DIY: Lean-to-Style Greenhouse

Written by tom king
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DIY: Lean-to-Style Greenhouse
A lean-to greenhouse is less expensive than a free-standing structure. (onion greenhouse image by Alex Motrenko from

A lean-to-style greenhouse is less expensive than most other varieties of greenhouses because one wall is already built for you. You'll want a south-facing wall and relatively high eaves to make this style of greenhouse practical, but if you have a spot for it and possess some basic carpentry skills, then a lean-to style can be an affordable, quick, space-saving and easy-to-build option for your new greenhouse.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 9 rafter boards, 2 by 4 by 10 feet long
  • 19 stud-length 2-inch by 4-inch boards
  • 2 boards, 2 by 4 by 10 feet long
  • 7 metal joist hangers
  • 1.36kg. framing nails
  • 4 rafter plates, 2 by 4 by 8 feet long
  • 3 rafter plates, 2 by 4 by 12 feet long
  • 1 ledger plate, 2 by 4 by 12 feet long
  • Exterior glass door with a window that opens and a door frame unit
  • Circular saw
  • Speed square
  • Hammer
  • Drill with screwdriver bits
  • 0.907kg. 2-inch screws with small washers
  • 2 yards pea gravel

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  1. 1

    Clear the area where you are going to build the greenhouse. Spread pea gravel over the area to ensure good drainage and to secure footing inside the structure.

  2. 2

    Lay out the base plates of the greenhouse using two long rafter plate boards cut to 128 inches and two short ones that are 8 feet long. Toenail the ends together (see Resources), with the longer boards to the outside and the ends of the short sides butting up against the sides of the long boards.

  3. 3

    Nail two boards to the inside corners of the base plates, extending vertically along the sides of the building to which you are attaching the lean-to. Measure and cut the vertical boards so they end just short of the eaves of the building. Nail the ledger board between the tops of the vertical boards.

  4. 4

    Nail 2-by-4 studs vertically around the base on top of the base plates, spaced 16 inches apart. Nail two studs together at the corner to form a right-angled corner. Space the studs farther apart where you intend to put the door and frame it to fit the pre-assembled door assembly.

  5. 5

    Nail the rafter plates on top of the studs to complete the walls. Nail a metal joist hanger at the top of each of the long vertical boards where the sides meet the building. Measure from the rafter to the front wall of the wall frame. Use the speed square to measure the angles and cut the rafters so they run from the top of the wall to the edge of the front wall, and cut off any overhang. Continue hanging metal joist hangers and rafters every 16 inches across the top to form the roof.

  6. 6

    Cut vertical studs to fit between the rafter plate on top of the wall and the rafters above each stud on the two sides of the lean-to.

  7. 7

    Mount and screw and nail the door frame in the opening following the instructions that came with the door. Position it so that the door swings outward if possible.

    Skinning the Frame

  1. 1

    Measure the flat surfaces of the wooden frame and cut pieces of the plastic sheet to fit over the surfaces. Cut them 6 inches longer on each side.

  2. 2

    Hang the side pieces of plastic first. Go ahead and cover the door frame. Once the plastic is attached, you can cut out the opening for the door.

  3. 3

    Screw the plastic to the frame using screws and washers to provide a wider, more secure tack. Fold the edges over with at least two or three folds to provide a tougher backing for the screws at the edges. Space the screws about 12 inches apart over the whole framework until the plastic is securely fastened.

  4. 4

    Screw plastic sheeting over the surface of the roof. Place a dab of sealer over each screw as you go to prevent water leakage if it rains.

  5. 5

    Cut out the plastic around the door frame, leaving a little overlap, and fold the edges around the frame. Finish framing the door with the trim that came with the door assembly kit.

Tips and warnings

  • Frame a place for a window and install a window that opens if you can afford it in order to provide improved ventilation for hot summer days.
  • Install a square opening and an exhaust fan to help ventilate the greenhouse in the summer.

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