This is step-by-step instructions on how I made my reptile hide. The snake hides at stores and the ones you can buy online are so expensive. $20 or $30 for a hide is ridiculous. The materials a a little pricy but you can use them to make multiple hides instead of paying $30 for just one. So this is how I made mine for my 2 month old ball python. I only have a picture of the finished product because I forgot to take pictures during the process. I apologize.
Step 1: I. Materials
Before you do anything, you want to gather your materials. This is the stuff I used and I highly recommend all of these products.
1. Great Stuff insulating foam sealant gaps & cracks- $5 at Mennards
2. Minwax fast-drying polyurethane clear satin- about $6 at Walmart
3. 2 cheap paint brushes- about $1 at Mennards
4. Styrofoam- you don't really need to buy styrofoam you can find it anywhere we just bought a new microwave so we had foam leftover from the packaging
5. Exacto knife- I have no idea where to buy these or how much they are but you could probably use any small sharp knife mainly for detail and it cuts through the foam very easily and cleanly
6. Bread knife- you most likely have one in your kitchen
7. Hot glue gun- $8 at Michael's
8. Markers- chances are you have some (specifically I used sharpie)
9. Keracolor S Sanded Grout- $10 at Mennards
10. (Optional) Crock pet bowl- $2 at Walmart--- I HIGHLY SUGGEST THIS FOR SMALL REPTILES IT GIVES YOU A BASE AND MAKES THINGS MUCH EASIER
Step 2: II. Plan
Make a plan of what you want to do. Just grab a piece of paper and make a sketch of your idea. Get your ideas down and this will be a lot easier.
Step 3: III. Base (optional)
I chose to use the crock pet bowl as a base because I thought it would make it a lot easier if I had something to build off of. If you choose to use one then you'll need to use a hole drill to make a doorway for your reptile. If you don't want to use one then you just make the shape you want out of styrofoam by just stacking it up and hot gluing the pieces together. (Get creative!)
Step 4: IV. Shape
Add on extra pieces of styrofoam to make it lumpy and rocky. Remember the goal is to make it look natural, so don't make it perfect! After you're satisfied with the amount of styrofoam you just carve it to the shape you want with your exacto knife. Maybe even add a ramp or some stairs or something. I added stairs because I thought it was cute and that's just how I wanted to design it.
Step 5: V. Expanding Foam
Now is the time to fill in gaps with your foam insulation ~~~WARNING~~~ I learned the hard way with this stuff and I didn't wear gloves and I got all this stuff on my hands and it completely dried them out and everything felt gross. I tried scrubbing it off and it only got worse; It stayed on for days until it finally wore off so please wear gloves while using this and either do it outside or put down newspaper or something because you do not want this on your kitchen table. Let it dry overnight and when it is dry I'd suggest carving some of the bubbles and stuff to make it less smooth.
Step 6: VI. Grout
Make sure you are completely content with the shape of your hide because once you put on the grout you cant turn back and change the shape. I chose gray grout because I don't really like how the red rocks look but that's just my opinion. Be careful when adding water to your grout because you need very very little. Just add a few drops and stir (with a stick not your brush) until it starts to thicken. I've read other tutorials on making hides and they say to use soupy grout. Don't. Grout is supposed to be thick and it works so much better this way. If it's soupy then it doesn't go on as well and it just drips right off the side and doesn't cover well at all. Thick grout is the way to go. 2 coats might do the job but you may need 3. I personally used 3 coats. Let each coat dry overnight before adding another.
Step 7: VII. Polyurethane
After your last coat of grout is dry, now is the time to apply the polyurethane. It should be clear satin finish because it's duller than the other kind and you probably don't want a shiny rock. Apply 3 coats and let the hide dry overnight between each coat. I know it's a long process, but just be patient because it's worth it when it's finished. Let the hide air out for at least a week before using it with your reptile.
Step 8: VIII. Done!
Your reptile hide is now done! Hopefully you've found this helpful and had fun and maybe saved a little money. Enjoy(: