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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 10-16-2016, 04:20 AM
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Default Something a bit different...

I've started my build, and originally figured I'd wait till it was finished to post pics, but it's gonna take awhile, and I am hoping for advice as I go. If I am making a mistake in materials, like if something is toxic, please stop me! If you have ideas for a better design or materials, I am all ears.

This viv is constructed of 2" thick expanded polystyrene insulation. The tongue and groove joints were probably unnecessary, but can't hurt. The top is corrugated polycarbonate, intended for roofing. It will have sliding glass doors on front. I intend to carve the inside, adding foam pieces as necessary to achieve my landscape, and coat with Drylock, then Titebond 3 and organics. It will have built-in circulation fans that can be changed out from the outside without disturbing the final interior. I will carve the bottom with drainage channels that direct water below a false bottom towards a drain hose that carries extra water to a nearby bucket. Without glass doors, substrate, or plants, the basic box weighs only 5 lbs, even though the inside dimensions are 31 x 19 x 22 inches. Your comments/suggestions are welcome.
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Old 10-17-2016, 09:27 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

I really like this idea! You could quickly and easily build a pretty huge terrarium for a fraction of the cost using this method. For a very large build a thin flat sheet of polycarbonate on the front could work quite well. Portability could be an issue, should you ever have to move though, maybe consider a sheet of plywood under the whole thing to make lifting possible when it's full of logs, rocks, etc....

I've used this foam a lot in my other hobby (remote controlled airplanes) and I can tell you that covering it with some good packing tape (the tape with the lines in it is even better) can add a surprising amount of strength. Since you won't be able to cover both sides I'm not sure it will be as effective but you might want to experiment with it. Tape is hard to paint though, so making the outside look nice could be harder.

One other thing, though unlikely, be careful that you don't melt your foam with heaters / hot lights!

Looking forward to how this build turns out, keep us posted!
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Old 10-17-2016, 11:18 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

I'll admit the material isn't exactly durable. The inside I will carve, just as others carve their Great Stuff foam. As long as I don't do too deep, it should be ok. I will also build logs, terrain, etc. out of foam, hiding ductwork for air circulation. As for the outside, I thought maybe some cheap peel-n-stick vinyl tiles for the bottom, just so it doesn't get all scuffed when/if it is moved. I actually thought about carving the visible outside parts of it to represent leaves, vines, branches (maybe orchids), and painting it with Drylock or grout and non-toxic colors. That would make it more durable. We'll have to see how artistic I am, in reality as opposed to just in my imagination. I am building a pair of these together, and planning on continuing the landscape from one side to the other. It should be easy to carve fallen logs with gaps between them and add glass so light can pass from one to the other, and the frogs can see their neighbors through little windows. I think you could build something 8 ft long this way, and it should work. The only issue would be weight of interior items and the glass front. It would flex when moved, so, yeah plywood or other support underneath. Hopefully this won't take a year to complete...
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Old 10-17-2016, 11:22 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Oh, I got LED lights, so little heat. It's easy to cut nice straight lines in the foam, but drill bits (spade or spiral) really tear it up. I've already redesigned that front vent, which I thought was ugly, into something more hidden.
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Old 10-26-2016, 03:32 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

I just started my first build and picked up two of these same boards at Home Depot. Had sorta the same idea as you - glad to see it done before I go hacking away at that purple foam!!! Thanks for the heads up


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Old 10-27-2016, 03:12 AM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Yeah, it's still a project in the works. Life gets in the way. A lot. I've already come up with several design changes for future builds, but I've yet to see why this won't actually work ok. As a matter of fact, I still think it will be a very worthwhile construction method , and I'm looking very forward to proving it. Would love to see your efforts as well! Share ideas, ya know?
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Old 10-27-2016, 03:07 PM
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,{but drill bits (spade or spiral) really tear it up}

Have you tried a hole saw? Should give you a cleaner cut. Not sure how small of holes you are drilling but I have seen them as small as 1/4".
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Old 10-27-2016, 05:27 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Completely agree on the drill bits. They do not make clean holes. Maybe a hot wire cutter? Anyway, I have redesigned the front vent so the holes are not visible. The rear top vent really isn't that visible anyway, so no problem there. Sure wish life would stay out of the way so I could spend more time on these...
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Old 10-29-2016, 04:48 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

So I've been experimenting with this stuff today - I think I'm going to do a false bottom with egg crate and use this on the background instead. I'm loving the texture I can easily put in this stuff. Once covered with a coat of black/brown silicon it should give a good place for vines and plants to attached. Plus - clean up should be easier than dealing with all that spray foam!


