To buy or build? Need some critiques and advice

I’m wanting to upgrade my leopard gecko’s home from a 20gal long. I’ve been looking at enclosures and gauging the prices; and it’d be about the same price depending on the materials.

Diy rough idea:

I can’t find pvc sheets big enough thats not $100+ already. So plywood would be the main material and plexi hinged door. I saw I should go for about 10-12mm thick boards and since it’s not a very wet bioactive that I’m planning I shouldn’t need to seal it. Size wise I’m thinking about 30"x16"x10"; depends on what type of pre-cut plywood they have to cutdown the steps I’d need to do.

Bought one:
Going for a short and long enclosure either exotera or a pvc one off online (idk which site to go with though) most of the ones that are the size I’m looking at are a bit shorter in some way or another than the custom size I’m thinking about. But also I wouldn’t have to think about how I should assemble it properly.

If anyone else has ideas, or have built their own enclosures could give me some tips. because I’ve never built anything from scratch other than a bird house when I was kid with my dad.


First thing i would do is look on the market place on Facebook, you can find used enclosures for good prices regularly.


You can do what we did. We looked at if this is going to be a long or short term investment. If short term, then we would have built, if long term we would go professionally or commercial. In long term, pro or commercial would pan out in cost. Short term, diy would be cheaper now, but long term costs could build up. I know someone will say they had their diy forever and no problems. But not all diy items hold up as long as pro/comm made. And not everyone can build top notch items.


It’s about $100-$150 for the size ime looking at. Which is around the same price as it would be to make one


This is some good points thanks


Check out Boaphile Cages. Yes they are expensive, but IMHO, they are worth the money in the long run. I have purchased 4 of the enclosures so far and have had no problems with any of them so far.

Besides choosing the enclosure, you can add heat, lighting, other accessories, etc. Freight is included in the total cost and your enclosure comes fully assembled with whatever accessories/options you choose. All you have to do is open the box and plug it in

However, it takes at least 6 weeks if not more to receive your order. But again, IMHO, it’s worth the wait.


Regardless of the habitat being low humidity or not, I would still seal the wood because regardless. It does leave an opening for bacteria, mold or easy insect access if you don’t

Or in the case of my geckos, inevitably they find some way to do something they shouldn’t and would probably spill their water or use that particular part of habitat for poop.

Otherwise you got some good advice already!


Now that i have some free time I thought I’d add some more to this. I’ve had a fair amount of fabricating experience (built airplanes, built cabinets for one of Menards suppliers, built my own enclosures, racks. Some furniture etc. ) seeing that you’ve got limited experience I would suggest firstly looking for a good used one, secondly, see if you have a local cabinet builder you can have build you what you want, thirdly buy from a manufacturer online, and lastly build yourself. Reason I don’t suggest building yourself is you can’t rely on lumber yards cutting the material to an acceptable tolerance which will make things way more frustrating.

Now, if you really do want to try building, something to consider could be to find a storage bin you like and framing the top with wood and a door. You can make a really cool enclosure that way for really reasonable cost. I have some photos somewhere of enclosures made that way I’ll try and find to share.


These were built by a guy named Chris Harper like 20 years ago. They are insanely inventive and a great use of storage bins.

Chris Harper storage bin cages (2)
Chris Harper storage bin cages (3)


@randall_turner_jr now that is a cool idea. This would cut out a lot of work and almost all of the problem areas, and further issues. Thanks for sharing


What @randall_turner_jr had said here is pretty much gospel. I’m a contractor. I have a ton of experience, every tool you could want, and I still prefer to buy from or hire a specialist for cage building. I can turn out a great product but not with the efficiency and consistency that someone who does it every can, by a long shot.


^This. I used to build props for film and sets, and while back when I was healthy I could have built something nice, I bought my two enclosures. One needed a little modifying to suit my purposes but hey, that’s where the skills come in.

My reasons: It saves a huge amount of time, supports small businesses, and best of all it means something that’s already been reviewed and troubleshot comes to my door and I get to simply put it together and set it up.
Also these days I have the strength of a frail 80 year old so having something I can stick together with very little effort is a BIG plus. I bought my big pvc from Kages. Easiest flatpack I have ever done.


