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Building Cage for AWD

Discussion in 'General Construction' started by DragonFamily, Aug 26, 2009.

  1. DragonFamily

    DragonFamily Elite Member

    Hello everyone. We figured we would start a thread on our current build to help others and get pointers along the way. This is the first cage build we have attempted. But we are both fairly handy being former mechanics, so we think we can work something out! HA! We shall see....

    So our female AWD currently resides in a 55gal tank and has reached about 23" long and is beginning to have issues with the nose bumping on the glass. We have had her for about a year and half and we knew she would need a larger enclosure eventually. We looked into buying something done or buying a big tank or something and modifying it, but building seemed like the only way to keep it within our budget, so here we go! Anyways, here are the details:

    Size: 4.5' high x 4' long x 2' deep

    It's going to be made of plywood with sliding glass front doors. Before we drill or cut anything out of the shell, we are going to seal the inside surfaces with Minwax Polycrylic - probably 5 or so coats. Then comes the sealing with silicon on all the seams/corners. Then we want to use the peel-and-stick tiles on the sides and back. Then whatever holes that need to be cut for vents and getting cords in and out will be cut. We are envisioning using grommets for the holes and sealing them up with silicone where needed.

    We are planning on having a plastic "cat-box" pool and a plastic or glass dig box on the bottom with some outdoor carpet possibly lining the bottom of the tank. We don't want the substrate getting into the pool (how it is now) and we are thinking of setting up an external filter/pump for the pool and making a waterfall of some sort. The layout inside the cage is really not something we have a clear vision of yet.

    We have some cans of Great Stuff and are thinking of building a few logs out of it that we can place in the tank for access to some shelves at different levels inside the cage.

    We are thinking of having one dual spotlight light fixture screwed into the ceiling on one end with each light wired individually. This would house a 100w(maybe more) heat lamp and a ceramic heat emitter. We have a power strip with the digital timers in it so the lighting will be automated (as it is now) but we may look into a thermostat for the heat emitter to get it just right. Then we will be hanging and reusing the two 18" long flourescent fixtures from the 55gal tank with their 10.0 UVB bulbs. These will hang from the ceiling in an offset configuration to help get the UVB rays into all the nooks and crannies. With one lizard in the tank, we are thinking one basking spot will do (at least to start with) and the emitter and lamp together should keep the temps up for the overall system.

    Currently we mist the tank daily a few times to keep humidity levels up (we don't measure them), but we may have to figure something more automated and specific out for this enclosure. We will be misting it to begin with however.

    I'm going to try to get a list of supplies together and updated here as the build goes along. So far, here is what we have spent and are projecting to need:

    2 x 4'x8' mid-grade 23/32 plywood: $20.47ea
    4 x Black Metal handles: $3.29ea
    3 x Great Stuff: $3.47ea
    2 x Minwax Polycrylic: $13.87ea
    3 x Flat Black spray paint: $2.97ea
    36 x peel and stick Tiles: $.89ea
    1 x Sliding glass door tracks and lock: $33.06
    2 x 42"x24" glass: not purchased yet (estimate for $46ea)
    1 x Weatherstripping/Cut-pile stripping for gap filler: $9.67
    1 x Outdoor Triple Spotlight fixture: $7.62
    2 x Power Cords for lights: $.88ea
    1 x Hooks to hang Flourescent Lights: $2.06
    1 x Construction Adhesive: $1.79
    1 x Clear Silicone: $3.68
    6 x Aluminum Vents: $0.99ea
    1 x Desk Grommet: $1.79
    1 x 24ft of Indoor/Outdoor Carpet (enough to replace in future 2x): $8.64
    1 x Hardware Cloth: $9.98
    1 x Pump/Filter for pool: not purchased yet
    1 x Digbox: Already have something (free)
    1 x Pool: not purchased yet

    Total Spent (as of 8/28): $222.95

    Lowes cut up the plywood per our specs and we got things going. Here are some pics during the initial construction:

    The cage:




    The front view of the finished shell:


    Attached Files:

  2. schlegelbagel

    schlegelbagel Frog Lover Premium Member

    Its really starting to take shape! Remember to put in some air vents, down at the bottom, to draw the fresh air in. They can be as small as 3" around.
  3. DragonFamily

    DragonFamily Elite Member

    Yep, we were thinking that the plastic rings that go into computer desks with some metal screen in them, sealed with silicone, would look nice for vents.

    How many do you think would be enough? And should we put any anywhere else on the enclosure?


    Here's some shots from lastnight. Started painting the outside with regular Krylon Flat Black spray paint and put two coats of polycrylic on the inside so far.



    Figured we should get the painting and poly done first so it can get to the airing out process sooner and we can do all the little things while it is airing out.

