How to Build a Snake Rack
Knowing how to build a snake rack is a valuable skill to have as a snake breeder or snake keeper. If you have more than one snake or you are a breeder, you will want to invest in a snake rack system.
Snakes don’t do well being housed in a single unit with other snakes especially if they are of different snake species. Bigger snakes may prey on smaller snakes.
They may also be aggressive and territorial of the common space they share. The best is to keep each snake housed in a separate unit through the use of a rack system.
There are basically two ways to acquire a rack. Either you buy a prefab/premade reptile rack system or construct one yourself. Building a snake rack is a nice project that allows you to save money while fully customizing the build.
The rack we will be looking at today fits ten 41-quart Sterilite under-bed containers. You can build it long (horizontal) or high (vertical and tall). With this article, we are building it high (vertical and tall).
With a high snake rack, the compartments for the Sterilite containers are stacked on top of one another. This is better as it takes up less floor space than the horizontal rack does.
You will need a few materials to get started. Most home improvement stores can cut up the particle boards you would use in the construction into the required sizes for no extra charge.
This saves you the time and effort of doing so yourself. To provide the needed heat, you decide to tape heat pads to the floor of each level or tape a large stretch of heat tape to the inside back of the rack.
Materials Needed for The Build
- 41-quart Sterilite under-bed containers (10 containers). You can find this at Home Depot and/or anywhere household hardware is sold. You can also acquire them on Amazon.
- Melamine particle board (4 boards). Measurements 8 feet by 4 feet x 5/8 inches.
- 2″ drywall screws. These are very easy to find.
- Foil tape
- Ranco Thermostat
- Extension cord
- Repti-Warm Heat Mat (11 by 84 inches) or FlexWatt (11 by 84 inches) & connectors
- Power Strip
- 25-inch iron-on siding (2 sheets).
- White Laminate panel board (1 sheet). This is for the back.
Cutting Up the Particle Boards
The melamine particle boards need to be cut into the right sizes for easy assembly.
- The snake rack would have two sides. The measurements for the sides is 72 inches by 35 inches.
- The rack would have 11 levels as it is meant to house 10 units. The measurements for the levels is 35 inches by 17 inches.
- There will be a single kick plate. The measurements for the levels is 17 inches by 3 inches.
- Lastly, the measurements for the back is 72 inches by 18¼ inches.
Constructing The Rack
Now that the boards have been cut into the right sizes, you can commence with the construction. This is relatively simple. The two sides will stand vertical and the levels will stand horizontal, connecting the two sides to one another. The back will then be connected horizontally. With this mental image, you can start the construction.
- Marking the holes for the screws
- With the help of a pencil or a piece of chalk sketch a grid on the sides of the boards so as you determine where to drill the holes. Each level will have 4 screws on each side.
- Draw 11 horizontal straight lines on each side board of equal distance from one another (remember to leave about a 3½-inches space between the edge of the board and the first line. Similarly leave about a 4-inches space between the edge and the last line, this will serve as the top end of the rack once it is up vertically). Remember that the kick plate will be placed before the levels so there should be enough space for the kick plate. Line up the kick plate, and the first level just to get a feel of how the measurements need to be. Additionally, the Sterilite containers need to fit into the space between each level, so take that also into account. The space between the horizontal lines needs to be large enough to fit the containers with just a few inches to spare. Use the container as the standard of measurement.
- Draw 4 vertical straight lines on each side board (leave about 2 inches of border/space between the first line and the edge). These vertical lines will determine where the four screws will go for each level.
- The distances between the lines need to be accurate. Before you even start drilling, check the measurements at least thrice. Ensure the grids match up for both boards. An error can lead to the levels being slated and not leveled.
It will take you about 2 to 3 hours to get the grid done.
Drilling The Holes
On the side boards (the side boards are the boards that are 72 inches by 35 inches), drill small holes where the screws for only the bottommost level. Don’t drill the holes for all the levels marked. This will make it difficult to make adjustments when assembling the levels.
Assembling The Levels
Now that all the holes have been drill, you now need to just assemble the entire unit. The rack needs to be on the side on the floor to make the assembly process simple.
- Line the levels with the side as you screw through the side into the levels using the drywall screws. It is best to screw the levels to the side boards using your hand so you don’t mess up the holes.
- Start with the kick plate. The kick plate and the first level needs to be screwed in between the two side boards foremost. This ensures you get the general structure as you screw in the remaining levels. Screwing in the kick plate and the bottommost level will take the longest amount of time. After you are done with those, the rest of the levels should be installed fairly quickly.
- Before you fit in the next level, pick up one of the Sterilite containers and place it close to the bottom level just to make sure the space provided is adequate. After you have drilled in all the holes, you can use caulk to fill in any mistakes. This will keep them from showing.
When done with assembling the levels, the rack should look complete and ready to use. However, you need to set up the heat tape.
Connecting The Heat Tape
The back of the board hasn’t been fitted fit but not for long.
- First, with the help of aluminum foil tape, fasten the heat tape to the back board. Since this is a long stretch of heat tape, every compartment gets heated at the same time. With a rack of this size, you should expect to use 5 to 6 feet of 11-inch wide heat tape. Aluminum foil tape works best as the heat from the heat tape won’t damage it.
- After taping the heat tape to the backboard, screw it snugly to the rack. Wire the thermostat to the heat tape and you’re ready to go.
- Drill a hole on the fifth level and use that to fit the probe. There are several temperature control units out there such as the Ranco Electric Temperature Control or the Inkbird Temp Control Thermostat ITC1000. Both work excellently.
Alternatively, you can use a separate heat tap for each level. This also works well and is a more efficient way to provide adequate heating. Connect the heat tapes together so they rely on a single thermostat. Use aluminum foil tape to hold the wiring as well as the heat tapes in place.
The advantage of back heating is that, in case the heat produced is too much, the snake can move away from the heat source unlike the under-tank heat option. However, with the under-tank heat option, more heat is produced for species, such as corn snakes and ball pythons, that prefer belly heat.
Applying The Finishing Touches
- Iron the melamine edging on, and you’re done.
- Clean up any debris, and move the rack to its permanent location.
- You can now place the snakes into their Sterilite homes and place them neatly into the rack.
This unit can hold up to 10 separate containers as you already know. Once the heat tape is plugged into a power source, it would heat up one end of the enclosure while keeping the other end cool, thus creating a temperature gradient.
The screws can be hidden using white screw covers. This is optional and is for aesthetics.
Snake Rack vs Enclosures
Regardless of the type you go for (premade or not), a snake rack is the best way to house several snakes. Racks are ideal for enthusiasts as well as breeders.
Breeders may need several racks, while enthusiasts may need just a single snake rack. Building the rack yourself isn’t only more affordable, but also it allows you to customize the build to your preference.
However, it is a plus to know your way around tools before you take on this project. Mistakes can be costly. Do you have any prior experience when it comes to building racks?
Do you have any questions or comments? Is so, leave your thoughts in the comment section before. We look forward to hearing from you.