Greenhouse kits can be easily constructed according to their packaged instructions but are seldom made of glass, the ideal material for a greenhouse. Because glass is stronger and more durable than other materials, building a glass greenhouse is a better investment in the long term. Take the time to collect your materials, and you can construct a glass greenhouse by yourself from recycled windows and basic building equipment at relatively little expense.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 50 wood-frame windows
- Basic carpentry tools
- Bricks or gravel
- 4 D-anchors
- 1-bys or trim board, varying length according to greenhouse size
- Box fan
- Glass door
- 2-by-4 boards, varying number and length according to greenhouse size
- 4 4-by-4 boards, varying length according to greenhouse size
- Greenhouse felt
- Paint or stain
Collect old windows. Find neighbours who are replacing old windows and contractors remodelling homes in your area. You will need at least 50 glass windows in wooden frames. Extra windows will allow you to adjust your design for better fit and replace those accidentally damaged during construction.
Sketch out a basic design for your greenhouse. You can build an independent structure or a lean-to attached to another building. Choose a roofline and determine proportions according to your materials and needs.
Lay the windows out on the ground in an arrangement that meets your blueprint design. Think of the windows like a puzzle and rearrange them until you get the best fit possible. Leave a space for a fan in the back wall and the door in the front. A fan is a crucial greenhouse element for air exchange and temperature control.
Cut wood or small squares of glass to fill any gaps in the design. Fill small gaps with scrap lumber. When using glass to fill larger gaps, construct a frame of 1-by lumber around the glass before laying it into the walls.
Level the building area. Use a shovel to drag a board over the area. Outline the greenhouse perimeter with stakes and string. Drive stakes into the soil just outside where the corner posts for the greenhouse will be set. Run string around the stakes to create an outline.
Dig a trench between 18 and 24 inches wide and no less than 18 inches deep following the perimeter outline. Place 2-by-4s at least 12 inches apart into the trench. These boards serve as a pattern, or form, for the foundation. Pour the foundation of the greenhouse by filling the assembled forms with concrete.
Sink four 1/2-inch D-anchors into the concrete at the foundations corners. These D-anchors ground the greenhouse, attaching it to the foundation. Allow time for the concrete to cure completely. Refer to the concrete’s packaging for a specific time frame.
Bury at least the bottom 12 inches of a 9-foot 4-by-4 post at each corner of the foundation for 8-foot walls. For shorter or taller walls, adjust post length accordingly. Set the post inside the foundation and firmly bolt it to the D-rings set in the foundation.
Build the stud frame of the building from 2-by-4s. Each wall should be built to match the windows you're using and the design you have selected. Nail together a rectangle the dimensions of your finished wall. Then add vertical studs the width of your windows. Add horizontal cross brasses at measurements that will allow you to screw the windows to the frame.
Stand up the walls against the 4-by-4 corner posts. Nail the frames first to the posts, and then to one another, to create the basic structure for the greenhouse.
Build a frame for the roof. Choose a sloped roof or a peaked design. Create a frame with 2-by-4 boards to match your design and set the frame on top of the walls. Nail it into place.
Roof the greenhouse with greenhouse felt for the greatest efficiency. Greenhouse felt comes in large sheets similar to corrugated metal sheeting and can be cut to length. Glass windows set onto 2-by-4 frames or metal sheeting can also be used for roofing, but often make greenhouse temperatures too high and harder to control.
Attach the windows in position on the 2-by-4 frame by screwing the windows' wooden frames to the wall studs. Fit the fan into the hole left for it in the back wall of the greenhouse and use trim board to frame it in. Caulk between the windows and fill in noticeable cracks. Use wood to fill in any hole that is too big to caulk but too small to warrant cutting glass to fill it.
Pour a thin layer of sand to create a soft base, then cover the sand with bricks or decorative rock to create a floor that is attractive and that will drain away excess water.
Paint the wooden parts of the greenhouse with an outdoor paint or water-sealant stain. This will protect the wood from water damage and lengthen the life of the greenhouse's wooden parts. Finish your greenhouse off by adding furniture and other optional features, including a garden bench or a water hydrant.
Tips and warnings
- Building windows or vents into the roof sheeting, is optional, but generally advisable. These will give added ventilation and temperature control inside the greenhouse.
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