We have been getting calls recently from people who have been shopping around and they are questioning whether it is possible to install an aluminum pet door into a vinyl sliding glass door. Apparently another company is telling people that this doesn't work. This blog post and the accompanying video will show the common issues that people run into and solutions to them. It is possible to use an aluminum panel in a vinyl slider, and in fact the spring loaded aluminum panels are easier to install than the vinyl pet doors.
Your Existing Door Lock Will Not Function
While it is true that your door lock won't work, it's no different than installing a spring loaded pet door on an aluminum door. Most spring loaded aluminum doors (all of the ones that we sell) are what we call a "temporary" install, which means that they are not screwed to the door frame. If you did lock the slider to the pet door that wasn't screwed in, it wouldn't be secure at all; a thief could just pull really hard and slide the pet door over in the track and walk right in. For this reason all of our spring loaded panels don't use the existing sliding door lock and instead they come with an auxiliary door lock. Some use a lock that clamps to the track behind the door, others use a pin lock. If you don't like those options, you can order a Wedgit Charlie bar which is kind of like the broomstick behind the door method, but it can be installed at a more comfortable height, and also can really push the slider into the pet door for a better seal.
It is necessary to remove the existing door latch from the wall side. They are usually held in with phillips head screws. On rare occasion the latches are not removable, and in that case a dog door simply won't work.
Thickness of The Track Vs Thickness of the Pet Door
Vinyl sliding glass doors will typically be 1.5" thick. The most commonly used pet door for this kind of installation is the Thermo Panel 3e and it is .800" thick down the sides. While there will be an obvious mismatch in the thickness of the doors, that doesn't mean that the installation won't work. So long as you get a good seal on the surface that you have, it will be weather tight. As in any sliding glass panel installation, you may have to adjust the wheels in the slider so that the pet door and the slider meet up square with each other. If you need more help with that, this video covers all of the basics of properly installing a spring loaded pet door.
Most vinyl doors have a 3/4" wide, flat section that sticks out of the top, side, and bottom of the track. The top of the Thermo Panel 3e pet door happens to have a slot which fits right over that 3/4" rail. Down the wall side, the .8" wide panel will match the rail in the wall. On the opposite side the pet door will butt up against the slider, and the weather strip that you apply to the edge of the pet door will plug into the slot in the edge of the slider frame. Three sides down, one to go, and this is where it can get a little tricky.
Putting a 3/4" Thick Dog Door Panel on a 3/4" Thick Vinyl Sliding Door Rail
The bottom rail of a vinyl door usually has the same 3/4" flat vinyl rail as the other sides, with an additional steel or aluminum track that the wheels ride on perched on top. If your door is like most and has this rail, you can just set the notch in the bottom of the pet door on top of that rail and call it a day. No additional hassle is required. If your door has the flat rail with no steel or aluminum track on top, then you have an issue. There is nothing to capture the door, so it can slide in or out and potentially fall out. The solution to this problem is to get another top piece and stick it on the bottom. Just as the top of the door plugged onto the rail, it will also plug onto the bottom. This part is called a "topper" and can be purchased separately for the Thermo Panel 3e.
One issue with using the topper on the bottom is that you will have to have a at least 7" rise on the pet door to fit the topper under the pet door as delivered. The topper can be cut down if needed to fit a shorter rise. Cutting thin aluminum is not difficult, but you will need to have a jigsaw or band saw to do it, and a metal cutting blade is not necessary. Aluminum will cut with a wood blade. If you don't have the tools, we can cut the piece for you. We charge $25 for this service, plus shipping to return it to you.