First attempt at DIY rock background

The project is finally underway…
I’m making one of those insulation foam rock tank backgrounds. I’ve waited so long to try this idea and here we are.

I’ve cut slabs of the foam and planned a basic layout and thoroughly glued it to the back panned for my wooden Viv.

This will be filled with more foam and expanding foam to create a more natural shape, before carving.

The left will be the cool side, and as you can see, the ledges at the bottom will create a cave effect. This will be the main hide.

The basking spot will be to the right, on the largest ledge. I will be incorporating nice pieces of wood with the stepping ledges here to create an way to easily climb to the basking spot.

111883-5643468881.jpg

Any tips or advice would be great if someone’s done this before :D
-Jay
 

Claudiusx

BD.org Sicko
Staff member
Moderator
Hi Jay,

Excited to follow along with your process.

I've tried to make a full 4x2x2 background like that before, ended up scraping it. I tried a few times actually. First time, I tried directly building it into the 4x2x2 I built. I've also tried building it outside of the tank first.

I'd definitely recommend having it be a two or three piece thing though. That way you can easily remove it if you need to.

As far as the spray foam, I think that's what ultimately made me scrap my projects. I've had lots of success making DIY rocks in the past, but when I started trying to use spray foam it messed me all up.
If you use it, just realize that as it expands and cures, the outer layer of it is very smooth. You need to either sand this down, or cut it off otherwise your grout won't stick to it at all.

The work around would be to use the spray foam and put way more than you need, so you know you'd have to carve into it and expose the open cell structure underneath. Which brings up another point, the open cell structure underneath that initial cured layer its typically going to be much larger voids than the Styrofoam you're using. So you're either going to need a ton of coats to thoroughly cover the spray foam, or really thick coats.

Personally, I avoid the spray foam now. Might try again eventually just to try to tame the beast, but if you find success with it, definitely let me know.

-Brandon
 

JayTheDragonTamer

Member
Original Poster
Man I seriously should have listen to that warning and ditched the foam.

I didn’t.
And it’s now permanently stuck to my hands.. and my workbench.. and the tarp.. and the floor…
but it won’t stick to the insulation foam
And I’m through a whole bottle in 10 minutes lol

This is not fun.
 

JayTheDragonTamer

Member
Original Poster
Ok, here’s an update. I’ve been busy carving the side I added foam to. At some point I’ll have to do the other side, so I can begin working on it.

-I was not prepared for the expanding foam to expand as much as it did. It ballooned up so much I thought the whole project was over. The texture is very different from the insulation foam.
-It takes hours and hours to make visible progress on the carving.
-As well as exp. foam, I’ll be adding chunks of insulation to the left to make a more rocky formation. I have lots left over and exp. foam isn’t cheap.
-I am worried about losing details when I add the tile adhesive and paint.

111883-9901810181.jpg
111883-3305840320.jpg

I’m not sure I love the results currently, but I still have a long way to go. I’m also debating flipping the design upside down and changing a bit up, because I think the outcrops could look more natural. Obviously I would re do the hide at the bottom left. Asides from the two very top pieces, I would keep the ledges here, cut them down some, and leave them as extra climbing space.
Here’s what it looks like upside down.
111883-4797977586.jpg

Comments, suggestions, and critics welcome.
-Jay
 

JayTheDragonTamer

Member
Original Poster
It’s been a while. Got caught up in busy life,
So I haven’t had time to work on this for a while. Good news though, I changed glass manufacturer and this new guy has got it all ready in less than two weeks. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pick the glass up this week and fit it in the viv.

Here’s the background as it currently is, in the back of the viv frame. I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with it so far.
111883-3443887816.jpg

-Jay
 

JayTheDragonTamer

Member
Original Poster
The glass arrived a couple weeks ago. And dammnit, wrong size. My dad ordered it for me, and I guess the suggestion to double or triple check the measurements wasn’t taken.

The glass guy has cut it down to the actual measurements for me now, and I should receive it in the next few days.

On that note, if there is anyone viewing this thread, what do you think about using un-tempered glass for a viv? This is the only option I had, and I’m extremely nervous about it. Wondering if anyone has used that, and if I should order some cheap clear laminate to cover it, just to prevent it from going to shards if shattered.
 

