Final questions before DIY build begins!

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theflapjack

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Hey everyone, I have a few questions about our DIY enclosure before starting our project! Any guidance before taking the leap on this is appreciated :lol:

We're planning on building two 4' x 2' x 2' enclosures for our beardies Peanut + Pete. We are going to a lumber yard to sort out pricing/options for various woods such as marine ply, basic plys, melamine, etc. I've gotten the gist that everyone has preferences in woods to use/avoid but question #1 is what thickness would you recommend for a sheet of wood? I'm thinking 3/4" as 1/2" might be too thin? I've read 1/2" is good for melamine, particularly due to weight, but not sure how the other woods above would stack up (ha ha) in comparison at that thickness.

Question #2) I'm a bit unsure of how to protect the floor of the enclosure! I plan to use a few coats of polyurethane on the wood, and my idea is to set up a sand box area for digging (both our dragons LOVE to dig), and covering the rest with astro turf (for food/water bowls/basking areas). Taking that into consideration, my idea is to get a sheet of plastic/plexiglass and screw it on top of the floor (which will be coated in polyurethane anyway), seal the crevices with aquarium silicone, and add the desired substrates to their appropriate areas. Would this work or is it unnecessary? I've noticed with astroturf that poop tends to 'bleed' through the turf, which makes me believe having an extra layer of protection might be necessary...but maybe it's overkill and I'm thinking too much into it :banghead: If doing a few coats of polyurethane and covering the floor with the substrate is more than enough protection, I am just as happy!

Final question- can my water based polyurethane ALSO be used to seal grout (when I create the backdrop/climbing areas) or should I stick with a non-toxic PVA glue?

Thanks.
 

Claudiusx

BD.org Sicko
Staff member
Moderator
Hi there,

I like to work with 3/4 ply. And I would recommend against melamine despite the thickness you pick. it's a pain to work with.

Whatever you go with, you will want to at least seal the inside. Whether that is with something like a poly, or paint. The outside is up to you. If you go with a nice veneered ply, you'll probably just want to use a poly on the outside to keep the look of the wood you paid extra for. If you are going to just paint the outside, I'd just go with a smooth finished ply.

A few coats of poly will protect the floor fine. Especially if it's going to be covered with something else too like a substrate.

It can seal your grout too. Or you can get a specific grout sealer. I tend to like the spray on polys for rock structures as it's easier to get into all the nooks and crannies with a spray IMO.

-Brandon
 

theflapjack

New member
Original Poster
Hey Brandon,

Thank you so much for your reply! I will heed your advice about the melamine- it piqued my interest initially, but it seems there are plenty of signs against it so far :lol: Better to invest in a nice wood and seal it well!

One question about ditching the melamine train, if you happen to know- I've noticed in many DIY videos, builders often create their melamine enclosure frame (sans the back piece) from cuts with 1/2" thickness, and once the top, bottom, and sides have been joined together, they use an 1/8" thick piece for the back of the enclosure, largely to reduce it's weight- which is what I would have done. Do you think this would work with ply + other woods as well, or would doing so weaken the structure? I unfortunately do not know enough about the topic to come to my own conclusion, and if it's even practical to work with such a thin piece of ply as the backing for this build.

You have definitely put my mind at ease with the remaining questions I had. I'll be omitting the plastic sheet idea (which is a huge relief) and looking into spray poly's for the structures! :) Thank you!!
 

Claudiusx

BD.org Sicko
Staff member
Moderator
If you are going to stack the two tanks, I would definitely just do 3/4 all the way around. If they aren't going to be stacked, you can use the thinner backing board. But you are right, the back does add a lot of strength and rigidity to the whole build.

I've built a half dozen or so DIY tanks so far, and i've always just used whatever material I am using, all the way around.

IMO weight isn't that big of an issue. You really only have to move it once, right? ha.
I built a double stack 4x2x2 out of 3/4. And it was easily manageable by me and 1 other person. So IMO, trying to save weight like that isn't important.

-Brandon
 

MrSpectrum

Gray-bearded Member
Glad you ruled out melamine--don't get me started. :roll:

In my own experience, I think 3/4" was overkill. It weighs 50% more than 1/2". If you've planned things out well, you should be able to figure out how many sheets you'll need/use, how much each sheet weighs, do the math, and decide. My enclosure is 60" x 24" x 24" (baltic birch comes in either 60" sq. sheets or 4' x 8'). Before adding any decor, backsplash, tile floor, etc. it weighs well over 300 lb.

Quality of the plywood also makes a big difference. I used baltic birch. 1/2" of that usually has as many or more plies than most 3/4" plywoods, and it's all (core and veneer) birch--stronger and less likely to warp/sag.

I finished all the wood surfaces before putting the pieces together. For the floor, I have the finished plywood covered by textured shelf liner (a moisture barrier) covered by 24" x 12" ceramic tiles.

Just a different perspective.
 

theflapjack

New member
Original Poster
Thank you for your comment, it's great to see things from another perspective! I almost can't believe the total weight of your unfurnished enclosure :shock: Just seeing the number puts it all into perspective. I have a feeling it'll be quite an effort to move our completed enclosures, but will try not to think about it until the time comes haha.

We ended up going with 15mm ply, a bit over 1/2"- I tried to get birch or oak but it's all considered 'specialty' here which is unfortunate. I'm sure your enclosure looks beautiful in baltic!!

Thinking we might try a shelf liner for the astro turf area, so thank you for that idea!
 
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