If you're planning on doing the actual construction, you will need some tools. These tools can be from your personal collection, bought new, borrowed from a friend, or even rented. It is possible to build a complete and functional habitat with a few simple tools, but you will have a much easier time building the habitat with a better selection of tools.
Below is a list of a few tools that you may want or need in the construction of the habitat. Listed with each item are various alternatives for those who may not want to buy a certain tool. These tool recommendations may seem quite simple to some people, but we hope to help the people that are new to carpentry work, especially those who own few or no tools. If you have some experience with carpentry and building things, then chances are that most of this will be common knowledge to you. For those who don't have much experience with tools, hopefully, this will help you find the easiest and most affordable way to decide what tools you want to use.
If you have few or no tools, we definitely recommend that you first ask some friends for some tools before you spend too much money on tools that you may never use again. If you are buying new tools for your project, you can buy high quality, name brands or you may want to purchase the cheapest available. High quality tools will last much longer and probably work better, but many people may want to choose a cheaper version of a tool because of the limited use it may get from someone who doesn't have many other plans for their tools. This is a personal preference, and it's totally up to you and your budget.
Safety items - When working with tools, especially power tools, the most important item you should have is a set of safety glasses or goggles. When using power tools it's also a very good idea to use some sort of ear protection as well.
Tools for measuring - A tape measure will be needed. Tape measures can be purchased quite inexpensively and can be a very handy item to have, even if you don't have many tools. Some people may even have a tape measure used for sewing that can be used. You can even use a simple ruler if needed. Another good item to have for measurements and making sure the angles are true is a square. Having a habitat that has square and even corners will make measurements, modifications and the overall construction much easier. Another handy tool that can help you make a better habitat is a level.
Tools for cutting wood - If you're building a habitat that has a lot of wood (which most do), you'll need a way to cut the wood. The easiest, most precise, and quickest way is with a circular saw. These can be quite expensive. If you own or have access to a table saw, then this will definitely be the best way to cut the wood you'll use. Another good alternative is to use a jigsaw or saber saw. They will not cut as precisely as a circular saw, but they are much more affordable. A jigsaw will also help with more detailed cutting that may be needed. Of course, the most inexpensive alternative is with a simple hand saw, but it will require quite a bit of physical work to complete a large habitat project.
Tools for drilling, screwing and hammering - There may not be many holes that need to be drilled, but an electric drill that has a screwdriver attachment or a simple electric screwdriver can be the most useful tool you'll need. A habitat that is primarily made of wood should be screwed together to make it possible to take apart, in case the habitat needs to be moved or modified. A screwdriver that has the power to drive the screws, rather than drilling holes and then screwing, is the best choice. A selection of various sized drill bits may also be needed. Drilling holes and screwing screws with a regular screwdriver will work fine, but with a large habitat and a lot of screws, this will take a lot of work. Another very useful thing to have when working with screws is some beeswax or soap, that can be applied between the threads of the screws to make them drive much easier. Although a habitat is much more functional and mobile when screwed together, a simple hammer and some nails will get the job done. Another alternative for attaching various parts of the habitat together is nuts and bolts. This will require drilling holes, and you'll need some wrenches.
Tools for other cutting - A very handy tool is a simple utility knife. This tool can be very useful for cutting insulation off of electrical wiring, trimming vinyl flooring or carpet (both of which may be used as substrate), scoring plexiglass, and many other things. A regular razor blade or other sharp knife will also work. A utility knife is the best choice and is very affordable.
Tools for electrical work - If you are planning on wiring the lights, heating devices, switches, dimmers, etc., then you'll need a few simple tools. This includes a wire stripper, a pair of side cutters, and a pair of needle nose pliers. Some other necessary items for wiring are electrical tape and plastic wire connectors. Another very useful item is an inexpensive voltage tester, which can be an extremely valuable tool to have when working with electricity.
Tools needed with wire or hardware cloth cages - If you're planning a cage that includes hardware cloth or wire, you'll need to have a quality wire cutter or set of side cutters. With a large habitat and a lot of hardware cloth, there will be a lot of cutting, and a high quality set of cutters will withstand the wear and tear of making that many cuts. Another very useful tool for cutting hardware cloth is a rotary tool (such as a Dremel tool or a Black & Decker Wizard) with a bit that cuts wire. A rotary tool can also be invaluable for filing any rough or sharp edges off of the hardware cloth. Many people use rotary tools such as these to file iguana claws, so this may be another use for this tool when your habitat is complete. A regular metal file will will work as well.
Tools for sanding, staining and finishing - If you're building a habitat with wood, you may want to stain or paint it, and you'll definitely want to apply some sort of protective finish. If you are painting, staining or finishing the wood, you should thoroughly sand the surface of the wood to make for a more durable, less porous, and more attractive habitat. You can use a belt sander, an orbital sander, or a simple block of wood and several sheets of various grit sandpaper. If you're applying paint, stain or finish, you'll need a variety of paint brushes, rags, and possibly several disposable containers. A tacky cloth can also be used after sanding and prior to finishing or painting. Another very useful tool to have is a caulking gun to apply caulk or sealant.