CooperDragon

BD.org Sicko
Staff member
Moderator
That's a bummer about the wrong size. It's good that the manufacturer was able to re-size it for you. I mentioned in your other thread that I think the main risk is safety - as you said. The standard glass may not be as tough and will likely break into sharp shards if broken. I would probably pick plexiglass as a second choice to tempered glass, but since you already have the glass manufactured may as well stick with it. Do you have updated photos of the enclosure? The older ones haven't migrated (yet - it's in progress) and aren't showing. I would think the smaller the piece, the less risk. If you're using it for a front facing window on a door, then setting it within a sturdy frame of some kind would likely improve the stability of the glass and reduce the risk of it breaking. If you set it along with some sort of semi-flexible caulk, that may provide some extra (slight) give and flexibility against vibration etc.
 

JayTheDragonTamer

Member
Original Poster
That's a bummer about the wrong size. It's good that the manufacturer was able to re-size it for you. I mentioned in your other thread that I think the main risk is safety - as you said. The standard glass may not be as tough and will likely break into sharp shards if broken. I would probably pick plexiglass as a second choice to tempered glass, but since you already have the glass manufactured may as well stick with it. Do you have updated photos of the enclosure? The older ones haven't migrated (yet - it's in progress) and aren't showing. I would think the smaller the piece, the less risk. If you're using it for a front facing window on a door, then setting it within a sturdy frame of some kind would likely improve the stability of the glass and reduce the risk of it breaking. If you set it along with some sort of semi-flexible caulk, that may provide some extra (slight) give and flexibility against vibration etc.
Sure, I will.
It’s hard to picture the finished design right now, because without the glass, it’s pretty much just a wooden frame, so I think I’ll update when I’ve slotted the glass in place, just so you can see the doors and other elements. On that note, I’ve thought it might be wise to put some plastic rim around the edges of the glass doors to provide a buffer, and prevent chipping. I think I’m almost certainly going to go for the laminate.
Flexible sealant sounds like a great idea. Silicone might do the trick?

I’m pretty disappointed with all the minor design flaws in this project, but I guess this is just a first try.
 

CooperDragon

BD.org Sicko
Staff member
Moderator
Yeah I think a silicone glue of some sort would be a good bet, but I'm not the best at handywork so that's going by my observation of how a professional replaced a broken window for me at one point. Whatever it was he used, it produced a tight seal but wasn't brittle. Seemed similar to shower caulk so it was likely a silicone of some sort.
 

Claudiusx

BD.org Sicko
Staff member
Moderator
I use un-tempered glass in my builds. Most of my builds (all?) are actually designed around the precut sheets of glass you can buy off the shelf at home depot. Yes, if they break, they break into sharp shards and you need to be careful cleaning them up. But I've never had one break during normal use of the tank/glass.

I've broken glass twice, and both times it's because I slid the glass doors open, forgot they were open, and walked into them lol.

-Brandon
 

JayTheDragonTamer

Member
Original Poster
I use un-tempered glass in my builds. Most of my builds (all?) are actually designed around the precut sheets of glass you can buy off the shelf at home depot. Yes, if they break, they break into sharp shards and you need to be careful cleaning them up. But I've never had one break during normal use of the tank/glass.

I've broken glass twice, and both times it's because I slid the glass doors open, forgot they were open, and walked into them lol.

-Brandon
That’s my fear lol. I can’t count how many times I’ve stupidly left the door open on his current (tempered glass) tank, and knocked into them.
 

CEMETERYCAT2389

New member
It’s been a while. Got caught up in busy life,
So I haven’t had time to work on this for a while. Good news though, I changed glass manufacturer and this new guy has got it all ready in less than two weeks. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pick the glass up this week and fit it in the viv.

Here’s the background as it currently is, in the back of the viv frame. I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with it so far.
111883-3443887816.jpg

-Jay
I made a DIY background in an old dresser...and I didn't think k it through now my highest ledge is only 8.5 inches from the ceiling...and I'm freaking out. Lol your's is looking good.
 

dogndragonmom

Member
Photo Comp Winner
I would love to see the finished project if you have some photos to share
It’s been a while. Got caught up in busy life,
So I haven’t had time to work on this for a while. Good news though, I changed glass manufacturer and this new guy has got it all ready in less than two weeks. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pick the glass up this week and fit it in the viv.

Here’s the background as it currently is, in the back of the viv frame. I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with it so far.
111883-3443887816.jpg

-Jay
 

Longfellow777

Sub-Adult Member
Beardie name(s)
Frey'ja
Man I seriously should have listen to that warning and ditched the foam.

I didn’t.
And it’s now permanently stuck to my hands.. and my workbench.. and the tarp.. and the floor…
but it won’t stick to the insulation foam
And I’m through a whole bottle in 10 minutes lol

This is not fun.
I know this is a really old post, but I also had a horrible experience with some fill a gap
 

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