November 21, 2011

A "simple" project

Today was set to be a nice day so I decided to undertake a single "simple" project: replace the dog door to the back yard.  When we got Tessa I bought a PetSafe Electronic Dog Door.  She wears a tag that locks and unlocks the door.  Sounds great, right?  Well this $200 door lasted two winters before falling apart.  The locking mechanism has been broken for about 10 months and a couple of the teeth between the door and the part of the lock snapped off last winter.  PetSafe has a replacement door listed as available, but getting a replacement door, or any other part, is another matter.  I visited their website and sent their customer service department an email requesting assistance and have never heard back.  The easy fix would be to simply buy another $200 door, but why would I would I want to buy anything from PetSafe again?

I should also note that the door was far too drafty even when it was working and I disliked having to switch batteries so often....not to mention having to use a magnet to reset the locking switch far too often.  We needed a new door.

I managed to find a replacement at Home Depot for $100 that had two flaps and seemed much more capable of keeping the weather out.  This would be the 5th pet door I've tried to install.  The first two were cat the same door.  Now this might seem innocent, since I'm obviously replacing one door now, so maybe I had to replace a cat door.  The door going into Carolyn's office has two cat doors, one upside down at the top of the door and one where it should be at the bottom.  I thought I'd be smart and take the door off the hinges and outside to cut out the hole.  When I got it up on saw horses I also thought it would be smart to turn the door level to see which way the door was oriented since I had forgotten to mark the door before I removed it.  Little did I know that the handle can be turned up (to no effect) and down.  Doh!  There is also a third cat door going into the garage from the backyard also.

As luck would have it, even though the doors are close to the same size, the hole for the old door is much larger than what I need for the new door.  I could get a new backdoor, go through the trouble of framing it in, and then making a new hole, or I can basically use plywood to plug up the old hole, set the new dog door in it, and somewhere along the way seal in the big gap in the door.  I'll go for the "easier" and cheaper route.

I take my measurements and head off to Home Depot for some wood, sealant, bolts, and a new skill saw since my old one is MIA.  My FJ40 makes it 1/3 of the way there before my exhaust pipe breaks and the muffler comes free from the undercarriage.  I knew I needed to get a new muffler since the exhaust tip broke off and one mount was loose, but since I drive so little I really hoped it could wait until spring.  The car was undrivable with my muffler and about 6 foot of pipe resting free "down there".  Luck can sometimes be mixed.  While I was unlucky in having my muffler drop off, I was fortunate in that it happened across the street from Wal-Mart.  A quick visit inside to purchase a hacksaw and I was able to cut the exhaust pipe and extract it and my muffler.

A very loud and exhausty trip to Home Depot and back I have what I need to install the door.  There are the normal little fit issues I have to contend with, but nothing that is cause for worry....until I try to screw the door together.  Evidently the dog door is fit for use with exactly a 2" thick door.  The two pieces of plywood are too much.  I have 1/4" x 4" carriage bolts and I need something between 4.5" and 4.75".  I hop back in my loud and exhausty FJ40 feeling like a total ass for how rude I must seem to the neighbors for disturbing their peace.  A quick stop at D&B Supply yields nothing useful, which is a first for me.  They suggest I check out Industrial Hardware Idaho.  I've never been there, but I've seen signs for it while driving down Chinden. Of course as luck would have it I totally miss my turn and have to drive down the street longer than expected to find the next side street.  Guess what business is located at the next side street?

If you guessed Ammerman's Custom Exhaust you'd be right!  I decided to stop in and get an estimate.  Why's right here.  My thought process was that I'd get a second quote from another place on the way back to the house and then I could get Maggie repaired Wednesday.  Ammerman's estimate was just between my estimate and my hopeful cost, but I forgot to add in the new exhaust pipe work. When they said they could work on her immediately and be done in a little over an hour I decided I didn't need a second estimate.

Since I had roughly an hour to kill I walked back to Industrial Hardware Idaho.  I gave them my old bolt and explained I was about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch short (probably exactly 22/32 short).  They didn't have the exact size I needed, but they had longer full-thread carriage bolts I could just cut down to the proper size.  I asked for 6 so I'd have two extra if I screwed something up (Things hadn't exactly been smooth so far!) and to my surprise the guy just gave them to me.  It was probably just a $3 sale and nothing compared to their normal business, but the gesture meant a lot to me.  Maggie needs to have a lot of nuts and bolts replaced and I'd considered just buying just a bunch of some specific sizes in order to have them on-hand.  I know where I'm getting them now.

When the work was done I was able to get home and get the door finished before Carolyn came home.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to get the mess cleaned up in time, but I was in the process of putting my tools away.

I had hoped to get the door done rather quickly and have enough time to put up the outdoor Christmas lights, but the fates decided otherwise.  I'm pretty proud of myself not for accomplishing what should have been an easy task, but for not getting upset at the various problems and inconveniences that cropped up today.  Things worked themselves out in the end.  Not too bad of a day.

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