    Attached Files:

  4. wildheart

    wildheart Elite Member

    That is going to be one awesome cage! I like the shape of it very much, I also like your porch - nice view.;)
  5. schlegelbagel

    schlegelbagel Frog Lover Premium Member

    Actually, you can find some really nice vents in the plumbing section, already with venting built in. I'd to 2 or 3 at either end, down low.
  6. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Actually I would do the drilling and cutting out before the polycrylic. That way you are sealing your cuts. Doing it afterwards is just cutting holes in your sealing job.
    Another suggestion, put it on wheels!
    That enclosure is going to be quite heavy. A good set of heavy duty castors under it will make moving it around much easier.
  7. DragonFamily

    DragonFamily Elite Member

    Thanks for the tips Liz and Merlin. I (this is Matt, my fiancee Alex and I use the same screenname) went back and forth on the poly before or after the cuts a lot. In the interest of getting it on there sooner and letting it get to the airing out phase, we figured doing it first would be a good idea. And then just using the silicone sealer on anything that would be a spot for moisture to get to the wood (like vents, grommet holes for cords, handles, etc.). But I can also see the benefit to doing all the cuts first too. It was a back and forth kind of thing for

    We only have two coats on so far, so maybe we will get to the cutting for the vents and drilling the holes for the shelves and whatnot before we keep going with the other coats. We are thinking 5+ coats total before we get to the peel-and-stick tile install. This means we need to finalize our vision of what it is going to look like when we are done though!... so difficult...

    And the casters have crossed my mind too... The cage will be going on a stand that is 48"x20" (an aquarium stand we have the 55gal on right now) at least initially so I don't know if we will be doing them. We have four nice thick metal handles that will be going on to make it easy to pick up and move, but it will be a two person lift for sure. I am alright size (6'2" 230lbs) and I have friends that can help me move it, so I think we will be OK. We can always add them later too.

    We'll check out the vents at the stores around here. The only thing we want to make sure of is that the screen is fine enough to keep the crickets from getting out... When you say place them low, I am thinking about 6-8" from the bottom? How does that sound? And I have seen where some people use fans to move air through the cage... Is this necessary or even ideal when you are trying to keep it warm and humid? I would think that the heating of the air from the top with the heat lamp(s) and cermaic emitter would cause the air to turn over and pull fresh air in the vents when they are placed low in the cage...

    Thanks Wildheart - Our porch/deck is pretty nice. Not huge, but alright sized. I picked the house we are living in in part because of the somehwat wild area with a creek behind it - no neighbors watching you and we get some decent wildlife passing through too :) .

    UPDATE (8/27):

    We just picked up a whole bunch of stuff for the cage... Lighting stuff, carpet for the bottom, clear silicone, construction adhesive, vent stuff, sliding door stuff, etc.

    I updated the top with some prices and whatnot.
  8. DragonFamily

    DragonFamily Elite Member

    UPDATE 8/28

    We went out to return a few things we bought but decided not to use, and to pick up some other stuff today. We were looking for some hardware cloth to use with the Great Stuff to build structures and happened across these little beauties:


    They are aluminum vents for roofing type projects and they have fiberglass mesh netting in them as well as the louvers. They should keep the crickets from escaping nicely. Found them at Menards (which is a home improvement store if you haven't heard of them) and they are only $0.99!! We got some brown ones that will be going on the inside and then we will be using some silver ones on the outside so the finished look is nice on the inside of the cage and the outside. This means we cut some costs out on the venting we were going to use.

    Here are some shots of the light fixture, the handles, the computer desk grommet, and the peel and stick tiles we are going to put on the sides and back of the inside:





    Once we got home, we got to cutting up the cage for the vents and holes for the electical cords to pass through. We put a little more black paint on here and there and put another coat of poly on after the cutting was finished. The finished vents measure about 16" x 3.5" with one on each side down low and then one on the top near the back. This will allow the air to turn over without any fans using convection. We can also block them off partially in different configurations to hold more humidity or heat in.



    We also made three shelves to put inside at different heights against the back. We painted them black and will be putting 4 coats of poly on them and then putting carpet on them once they are installed into the enclosure for traction for Raptor.


    More coats of poly will be going on tomorrow...

