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How to Build a Dog Crate

This functional dog crate keeps Fido at bay—and makes a great end table too

Though your grown-up pup might still enjoy the security of his training crate, there's just no good place to put that ugly metal cage. Once he's past the chewing stage, build him a decorative furniture piece from wood that doubles as a safe haven when your pooch wants to curl up for a snooze. This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers created a design that incorporates a reproduction heating grate and decorative cabinetry grille, so you can easily use it as a side table in a living space while your furry friend slumbers inside. Keep reading to see how he put it together.

Reproduction floor heating grate: The Renovator's Supply, about $99

Decorative cabinet grille: Van Dyke's Restorers, about $109

Step 1

Overview for Building a Dog Crate

Illustration by Jennifer Stimpson

Cut List

Our crate measures 21½ inches high x 19¾ inches wide x 25 inches deep at the base. Make sure yours is large enough so your dog can stand up, turn around, and lie down in it comfortably.

½-inch plywood side panels – 2 @ 24 x 21 inches

½-inch plywood back panel – 1 @ 18¼ x 21 inches

½-inch plywood top – 1 @ 22¼ x 27½ inches

5.2mm Lauan plywood floor – 1 @ 18¼ x 23½ inches

1x4 door-frame bottom rail – 1 @ 11½ inches

1x3 door-frame top rail – 1 @ 11½ inches

1x3 door-frame stiles – 2 @ 17 5/8 inches

1x2 face-frame top and bottom rails – 2 @ 16¾ inches

1x2 face-frame stiles – 2 @ 21 inches

¼ x 2 center stiles for side panel windows – 2 @ 11¼ inches

¼ x 2 rails for side panel windows – 8 @ 9¾ inches

¼ x 2 rails for back panel window – 3 @ 14¾ inches

¼ x 2 bottom rails – 2 @ 21 inches

¼ x 2 corner stiles – 4 @ 21 inches

¼ x 3 back corner stiles – 2 @ 21 inches

¾-inch square dowels – Get four 3-foot lengths

¾-inch square dowels for vertical face frame cleats – 2 @ 19¼ inches

¾-inch square dowels for horizontal face frame cleat – 1 @ 16¾ inches

¾-inch square dowels for side panel floor supports – 4 @ 11 3/8 inches

¾-inch square dowels for back panel floor supports – 1 @ 16¾ inches

¾-inch square dowels for center floor support – 1 @ 18¼ inches

3/8-inch square dowels – Get five 3-foot lengths

3/8-inch square dowels for trimming interior of grate (horizontal) on side panels – 4 @ cut to size

3/8-inch square dowels for trimming interior of grate (vertical) on side and back panels – 6 @ cut to size

3/8-inch square dowels for trimming interior of grate (horizontal) on back panel – 2 @ cut to size

1 5/8-inch crown molding – 4 @ miter to size

½-inch oak glass bead molding – 4 @ cut to size

Step 2

Cut All the Pieces

Photo by Laura Moss

Using a miter saw, cut all pieces to length according to the cut list, except for those that will be cut to size.

Step 3

Assemble the Doorframe

Photo by Laura Moss

Apply wood glue to the ends of the 1x3 top rail and 1x4 bottom rail. Clamp them between the 1x3 stiles, flush with their ends. At each corner, drill angled pilot holes through the edges of the top and bottom rails and into the stiles. Secure the frame through the pilot holes with 3-inch finish-head screws.

Step 4

Nail Corner Blocks into the Doorframe

Photo by Laura Moss

Place the decorative grate on top of the doorframe so that its lip rests inside the frame's edges. Then flip the frame and grate over, so that the grate's decorative side faces up within the doorframe. Cut four triangular corner blocks from 1x2 oak for the frame's interior to hold the grate in place. Apply wood glue to the corner edges of each block, hold them flush against the corner of the grate, and nail them to the adjoining pieces of the frame using a pneumatic brad nailer and 1 3/8 inch brad nails. Remove the grate, fill fastener holes with wood filler, and sand down the projecting faces of the corner blocks till they're flush with the rest of the frame. Finish the doorframe with a coat of shellac.

Step 5

Attach the Grate

Photo by Laura Moss

Once the shellac dries, replace the grate on the door frame's interior side. Drill pilot holes through the installation holes at the grate's corners and into the corner blocks. Secure the grate to the frame using 1-inch drywall screws.

Step 6

Build the Face Frame

Photo by Laura Moss

Lay the four 1x2 pieces of the face frame flat on a work surface. Apply glue to the ends of the top and bottom rails and sandwich them between the sides, flush with their ends. Drill pilot holes through the outside edges of the sides and into the ends of the top and bottom rails. Secure the frame using 3-inch finish screws.

Step 7

Attach the Face-Frame Cleats

Photo by Laura Moss

You'll add cleats to the stiles and bottom rail of the interior of the face frame, where the crate's side panels will be attached later on. Glue and nail the bottom cleat to the bottom rail, flush with its outer edge and even with its ends. Then glue and nail cleats to the stiles, so that the long sides are flush with the inside edge of the frame and their ends are ¾ inch from the top of the frame.

Step 8

Mark and Cut the Windows for the Sides and Back

Photo by Laura Moss

On each side and back panel, draw two horizontal lines, one 1 1/8 inch from the top edge and one 10 inches from the top edge. Then on the side panels, draw vertical lines 1 1/8 inch from the side of each panel to connect the horizontal lines and form a rectangle. On the back panel, draw these vertical lines 1 3/8 inches from each side. Using a drill/driver fitted with a 5/16-inch drill bit, drill a pilot hole at the corner of each rectangle. Clamp each panel over the edge of a work surface, and, starting from the pilot holes, cut out the windows.