Amen to that! I will have to check out Kages!

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Randall’s logic and reasoning is absolutely sound. That said, I am going to blatantly contradict him, but for the best of reasons.

I firmly advocate everyone try and build their own cage/rack. I do this because I think everyone needs to truly understand that “I can do it myself for cheaper” is about the biggest jerk thing you can say to a specialist cage/rack builder (you will be amazed at how many people say this). It is one thing for someone like Randall, who obviously has the experience behind him, to type the words out that trusting a professional is the best thing to do, it is a whole other thing to spend the time and money and wasted material to try and do better than the professional and then look at the barely passable disaster you have wrought.

The humility that it teaches you and the respect for quality that it gives you is worth so much


This is why, IMHO, it’s great to be able to simply unbox a 4x2x2 custom built complete enclosure, plug it in, and stand back to admire the beautiful work lol you did for a few hundred dollars!

However, on the other hand, I have never built anything in my life! Lol! :lizard::snake::frog::joy:


Amazon and some pet stores have a type of recycled material enclosure called a Ecoflex enclosure in 3 sizes. The smaller ones are economical and solid enclosures. I bought the 4x2x2 version for my largest boa and it’s great, tho the substrate layer is smaller. Considering shipping costs, it’s a decent route, especially if you don’t want to wait months for some places to build a PVC enclosure.

That said, I’ve found PVC sheets for decent prices and seen upcycled stuff that’s pretty great, but if time is a factor or something I do like the Ecoflex ones. They have a mesh top so a Leo would have overhead heat, UVB and airflow easily. Just an idea, looks like you have some great options!


Some of us don’t even need to try making an enclosure to respect the professionals. I know full well that my attempt would fall far below the “barely passable disaster” metric. It wouldn’t be passable at all. It would just be a disaster. This I know. :joy:

So yeah, I have nothing but respect for those who do it well, and will gladly give them my hard-earned money, since I know that’s the only way I’ll end up with a usable enclosure.


Haven’t made an enclosure before, just two racks, both out of melamine. They worked pretty well for when I was just starting out and had less animals, but they were heavy and difficult to move (Always spring for the caster wheels! Don’t be me!), and I didn’t have the proper tools or space to cut the sheets myself so not all the pieces were cut exact. It worked and it held heat. But I replaced those suckers as soon as I could afford it.

For something small like what you’re wanting (or a smaller sized rack), building your own could certainly work if you have the means and/or tools to do so. I had Lowes cut all my boards for me, which for a rack system, wasn’t the biggest issue because the seams didn’t need to be perfectly flush. So long as I set the shelves in at the correct heights (which I didn’t, but that was an issue with my spacers) I didn’t need to worry about escapees. For an enclosure that’s more of a concern (and I would for sure seal the inside of anything you make regardless of it’s a high humidity species or not).

If this is your only gecko though I think I’d honestly skip the diy build and get something premade. Way less headache and stress involved if something goes wrong.


Amen! I have not had any problems with any of the enclosures I have purchased. I got the first one in 2018 and then the other three followed. :+1::wink::lizard::frog::snake:


I have been building PVC enclosures for years now and I don’t know what stores are in your area but Home Depot sales a true half inch PVC sheet that is 4x8 and it is made by a company named veranda. In my area those sheets sell for right at $100 and it’s worth the cost because I don’t care if you’re bioactive setup will not be that damp, wood is always going to rot because of humidity no matter what. Especially if it is not sealed. PVC will last a lifetime and is well worth the money. Also I would recommend using a screen hinged door or going with tempered glass. In my area a 2x2 piece of tempered glass is the same price as a 2x2 piece of thin acrylic and the glass will not scratch as easily and will not Flex. If you have a Home Depot in your area, spending $100 on a 4x8 sheet of PVC would be worth the investment because of the longevity you would get out of using that material. Pre-cut Lumber right now is extremely expensive so I don’t know how that will be cost-effective for you.