Back of the Habitat
This was the first section to be built since it was the simplist. It's basically
just a frame with an additional reinforcing member down the middle, filled
with foam sections and sealed on both sides with the 1/8" thick plywood
(note the large size of this section compared to the trash bins.) The frames
are assembled with wood glue and Grabber screws. Until the skins are put on
the frames are pretty delicate and wobbly. The skins are put on with more
wood glue and nailed down with small nails/brads. We used "paneling nails".
Be SURE to get the frames square before nailing the skins down. Use a carpenters
square to check and recheck, or measure the diagonals. They should be equal;
if they aren't, you're not square.
Bottom of the Habitat
Unfortunately we didn't take pictures of this during assembly so I can only
describe it. Since this is the bottom and heat rises, the floor doesn't have
an insulated sandwich construction. The interior floor is 3/4" thick
exterior plywood, and it has one 26" reinforcing cross member in the
middle. This is because my servant comes into the place daily to clean it
(and weekly to REALLY clean it) and the floor needs to support his extraordinary
weight. On top of the plywood the vinyl flooring was glued down with "cove
cement". I'm not sure if this is really the right stuff to use, but it
worked, and the bozos at the hardware store couldn't seem to tell us which
of the many choices available was the correct adhesive. Because of the 3/4"
plywood the bottom is very heavy to lift.
Top of the Habitat
This is of insulated sandwich construction similar to the walls but with
a minor difference. The side of the sandwich which ends up being inside the
pad (i.e. "the ceiling) is 5/8" thick exterior plywood. This is
so that the heater, lights, and disco ball (put up for parties only) can be
hung from the ceiling without ripping through the thin plywood used elsewhere.
The exterior ("top" of habitat) is still just the 1/8" plywood.
Between the two skins is the expected 2" insulating foam with the mirrored
side facing downward to reflect any heat back into the habitat
The Top is where all the electrical wiring is run to the power
strip that powers my Pad. A hole saw was used to cut completely through both
sides of the assembled Top including the foam core. The foam core was removed
and the cylinder of insulation was sliced vertically so that the power cords
could be run between them and then slid back into the hole, so that even the
air space in the hole is insulated. Some very nifty 2 piece plastic plugs
from the hardware store allowed a nice finished look to the installation inside
Ends of the Habitat
These are just like the back, but with a rectangular ventilation hole in
each end. The left (if you're facing the front of the habitat) end has a slot
about 3" x 14" down near floor level:
...and the right end has a larger vent about 4' up (note how the 110V wallplug
wires come out the bottom via a hole covered by a smaller version of the plastic
plugs used on the Top of the habitat):
Both vents are covered with Internet XV1170 1/4"-square plastic netting
secured with painted window screen trim and trim/panel nails. The upper vent
is larger because a fanbox containing 2 cooling fans screws over the vent
to help exhaust extra heat when the partying in my bachelor pad raises the
temps too much. This is where a mistake was made in the design. The original
design says to cut the vents in the completed wall and put some extra reinforcing
pine around the edge to keep the area around the vents rigid. The truth is
that these reinforcments should have been put in when the ends were being
constructed, before they were skinned with plywood. As it was, some really
annoying hacking and slashing had to be done to get them in after the vents
were cut through the walls. The foam had to be cut out using a sharp knife
and the reinforcing parts had to be fitted/forced through the vent holes before
they could be nailed to the skins using the paneling nails just like we did
when we made the sandwiches in the first place.
Front of the Habitat
Ok this was the final section that was built because it as the most difficult.
It features 4 framed windows (which we built) and 1 door (which we also built).
The windows had to be framed in which means there are a LOT more pieces of
reinforcing pine here, all of which must be fitted properly/square. Then after
its skinned the window and door openings had to be cut out neatly.
Here's the front after it's been assembled with grabbers and we're starting
to frame in the where the windows will go. You can see that the windows are
assembled (glued and screwed) and are being held to dry by pipe clamps. Yes
you need some tools to assemble something this big.
