How-To: DIY simple wooden vivs

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Hoping this can get stickied if it gets a good response. this is my first time posting a how to, please critique me if you feel ive left anything out!!

DIY Simple Viv Building

Ok so I got a good response to the viv I built and the post I put up in the enclosures forum, so I decided to do a step by step guide to bulding simple wooden vivs. With this style of wooden viv, with screen mesh top and front, you can build for about 100-150 dollars depending on the sizing you want, wood type and screen type. And that’s definitely better/cheaper than any store-bought viv of similar or smaller sizes.

The first viv I built was for my three year old 18” female, I built it at 48”Lx18”Hx24”D, the second one I built was for my 8 month old male, its 36”Lx18”Hx24”D. the same basic design was used for both and it will work for pretty much any size you choose to build!

Tools required:
Jig-saw, circular saw, table saw, hand saw, you have to cut it somehow lol ;)
Drill with assorted screw driver bits(or screwdrivers)
Measuring tape
Staple gun
Level or straight edge
Carpenters square or regular square
Exacto-knife or razor knife
Pen or pencil or marker
1” hole boring wood bit(if you decide to mount your lights inside your cage like I do)

Basics Materials:
1 2x4 8 foot board
1 4x8’ ¾ plywood
2 2x2 8 foot boards(three if your designs are bigger than 48Lx18Hx24D”)
6 1x2 8 foot boards(5 if your making a 36Lx18Hx24D”)
1 8x4 aluminum screen, I highly recommend aluminum screen as it will not melt under heat lamps like the plastic or fiberglass screening can.
2-4 square hinges for screen door
2 latches for screen door
Staples for screen\
10-15 1’x1’ lino tiles(again depending on the size, also could use actual tiles, depends on how much you want to spend)
1 box #6 1-5/8 screws
1 box #6 1-¼ screws
6 3” wood screws

So this tank design is 36”Lx18”Hx24”D
Ok so to get started you need to cut your base piece and your back pieces out of the ¾” plywood.
So I cut my back piece, it measured 36”x18”, then I cut my base piece and it measured 36”x24”
Then I you take your 2x2 and cut two 18” pieces out as corner braces for the back to the bottom.
Now take the 18” 2x2s and place them on the your previously cut back piece. You need to move the 2x2s in ¾ of an inch from each end to make room for the sides(next step) and screw them in using the 1/58ths screws. Basically you want ¾ of an inch sticking out on each side of the 2x2s.

Here you can see the ¾ of an inch I mentioned earlier, room for the sides to go on!

Now you place your back piece on your base piece and screw the base to the 2x2s as well as to the back piece. If you look in the picture the back piece has the 2x2 braces and is butted to the base and screwed in, again using the 1-5/8ths screws.

In this picture, it shows the back piece screwed to the braces and to the bottom.

Ok so now you have a base, a back and braces built! Good job. Keep going from here.
So now we need to cut the sides out. Measure from the bottom of the back to the front of the base piece. In this case it ended up being 23 ¼” by 18”. Do this twice(two sides right? Haha!) So now you have two sides approximately 23 ¼” by 18”. OK! So now we can screw the sides onto the base/back. First use three screws and attach the sides to the 2x2 braces. Then make hold the side flush with the edge of the base and screw the base to the side. Again using the 1-5/8ths screws!



So now we have a base, a back and two sides for a cage!

Now we need to build a brace for the back and the bottom of the cage. Measure between the two 2x2 braces holding the back and the sides. I believe it ended up being 23” (make sure you make your own measurements!!!) You can screw the back and the base to this brace using the 1-5/8ths screws.

Now we also need to create a brace for the front between the two sides at the top. It ended up being 34 ½” for me(again, make your own measurements as this cage was built using a circular saw and all my measurements were a bit different! Measure twice and cut once!!!!!!)
So here you can see the brace for the sides:

Now we need to cut two braces the sides, from the bottom of the base to the top brace we just built. So measure from the base to the bottom of the brace. For me it ended up being 16 ½” tall. Screw them into the base, the sides and the top brace. You will need to use the 3” screws for screwing the top brace to the side braces.


Ok so we have our basic outline of the cage.

Next we need to build a mount for a light, we will do this using that 2x4. So this part is a bit difficult as we need to notch the 2x4 to fit around the 2x2 braces built. it’s a bit tricky, I cut mine to length of the cage inside the two sides, in my case it was 34 ½”. Then you need to notch out the 2x4 to fit around the 2x2s by taking off roughly a 1 ½ x 1 ½” square on each end. See the picture!

As well we need to build a brace out of 2x2 for the middle of the cage. Measure from the 2x4 to the brace at the front of the cage and screw it in, on the front side you can use a 3” screw and where it screws to the 2x4 you will have to drill the screws in angularly to the 2x4.

