Cage Building Materials
Plywood comes in several grades. A is the high end, D is the bottom. I like to use an AB or BC grade. This means that it has an A surface on one side and a B surface on the other, or B and C surfaces.
I = interior, X = exterior. Interior plywood is usually of higher quality, but the glues in exterior are made to withstand humidity. Cabinet plywoods, such as Birch and Walnut, are of much higher quality, but are also more expensive.
PTS - plugged and touch sanded. This means that irregularities such as knotholes have been filled in and sanded. If you are going to paint the surface PTS is OK. If you are going to stain the surface, it is not all that good.
I do not use anything with a D, as it is a rough surface with knotholes in it.
On cages, I like to use the Birch for the sides and front. It is straight and nice to work with. It also takes a nice stain and has a smooth finish. For the bottoms, tops and sides you can get by with pine plywood.
For the back or bottom of a cage, AC or BC will do, since one side will not be visible. Just put the higher grade side facing inward.
If you want to have cabinet quality, you can buy various types of clear, straight woods, such as birch and walnut. These are expensive.
For the rack systems for plastic boxes, I use a lot of 1X2 lumber, also known as "furring strips." Unfortunately, furring strips are generally not of a very high quality, so I make my own. A furring strip costs about $1.10 and a 2X4 costs about $2.25. I buy a good straight 2X4 and cut it into four furring strips. I have saved money but, more importantly, I have good straight wood with which to work and it is uniform in size. There can be variations of up to 3/16" in the dimensions of some of the lumber, so be careful. I also make my own 1X4's in the same way.
Racks are good for the various sizes of plastic boxes. I prefer to make my racks so that I do not need the tops on the boxes. I have about 100 boxes in racks at present and, if I had to take each one out of the rack, set it down, open it up each time I wanted to feed or water, it would take up too much time. As it is, I can slide the box out part way, change the water, throw in a rodent and shove the box back into the rack.
I have begun using pegboard for the tops on racks which are holding plastic boxes. I use 1/4" pegboard for the larger snakes. Unfortunately, the holes are large enough to allow small snakes, such as baby colubrids, to escape, so I use 1/8" pegboard or a solid surface for the smaller snakes. I prefer to use the pegboard with one side painted white. It costs about $4-$5 more, but is worth it, when you consider the trouble and mess involved in painting it yourself. The painted surface is helpful because of humidity. Pegboard is a pressed product and will separate if it gets wet.
Particle board has its place, but also has its drawbacks. It is cheap, but it is heavy. It tears up saw blades. It will sag, especially in long lengths. It will swell when moisture hits it. It will fall apart when it gets wet.
If you use particle board make sure that it is completely sealed and will not be exposed to getting wet.
Coated particle board can be OK for some racks. It is coated with a Melamine surface, which is smooth and water resistant. Bear in mind that the edges may not be coated. It usually comes in pre-cut widths, such as 8" and 12" but can also be purchased in 4X8 sheets. Again, it is heavy and not inexpensive.