Building double pane windows for Closed Chamber.

Markw84

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I have been having a conversation with a member wanting more information on how I build my closed chambers. In particular now, the doors are the concern. Since I cannot post pictures in a conversation, and perhaps it is of interest to others, I thought I would show what I am currently doing for doors.

The doors are a problem with a closed chamber with high humidity. I have my chambers in a second garage, so insulation is important. As a result, I like to use a double pane type of door window. With the high hunidity inside and all the condensation, you will end up with condensation quickly inside the panes as well. When that happens, you cannot get that out and the windows are constantly foggy. Also the moisture creates problems with doweled/glued joints in building the door frames, so an overlapping system is best to use, not simply mitered corners.

Here is how I build my doors:

Here is my latest build. It is a 4x8x30" high enclosure. It is a basically @Tom 's basic design with a few modifications, some of which I got ideas from Dan @Sterant . I made this with 4 large concrete tubs sunk into the bottom to give depth for nesting for winter months for my female Burmese stars.

IMG_0134.JPG

IMG_0130.JPG

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I did make complete drawings and plans for this build, but I won't go through all the design here as I am focusing this on the doors.

Here is the finished 3d drawing of the enclosure with all drawing elements put together:

Finished enclosure.jpg

So there are 4 doors in this enclosure. I like the center brace dividing the front opening and sliding doors would then restrict the size of the open section for working / cleaning the enclosure. So swinging doors work best for me.

I use 1/4" plywood with 1 1/2" rigid foam insulation for the enclosure. On the front, for the door openings, I leave a 1/2" lip around the entire opening on the inside. So the inside piece of 1/4" plywood creates that lip. You can see that in the last picture above. This makes the desired width of the doors 1 3/4" = the width of the ouside 1/4" plywood plus the interior 1 1/2" foam framed between 2x2's. (2x2's are actually 1 1/2" x 1 1/2")

The 4 doors end up costing me about $100 total to make.

I use 3/16" plexiglass for the widows in the doors. I make a sealed box using 2 - 3/16" pieces with sides of 1/2" plexiglass cut to 7/8" strips. Those strips are cut to make the sides of the sealed plexiglass window boxes.

This is how I put the sealed plexiglass box together. I put the side strips on one side piece as shown. I leave a little gap on the outside to leave room to run the hypo compound that fuses the plexiglass together. It is very easy to do and makes a perfectly watertight, permanent seal.

If you lay one side down as shown, then fuse on the "bottom" as it would be in this picture. You can then put on the right side, being sure it is totally flush to the bottom piece. As you run the hypo along the seam you are fusing, you can see the seam turn totally clear. That shows a complete, watertight seal. I then do the left side teh same way. Then the "top" side and go on ensuring it is totally flush with bot sides. Every seam should be a perfect seal. This sequence will allow for that as it does not matter if you have a little more or less of a overlap on the top edge with your 3/16" piece.

Doors 1.jpg


I then install the other piece to finish the sealed box that makes the double pane window.

Doors plexi done.jpg

Then simply build the frame for the window.

I use a piece of finish trim I buy that is actually 7/8" thick. That is the same thickness my window box is. Whatever you use for the middle layer must be the size of your total Plexiglass box thickness. You can adjust the size you have the 1/2" side strips cut to match the size of whatever wood you find to use for this. I like my total doors to end up fitting flush to the front of the enclosure, so 7/8 is perfect.

I make that into a frame that is just 1/8" wider inside than my plexiglass window box.

Doors 3.jpg

I then make a frame of 1/4" plywood to go on top and bottom of that with the joints opposite to the joints of this middle frame. That creates a very strong joint that will not break down. The 1/4" plywood frame pieces are about 3/4" wider than the inside piece of wood for the frame. This creates the channel that plexiglass box will sit in.

I glue with exterior high grade carpenters glue and nail with a brad nailer everything in building my enclosures.

Notice how the joints of the outside 1/4" plywood is opposite the joints of the 7/8" middle piece of the frame.

Doors 4.jpg

I put together one side of the window frame with the middle section of the window frame first.

Doors 6.jpg

At this stage, before the widow box is in, I prime and paint all the pieces except the faces of the frame that will be glued together when the 1/4" pieces for the other side is attached.

Once painted and dried, I drop in the widow box and assemble the other side to complete the door.

Doors 7.jpg

I then put a last coat of paint on the finished door, which is also sealing the seams of the final sides put on.
 
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Sterant

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Awesome post Mark - very well done. What are you using to do the CAD work? ProE?
 

Sterant

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@Markw84 What do you clean the plexiglass with? I have never used Plexi because it scratches so easily - wondering if you found a good way to clean it without scratching? I would much rather avoid plate glass in the future.
 

Markw84

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Awesome post Mark - very well done. What are you using to do the CAD work? ProE?
Dan, I use a free online app called Tinkercad. It's free to use but versatile enough to quite useful drawings. You create a free account and everytime you log in, your saved drawings are loaded and there to print or edit and work on. I like how you can set the scale of the graph - I use 1/8". With it, I simply make a "box" and put in the dimentions of 1 1/2" X 1 1/2" x 96" ... and I have a 2x2 8 foot long to start building with! I can copy that, and I have two. I can copy again and edit the length to 48" and I have a side framing piece. Make a box 1/4" X 48" x 96" and I have my plywood top, etc, etc.

@Markw84 What do you clean the plexiglass with? I have never used Plexi because it scratches so easily - wondering if you found a good way to clean it without scratching? I would much rather avoid plate glass in the future.

Plexiglass is not as easily scratched as it used to be. And being sure (just like you should do with a nice car finish) you never try to wipe it off and clean it dry, it will last a long time without scratching. I normally spray and wipe off with water. If you do get some scratches over time, you can buff them out and polish (very deep scratches even) and it will look like new. The place you buy the acrylic will have cleaning and polishing compounds, but I haven't needed to do that with my enclosures yet.

I buy mine at a place called Tap Plastics. I come in with all the dimensions and have them cut everything while I wait - which they do not charge for the cuts. That way it is all cut and ready to assemble when I get it home.
 

Sterant

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Thanks @Markw84, I will give Tinkercard a try. Sounds like a decent app.

Thanks for the insight on the Plexiglas. I am building a new 4 X 8 right now, just like the last one and will use Plexi doors this time.
 

Stoneman

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Hey @Mark84, I was going to ask the same question as Dan. I will give the app a try too. I want to build everyone better closed chambers for mine because mine are not as good as I would law them to be. Do you think I could build stackable units with half inch rigid foam board without the wood?
 

Blackdog1714

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I would recommend 303 UV protectant to keep the inside from hazing due to the UVB. Mark that is an awesome build!
 
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