DIY: Victorian Greenhouse and Conservatory Projects

Updated April 17, 2017

The Victorian era saw British explorers tramping new lands, bringing home exotic flowers and plants that can not survive the English climate. To accommodate this tender vegetation, fantastic and beautiful conservatories and greenhouses were constructed, becoming one of the hallmarks of impressive public buildings and wealthy estates. Today's indoor gardener can re-create Victorian beauty by building one of these structures in the backyard, using traditional materials like glass and iron or modern components like PVC pipe and polythene film. It's possible to build one from materials found at most home-improvement stores, but complete kits are also available.

Measure the potential building site and become familiar with building codes in your neighbourhood. These two factors have a significant impact on the project you select and construct. Determine how tall your project can be and how much square footage it will enclose. Assess your carpentry skills.

Choose the building materials you'll use for your project. Victorian greenhouses and conservatories can be framed from rot-resistant wood, aluminium, PVC pipe, or traditional cast iron. Glazing, the clear portion that admits light, can be traditional glass or a modern synthetic such as acrylic sheets or polythene film.

Measure and cut the framing materials using a measuring tape, indelible marker and saw, if the frame is wood or PVC. Metal frames are usually best purchased ready-made. Erect the frame using screws and nails as fasteners with a screwdriver and hammer.

Measure and cut the glazing material into pieces that fit the frame. A special cutter must be used with glass. A saw cuts acrylic easily. If using polythene film, a heavy pair of sharp scissors makes short work cutting it to size.

Attach the glazing material to the frame. Glazier's points and glass putty are required if using glass panes. Screws work better than nails when installing acrylic. Heavy-duty tape that can withstand outdoor conditions makes a good seal when using polythene sheets.


Purchase a kit if your carpentry skills aren't equal to building everything from scratch, especially when using an aluminium or iron frame and glazing with glass. Dig a trench around the perimeter of the area and build a footer for the greenhouse or conservatory before building in regions that experience winter frost. Use rustproof nails and screws that don't corrode or need replacing in a few years.

Things You'll Need

  • Project plan
  • Iron, aluminium, PVC pipe or wood
  • Acrylic sheets, glass, or polythene film
  • Measuring tape
  • Indelible marker
  • Saw
  • Glass cutter (optional)
  • Screws
  • Nails
  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Heavy scissors (optional)
  • Glazier's points (optional)
  • Glass putty (optional)
  • Heavy outdoor tape (optional)
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About the Author

Susan Kerr began her writing career as a food columnist in 1987 before moving to business journalism as a reporter and managing editor in the Penn State area. Since then, Kerr has contributed content to military-related magazines, not-for-profit websites and other online media. In addition, she writes a weekly column for her hometown newspaper