DIY china cabinet enclosure

I picked up this fantastic piece of furniture yesterday and have started deconstructing it to a degree with plans to make it a bioactive chameleon Taj Mahal! I plan to seal all larger gaps with flex seal tape, then coat the entire inside with several coats of liquid flex seal. I'm going to add 8" walls at the bottom sides and front, then line the bottom with...something...pond liner, or the like, to hold the substrate and plants. I'm going to foam the back and layer silicone and ground bark/substrate on top. I plan to have built in planters within the background for small plants. I'm excited but nervous bc I've never done anything like this before. Please, if you have experience with something similar, share your wisdom. Am I on the right track? I do have a few specific questions:
What is the best substrate to use for adhering to the foam background?
Is a drain below always neccessary for bioactive? If so, what is the easiest way to do it with the piece of furniture shown here?
What would you suggest for lining the substrate box with?
Does sealing gaps with flex seal tape then coating with liquid flex seal sound reasonable? Is there a better way to do it? I've already gotten a ton of info from folks on here, but it's so hard to keep track of it all. Let me know what you all think.
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NashansCamos

Avid Member
does that front door have glass or is it just empty space because if it's just empty space how would you put dirt in it?
 
does that front door have glass or is it just empty space because if it's just empty space how would you put dirt in it?
No, the openings in the doors and sides will be covered in screen. I'm going to install 8" high walls at the bottom on the sides and front to essentially make a box for the soil. I'm going to line it with something, pond liner or something similar.
 
Ok so I'm using this thread mostly to document my progress, but maybe itll be helpful to someone in the future🤷‍♀️ so far I removed the shelf and the spindles (it's a surprisingly well made piece of furniture so it took some elbow grease) i lightly sanded then wiped down the entire inside. The back panel is solid wood but is a little thin and the gaps between it and the frame were too big to fill with liquid flex seal. So I used flex seal tape in those areas. I then coated the whole inside with clear flex seal liquid. Next we attached the screen. I used aluminum screen because I liked how it looked better than vinyl but in hindsight I probably should have used something more durable. I was trying to come up with a better way to attach the screen other than staples, but that's what we ended up doing. It works and looks good enough. I used some window weather seal I had laying around to make a better seal around the doors, to avoid moisture leaking out and insects escaping. I got some boards to build up the sides and front to essentially make a box inside for the substrate. Tomorrow I'll coat all those boards front and back with black liquid flex seal, then attach them to the inside. I'm getting closer to expanding foam time which makes me nervous. I've used that stuff before and holy crap it's a mess. I have to work quickly to get this done though because my isopods and springtails arrived from Josh's frogs today, way earlier than I expected! I also got some coco fiber for the background and leca balls for my drainage layer. I see why everyone loves that site, they have everything! I'm happy with how it's going so far, stay tuned for more (as if anyone is following this 🤣)
 

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I installed the substrate box today. The cabinet itself is coated at the bottom with 2 thick layers of flex seal. Then I laid pond liner on the bottom and 3 inches up the sides and back and stapled it in around the top edge. Then I installed the 4 side panels, each coated on all sides with flex seal. So even if someday the pond liner springs a leak, or water runs down the screen behind the substrate box, it shouldn't damage the box or the body of the cabinet. I plan to very slightly elevate the back legs of the cabinet once I put it inside my house, so if a leak should occur, it runs out the front instead of sitting forever between the cabinet and the liner. I sealed the joints between the edge of the black box panels and the cabinet frame with, you guessed it MORE flex seal. So...tomorrow is expanding foam day😵😬😵. I really like how it's coming along and I'm terrified I'm going to eff it up with the foam! Fingers crossed!
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Reptofreak

Chameleon Enthusiast
I installed the substrate box today. The cabinet itself is coated at the bottom with 2 thick layers of flex seal. Then I laid pond liner on the bottom and 3 inches up the sides and back and stapled it in around the top edge. Then I installed the 4 side panels, each coated on all sides with flex seal. So even if someday the pond liner springs a leak, or water runs down the screen behind the substrate box, it shouldn't damage the box or the body of the cabinet. I plan to very slightly elevate the back legs of the cabinet once I put it inside my house, so if a leak should occur, it runs out the front instead of sitting forever between the cabinet and the liner. I sealed the joints between the edge of the black box panels and the cabinet frame with, you guessed it MORE flex seal. So...tomorrow is expanding foam day😵😬😵. I really like how it's coming along and I'm terrified I'm going to eff it up with the foam! Fingers crossed!
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This is going to be a very nice enclosure, great work!
 
Allllrighty then. I've spent the last few days foaming, carving, siliconing and substrating (cool word, bruh) the background. This has been a real labor of love. Emphasis on labor. I'm actually really liking how it looks so far. I think next time I'll try something other than expanding foam though. Maybe styrene boards carved and covered with drylok? One issue I had with the foam is that it didnt stick entirely to my rubberized cabinet. It stuck in ~70% of it, but in some areas after the foam had dried you could tell there was a gap, or pocket behind it. I dont know why that happened. I chiseled little holes and stuck the straw in and back filled it and it seems OK now. Can you imagine the whole background just peeling away someday. My poor cham! No no, itll be fine. That wont happen. It can't happen! Issue #2 was that because I bought the coco fiber in brick form, I had to soak it to make it loose and usable. In doing so it be came damp. I knew it was, so I sat it in the hot sun on trays and even baked some in my oven. However when it came time to apply it, it was apparently still damp and didn't stick. Luckily I started with a small area so it wasnt the end of the world. As you can see in the pics, I found 2 pieces of spiderwood at my local nursery and I incorporated 6 small pots. I just touched up everything and I think this evening itll be ready to bring inside! Filling the box with substrate, planting, installing vines etc will all be done inside, where the piece(and my cham) will live. I have everything I need except the bark portion of my mix, which comes tomorrow from Big Al's pet supply. I'm going to use a pipe down to the drainage layer for siphoning out excess water (thanks, @GoodKarma19 !) And I still need to get the doors back on and find a suitable latch. Anyway my next post should show it fully planted, with my isopods and springtails living their best life....🤞
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It's complete! I love it and I think Leif does too! I'm waiting for a new Y connector for my monsoon mister, but otherwise it's done. I made some vines too, by braiding dollar store boot laces with some floral wire, then coating in silicone and coco fiber. Way cheaper than the pet store option, and better looking imo.
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