1 x 2 (for top section) Length dependent upon tank size
1 x 3 (for side section/frame for non-secured lids for use with most
lizards) Length dependent upon tank size
1 x 4 (for side section/frame for secured lids for use with snakes)
Length dependent upon tank size
* You want the 1 x 2s & 1 x 3s (or 1 x 4s) to be
as straight as you can get, no bows or curves in any direction.
½-inch hardware cloth (optional – used for reinforcing
strength of window screen. Recommended for use with snakes)
½-inch Wire Staples/Nails (small fence-type staples/nails)
1 ¼-inch finish nails (I used 3D-bright finish nails) Aprox.
50 – 60 nails
1 ¼-inch screws (wood or drywall) Aprox. 8
3/8-inch x 1 ½-inch nylon coarse thread hex bolt - Quantity:
One drill bit & tap set for 3/8” – 16nc threads (3/8”-16nc
tap and drill bit #0)
Small “T” brackets or “L” brackets - Quantity:
This particular top is for a standard 55-gallon tank but I’ll
try to avoid confusion by not mentioning particular measurements. Simply
measure your own and go from there. I recommend leaving the trim pieces
on the tank for use in securing the lid as mentioned in the instructions
We’ll start with the side frame, the frame that goes around the
sides of the tank.
- Measure the length of your tank and add 1/16-inch. Cut two 1 x 3s
(or 1 x 4s) this size. Example: If the length of the tank measures
48 inches, cut two 1 x 3s at 48 1/16 inches long.
- Measure the width of your tank and add 1/16-inch, PLUS, two times
the thickness of your 1 x 3s (or 1 x 4s), which should be aprox. ¾”.
Cut two 1 x 3s (or 1 x 4s) this size. Example: Tank width measures
11 inches. Add 1/16-inch = 11 1/16 inches. Thickness of 1 x 3 is ¾-inch.
¾-inch x 2 = 1 ½ inches. Total length of 1 x 3 would
be 12 9/16 inches.
- Glue & nail the side frame together, keeping the boards as straight
and square as possible. Test-fit it before the glue sets up so you
can flex the boards if needed in order for the frame to fit on the
Use the dimensions of the side frame you just made instead of the dimensions
of the tank itself, this way the outer edges of the top section will
be flush with the outer edges of the side section/frame.
- Cut two 1 x 2s the full length of the side frame.
- Cut three 1 x 2s the width of the side frame, MINUS 3 inches (two
times the width of your 1 x 2s). This allows the width of the top
section to sit within the two lengths of the top section, offsetting
the joints of the side frame.
- Determine the size of the screened area you need to rest your dome(s)
on top of. For instance - for this particular top I used an 8-inch
dome so I made the screened area approximately 9 inches long and the
width of the 55-gallon tank, minus the widths of the 1 x 2s, fell
close enough to the same size. If your cage is wider than 12 inches
you might want to reduce the screened area by adding wider boards
or more boards to the width of the screened area.
- Cut a 1/8 – 3/16-inch wide groove (typical thickness of a
circular saw blade) ½ inch deep down the center of the thickness
of the two 1 x 2 lengths. Due to the radius of the saw blade it was
necessary for me to cut my groove from point “B” to just
past point “A” to ensure that the plexiglass would seat
properly within all four grooves.
Putty over-cuts as
- Cut another 1/8 – 3/16-inch wide groove, ½ inch deep,
into two of the 1 x 2s that were cut for the width of the top section.
You can cut this groove from one end to the other; both ends will
not be exposed.
Secure pieces 1 – 4 to the side frame with
both wood glue & finish nails. Place the very last piece in
position while securing the others in order to ensure a good fit,
however, don’t secure it until after you install the plexiglass
in the grooves. You’ll need the “T” brackets or
“L” brackets to secure piece #4 to both of the length
pieces 1 & 3. Secure from the underside of the tank top so it’s
- Measure the distance between pieces 1 & 3 and then add ½
inch. This is the width you need your plexiglass to be. This allows
for approximately ¼-inch play on both sides of the plexiglass
and can be helpful if things aren’t exactly square.
- Set the final, unsecured piece of the top section in place and determine
the length of the plexiglass needed. Add 1/2 inch, just as in step
- If you’ve never cut plexiglass before I suggest letting the
DIY store you purchase it from cut it for you. It’s worth every
penny of it. If you want to tackle it yourself I’ve had better
results from scoring it several times, using a straight edge and utility
knife. Lay the scored line along a good straight edge and snap it.
This can be tricky when working with long pieces. Having someone hold
the main part of the plexiglass and another do the snapping helps.
* Be careful when scoring plexiglass. It’s
easy to put too much weight on the utility knife and moving too
fast, causing it to jump over the edge of the straight edge and
slicing thru a finger or two. I laid the top of my index finger
wide open the first time I tried it.
Install the ½ inch hardware cloth to the underside and then
stretch & staple the window screen over it to reduce nose rub
injuries on snakes and some lizards.
Drill small vent holes in one end of the plexiglass. When drilling
plexiglass, it will melt or crack if you’re not careful. Drill
the holes in small steps, applying just a little bit of pressure
but not forcing the drill bit thru. Remove burrs from the holes
with a utility knife.
If you want a secured lid mark point “E” as shown,
in the center of the width and ½ inch below the bottom of
the tank’s trim that goes around the top.
- When drilling holes for taps the feed rate (drill pressure) and
speed can greatly affect how loose or tight the threads in the wood
will be. By the same token, not holding the drill straight, at a perpendicular
angle, can also affect hole/thread size. It’s better to drill
in steps instead of trying to drill the hole the final size in one
shot. The hole will be larger, possibly too large for the bolt, if
drilled in one step. I suggest reading up on “drilling and tapping
wood” with a Google search before attempting this. Drill &
tap your hole for the nylon bolt and repeat on the other end of your
Sand it, stain it, coat it, or whatever you want to do to it. Just
remember to keep VOCs in mind when choosing what to do to protect it.
Kingsnake.com’s “Cage & Habitat” forum has many
posts about wood treatment.
There are several modifications you can do to have a more appealing
or professional-looking top. One thing is to miter all corners. A little
putty here & there can make a difference, too. As you can tell I
didn't put forth a whole lot of effort in this top since it was just
a temporary situation that I needed it for. For those of you with concerns
for the well-being of the Burmese Python pictured in the tank, it was
only temporary, but I appreciate your concern for it.