The Iguana Den





PVC Cage Plans 1

Originally Posted by Larry Anderson to the IguanaDen Group

We go through a lot of discussion about cage construction on this list There are a lot of questions that swirl around these concepts. I started off to make a couple of notes about where to find things, and found myself rambling off into the whole construction process. I am going to post a copy of this in the "Files" section of Yahoo Groups, but I am going to post the whole thing here for those who have problems getting into the List Site.

PVC pipe is great for making cages - it is really easy to work with, and pretty inexpensive as well. All you need is a hacksaw, to cut the pipe to length. You will also need some side-cutters or electrician's pliers to cut the mesh. If you don't have these, don't fear - there are some very cheap versions at Home Depot or Sears - you just need something tough and sharp to cut through the mesh. To mount the door, you should probably have a drill and bits, but you could get away with simply using Velcro ties to mount it. That's all the tools you need!

Figure out all your sizes, then cut all the PVC at once. That way you can use one piece as the "model", and cut the others to match it. Be sure to mark which piece is the "master", and always use that one. That is much easier, and more accurate, than trying to measure each piece

You can make the cage extra sturdy, by gluing the fittings (be sure to buy the PVC cleaner and cement when you get the pipe). If you are going to glue it together, be sure that you haven't made any side too long to fit your mesh, before you glue it together. An alternative to gluing is to simply dry-fit the structure, then hold it all together when you fasten on the mesh. To fasten on the mesh, cut it so that it goes over the outside of the pipe, then tie it on with "zip ties". Put the zip ties no more than 6 inches apart, and be sure to put extras in the corners (and yes, you will really hate zip ties by the time you are finished). Make the PVC frame first, and then cut all of the mesh pieces. It is a lot easier to cut the mesh to fit the frame, than to build the frame to fit the mesh.

Making a panel is really easy - but the problem comes when you try to connect the panels to build the "box". I found a site that sells PVC fittings that are designed to build furniture. They have the fittings we need to make the construction easy! The PVC fittings are at US Plastics , just follow the navigation through "Pipe and Fittings", then to "Furniture Pipe and Fittings".

A "3-way Ell" is the primary component. It is like a regular elbow, but has another connector coming out the side of it. It is the key piece to connect the front, top and side all together. This is a definite improvement over trying to figure out how jury-rig everything, without leaving gaps.

They also have "4-way Ells". This fitting is like a "T", with an extra connector coming out the side of it. You would use it to put a PVC brace in the middle of cage. For example, if your cage is 8 feet long, 3 feet deep, and 4 feet high, it will probably sag along the front and back sides - 8 feet is a really long run. Assuming you have a mesh top, it will certainly droop down into the cage, unless it has a cross brace to hold it up. To fix this problem, put a 4-way Ell in the middle of each of the long sides, and connect them with the pipe. You have now created a very strong brace, all around the center of the cage, creating two 4x4x3 boxes. This is much stronger and neater.

You have also just created your door frame. If you cover one half of the front of the cage with mesh, the other half is ready for your door. One problem with PVC construction is that the fittings are bigger than the pipe, so when you try to butt two panels together, the fittings are close, but there is a big gap between the pipes. To make the door fit closer into the cage, you need to get the fittings out of the corners.

I know it sounds stupid, but it works, and it is easy! Normally, you would use a regular, 90 degree elbow in the corners. However, this puts that elbow in direct contact with the elbow in the corner of the cage. To fix it, use two, 45 degree elbows for the corners of the door, connected by a very short piece of pipe. When I built mine, the pipe was so short that the two 45 degree elbows were touching, but you will need to experiment a pit to see what is needed to clear the cage.

I have never had any luck trying to rig up door hinges for flexible materials like this, so I simply make the doors lift right off! For the bottom of the door, I took two pieces of 90 degree angle aluminum (from Home Depot, etc. - it comes in 4 or 8 foot lengths ). I put the two pieces together, so they formed a "U" channel, wide enough for the PVC and mesh to rest in, loosely. When you are making the channel, be sure to use an elbow and mesh to figure out wide the "U" needs to be (the first time I did it, I used the pipe itself, and the elbows wouldn't sit down into the channel :(). Drill the holes in the aluminum, and small pilot holes in the PVC bottom tube, and screw it together with fairly large sheet metal screws (either number 10 or number 12).

There are a couple of options for the top of the door. I put a couple of short pieces of aluminum diagonally in the corners, mounted on the inside. These keep the door from falling into the cage. To hold it shut, I used a couple of automobile hood hold-down pins. These were a bit of a pain to get all lined up, but work great once I got them installed. However, I think for my next construction, I will just use a couple of the Velcro ties to hold the top shut.

To build a cage like I have just outlined, you need the following PVC fittings:
8 - 3 way ells (4 each, top and bottom)
4 - 4 way ells (middle of each of the long pieces)
8 - 45 degree ells (for the door, a pair in each corner)

Pipe? That is up to you, depending on how big you want it in each direction. You will need the following pieces:
8 horizontal pieces, half the length of the front (the 4 way ell cuts the length in half)
6 vertical pieces (the two ends and the middle)
6 cross braces
2 horizontal and 2 vertical pieces for the door. These will be a little shorter than the corresponding cage pieces, since the door goes inside the cage opening.
4 really short pieces to connect the 45 degree ells

Please do not use "hardware cloth", "chicken wire", or any other woven wire mesh for your cages. As the igs get bigger, stronger and heavier, then can literally rip out their claws on the mesh. A very good source for plastic mesh is or you can call them at 1-800-328-8456. They will send you a sample set of their products for free, so you can decide which style / size you need. They sell their product by the running foot (most products are about 4 feet wide), and ship it out very quickly by UPS. If you go to their web site - the place to look is under "Plastic Netting", then "Aquaculture". Yup, the product is actually designed to be used by fish farmers! I have had it on both inside and outside cages for over a year, and I see absolutely no signs of any wear or decay.

One final thought. Assuming that you making an outdoor cage, make sure you provide some shade. The igs are tropical creatures, but they do live in the trees. When they get hot, they need to be able to slide into the shade and cool down. Also, don't forget a big water dish for them.

It's important to keep in mind that this cage is designed for either outdoor sunning, or for a dedicated reptile room where it is easier to control heat and humidity. If you are planning to have this as an indoor cage, it is best to enclose the cage to keep in heat and humidity. Plywood, plexiglass, or even cheap shower curtains can be used to modify this cage for use in a normal household setting.

Good luck - if you have any questions, just post them to the list.



© 2002 - PurpleDragon Website Design