    Attached Files:

  9. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Crickets can chew thru fiberglass mesh. You'll need metal.
  10. schlegelbagel

    schlegelbagel Frog Lover Premium Member

    yep you will need to replace the fiberglass with metal screening, or just get something else all together.
  11. DragonFamily

    DragonFamily Elite Member

    Hmmm... hadn't thought of that. BUT! I took a closer look... and the screen insert of the vents is metal. Probably aluminum and it is coated in a dark grey/black paint of some sort so I thought it was just fiberglass netting. So I think we should be good on them.
  12. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    The only time I bother installing anything vent-wise, is usually the screen that lets light in if the light is mounted outside the enclosure.
    For everything else, I just drill holes in the wall itself, and it saves having to install or buy any vents or accompanying hardware.
  13. rosepetalbed

    rosepetalbed Member

    WOW wish I was creative!!! It looks amazing and I am sure they will enjoy the finished product!!! :)
  14. DragonFamily

    DragonFamily Elite Member

    Yeah I hear ya on the cost thing... We were really searching around for a good way to do vents that we could "tune" as necessary to keep the temps and humidity right. The other plan was to use some stainless drain grills and round 3" holes drilled in it at $3 a pop. But these are so cheap it really is nothing when considering the cost of the whole project ($6 per our plan but $3 could get the slots we cut covered just fine, we just want the outside and inside to look nice and finished off cleanly).

    And we really aren't sure exactly how much venting we will need (if any). But we can block off parts of them, or the whole thing, very easily if it ends up pulling the heat/humidity out of the enclosure at too high of a rate. And we don't want to run into issues with it having problems from a lack of venting after it is all set up and our options are very limited.
  15. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Most of my drill-hole vents are for herps that require at least some degree of humidity - and so far it has worked well for me (it may just be that I have been lucky.) Between having a decent substrate, and tweaking my misting arrangements, I have done okay.

    My CWD cage is a terror for humidity (but holds heat well) and I will eventually replace it. Just right now, It's all I have. It does need a drastic do-over though to be suitable for anything that needs humidity. Perhaps I can just re-vamp the cage for something that has slightly lower requirements.

    I'll probably go from scratch when I do - something like yours, I like the way this one is going.
  16. DragonFamily

    DragonFamily Elite Member

    No new pictures, but we now have 5 full coats of poly on the interior of the enclosure and the shelves. We will be waiting 2 weeks with the enclosure outside on the deck airing out before we put it together the rest of the way.

    We can do a few more things like trimming the carpet to fit the floor and the shelves and planning a few more things with the layout but we won't be installing the tiles and siliconeing the corners or anything else until the poly has fully cured and it has aired out thoroughly.
  17. DragonFamily

    DragonFamily Elite Member

    Well not a whole lot going here over the last few days... The shell is still airing out on the deck. But we did get the carpet trimmed for the floor and the shelves. We used some heavy duty marine-use stapels to attach the carpet to the shelves so hopefully no corrosion will take place. Here's some pics:








    Attached Files:

  18. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    I realize it's a little bit after the fact but I would have made the carpet removable so it could be taken out and washed. It WILL get soiled.
  19. DragonFamily

    DragonFamily Elite Member

    Yeah, we thought about that... And the floor piece is going to be removeable for sure. But we are thinking that the shelves may not get quite so soiled. We will have a dig box and no substrate anywhere else. And Raptor is entirely "potty-trained" right now and only goes to the bathroom in the water. If the shelves do get dirty/soiled, we can soak them down and vacuum them off with a wet/dry vac. Or we may make it so we can remove them entirely and clean them with the carpet on them. The last resort is to pull the staples and carpet and clean the carpet and restaple it... I guess we will just play with it and see how it goes.

    And we have been rethinking the lighting a bit here lately...

    The original plan was to use a 100W basking lamp for heat, add a ceramic heat emitter we have if necessary to get temps right, and then two 18" long flourescent tubes for UVB with the ZooMed 10.0s. But after reading more about how well those bulbs perform in large enclosures, I am thinking they may not cut it. Well, really everything I read says they won't cut it. Maybe the upper 20" or so would have adequate UVB coverage, but nothing lower than that.

    So our question is would a MegaRay be the right thing to employ in a large enclosure like this? And if so, would one single 100W be enough for both heat and UVB? Does anybody have good info on how far away a good basking area should be placed from a MR bulb for an AWD? We have the ability to easily add a ceramic emitter to bring in more heat or/as well as a regular basking bulb to bring in more light and heat, so we have a lot of options (see the pics above of the fixture we have for the enclosure)... But we have zero experience with a MR or similar type of heat emitting UVB combo bulb...

    Currently we have a screen top on a 55gal tank with 1 100W basking bulb and then the two 18" flourescent tubes with ZooMed 10.0s in them...

  20. DragonFamily

    DragonFamily Elite Member

    I put in an email to ReptileUV a few days ago about which MR is best for us... Might have to call them though as we need to get the bulb on its way very soon!

    Progress Update:

    We got after the tiling over the weekend. The tiles we got were easily cut with a scissors and given what Dragoness ran into, we just dabbed some construction adhesive to each corner just to make sure they stayed put after the install.

    Here are some pics of the process:









    And a couple with the carpet layed in the bottom:



    We're getting pretty excited now!

    Attached Files:

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