructed, the pegs would have been drilled into the lock and hinge stile from the INSIDE of each stile. Because we couldn’t remove the lock and hinge stile from the door in order to clamp it all back together, we had to drill the holes for the wood pegs starting from the OUTSIDE of each stile.
That means we drilled all the way through each door stile multiple times in order to be able to insert new wood pegs. Technically, this might compromise the strength of the door a little, but not enough for us to worry about in this situation.
Once the peg holes are drilled, you’ll take all your panels apart one more time. Then you’ll reassemble them using wood glue.
After that, you can tap your wood pegs into place with a hammer. Make sure you use a little wood glue in each peg hole as well.
Step #6: Added Finishing Touches
We added quarter round to the inside of the inset panels to trim them out.
This isn’t a necessary step, but it looks nice and hides any imperfections that might exist between the panel joints.
Step #7: Wood Putty, Sand, and Paint
You’re almost done! After all the wood glue on all your joints have dried, it is time to use wood putty to fill in any holes or cracks in your door.
Since this was an exterior door, we made sure to select a wood putty that was designed for exterior use.
When the wood putty has dried, you can sand the door smooth.
You can paint the door now or wait until it is installed. We waited until it was installed to paint and you’ll see why in the next picture.
If you are staining the door, our tip is to mix the wood putty with the stain you are using to darken the wood putty to your desired stain color. Dried wood putty doesn’t always take the stain the same as regular wood does. By mixing the wood putty and stain together before you apply the wood putty, you have a better chance of blending the transition between the wood puttied areas and the solid wood.
Step #8: Reinstall the Door
Now is the time to cross your fingers and reinstall the door.
Because we had left the outer parts of the door (the lock and hinge stile) in place, that meant we reused the existing hinges and did not need to drill holes for the hinge screws.
This door needed some adjustments even before we took the dog door out, so we took this opportunity to make sure that it wasn’t catching on the doorframe. As you can see, it needed some sanding.
Step #9: Pat Yourself on the Back for a Job Well Done
You can’t even tell that this door used to have a gaping hole in it!
And one more shot from the inside because we’re still celebrating this door transformation over here!
Not even that scratched up trim around the door can dampen our enthusiasm!
One project at a time, folks. One project at a time.
It’s nice to have this door restored to what we imagine would have been something close to its original glory.
Eventually, we will get new hardware, but for now, we’re just happy to not have cold air gushing in through that dog door now that the temperatures have dropped to freezing!
If you try removing a dog door from a wood door and repairing the damage – let us know how it goes. We’d love to see your work.
Some of the Tools and Supplies Used in This Dog Door Removal Project:
Ridgid (Hand Router) Cordless Fixed Based Router
Diablo Sanding Disc in a variety of grits
Ridgid Cordless Oscillating Tool
Thanks for being here today! I hope this post inspired you to take on a project of your own. Here are some other posts you might enjoy.
Built In DIY Wood Computer Desks
“Erase” Wood Scratches on a Dresser Top Without Sanding
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Nice work Handy Husband! You’ve got skills!