Sterilite Reptile Enclosure Screen Covers
How To Build Sterilite Reptile Enclosure Screen Covers
The screen covered tops is how I prefer to create the covers. This allows for optimal air circulation, and optionally allows for the addition of overhead heating and lighting elements. This is ideal for taller containers, and adds a flare to the appearance of the container. In order to utilize this method, there are several extra items that will be required.
An old window screen
Hack saw or Jig saw with metal blade
Liquid Nails (clear)
Screen Top Construction
The old style screens are easily acquired and can often be found in basements or attics of homes. This is how an old style window screen will look:
Each screen will be composed of 10 parts. There will be 2 long sides, 2 short sides, 4 corners, screen, and screen lining. It is now our job to disassemble the screen so we can use it for our project.
To begin, we first must remove the screen lining. It will be found "surrounding" the screen itself. You can start a corner of it with a flathead screwdriver, or your razor knife. Once you can grab it, just pull it out of the slot. An example is below.
Once the lining is removed, pull the screen itself out, and then separate the sides from the corners by pulling them apart. You should now have a pile of materials that resembles this:
You now need to determine how big of a screen you would like to make. I make my screens 17 1/2" long x 12" wide. This is ideal for me, but you can change the size to whatever dimensions you like.
Using your tape measure, scribe (mark) the lengths on BOTH sets of aluminum framing. The 2 long sides should have the same length as well as the 2 shorter sides.
Now using the hacksaw or jigsaw, cut the lengths you have marked.
Once you have all of your pieces cut, it is time to reassemble the pieces. Lock your corners in place and connect everything together. (Make sure that everything is facing in the same direction. All of the smooth sides should be facing you.) This will leave you with an empty frame.
Now lay the newly sized frame on the floor, with the "slots" facing up. We now need to reattach the screen to the frame.
Take the screen and lay it over your frame. We don't want to cut it yet, we just want to lay it on the frame so that the new frame is centered below it.
Take your flathead screwdriver and lining, and press the end of the lining into the slot in one of the corners. There is an example below.
Since we have held off on cutting the screen at this point, we are ensuring that we will not/ have not cut it too small. Continue pressing the lining in all the way around the frame. Make sure you keep the screen tight as you progress so you have a nice smooth finish.
Once you have made your way around the entire frame, take your razor knife and cut off the extra lining. Then, using your razor knife again, cut the excess screen following the lining as your guide.
You should now have a smaller framed screen that resembles its original appearance prior to being modified!
Now that you have a completed frame, you will need to attach it to the cover. In order to do this, you first need to cut the cover so the screen can be placed. To do this, take your screen on the cover where you want it positioned. Then take the pencil and outline the frame.
This is very important! You need to measure how wide the frame is with your tape measure. Most frames will be roughly 5/8 - 3/4 of an inch wide. Knowing how wide it is, you can now mark out the actual perimeter of what it is we will be cutting. To do so, take your ruler and measure in about 3/8 - 1/2 inch from the outline you created. This depends on how wide your frame is! If your frame is 3/4", use a 1/2" margin.) Do this at every corner so you have each corner looking like this:
The red line represents the trace you made around your frame. The black like is the new marks you should be making on all 4 corners representing the 3/8 - 1/2 inch margin INSIDE of your original trace.
Once you have all 4 corners marked, use a straight edge and connect them all. You should now have 2 "rectangles" that are 3/8 - 1/2 inch apart. What you want to do now is take your razorblade, and cut out the MIDDLE rectangle. Once you cut that out, you should still be able to see your original trace of the frame!
The reason we left this is simple, we need something to attach the frame itself too. I prefer to use liquid nails for this part of assembly. It is very strong when cured, and doesn't require me to drill holes for bolts, etc.
Take your (clear) liquid nails and outline the space between your cutout, and your trace line. Now take your frame and place it back within the traced lines you made. Press firmly so that you get a nice solid connection between the glue and the plastic cover.
Once you have done this, take some items around the house and place them on top of the screen. This added weight should remain there for 24 hours while the glue dries and cures. This will make certain that you get a good solid connection between the frame, glue, and plastic.
After 24 hours has passed, remove everything off the frame, and flip the unit over. I prefer to add a second application of liquid nails. This application I apply to the underside of the cover.
I take my liquid nails and run it along the plastics edge. Then using my finger, I press it so that the glue overlaps the plastic, but is also on the frame. Its nothing neat looking, but it gives me that extra boost of confidence that my leopard geckos won't be escaping any time soon. I then allow it to cure for another 24 hours.
This is what we should now have:
The first image shows how it looks to anyone have a peek at it. The second image above shows how the underside and glue will appear.
Light Fixture Covers
You can use the above method to also create frames for your lighting and heating fixtures. You should make your frames 1" larger than the light or heating element all the way around. If you have a light dome that is 5" in diameter, your frame should be 6 1/2" in diameter. This extra inch and a half will help prevent the plastic from melting.
Because some heating elements get hot, you should replace the normal screen with a wider, stronger screen from the hardware store. if you attempt to use this screen with something extremely hot, you could find yourself with a fire hazard.
Also, you will need to use a different type of screen for UV lighting. The openings on the screen need to be at least 1/4 inch wide to help prevent the screen from blocking the UV. Anything smaller than 1/4 inch will block a majority of the UV from penetrating and reaching the reptile, thus rendering it useless.
This is how my finished product appears:
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Author: Richard Brooks
Images - © Richard Brooks