Ok, after all (well, almost all, except for the ones we later discovered
we'd forgot) the framing members are glued and screwed in place the front
is insulated and skinned just like the other walls. This was non trivial as
you have to cut out the openings in the skins before you assemble them, at
least according to the original design. If we had it to do again we'd just
put the whole skins on and cut them out with a jigsaw or router. Here is what
it looked like as we assembled the skins. Note you can see the insulation
in all the gaps where there won't be a window or door:
The Front Door
The door was constructed of the same 1" x 3" framing material which
the window frames are made of. The original design called for the door to
just slide in, but I wanted mine with a hinge and latch. This made the whole
door construction something of a pain as I'm no carpenter and the current
door will eventualy need to be done better. The door is one frame with 2 "panels".
The bottom panel is made of the same 1/8" plywood as the skins of the
walls and is slid in down a grove cut in the door frame. The original idea
was that the panel could be removed to allow easy in/out access to the habitat,
but at this point the lower panel is permanent. The upper "panel"
is an open space with Internet netting (the same stuff used on the side vents)
stapled onto the back of the door with a heavy duty stapler (netting seen
in background inside enclosure). The door is attached to the wall with a 4'
long stainless steel piano hinge (stainless was chosen to avoid rust in the
high humidity environment).
Sub-Assembly: Cooling Fanbox
Because the design of the Pad is so good at keeping heat in the upper basking
area it's critical that you have an automated, thermostat-based, exhaust fan(s)
over the upper (i.e. right) side vent. This will activate when the temperature
in the basking area rises above approx 105 degrees F., and will suck cool
exterior air from the lower (left) side vent as well as the screen-covered
door. We used 2 approximately 5" fans in a custom box made from scrap
left over from making the window frames. The fans (as well as the thermostat/humidistat
control we discuss later) were purchased from a local hydroponic supply house.
While they look like computer muffin fans, they have a plug on them an run
directly off 110V AC wall sockets:
The key was to get the wiring hidden for aesthetic and safety reasons:
Another point of critical importance was to make
sure that these fans were covered so I or my party guests couldn't accidentally
stick our tails or fingers into the fans. My contractor stuck his finger
into the fans while they were operating and I've never heard such language.
(note: it REALLY hurts and could easily cut a human finger, or anything else
stuck in there). So some "hardware cloth", which is heavy wire screen
with square holes, and some fiberglass patio door screen was used to construct
a cover which passed air but stopped foreign objects. The screen(s) were anchored
by yet more of the ubiquitous screen trim:
Here's where the original book presented almost no useful information about
making the windows. Even the size of glass panes to order was not included,
just a basic drawing showing the approximate size of the finished windows.
Now you can benefit from my experimentation. Here's what I ordered for the
glass panes which would be used to make the windows. All glass is "DS
- temp", that's Double Strength, tempered, glass. "DS refers to
the thickness which is about 1/8" thick. Tempered is about double the
cost of regular glass, but if a lizard or human ever goes through the glass,
tempered breaks into fairly safe little squares, instead of long razor sharp
shards. (Of course if a lizard ate the tempered fragments that would be bad,
so beware). Here's the glass dimensions:
2 panes, 26 1/2" x 39 1/2"
2 panes, 40 1/2" x 16 1/2"
These 4 pieces of glass cost me $170, and took several days for manufacture
since tempered glass needs special tools to cut it to size.
The window frames were made from the "1 x 3" material recommended
in the Hatfield book. Note that this stuff is actually about 3/4" x 2
3/8". A table saw with a 1/8" wide blade was used to cut a groove
(called a dado) lengthwise on one side of all the 1 x 3. When the 1 x 3 was
cut into the lengths needed to make the window frame this allowed the glass
to slip into the grooves and be held fast once the frames were glued and nailed
together. You really need some pipe clamps to hold the frames together while
the glue sets up. So thats the basic frame. After the glue dried 1/4",
quarter round, trim was used to make the windows look nice. Contact cement
was used to glue it in place and used an X Acto miter box from a hobby shop
cut nice 45 degree angles for the trim (the tool was used later on the screen
trim as well). Here's a closeup of the finished window corner showing the
details, including the inner quarter round, the frame w/ butt joins, and the
outer screen trim that covers the ugliness where the window frame sits in
the front wall. This is a closeup, standing a foot or so away this looks pretty
Well thats enough of the outside. Now on to the assembly and final fitting
inside my apartment. See
the Inside of My Pad