Here's how I build my Terrariums.

Here's a build log for a 120cm x 90cm x 60cm terrarium. The process is similar for all the size terrariums I build.

The form ply that I make my terrariums from comes in 250cm x 120cm sheets and needs to be cut to size. To build this size terrarium takes one and a half full sheets.

The dimensions for the individual pieces are;

120cm x 90cm x 1 piece TOP.
120cm x 90cm x 1 piece BOTTOM.
58cm x 90cm x 2 pieces SIDES.
117.5cm x 58cm x 1 piece BACK
117.5cm x 11cm x 2 pieces FRONT (internal)
120cm x 11cm x 2 pieces FRONT (external)
58cm x 15cm x 2 pieces DOOR SUPPORTS.

Once all the pieces are cut they need to be marked out for drilling and countersinking of the screw holes.

I mark out and drill 4mm holes about 10cm apart and 6mm in from the edge (the form ply is 12mm thick) all around the TOP and BOTTOM pieces. The 6mm from the edge will put the holes in the centre of the side pieces when they are screwed together. Once drilled I countersink the holes to a depth that is good for the screws that I am using.

At this point it can be a good idea to get someone to double check your measurements and give the OK to carry on.

Once the TOP and BOTTOM are drilled you need to drill and countersink the two SIDE pieces. This can be seen on the image below of the sides in place.

The SIDES need to be drilled along one 60cm long edge for fixing in the BACK piece of wood and also at the top and bottom of the other 60cm edge as can be seen in the image below for the two (internal) FRONT pieces.

From the image above you can see how the main box of the terrarium is assembled. By assembling this way you have a very rigid and sturdy box.

Next I screw on the two (external) front pieces. These give the doors a guide and a create a lip that the doors close up against once they are in place. It's a little hard to explain this but you might get the idea from the image below.

You might be able to see where the vent holes have been drilled out that the thickness of the wood is two pieces. The countersunk holes for the screws that you can see show how the internal and external Front pieces are screwed together.

After fixing on the external front pieces I fix in the door supports as can be seen in the image below.

The two pieces for the doors will need a little cut out at each end using a jigsaw so that they fit snugly into the terrarium. You can also see in this image a little more clearly the lip created by the internal and external Front pieces.

With the door supports in place you can fix in the doors using the hinges and brackets that come with them.

The door supports give extra thickness to the walls of the terrarium so that you can screw the hinge on without the screws coming through the sides of the terrarium. They also help by positioning the edge of the door without a gap between the door and terrarium. It can be a little tricky getting the brackets in the right place but if the door is assembled first with it's hinges you can place it in the terrarium to mark where you need to fix the brackets.

Once the doors are in place you can get them to sit properly in the front opening by adjusting the two screws in the hinge itself.



All the holes for the vents need to be cut out. I use small plastic vents that need to have a 45mm hole cut.

I cut holes for four vents in the bottom panel on the left hand side and four holes in the top panel to the right and also one extra hole in the back panel on the top right using a hole cutter.

Once all the holes are cut out I fix in the vents using silicone sealant. I smear sealant all over the cut edges of the wood to help protect them from moisture.

The vents will then push in and be held in place by the silicone.

Once all the vents are in place the excess silicone can be removed using a cloth.

For locks I found an off the shelf lock that has a kink in the arm that fits perfectly over the door to hold it in place and prevent escape.

I screw two locks for each door into the front panels. One lock for each door at the top (as shown in the image below) and one for each door at the bottom.

The image below shows the terrarium with the doors on and locks in place and also shows the position of the vents.

At this point the terrarium is functional but will be better if all the internal edges are sealed using silicone. This will protect against moisture and greatly lengthen the life of the terrarium.

I also like to finish off the fronts of my terrariums using angled plastic strips to cover over the screws that are visible in the front supports.

I cut the plastic to size and stick it on using silicone.

In the image below you can just make out the internal joints sealed with silicone as well as all the plastic trim in place.

That's it job done, one finished terrarium. It just needs some heating, lighting, decor and snakes.

The image below shows why I have placed the vents where I have. The lower vents take in cool air from outside the terrarium and the heater warms the air thereby causing the air to rise and flow along the terrarium before leaving through the top vents. The heater placement helps in the natural air flow and creates a very good thermal gradient from one side of the terrarium to the other.

Update Nov 2014. This page was written in 2013 and since then Ikea has stopped selling the doors used in this build. They still sell the 98cm long doors and so this style of terrarium can still be made but the dimensions given for the wood sizes and overall terrarium size would need to be adjusted.
Ikea do make a new door called the "Glassvik" that comes with a white or black surround and is available in the same dimensions (60cm x 38cm) as the doors used in this build.

Although using these doors means you will not have a completely clear view into the terrarium I think they could look very smart with the black or white surround.

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