house [cropped]

Not getting in a flap

I finished early the other day, so I thought I’d have a bash at installing a cat flap in the back porch door for Mr Perkins. It’s a cheap door and a cheap cat flap. It’s kind of practice for installing the expensive microchip-controlled cat flap in the back door (that leads into the back porch from the kitchen).

doorThe whole procedure seems straightforward enough: cut an appropriately sized hole in the door and fit the cat flap. How hard could it be?

Cutting a hole low down in a door seemed like it would be easier if the door were horizontal rather than vertical. That meant removing the door and finding something appropriate to prop said door on while cutting said hole. This presented me with two problems: how one removes a door and what to rest the door on while I sawed.

I’d seen sawhorses in Homebase before, so I thought I’d buy a pair. I was faced with a choice of buying two fancy ones at £52 per single sawhorse or a pair of cheapy plastic ones for just under £30 per pair. I went for the cheap ones. That seemed easy enough.

Before I took the door off, I wondered how high up the door to put the hole. The instructions on the cat flap said to put the bottom of it level with the cat’s stomach. That made sense. Conveniently, the cat appeared just then, so I grabbed him, held him against the door against his will, shoved a pencil against his belly and drew a line on the door. Then I used a spirit level to draw a horizontal line at the height of Mr Perkins’ belly so the cat flap wouldn’t be wonky.

Ignoring Colin’s suggestion that I wait till the weekend, when I’ve got all day to do it, I looked at the door’s hinges and wondered about unscrewing them. That seemed a bother; surely there’s a better way. Google told me there was: hinge pins. You just bang a long nail into the hinge at the bottom and the hinge pin pops out at the top, then you just pull. Job done. Nothing in this house is so simple, however. I banged a nail into the hinge, but the hinge is so rusty and painted over, and the long nails I have aren’t ideal. It was back to unscrewing the hinges. I got Colin to hold the door while I unscrewed the hinges from the door frame. I chose those ones, not the ones in the door because I thought the frame would move less than the door. The screws came out surprisingly easily. Door removed, we put it on the sawhorses, which I’d put out ready, and I drew round the cat flap template.

The next step was to make the hole in the door. The part I’d been dreading. The part I was afraid of. I had to use power tools; I had never used a power tool in my life before. That’s because I’m afraid of them. They’re scary. I had to use a drill and a jigsaw. The plan was to drill a hole big enough to put the jigsaw blade in, then use the jigsaw to cut the hole. I donned safety glasses and a dust mask and some gloves for power tools. Then I picked up the drill.

After some guidance from Colin, who has used the drill before, I made some holes in the door with the drill. Using the drill became less scary after a little while. I put the drill down and got out the jigsaw. The jigsaw is a scary beast. Seriously scary. I read the instructions before I did anything, then I failed to insert the blade. Colin arrived with a cuppa at that point, conveniently, and eventually got the blade in. He went away, and I read again about how to do jigsawing.

cuts in doorI put the blade in the newly drilled hole, pulled the trigger, and turned the speed dial up and up and up — very slowly. The jigsaw blade went immensely fast, and I made slow but steady progress along the pencil line, guided by a laser beam. I got to the end of the straight edge, and realised there was a problem: the door has panels, and the wood around the panels is not flush with the panels on the inside of the door. If I’d drawn the lines on the outside of the door, there would be no problem. Not to be put off, I thought I’d drill some holes along the opposite side of the cat flap, and then saw along there. I’d cross the corners and top and bottom bridges when I came to them. While I was drilling the new holes, the drill kept cutting out: the battery was dying. Well, it’s not like I’d made sure it was charged up or anything. This meant I could make no further process with the cat flap.

I got Colin to hold up the back door while I screwed all the screws back in the hinges. I’d expected them to be a bother to get back in, but they went back in easily enough.

The sky was threatening rain, so I thought I’d better cover the holes in the door, otherwise the damp would get in and swell the wood into the holes. I didn’t think gaffer tape would be the best thing, because it might strip what’s left of the the varnish on the door off. I reckoned masking tape must be waterproof, otherwise paint would go straight through it, and it’s designed to leave paint and stuff on the surface when you remove it. I fetched the masking tape and covered the holes with it. Now we have a brown door with yellow strips on it. Lovely.

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