Basically we now have a full built cage less screens and a door! Look at your creation and keep working!! Your doing a good job. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Now, you can roll out the screen you picked up over the top of the cage. Roll it on and stretch it fairly tight and staple it completely to one side of the cage, I started with the back. If you start with the back or the front, do the sides next and then the back/front. If you started with the sides, do the back and front next and finish with the other side. Cut the excess mesh off using an exacto-knife or snips. As well you will want to staple it to the middle support brace on the top to ensure any lights that might sit on top have adequate support.

Now you need to make a frame for the top of the viv to better hold the screen down. Staples are good but wood and screws are better and act as a clamp for the screen to the viv. So now you can break out the 1x2 8 foot boards. Measure the long side of the top from edge to edge, in my case 36” and cut two of them, one for the front and back of the top. Now you can screw them into place using the 1-¼” screws. As well measure the two sides inbetween the two boards you just installed and you can cut two side pieces and one middle support piece,. Screw it all together using the 1-¼” screws.

Now you should install some legs on the cage, before the screen door front is attached. I used remaining 2x4 boards cut down two inches shorter than the overall width of the tank. So if the tank is 18” deep, cut the legs to 16” long. This is a very simple leg or support for the cage. If you want to make different styled legs for your viv, feel free. This is just how I did it to keep construction simple. You will want to place the legs one inch back from the front of the viv to ensure your screen door will have enough room to open properly.
You can attatch these about 9-11” from the sides of the cage on the bottom with the 1-5/8ths screws.


Almost there!!! Only a bit of work left to have a pretty much functioning cage!!

We have to build a screen door for this cage. I chose to build the front as a screen door as I got sick of moving lights around all the time to get access to my beardies. So front hinged door it was.

So basically the design of this door is two frames, screwed together, with the screen sandwiched in between. I made the front frame that you will see while its closed first. I measured two pieces of 1x2 boards down to 36” and then cut the ends at 45 degrees to create a more finished look than just the wood butted together. Now cut two 18” side pieces and cut the ends at 45 degrees again. Because the wood is so thin you can really screw the front frame together without the wood splitting. So get all the frame together and then staple the corners together just for temporary support. Now with your left over screen do the same thing as before and staple the screen to this front frame. Cut off the excess screen and you now have one part of the screen door completed.


Now we have to build the back of the screen door frame, middle support, and install it! Measure out another two 36” pieces of 1x2” boards and screw them to the top and bottom of the frame, no 45s needed this time as this is the structural part of the frame. As well measure out two side pieces, they will be roughly 15-15 ½ inches. These will be screwed to the front frame we built as the side supports. We need to put a center support in, and unfortunately we cannot screw the front side in. So what you need to do is take two small finishing nails and hammer them in at an angle at the top and bottoms of the front piece. These will support the front middle support of the door frame. Now you can cut another piece and put it on the back side of the screen, again sandwiching the screen between this middle support. This time you can use screws to screw the rear piece to the front piece!




Now all you need to do is attatch the door with hinges and put latches on the top to secure it!


Now you have a pretty much completed viv. Ready for tiles, lino, paper towel, or whatever you choose to line the cage with. I used some 1x1 lino tiles and stapled them to the sides and back of the cage. I normally would lino tile the whole inside of the cage, but because the 8 month old beardie that is going in this cage has leg issues, I have to use repticarpet as the substrate. However I do recommend the lino tiles as it makes it a breeze to clean and you can remove and replace them!!!






Original Poster
Finished products:

Izzys cage 48Lx18Hx24D:




Dexters cage 36Lx18Hx24D:


Both equipped with reptisun 10 fluro tubes. So happy with how these turned out!
Nice! We are going to build a viv soon, so I appreciate the ideas. You probably mentioned and I didn't see it, but what did you use on the background and sides, lino? Also what type of fixture did you use for the uvb tube? Thanks 8)


Original Poster
I used Lino tiles 1ft by 1ft and then stapled the sides and back as they don't stay haha. The bottom ones I put in snuggly to be removed for cleaning.

Most reptisun 10 bulbs are a t8 or t12 bulb. I put a 36" t8 fixture in the big cage and a 24" t8 fixture the smaller cage.

When I got my 24" reptisun 10 bulb I didn't look at it and when I opened it at home it ende up being a t12 fixture. Luckily it fit in my t8 fixture still do no problems. Home depot, Walmart or any electrical outle store will sell the light fixtures.


Sub-Adult Member
Amazing viv. My grandfather is making me one soon and this gives me ideas. I could just never use screen. It would get to cold for the winter.


This is my first post so if I am not in the correct area forgive me. We are building Wyatt a wooden tank, but need to know what kind if any paint can be put onto the inside of the tank?
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