How to Put Plastic on a Greenhouse

Written by tracy morris
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How to Put Plastic on a Greenhouse
Greenhouse plastic must be carefully installed to prevent tears and rips. (greenhouse image by ann triling from

A greenhouse is a simple way to give plants an early start and to extend the growing season past the first and last annual frost dates of an area. If you've ever got into a parked car and noticed that the interior was warmer than the air outside, you are already familiar with the way in which a greenhouse works. Greenhouses warm the atmosphere inside the structure by forcing sunlight to pass through a layer of clear material such as glass or plastic. The more clear layers that sun has to pass through, the warmer the internal temperature of a greenhouse becomes.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Greenhouse plastic
  • Construction staples
  • Construction staple gun
  • Poly-channel lock rail
  • All weather greenhouse tape

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  1. 1

    Calculate the total surface area of the greenhouse that the plastic will need to cover by measuring the side lengths and multiplying them together to figure out the total square footage of a side. Then add all the square footage of all sides together to figure the total length. For example, if you are covering a hoop house, you should calculate the length of the house (A) by the width of the arch (B) to get your answer (C). Then calculate the size of the sides by measuring the width (D) and multiplying by the height (E). Multiply this by two to account for two ends and get your answer (F). For a greenhouse of this type, there will be some overage in the square footage that you calculate. Next, add C and F together to come to the square footage of greenhouse plastic needed to cover the greenhouse.

  2. 2

    Purchase your greenhouse plastic in rolls that measure the same size as the amount you calculated in Step 1. Many greenhouse supply companies sell greenhouse plastic in rolls that are of varying width. Find out in advance the dimensions of the plastic that you are purchasing.

  3. 3

    Time your plastic installation at a point just before you need to use your greenhouse to save on wear and tear of the plastic. Install the plastic early in the morning when it is cool and there is no wind in order to prevent tearing. Keep your film rolled up until installation time to preserve it.

  4. 4

    Climb to the top of your greenhouse with a ladder and install the film by unrolling it across the top of the house. Allow the plastic to drape down each side of the greenhouse. Cut the film so that it is six inches longer than you need at each end of the greenhouse. Then unfold the plastic along the top and allow it to drape down the sides of the house. Keep the film stretched taut and install it with the correct side facing outward.

  5. 5

    Re-stretch the plastic later in the day when the sun has a chance to warm the plastic. The plastic should be smooth to help the greenhouse shed water more efficiently.

  6. 6

    Anchor the film in place at the bottom of the greenhouse. If your greenhouse has a wooden base, you can staple it in place to the wood with construction staples. You can also attach a polychannel lock rail to the base of the greenhouse. Insert the plastic into the silver rail of the polychannel lock rail and lock it in place with the included insertion clips.

  7. 7

    Fold over the extra plastic at each end of the greenhouse and attach it to the greenhouse with all weather greenhouse tape, or staple it in place with construction staples. The technique is similar to one you would use to wrap the ends of a present.

Tips and warnings

  • Greenhouse plastic comes in several grades. Double wall plastic is very expensive, but comes with a 10 year warranty. Inexpensive construction plastic will need to be replaced yearly and will not block out damaging UV rays from the sun.

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