Is Your New Patio Pet Door Panel Going to Fit When You Try to Install It?

Sometimes There's Only One Place to Put the New Pet Door:  Next to the Sliding Glass Door

And yet.....What if it doesn't fit when it gets there?  If you follow these steps, you can be sure that what FedEx drops off is going to fit on the first try.

Step 1 - Measure the Height of Your Sliding Glass Door Track

You'd be surprised how many people skip this step assuming that what they have must be 'standard'.  It is true that sliding glass door tracks tend to cluster in particular height ranges. 78" to 80" is one such range. But there are several other common ranges. And there are a great many sliding glass doors that don't fall into any particular 'standard' range. Don't take the chance! Measure and here's how:  Put the end of your measuring tape up inside the track at the top as high as it will go and measure down a convenient distance and draw a line with a pencil.  Then put the end of the tape down into the track at the bottom of the track as deep as it will go and measure up to that line. Add the two together. The result will be very accurate.  PS - Why not measure all at once?  Well, you'll be trying to measure the tape where it's curving and you can't be very sure where it's actually ending. Then, when you look at the various pet door height adjustment ranges, you may very well find that the measurement you've taken is quite close to the limit specified or even outside that limit. Now what? Answer:  Go back and do it right. Might as well the first time.  Write that number down so you've got it handy.

Step 2 - Measure Your Pet(s)

Please don't pay attention to pet door manufacturers that say things like 'dogs to 60 lbs' or 'pet doors for German Shepherds'. That's just plain foolishness from someone that doesn't know his business. You have to measure! And then you have to exercise your judgement about the needs of your pets. You'll find more detailed information at 'Measure Your Pet' so we're not going to repeat that here. Suffice to say that if you skip this step you'll probably buy a pet door larger or smaller than you really need. 

When you're done, you should be able to say how wide the flap needs to be, how tall you want the opening above the ground and how low you'd like the step-over to be.

That said, you've got one more step if you want to be sure. Simulate the opening--it's easy if you have a roll of duct tape and an open doorway--and call the pet through several times.  That's where you'll be able to judge if you're correct with your measurements and you'll have a chance to apply some corrections if needed.  For example, if you're dog thinks he needs to do a little hop going through, you'll want to give him some more height. If you just think that it should be a bit wider why, then, it should be! Make it a bit wider. In the end, it's your judgement that matters in a situation that inevitably has a subjective element to it. There just isn't a black and white rule that you can blindly follow. We can get you close; but you're going to have to make the final decision. Sorry.

Step 3 - Check to See if the Framing on your Slider is Vinyl

There are some patio pet doors specifically designed for vinyl-framed sliding glass doors. If that's what you have then we think you should start with these as they have some decided advantages which we'll discuss in a minute. If you don't have a vinyl slider, skip this step becase these pet doors aren't going to work for you.  Also, keep in mind that there are some possible reasons for not choosing one of these particular patio pet doors and, in that case, you'll want to move onto the next step also. Finally, skip this step if you can't be sure whether you've got vinyl framing or not. Note - a handyman can certainly tell you.

Here are the pet doors we think you should consider if you've got vinyl framing and "Hat's Off'" to Ideal Pet Products for designing them! They are the Ideal VIP, the Ideal VPP and the Ideal VIP Cat Flap.  You'll find them all on our page devoted to Ideal Patio Pet Doors .Remember that Ideal also makes non-vinyl framed patio pet doors so don't mix those up. Stick with the three we've mentioned here for now.

So, what are the advantages of choosing one of these vinyl-framed Ideal pet panels for your vinyl-framed slider?

  • They 'look' better - A vinyl-framed patio pet door just naturally seems more appropriate for a vinyl-framed slider. The thickness will be more similar and the look and feel of the pet door will match more closely.
  • They'll mate to your lock - Ideal has figured out a way to adapt their patio panels to accept the locking mechanism of 'most' vinyl-framed sliding glass doors. You'll need to look at the installation directions we provide for a four-color picture of the specific lock mechanisms they work with to be certain. This is a huge point!  Although any pet door you buy will have some way to lock your slider, in no other case will your existing lock work with the pet door!
  • You'll Avoid Some Specific Fitting Problems - In addition to the locking mechanism being taken care of, you won't have to be concerned with whether the rail might be a problem (See below).

    Ok. Why Might You Not Choose One of These? 

    • You're measured height isn't in the range -  Your height measurement must always fit the adjustment range given.
    • The flap dimensions offered aren't appropriate for your pet - There are only a few sizes offered here and this is really important.
    • The installation is too difficult -  A handyman won't have any problem at all because no patio pet door is difficult. However, these are at the 'hard' end of the range. You can review the installation instructions to judge for yourself.
    • You want a temporary installation - These Ideal pet doors are not intended to take in and out. You install them and leave them until you want to get rid of them.
    • They're too expensive - There are cheaper patio pet doors than the ones you'll find in this group.
    • The pet door is going to require that you move your security system contacts and you don't want to do that - See below for a solution to this problem.

      If you've checked out the vinyl-framed pet doors and are happy with what you've found, you're done! Skip to Step 5 to think about some specific issues.


      Step 4 - Either You Don't Have a Vinyl-Framed Slider or You Aren't Happy with the Vinyl-Framed Pet Door Solutions

      No worries. So long as you pay attention to the height measurement that you've already taken, to pet door opening dimension requirements that you've already settled on and a couple of potential installation issues that we'll lay out below, you're going to find something that will do just fine.  Here are the remaining installation issues to think about:

      • See if your home security system is affected - If it is, then usually the solution is to set up a second set of contacts so that the security system works with the pet door in place and also when it's been removed. You'll probably need your alarm company to do this for you. Alternatively, you may be able to move the stationary panel to one side and install the pet door between it and the opposite jamb. 
      • Check the locking mechanism of your slider - Some locking devices mount on the inside face of the sliding glass door. These aren't a problem.  Others are built into the center of the edge of the slider. The ones mounted in the center of the edge are going to mate to some hardware in the jamb of your sliding glass door. That hardware is going to be in the way of your pet door sliding up tightly against your jamb for a good seal against the weather. You've got three possible solutions
      1. You can simply remove the hardware in the jamb. You'll use a phillips-head screwdriver to do this. Remember, the pet door is going to come with an alternative locking method that doesn't rely on the locking mechanism the sliding glass door uses.
      2. You can move the stationary panel and install the pet door between it and the other jamb. In this case, not only will your present locking method continue to work, you'll also avoid any modifications to your security system. However, you will lose the ability to have a temporary--put it in when you want and take it out when you want--installation.
      3. We've had some unusually capable people modify the pet door to fit over the hardware instead of removing it. We're not going to suggest this one. You're on your own if you try.
        • Check your rail - Sliding glass doors roll on two wheels which ride on a rail. Usually this rail is metal, short--around, say, 3/8" tall, and narrow--say 1/8" thick.  Any pet door your purchase will straddle this rail with no problems. Sometimes, however, this rail isn't this common type.  If you encounter a 3/4" wide rail, for example, or any rail markedly different from what we're describing, the pet door won't straddle it and you've got a problem. We'll talk about problems below.

        If the issues noted here all check out then you're in business. Please, however, review Step 5 where we'll bring up some issues to think about that are more general.


        Step 5 - A Few More Things to Think About 

        • Shall I get single pane or dual pane glass? The glass in your house--unless it's pretty old or in Florida--is dual pane for a reason. Dual pane glass insulates much better than single pane and, as well, attenuates noise much better. If you're going to live with the pet door for a long time or if you're planning 4 season use, it might be worth it to get dual pane.  If you'll be moving soon or if you live in a temperate area, single pane may be just fine.
        • What's Low 'e'?  Low 'e' glass has a coating inside the insulated glass unit that greatly improves the uv resistance and thermal efficiency of the glass. You can't get low 'e' for single pane glass.
        • What if my slider isn't in a height range offered? You'll need a 'custom height' patio pet door. You can get the Hale patio panels and the Thermo Panel IIIe in just about any height including very short for a sliding window. The Ideal Fast Fit may be had with an optional height extension for heights above 80" but these cannot be had in heights shorter than 75".
        • How do I lock my house?  If you're getting a vinyl-framed pet door we've already answered that question. Your pet door is (probably) going to mate to the lock on your sliding glass door. If you're getting a metal framed pet door, then you'll be getting an ancillary lock with it. Generally, these are dead bolt locks that reuire installation at the top of the sliding glass door or in the bottom track. In both cases the results are probably going to be fine. However, there is a better method. Get a 'Charley Bar'. These are a commercial version of the old 'broomstick in the track' idea but mount at about waist height. Because they're closer to the center of the slider height, they provide more even pressure against the pet door and will result in a better seal. At this writing no patio pet door comes standard with a 'Charlie Bar'.
        • Do I want to match my frame color? Most of the time we think so. However, there's one circumstance where you might not want to. If you have bronze--very dark brown--framing, the additional pet door framing in bronze will stand out quite a bit. If you purchase a satin frame pet door you'll see it less and you might like it more. 
        • What if I have two glass panels and they both slide?  Nothing changes except that you can more easily choose which end to install the pet door.
        • What if I have four glass panels and the center two slide together? First check to see if you might move one of the two stationary panels to the side and install between it and its corresponding jamb. If that doesn't work for you then you'll neeed to install one of the temporary installation type pet doors--a spring-load like the Ideal Fast Fit or the Thermo Panel IIIe--by moving one panel to the side.  Then you'll need two dead-bolt type locks to hold each sliding panel against the pet door.
        • I'm moving soon. Is this thing going to travel with me?  If your measured height is in the range 78" - 80" then cross your fingers and spring for the better model. Chances are pretty good that it's going to fit your next house if it has a sliding glass door. Outside that range it's a long shot.
        • What if I've Mis-Measured?  It happens. What is more common, though, is that your measurement is very close to (or even a little below) the bottom of the adjustment range of the pet door you want.  In this case you may have a problem even though your measurement is in the adjustment range. This is because the pet door needs to get a little shorter to get up and over the bottom rail to get into the track.  If it's already close to it's shortest adjustment range, it may not be able to get short enough to actually be installable.  The opposite problem is when your measurement is at or a little above the top of the adjustment range. We recommend a discussion with our customer service department in both these cases. However, we also should mention that the Thermo Panel IIIe has an 'anti whoops' feature that addresses both these problems.

          Final Thoughts

          We're sorry if this sounds like building a space shuttle. It's the nature of the sliding glass door world that there are some issues to be sure of before you buy or you may end up having to send it back. We hope we've helped to avoid that problem. If there is anything at all unclear about this text, please call our BBB A+ rated customer service department and let us help you be sure of getting it right on the first try.

          Also, if you have some additional issues you'd like to see addressed here or some text you'd like to see change, we'd very much appreciate your comments!! Just email to and it will get attended to post haste.