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Old 10-30-2016, 12:13 AM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Be aware that polycarbonate is known to leach BPA, a known endocrine disruptor.
Polystyrene is another known endocrine disruptor. It's talked about in more detail, here.
Simple/Functional; The JBear Way

This could cause breeding issues and problems with any offspring.

Great Stuff is often used safely in builds, but it's a completely different product, made with different chemicals, than styrofoam.

In the end, the risk is yours to evaluate, but you might as well go into it informed.
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Old 10-30-2016, 08:27 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pumilo View Post
Be aware that polycarbonate is known to leach BPA, a known endocrine disruptor.

Polystyrene is another known endocrine disruptor. It's talked about in more detail, here.

Simple/Functional; The JBear Way



This could cause breeding issues and problems with any offspring.



Great Stuff is often used safely in builds, but it's a completely different product, made with different chemicals, than styrofoam.



In the end, the risk is yours to evaluate, but you might as well go into it informed.


I appreciate the heads up. Everything in the tank is actually getting a silicon layer over the top. Figured I'd brush it on to pull the entire background together. It should seal out anything unwanted....hopefully.


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Old 10-31-2016, 12:48 AM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Thanks for your comments Pumilo. This is why I made some earlier posts asking the community if there were any common materials that were known to be detrimental to frog health. The thread you linked to is a few years old. Have there been any tests or indications from hobbyists since then that polystyrene or polycarbonate has actually caused issues in amphibians? I am not questioning your claims, but the internet brings us unlimited information, and also unlimited misinformation. Unfortunately, telling the difference is often difficult, and people are left to believe whatever suits them, which is sad. It seems that I can locate an apparently scholarly article supporting almost any topic imaginable, including some that are obviously rather absurd. (I have friends who honestly believe that the Monsanto Corporation is actively trying to eliminate the entire human race through slow poisoning.) So I was hoping that some fellow enthusiasts could support or refute the issues you've brought up here. I am genuinely interested in other's comments before I continue with my plastic box projects.
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Old 01-09-2017, 02:38 AM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Hmmm. No comments on the materials?

I've continued my work, albeit slowly. While this is high on my wanna-do list, it is unfortunately low on my gotta-do list. I've done a lot of carving. It's kind of fun, but I do find that my imagination easily exceeds my creative skills. The colored portions are pieces I made for a plants-only terrarium several years ago and wanted to re-use. One is almost ready to start sealing. The other still needs quite a bit of work. As always, your comments/suggestions are welcome.
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Old 01-09-2017, 06:23 AM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

I'm still new to the hobby so totally don't have any constructive input for you, but I'm really intrigued by the way you're doing this and am very much looking forward to seeing your continued progress!

Last time I had to go out of town I had to take all my reptiles to "reptile sitting" in their vivariums... some of which are insanely heavy, and awkward sized besides, so I'm extra interested now in ways to make vivs that are durable but lightweight.
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Old 01-09-2017, 12:06 PM
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I really don't know about the structural soundness of that foam board. That stuff likes to disintegrate into a powder. I've had a sheet of that stuff in my basement for a year or two and now, i touch it and it just comes off in a powder.
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Old 01-09-2017, 06:14 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

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Originally Posted by Lokirathehunter View Post
I really don't know about the structural soundness of that foam board. That stuff likes to disintegrate into a powder. I've had a sheet of that stuff in my basement for a year or two and now, i touch it and it just comes off in a powder.
Huge numbers of builds here use that foam board. I've used it and have a piece that is several years old now that is as sturdy as the day I carved it.
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Old 01-09-2017, 11:43 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Light weight and customizability are what I'm after here. So far, so good on that point.

Structural soundness is an important point. I don't intend to leave any foam exposed. I intend to cover all interior surfaces with tinted dry lock or Titebond III, caked with organic material where appropriate. I might leave unseen exterior surfaces bare. I know where these are going, so I know exactly what will be visible. I am thinking that I might cover visible exterior surfaces with solid black peel-n-stick vinyl tiles. Or maybe a slate-look? I'm open to suggestions.

Huge numbers of builds using this material? Hey, post some links or pics! I'd love to see what others have done! Thanks!
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Old 01-10-2017, 02:13 AM
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I've seen it used for decor and to make backgrounds.
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Old 01-10-2017, 11:11 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

I've been planning some builds like this for years... One of many things I've yet to get around to, but I like the idea.... I would use foam coat from hot wire foam factory then some kinda sealant over it to hopefully prevent any leaching. Or you could use marine epoxy... other then that the idea is sound and as long as you don't expect kids or pets crashing into them: this method can be used to build extremely large but light weight vivariums.
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Old 01-11-2017, 02:16 AM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

I haven't glued the panels together yet. I find it easier to carve details if I can still take it apart. I am hoping that once it is all glued together, it will become quite rigid and strong. I think the concept could be used for snakes and geckos as well, but lizards with claws would probably need a tough grout coating on the interior, which could add a lot of weight. I did find some smooth, solid black peel-n-stick tiles on Amazon for the exterior. They'll probably curl and peel off a week later...

