I'm trying to make a pet house but I'd rather deal with something warmer than wood. Bonus points if it's light and easy to cut.

See this question for project details.

  • 1
    How durable does this need to be? Painted rigid foam insulation is an idea if that doesn't sound too crazy to you.
    – JPhi1618
    Nov 13, 2019 at 18:45
  • 3
    The fact of the matter is that no amount of insulation does any good if the door is wide open. R-value is meaningless with uninhibited airflow. Loose fill material which can be used as a sort of nest and replaced as needed is the best approach. Something biodegradable and not too unsightly (because it will end up blowing around the neighborhood) is ideal, such as straw.
    – isherwood
    Nov 13, 2019 at 19:18
  • 1
    In that case it will be the straw that provides them with some insulation right where they make contact with it, the R value of the sides of the box is relatively irrelevant. Foam board has little to no structural strength, it's not meant to. If you want to though, build your box with wood and LINE IT with the foam board.
    – JRaef
    Nov 13, 2019 at 20:22
  • 2
    a foam insulation on the ground would be helpful: conduction moves heat 900X faster than convection. I think a PVC frame and 1" styrofoam would be durable enough for several years if painted to protect from UV.
    – dandavis
    Nov 13, 2019 at 20:29
  • 1
    That's a clever design idea, but be aware of the slight chance of asphyxiation. Some small air venting near the top is probably wise.
    – isherwood
    Nov 14, 2019 at 14:01

4 Answers 4


SIP panel dog house

I've built some dog houses using SIPs (structural insulated panels). They usually have about 6 inches of foam on the bottom and 2 inches sides and top. All of the materials are salvaged (except the electric floor warmer). I like to keep the bottom off the ground so that snow melt can't get things wet.

SIPs are a sandwich of plywood-foam-plywood (or OSB). Making custom SIPs for a dog house takes some basic carpentry skills, and a of couple week-ends.

One of the most common mistakes, in my opinion, is making the shelter to large for the animal. Another is inadequate insulation and/or water proofing, especially the roof and floor.

Good small dog or cat shelters can be made from old insulated Coleman type picnic coolers. Line the interior with carpet and cut an entrance hole in one end. Even the very best pet shelters need to be monitored for temp and moisture. I am glad to share detailed thoughts with anyone interested in the topic of pet shelters.

  • Not mentioned but putting a clear piece of plastic or something else over the front hole that can flap back and forth helps as well. Just have to teach them a time or 2 that they can go through. Dec 19, 2019 at 19:54
  • I've had the same thought, along the lines of those overlapping strips of clear vinyl that are used for doorways in large commercial coolers. If I come up with something I will post a picture of it.
    – Charles
    Dec 20, 2019 at 18:24

I've found that Azek board/PVC board often fills these criteria, but they can sometimes be hard to get ahold of in the right quantities.


One option that I've seen some rescues use is to stack two storage totes. The idea is to take a large tote line it with rigid insulation and insert a smaller tote inside. Cut an access hole through all the layers and you've got yourself an instant cat shelter.

enter image description here

  • I build similar shelters from old insulated picnic coolers. I cut an entrance hole in one end of the cooler (jig saw), and line interior with carpet. Expanding spray foam works to hold the carpet backing to the cooler's insides. The lids on most coolers will let rain run inside, so I either turn the cooler upside down and/or seal the lid shut with silicone chalk.
    – Charles
    Nov 14, 2019 at 21:44

"Is there a building material that can be cut and glued, can be used outside, and provides good insulation?"

The practical answer is: No, there isn't such a building material.

  • 1
    This isn't an accurate statement. Wall panels exist that would be appropriate. They're not necessarily readily available or inexpensive in small quantities, but they exist.
    – isherwood
    Nov 14, 2019 at 13:59
  • What type of "wall panels"? Can you be more specific?
    – Charles
    Nov 14, 2019 at 21:27
  • For example. For another.
    – isherwood
    Nov 15, 2019 at 2:03
  • I called MBCI. the first example provided by isherwood. Their least expensive insulated panels are $40 per sq. ft., and require a minimum. The representative laughed when I said I wanted to build a dog house because their minimum orders would make for a very expensive dog house. I didn't call American Buildings, isherwood's other suggestion, but their insulated metal wall panels look more expensive. Dec 17, 2019 at 21:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.