Rio Reptiles
Rio Reptiles - Rescue & Resource


How to Build a "NICE" 2' x 4' Bearded Dragon Enclosure

Bearded Dragon Enclosure

If you're like me, you want your dragons home to look like a nice piece of furniture so that you can place it anywhere in your house and show off your dragon in class.

Here are my instructions on how to build the basic box for a 2 ft x 4 ft enclosure with front sliding doors with an inside height of 22" or 18".

I also have instructions on how to build a smaller, lighter, 2 ft x 3 ft enclosure here.

Circular Saw w/ Very Fine Tooth Blade
Drill or Screw Gun & Index of Bits
Sabre or Jig Saw w/ Fine Tooth Blade
2" Hole Saw
Miter Saw or Miter Box & Hand Saw
Hammer or Nail Gun
Measuring Tape and / or T Square
Wood Clamps
Nail Punch
Finish Sander
Zip Saw w/ Circle Cutter
Pencil & Sharpie

Wood Glue
Sand Paper 150 & 220 or 320
Foam Brush or Paint Pads
Wood Putty
Polyurethane Finish
3/4", 1" & 1 1/4" Finish Nails
#4 or #6 x 1/4" or 3/8" Pan Head Screws
Clear Polyurethane Adhesive/Sealant
Masking Tape
Tack Cloth or Mineral Spirits


4' x 8' x 1/2" Sandeply Sheet Plywood link

top, bottom, back & sides
1 x 2 x 8 ft Select Pine Board
top and bottom track stops
(2) 1 x 3 x 6 ft Pine Board
base support
1/2" x 3/4" x 9 ft Pine Trim link
track and side stops
7/16" x 2" x 9 ft Pine Trim link
top & bottom front track trim
2' x 4' Plexiglass Sheet
6 Pack 2" White Plastic Soffit Vents link
(2) Plastic Oval Soffit Vents link
4 ft Pine Screen Trim link
for door handles/trim

Measure, Mark & Cut Plywood into 5 pieces
Bottom - 23 1/2 " W x 47" L
Top - 24" W x 48" L
For light fixtures installed inside the enclosure or recessed domes (23" inside height)
Back - 23.5" H x 47" W
2 Sides - 23.5" H x 24" W
For domes sitting on top of the enclosure (18" inside height)
Back - 18 1/2 " H x 47" W
2 Sides - 18 1/2 " H x 24" W
Sand edges with 150 until smooth then sand all surfaces with 220 until smooth.
Cut 2 pieces 1x2 at 47" long (cut after box is built)
Cut 2 pieces of 7/16" x 2" trim to 48" long (cut after box is built)
Cut each 1 x 3 board into 2 pieces, one 36 inches long and the other 18 inches measured on the long side with mitered corners to form a rectangle. This will leave 3 inches between the base and outer edge of the bottom.

Lay the bottom piece of wood upside down and flat on a bench or table. Arrange the four pieces of 1x3 so that the mitered corners fit together. Measure to make sure the base will be centered with equal space around the edges. Flip each piece up on its edge and apply wood glue to the area beneath each board. Carefully lay each piece back down into place on the wood glue and nail into place.


Now begin to assemble the box.
If you have a crate or box about 2 ft high, lean the bottom against it so that it is vertical and the back edge is facing upward and the front edge is on the ground. Lay the back piece of plywood flat on the crate so that the bottom edge meets the back edge of the base you built to form a 90º angle to each other. It's always good to check your alignment with a square first. Now run a bead of glue across the back edge of the base that is facing upward, then carefully lay the back piece on top of it making sure the edges meet with the back covering the edge of the bottom. Nail into place with 1" nails using at least 5 to 9 nails.

Now carefully set the structure on end supporting the pieces so that they don't pull apart, their weight will hold the pieces in place once in position. Now lay one of the side pieces on top of the end checking to see that they fit properly. You will want the sides to overlap the edges of the bottom and back pieces for a clean look.

Run a small bead of glue along the bottom and back side edges, then carefully position side piece on top aligning edges and nail in place.

Carefully flip entire structure so that the other end is facing upward and attach the other side.