How would foam-coat or marine epoxy compare in price and effectiveness to TiteBond, Drylock, or Modge-Podge? They sound more expensive, but I guess this isn't a good part to skimp on?
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Old 01-11-2017, 04:57 AM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

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I haven't glued the panels together yet. I find it easier to carve details if I can still take it apart. I am hoping that once it is all glued together, it will become quite rigid and strong. I think the concept could be used for snakes and geckos as well, but lizards with claws would probably need a tough grout coating on the interior, which could add a lot of weight. I did find some smooth, solid black peel-n-stick tiles on Amazon for the exterior. They'll probably curl and peel off a week later...

How would foam-coat or marine epoxy compare in price and effectiveness to TiteBond, Drylock, or Modge-Podge? They sound more expensive, but I guess this isn't a good part to skimp on?
Marine epoxy can be a little pricey, but if doing large viv you'll probably still be money ahead VS buying one that big. The guys that do large wood vivs/aquariums often use it and can build a 500gal tank for a fraction of what a comercial one would cost... probably around $300 if I remember right. Might be $3000 if they just went and bought it

Foam coat is pretty cheap. I'd do that, then paint it with krylon acrlyic spray paint which has a long and seemingly safe history of use in the aquarium hobby.

Oh another option is just slather silicone over the slabs.... This might be especially good to do on the bottom where the wet substrate and any water is held by the false bottom... the foam coat/spray paint would probably be enough as long as you joined the slabs well: but the silicone might better... then save the coat/spray for the upper part of the viv.

Should hold up fine for most animals... If someone wanted to keep larger clawed reptiles in something like this then the zoopoxy line of products would be worth looking into. There ways other then concrete to make really tough foam structures.
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Old 02-20-2017, 05:58 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Help! I need ideas! I have spent a lot of time working out details on my foamboard vivariums. I am almost ready to begin sealing/finishing them, and I ran into a problem that I wasn't expecting. I have computer fans that I slide in from the outside which blow air through ducts I've carved in the foam and are directed towards the front glass. I've got them wired up, and I now discover that the very tiny vibrations of the fans transmit to the sides of the vivs, creating an amplified tympanum effect, like a big speaker. This makes the entire viv seem like a giant cell phone vibrating on a hard surface. The whole thing just HUMs! If that doesn't drive me nuts, the frogs will certainly go insane! I've tried cutting the holes bigger and adding a foam separator. Not much better. Your ideas would be most appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 02-20-2017, 06:21 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

I toyed with this idea as well.

But it came down to cost vs size, the strength of XPS at thinner sheets is lacking. So in the end I chose MDO. At 1/2" it's a ply core with a resin paper coating. Is easy to work, true flat surface and accepts resin applications.

4x8 sheet of MDO is $45, XPS at 2" thick is $34 at the 150 density.

I use XPS in backgrounds but I get 2 ~2' cubes out of the MDO. The cost just isn't there. I maintain 70° room so i don't need an insulated cage.

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Old 02-20-2017, 06:24 PM
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Help! I need ideas!
Try an acoustic sealant (buytl rubber based caulk may work)...remains elastic which should absorb some of the vibration.
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Old 02-21-2017, 02:37 AM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

