A very biased - but truthfull answer is - Plastic. If you have a good collection of snakes, and at any time you get mites, with timber materials it proves very difficult to eradicate those varments! So many pluses with plastic.
Much more hygenic,
No urates, deficate, impregnation.
So Easy to clean.
Great heat retention.
Last a life time.
Down Side - initial cost.
Its up to you. But if I can be of any help let me know - If you do decide to build your own - contact me. As A cabinet maker I will be only too will to help /advise. Alan Rhinovivs
A properly constructed vivarium using quality Melamine Faced Chipboard (a la Contiboard for most users here - the really good stuff comes in 9foot by 8 foot sheets and is VERY expensive) correctly sealed on ALL cut edges and sealed on assembly and looked after will last a lifetime. Cleaing is no different to plastic - as the melamine is, in fact, a plastic itself and is waterproof. Fully plastic construction for a DIY viv builder is not always an option, as suitable plastic is not easy to come by in the sizes needed and certain platics give off 'volatiles' which might possibly harm reptiles. (I work in the injection moulding and thermoforming industry) There is also the problems of joining platics - almost always to get a good permanent joint a specific solvent will be needed - potentially harmful both to reptiles and human beings to boot! Als many plastics become brittle and discolour when subjected to UV light - and many viv are lit with UV. So, all in all, I can only recommend MFC for the home builder who does not have access to a good supply of plastics and related materials.
Melamine, is infact a plastic but - not the core which is chipboad - and as we all know once chipboard get wet it expands- blowing off the melamine. As a cabinet maker ( in the industry for over 18years ) If I had to choose a board other than plastic it would be WBP Ply (what is commonly known as Marine ply.) Properley sealed and I would maintain this every year with fresh coatings of exterior varnish. Yes you do have to be very carfull of what material you use, once again that is why I done a lot of research and the best to use as all proffessional herp keepers will agree is polypropylene. Like stated It would be much much cheaper for me to use Melamine faced Chipboard, Ply, Mdf, But I just want to build one and have done with it! Also NO GLUES - ADHESIVES WHAT SO EVER ARE USED IN RHINO VIVS. ALL THE VIVARIUMS ARE HEAT BENT. Below a extract from my information page.
So Why Choose RHINO ViVs ? Good question –
Let's talk about the material we use – RHINO ViVs are made from Polypropylene. Polypropylene is a petroleum industry by-product which has excellent strength. Some manufactures may choose to use HDPE, we thought of that too, but unlike HDPE, polypropylene is very resistant to abrasion and has -
Excellent resistance to most acids and alkalis.
Good resistance to bleaches and solvents
Not attacked by mildew.
Good resistance to aging, indirect sunlight, and abrasion
Polypropylene is totally safe for your reptiles. It can be used in food processing applications and indeed is so! This is self-extinguishing material with a melting temperature of 325-350 degrees F so you don't have to worry about a fire hazard. HARDWARE. Yes I know we could have cut costs and used cheaper hardware that you see on so many vivs today. But we value our name and we wanted the very best for our product. After a lot of research we finally found the quality hardware we were looking for
I do not want to get into a forom debate over this but there you have it.
Once again anyone who does want to make there own viv and wants advice. Just let me know I am only too willing to help with choice of materials design, etc.