Step 9

Trim the Windows of the Side and Back Panels

Photo by Laura Moss

For each side panel, place the vertical center stile in the middle of the window, with the top end is flush with the panel's top edge. Place four rails on each side of the center stile, so they're flush with its top and bottom ends (these will overhang the window's edges by 3/8 inch, creating a lip for the grille inserts to sit against). Place the bottom rail flush with the bottom edge of the panel. Place the corner stiles alongside the rails, flush with the side edges of the panel.

On the back panel, place the corner stiles so that 1¾ inches of its width rests on the panel and the remaining 1 inch extends beyond the side of the panel. (This creates a place for attaching the side panels to the back when the crate is assembled.) Lay the rails between the stiles, so that the top one is flush with the panel's top and the bottom edge of the middle one is 11¼ inches from the top. Then lay the bottom stile flush with the panel's bottom edge.

Glue all but the corner stiles in place. Once the glue is dry, flip the panels over and secure trim to the panels by nailing through the panel into the trim using 5/8-inch brad nails.

Step 10

Secure the Grilles to the Side and Back Panels

Photo by Laura Moss

Use tin snips or heavy-duty wire-cutters to cut the grilles to fit the interior of each window. Hold them in place with stops cut from 3/8-inch square dowels. Using a brad nailer and 1 3/8 inch brad nails, secure the dowels to the interior edges of the panel cutouts.

Step 11

Attach the Floor Supports

Photo by Laura Moss

On the interior of the side panels, use the nailer and 1 3/8-inch brads to nail two 11 3/8-inch-long ¾-inch dowels flush with the bottom edge of the panel leaving a ¾ inch space in the center between the two. (Use a scrap piece of ¾-inch dowel between the ones you're nailing in place as a spacer for the floor support that will be installed perpendicular to the side panels.) On the interior of the back panel, center and install a ¾-inch dowel so that it's ¾ inch from each end of the panel.

Step 12

Mark and Drill Pilot Holes on the Side Panels

Photo by Laura Moss

On the exterior face of each side panel, where the corner stile trim pieces will later be attached, you'll need to drill countersinks for the assembly screws. On the side that will fasten to the face frame, draw a vertical line ¾ inch from the edge. Using a drill/driver fitted with a #6 countersink bit, drill pilot holes centered between the edge of the panel and the line, near the top, middle, and bottom of the panel. On the side that will fasten to the edge of the back panel, draw a ½-inch line from the edge, and center your pilot holes within this space.

Step 13

Attach the Sides to the Face Frame

Photo by Laura Moss

Apply glue to the outside edge of the cleat on the backside of the face frame. Position the edge of the side panel, trim side facing out, against the cleat on the backside of the face frame. Hold the corner together with a clamp, then drive 1-inch screws through the pilot holes to attach the panel to the cleat. Repeat for the second side.

Step 14

Insert the Floor

Photo by Laura Moss

Glue the ends of the center floor support dowel and set it in place between the side panels, fitting the ends into the spaces between the floor supports. Slide the Lauan floor panel into place on top of the supports, making sure to fit it beneath the ends of the vertical cleats of the face frame.

Step 15

Attach the Back Panel and Trim the Corners

Photo by Laura Moss

Apply glue to the side edges of the back panel and set it in place between the back ends of the side panels, making sure the floor rests on the back floor support. Hold the box together with clamps, then fasten the side panels by driving 1-inch screws through the countersunk pilot holes into the side edges of the back panel. Once the sides, back, and front are secured, install the stiles on the side panels. Then install the wider stiles on the back of the crate, overlapping the back edges of the side stiles.

Step 16

Create Blocking for the Top

Photo by Laura Moss

Cut four triangles for corner blocks from 1x3 oak. Drill a countersink pilot hole in the center of each corner block and glue them to each corner of the crate, flush with the top edge of the assembly. Secure them through each adjoining surface using 1 3/8-inch nails.

Step 17

Attach and Trim the Top

Photo by Laura Moss

Center the top on the assembly so that there is equal overhang on all four sides. Attach it by driving 1-inch drywall screws up through the corner blocks in the underside. Trim the top's edges with ½-inch glass bead molding mitered to fit, using glue and the nailer with 5/8-inch brads to attach it to the top. Miter and install the crown molding below the glass bead molding, using the nailer and 1 3/8-inch brads to attach it to the underside of the top and to the exterior of each side of the crate.

Step 18

Install the Pivot Hinge Flanges on the Face Frame

Photo by Laura Moss

Measure and drill holes for the pivot hinge flanges inside the face frame, ¾ inch from the frame's inside edge. Set the pivot hinge flanges into the pilot holes.

Step 19

Install the Door

Photo by Laura Moss

Choose which side of the door you would like showing on the outside—the smooth silhouetted side of the grate, or the textured scroll recessed within the frame. Slide the door between the pivot hinge hardware, then shut and adjust it until it's centered in the frame. Gently reopen the door and hold it steady as you drill pilot holes into the adjustable slots in the hardware. Fasten the door in place with the provided screws. Check the door swing, and adjust if necessary by loosening the set screws and moving it further in or out of the pivot hinge flanges.

Step 20

Attach the Latch and Finish the Crate

Photo by Laura Moss

Hold the latch centered on the door, opposite the pivot hinges, and mark its position on the door and the face frame. Drill pilot holes and attach the latch using a screwdriver and the fasteners provided. Fill nail and screw holes with stainable filler. Sand the crate with fine-grit sandpaper. Finish the crate with a coating of shellac to bring out the grain of the wood. Place the plastic tray inside, and add a cushion to help your pooch stay cozy.