I went and got some fine textured low-density weather stripping foam to better cushion the fans. I cut the holes bigger to allow more vibration insulation, and the vivs no longer sound like twin-engine beechcraft. They're not silent, but it's better. Does anyone else experience fan vibration noise in their vivs? Does it stress the frogs? My hearing isn't what it used to be, so maybe it's louder than I think, because I can feel a slight vibration in the sides. How significant is this? Thanks!
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Old 03-28-2017, 03:56 AM
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Update. I had to redesign the whole fan/ventilation issue. The foam board just amplifies all vibration like a sub-woofer, so kill that idea. I already have several ideas for improving this method of construction. I would not recommend it to others just yet. Some potential, still, but definitely some drawbacks. Some new pics showing that I am still making some progress.
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Old 03-28-2017, 03:57 AM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Couple more...
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Old 04-21-2017, 04:10 AM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Well, my vivariums are finally done (I think I started in September of ’16?) and ready to be occupied. I must say that building them was an incredible learning experience. Maybe one that I don’t want to repeat real soon? The build, and the result, was not exactly what I had envisioned. Just to recap, my original reasons for doing this were:
• Complete customizability regarding size
• Ease of assembly with easy to find, safe materials
• Light weight compared to wood and glass construction
• Inexpensive
• Less mess than using expanding foam and silicone
Here is what I learned:
• This is a fantastic method for creating a custom sized vivarium. You choose each dimension, your preferred style of doors, ventilation needs, custom features, and you get to sculpt the interior instead of spraying expanding foam and carving it afterwards. Use a hot wire foam carving tool, and your only limit is your imagination. I think these benefits are most apparent when building larger than normal vivariums that ExoTerra and ZooMed cannot supply. (I was told that early on)
• Easy to assemble does not mean quick to assemble. There are lots of things to consider when designing from scratch. You need to be able to make rather exact cuts if you want parts to fit together well, be sturdy, and prevent ff escapes. Plus, as Pumilo mentioned, there have been questions about the use of polycarbonate and polystyrene which may leach BPA, an endocrine disrupter. I am not aware of this being a proven problem with hobbyists frogs, but one should be aware of the possibility.
• Being light weight is a nice attribute that I wish I had in common with my vivs. They’re easily movable by one person, and don’t seem to flex in the size that I’ve made. Then again, I must admit that I don’t intend to move them very often. Vivariums are rather stationary things to have, and probably don’t need to be all that mobile. Also, I went through most of a 50lb bag of turface for substrate, which kind of negated the low weight benefit.
• Inexpensive, but not. Expanded foam sheets, adhesive, sealer, glue, paints, background materials, the foam carver, computer fans, fine mesh screen, it all adds up. Fast! I did not keep track of how expensive these were, and I really do not want to know, but I could probably have purchased a ready-made vivarium for a similar price, albeit in a slightly smaller size.
• Less mess? Absolutely not! Carving foam creates an incredible mess! When you pull the hot wire through the foam, it creates fine plastic fibers as the melted material stretches then hardens. It looks like fiberglass, except soft, and non-irritating. I spent hours picking the stuff off everything! And it has static cling!
Also, take the advice freely given in these forums. I read many suggestions and bits of advice. Some I heeded, others I did not, but all were worth noting. Do not bother to make fake wood! It is harder to do than it looks. Just buy real wood! Do not bother to incorporate tons of minute details into your scenery and background that will never be noticed in the finished product. Simpler is better! You probably need fewer plants than you think you need. I have tons left over, and my vivs will likely be overgrown sooner than necessary. I learned all that, and I don’t even have frogs yet! Your comments are welcome!
Jim
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Old 04-21-2017, 09:06 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

I notice that I seem to get a lot of reads, but few comments. If members think that I've made a mistake in constructing my vivs this way, I would actually rather hear about it than hear nothing. I am trying to be creative and think outside the box, but I want what's best for the frogs. I am not completely sold on what I've done, though I do think that it is certainly functional. I am considering building all glass vivs, as the next few I'm planning will be smaller. I might even break down and try Exo-terra. I got frogs today (bicolor and benedicta) and I think I'm already addicted.
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Old 04-22-2017, 06:46 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

If one wanted to add strength to the construction you could use epoxy and fiber glass on both sides. Like a sandwiched boat hull. Could probably use thinner sheets of foam too in that case.

Just a thought that came to mind when I saw it.

Great build! Looking good!
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Old 04-22-2017, 09:43 PM
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Default Re: Something a bit different...

Strength/rigidity of the box structure hasn't been an issue. It's pretty stiff. On the inside I used drylock masonry paint, which gives an almost grout-like effect. It's plenty durable, and yet soft enough to push pins/wires into for mounting epiphytes. It's the durability of the soft foam on the outside that is a problem. I covered the exposed surfaces with solid black peel-n-stick vinyl floor tiles. They don't look terrible, but it obviously says "home-made". Plus, they don't stick as securely as I'd like, but it works for now. The fiberglass idea is interesting. It would solve the issue of sealing and durability, but not sure on cost. It would still need paint, or some kind of coloring to be attractive. At first I thought 2" thick foam would reduce the interior space too much, but I carved it so much, and added so many "perches" for frogs and plants that I really like the flexibility that the thickness gives you. It's the difficulty of precision cutting/fitment, the durability of the exterior surfaces, and the still open question of safety of materials that are the drawbacks here. Again, I'm not promoting this method, just sharing what I've experienced.
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