Now attach the top piece. Position the structure upright so that the front opening is facing you and check to make sure the top lays over the back and side edges just covering them. Run a small bead of glue along the top edges of the back and sides, then place the top in position and nail into place with 1" nails. Start by using a couple of nails to hold it in place, then nail securely once everything is aligned and square. You now have an empty box.

Now it’s time to make the bottom door track and inner track stops. Measure the inner width from side to side, this should be 47". Now cut only one piece of 1/2" x 3/4" trim for the bottom track, and two pieces of 1 x 2 for the top and bottom track stops. Flush with the front edge, glue and nail into place the piece of 1/2" x 3/4" trim so that it is taller than it is wide. This will give your track a width of 1/2". Directly behind it will be the piece of 1 x 2 positioned taller vertically so that it sticks up 3/4" behind it. Once in position, glue and nail into place. Now do the same with the top piece directly above the bottom back piece. Be sure that they are aligned so that the side pieces will fit between them. Keep in mind, you will want the top track slot to be twice as deep so that you can lift the doors up and out for easy removal during cleaning.

Now measure the vertical space along the side between the top and bottom track stops. You will want to cut two pieces of 1/2" x 3/4" trim to fit vertically between them (tightly). Glue and nail into place. Recess nails, fill with wood putty and sand smooth.

Now you have an inner frame to support your doors and cover the edges from the inside which will prevent dragons from being able to reach the edges and slide them open.


Before covering the tracks, measure the distance from the the bottom track to about 1/4" above the door opening to calculate how tall the doors will need to be. You want your doors to be at least 1/4" taller than the opening while sitting on the bottom track so that at least 3/4" is left open at the top. This will leave an empty space at the top behind the front trim so that the door can be lifted and the lower end will come up above the bottom front trim so that you can pull it completely out. For the door width, you will want to measure the full opening, divide by 2 for half and add 1" for your overlap in the middle.

Cutting plexiglass is tricky and messy so be sure to wear eye protection. Tape top and bottom along where your cuts will be made with masking tape then mark with a sharpie. Put two boards side by side with a space between them where you'll be cutting and sandwich the plexi on both sides with 1x's and clamps to prevent any flexing. Cut with a sabre saw and fine tooth metal cutting blade, a mini circular saw with fine tooth paneling blade. For best results, use a straight edge as a guide instead of following a drawn line. Sand and/or flame edges with a torch to smooth.

Now you are ready to make the front track trim covers and attach them. Now measure the full width of the box from outer edge to outer edge, this is the length that you will cut your 2" front trim pieces, the length should be right about 48". Cut two pieces of 7/16 x 2" trim and make sure they fit all the way across the front of the cage on the top and bottom and are flush with the outer edges. You could also use a more decorative type of trim or rout the edges for a nicer look if you desire. Before attaching, check to see that your doors will fit correctly so that they can be installed and removed. Along top and bottom front edges, run a bead of glue and attach the trim pieces with finish nails. Use a punch to recess nails, then fill holes with wood putty and sand smooth.
At this point you can go around and recess all the nails by punching them in a little deeper than the surface, filling with wood putty and sand all the surfaces with a finish sander. Cut your round vent holes with the hole saw and the oval vent holes with the sabre saw. I cut the tabs off of the soffit vents and make a pattern out of cardboard or paper that can be traced onto the wood before cutting.

Before applying the polyurethane, be sure to wipe all surfaces clean of debris using a tack cloth or rag with mineral spirits on it. I always shop vac and use the compressor to blow it out before wiping it down too.

Using a foam brush or paint pad apply polyurethane starting with the inside bottom since it will have the most coats. The first coat will be the heaviest since the wood will soak most of it in. Allow to dry overnight and sand all surfaces with 220 or 320. Wipe clean and apply a thin second coat also allowing to dry overnight. At this point you can decide if you want to apply a third coat on the outside or not. I always apply a third coat on the complete inside, then a fourth or fifth on the inside bottom until it is super smooth and easy to clean.

Allow to dry at least 10 days to two weeks. Applying thin coats will help shorten drying time.

For the door handles, I like to make handles that overlap the side edges and give it a finished look. I either use the 1/2" x 3/4" trim or the pine screen trim and attach by drilling small holes through the plexiglass and hold them in place with tiny #4 x 1/4" pan head screws inserted from the back side of the door. These also help to lock the door in place.







© 2009 Rio Reptiles. All Rights Reserved