This was a cool little project to turn an old dresser into a Guinea Pig house. It was relatively simple to make and didn't really need much store bought material. My son just turned four, and we thought that a guinea pig or two would make the perfect thing to start teaching some responsibility. They're Guinea Pigs, who doesn't love Guinea Pigs?
-Old Dresser (Found it on a curb alert for free)
-Chicken/ rabbit cage wire
-Flexible storm drain pipe
-Bathroom/Kitchen vinyl flooring squares
-Picture hanging wire
-Dog leash clip
-Drill with both drilling and driver bit.
-Staple gun with staples
-Dremmel with cutting disc (you can use a hand saw if you don't have one)
*Note: a heat gun or hair drier would be helpful but not completely necessary, it just makes it easier to manipulate the vinyl with out it cracking.
Step 1: Demolition
Once you have obtained a decent dresser, It's time to go to work. Start by removing each drawer. This had 6. To remove them, pull it all the way out until it stops in the track, then lift up on the front and pull it free from the tracks. This one had filler beams that filled the gaps between each drawer when they were all closed. They don't really serve any other function other than aesthetics. That's perfect though because they can be removed and reused later on. On this one, they were only stapled and glued in place, so it was really easy to rip them out. Just double check that yours is not screwed in, because it will make them kind of unusable if ripped out without taking the screws/nails out first.
When you are done with that, you should have a fully open front to the innards with rails on the sides, and several good looking filler beams (1"x 1" roughly) and all the drawers separated. This one had a few different size face boards on the drawers (that will come into play later on), just be aware of which drawers are deeper and which are more shallow.
Step 2: Set Up the Levels
I chose to use only three drawers to make three separate levels by skipping a track between each level. The deeper drawers should go on the bottom (if you have different sized ones). This will deter the little creatures from climbing over the edge and escaping through the bottom.
Take the drawers that you want and remove the front panel with the knobs. These ones had a small dowel the was glued. The easiest way that I found to remove the front panel was to strike the inside of the panel were the corners meet driving the panel forward. (If the drawers are cheaper, then be prepared for the bottom to fall out during this step. If that happens, you might have to screw the other corner back together on the three remaining sides.)
After the front panels have been removed, it's time to go back to the filler beams. Measure and cut the beams so that it fits snugly inside the side walls, with out pushing them outward and screw it down. I put two in each side and two in the bottom to give the floor a bit more support in the front. Since I had the cheaper dresser, I had to drill a pilot hole before screwing so that it didn't crack and split.
Then I cut the hole in the corner of the second and top floors. I placed them 1" away from both the right and back walls. To do this I measured out a rectangle, then put an arch on one end to accommodate the round ramp. I drilled holes in the corners and connected the dots with the jig saw. (It's much easier if you do this from the bottom side... More room to get the drill and saw where it should be)
When that's done, you should have three drawers that have the filler beam replacing the front panel and a hole on the right side. put a single knob on the center of the filler beam on the middle drawer (The three will be connected together later so they all pull out at once. Putting knobs on the other two levels will impede the gate from closing all the way.)
Step 3: Cover the Floor
I chose to cover the floor with vinyl to help protect the floor of each level. It should make it bit more water proof and stave off things like the floor rotting out after they have been peeing on it for a while. Getting a long strip would probably be better and easier, but I was on a budget and getting a long strip was more than I wanted to pay.
These vinyl squares were almost perfect for this job... Almost. When I laid flat in the drawer touching one side, it left about 4" exposed. The way I saw it, there were two ways to fix this. Use 2 squares and have the seem in the middle (which I din't like how it looked), or you can place the square in the center so that there were 2" on both sides, and over lap it with the corner pieces (rounded to protect the corners). Try to only over the corner pieces because it will get really bulky after two layers. To assist with rounding the corner pieces, this where the heat gun would really help. The squares are kind of brittle if you don't heat them up a bit.
Since these were Cheap particle board drawers, I used staples to keep them secured (from the top). Just make sure that you pound the staple all the way down so they can't get at it. I cut the vinyl even with the edges of the hole, and left the rounded part exposed. The ramp will cover it.
Step 4: Install the Floors
Now that you have finished each individual floor, It's time to put them in and make the ramps.
Place each floor back inside the tracks. Then take a 2x4 and run it vertically behind each floor and screw them down (Going from the front of the wall and going into the 2x4 behind it. you will be able to see the heads of the screws from the front). Use two screws for each floor, any more is just over kill. This will push the floors a bit forward, which will make the front edge touch or almost touch the gate when closed. (preventing them from falling to the lower levels.)
Next cut the flexible drain pipe in half so you have two ramps. I screwed it down on the rounded part of the (covering where the vinyl ends) as close to the right wall as I could get it. I had to cut the front side a bit to provide a clean entry/exit onto the ramp from the for. I then stretched it down to the opposite side on the floor below. (Make sure you stretch it as tight as humanly possible to give it more stability. Again, cut into the front side at the bottom to provide an open exit at the bottom.
It was still a bit unsteady, so I put some screws into the side of it going into the back wall. In the middle where the wall ends, I took a small block and mounted it to the vertical 2x4, then secured the ramp into the block. There will be a little bounce, but it's more than sturdy enough to support the little piggies.
Repeat for the other ramp.
*Sorry, the second picture is upside down. It's the ramp looking down from the top.
Step 5: Finish the Gate
Now that everything else is done, it's time to make the gate.
For this, I took some scrap thin strips of wood (That I salvaged from some pallets) and made a square frame. Measure it so that the edges extend slightly past the opening of the dresser. This will prevent those little escape artists from squeezing through the edges.
After you have the square frame, staple or screw the mesh wire over it, making it taught (I had to over lap two pieces and wire them together to make the gate large enough). If you have to do this as well, Use the picture hanging wire (a lot) to "sew" it together. Just do what it takes to make sure that they layers are secure and don't have any sharp pointies sticking out anywhere.
Next put the hinges on and attach it to the cage.
Finally, you need a way to lock it. As you can see in the photo above, I wrapped some more wire around the fram and through the dog clip. It then loops around the eye screw to lock it. You can make it so that you actually clip into the eye screw, but this works just as well and takes less effort to open or close it.
As a closing note, I covered the top and bottom with pipe insulating foam so it has a soft top and bottom edge. Really not needed though.
I hope you enjoyed this build and let me know if you made any improvements