The Tao of construction: Cat versus door

February 25, 2015

When our dog Phoebe, a golden retriever, died in her 10th year, my family was distraught. Eventually, however, we decided to adopt a black cat named Jet Pepper.

One problem with having a cat in our home is that she needs somewhere to go to the bathroom, and the same folks who swore up and down to take care of that responsibility have since neglected to live up to their part of the bargain.

Cats will use a little box if it is available, but if the litter is not changed regularly enough, the cat will select a new, often secluded spot to do their business. Jet Pepper chose the space behind the clothes washer and drier in our laundry room.

Since the incident, we have enforced much more stringent behavior dealing with the cleaning schedule, but the damage is done. The cat will always see that spot as a good area to drop a deuce incognito.

After cleaning the mess, washing the carpet, and spraying anti-scents to no avail, it was time to make an even bolder move. It was time to place a door on the opening from the hallway into the laundry room.

The entire thing cost about $40 for a new door, handle kit, hinges, upper kiddie lock, and wood for framing. A portion of the frame was weak and needed shoring up before I put a door’s weight on the wall.

I removed the paneling from that part and inserted a piece of 1" x 4" sideways to add strength to the beam along the frame. Once this was secured with self-tapping interior screws, I put the paneling back on with paneling nails I salvaged from the removal process.

The handle kit included everything to get a door to shut and stay shut. What it did not come with was a guide for cutting out holes for the center bar of the handle and the bolt along the outer edge of the door.

The installation instructions came with a small diagram, though, which explained the depths and dimensions of both holes.
Using a mechanical pencil and a square I traced out a line perpendicular to the door’s edge to the middle of the circular cut out diameter.

From there I marked out a like perpendicular to that, so the hole saw I used would have a concentric placement to the centerline. I used a saw attachment on my drill, but if you have bought a door with its own cut out you can easily skip this step.

The last cut I made was the hole into the outer edge for the bolt. It required a smaller deep-socket hole saw and a steady hand to make sure it went straight in without tilting in the wrong direction.

The area around this bolt will need to be chiseled out carefully with a sharp chisel and small hammer. You can make the measurements for the space by placing the bolt as it will rest in the door and trace around it. Keep in mind that the curved part of your typical handle bolt will face into the frame when the door is open.

I also made marks for the hinges on the opposite side edge of the door so they were even and followed the direction of the handle bolt and the way the door would open. When I finished chiseling the rectangular depressions into the door, I inserted the bolt, installed the handle, and screwed down the bolt facing on the outer edge. I recommend making a small pilot hole in case the screw damages or even splits the wood of the door.

Getting the door to balance is delicate work because you have to ensure that the hinges are plumb with each other and with the frame. You also have to make sure that if you are using a toe-stopper to cover where the two floors meet, you lift your door high enough to swing without touching this, but close enough that you are not letting home heat seep out.

I cut a depression into the doorframe to fit the bolt and then installed the outer bolt plate so that the curved side faced the door, forcing the bolt to push in without pounding the frame. Lastly, I installed the outer threshold so that the door could close, but tight enough that the door rested against it when shut.

The Tao of Do-It-Yourself is intended to de-mystify simple home and auto maintenance projects. It is not a substitute for professional repair services. If you cannot identify the problem you are trying to fix, refer to the proper specialist right away.

A.T. Miller is an electrician’s apprentice who builds and wires control panels for power systems. He is also a cartoonist, writer, and web/graphic designer. At home, he is an amateur repairman, plumber, electrician, carpenter, and auto mechanic. His most important job is that of husband and father.

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