A simple guide to building the perfect greenhouse

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At the autumnal equinox we observe light increasing at a great margin, however, as the winter solstice enters it fades away as darkness overcomes the day, making it very difficult for anything to grow. Thus, to overcome this difficulty, in our unlimited resourcefulness we created greenhouses.

The obvious advantage of a greenhouse is that it allows you to grow crops that wouldn't otherwise flourish in a specific period outdoors. Perhaps if you are set to build a greenhouse you are already aware of this benefit. But understanding its main use to creating one are two different things.

There are many variables to be taken into consideration. You will need to find the perfect spot for setting it up, make arrangements for heating and ventilation and pick the best suited material for the frame and cover. If this sounds discouraging, don’t be dismayed! Here at homify we like to try to make your life easier by showing you the steps to build the perfect greenhouse!

1. Determine budget

Halls Popular 6x10 Greenhouse:  Garden  by Greenhouse Stores
Greenhouse Stores

Halls Popular 6x10 Greenhouse

Greenhouse Stores

First of all you will need to determine how much you are willing to spend in order to build a greenhouse. There are a great variety of greenhouses, which consequently means that there is a diversity of materials to be considered.

For example, a greenhouse that will be covered with glass will be a lot more expensive than one that is surrounded with plastic film. In the budget of your greenhouse you should also include the costs for framing, heating schemes, ventilation and keeping the plantations alive!

It will be prudent to calculate recurrent expenses that will occur from maintenance and the inevitable decay that will take place.

2. Choose a good south-facing location

 Garden  by groenpartners
groenpartners

Druiven kas

groenpartners

A greenhouse will require an abundance of consistent sunlight. Therefore, it should be built in a south-facing area. In geographical terms, a south-facing location will be more open to sunlight. For example, a lean-on greenhouse, which is often preferred in a garden, should be built against a south-facing wall.

It will be preferable if the greenhouse is exposed to the morning sun, as growth in plants will accelerate. It is also important to take into account the different angles of the sun during winter and summer. In the winter, the sun has a lower angle, thus any tall structures or trees will cut off the light supply.

3. Choose the building materials

 Garden  by Tabary Le Lay
Tabary Le Lay

Cabane à oiseaux

Tabary Le Lay

The next step will be to choose the building material of your greenhouse. Of course, depending on the greenhouse you will build, its structure will be comprised of different materials. But in general, you will need to consider building supplies for the frame, covering and flooring.

You can choose from a variety of greenhouse building supplies, such as polycarbonate panels, film, corrugated plastic or glass, to name a few. When making a choice, besides cost, it might be best to take into consideration the ease of installation and cleaning. With the flooring, you can circumvent practicality for a touch of stylish décor!

4. Area must be well drained and have electricity access

 Garden  by Tabary Le Lay
Tabary Le Lay

Serre Verriere

Tabary Le Lay

Besides adequate lighting, greenhouses will require heating and ventilation to keep temperatures at an optimum level. Hence, you will need to make arrangements for the greenhouse to have access to an energy supply. In most instances energy will be converted by electricity and if you go for a lean-on structure, you will be able to extend power from the house.

In addition to energy access, the area that the greenhouse will be built on must be well drained, as you otherwise run the risk of drowning your plants. If the ground is uneven it should be levelled to help drainage. It might be a good idea to add water containers that will catch rainwater dripping from the greenhouse eaves so you conserve water and cut down the expenses of your greenhouse.

5. Greenhouse kits for beginners

 Garden  by Tabary Le Lay
Tabary Le Lay

​The invisible small greenhouse Nantes

Tabary Le Lay

If you're a greenhouse building beginner, kits are available for those devoid of experience or short of helping hands. Online home improvement shops offer a variety of easy-to-make greenhouses that are reasonably priced. You can find pop-up greenhouses starting at £200 or go bigger and pay more.

6. Covering options

When choosing covering options, light penetration should be your primary concern. Glass will be the best material for this job, however, it is fragile and expensive to replace. The galls cover will better suit a rigid frame as it will require a foundation.

For a more inexpensive alternative with similar light transmission, you can use UV stabilised polyethylene. Despite being light it will be perfect for a domed structure. Another alternative for glass is fibreglass. However, you should go for high-grade fibreglass as it allows more light transmission.

If your frame is a lean-on or a Quonset, plastic film will be more than adequate. However, it has the disadvantage of requiring occasional washing and it must be replaced in matter of a few years.  

Another option for cover is polycarbonate plastic. The main benefits of polycarbonate are its curving abilities and energy saving ability as it is double walled. We should also mention that it allows up to 80% of light to go through!

7. Select the frame

Elite Thyme Dwarf Wall 8ft Wide Greenhouse:  Garden  by Greenhouse Stores
Greenhouse Stores

Elite Thyme Dwarf Wall 8ft Wide Greenhouse

Greenhouse Stores

If you are set to build your own greenhouse from scratch, then we should first talk about selecting a frame. One option will be the Quonset frame, which is in essence a dome supported by steel pillars or PVC tubes. The issue with a domed greenhouse is the limited amount of storage space and a slight decrease in heat.   

Another option will be the rigid frame. This type of framing will require a foundation, hence it might be a good idea to get advice from experts. As we discussed earlier, a usual choice for greenhouses is a lean on. The supporting wall that the greenhouse is leaning upon will be a part of the frame that is surrounded by a simple structure. The benefit of the lean-on greenhouse is that the heat from the supporting building can provide warm and steady temperature.

8. Ventilation

Swallow Kingfisher 6x10 Wooden Greenhouse:  Garden  by Greenhouse Stores
Greenhouse Stores

Swallow Kingfisher 6x10 Wooden Greenhouse

Greenhouse Stores

Alongside light, ventilation will play a significant role in plant growth and general health. The importance of ventilation systems is attributed to temperature control but they are also pivotal for humidity control, regulation of oxygen/carbon dioxide and air circulation.

One way to have adequate ventilation is by installing vents in the greenhouse ceiling. You can also place vents by the top of the support pillars. It will be prudent to make the vent adjustable as they will require a different opening width in summer and winter months.

9. Heating system

The importance of a heating system is quite obvious as a greenhouse will be used to grow life in the cold months of the winter and you will need to stabilise the temperature. For a self-reliable heating system you can harness the full potential of the sun. You can store the solar energy in a thermal mass, such as water barrels, or you can install a time-tested system of air-to-ground heat exchangers.

However, in absence or dysfunction of such systems, solar energy may account for approximately only 25% of the heat needed in the greenhouse. Consequently, a backup option must be considered. An electrical heater will be a good back-up, as well as wood and oil based heaters. Given the complexity of heating systems, it might be a good idea to hire expert hands.

Greenhouses are an amazing option for growing vegetables and flowers out of season as they provide a year a year round life-sustaining environment. While it might be a big project, there is a diversity of materials to suit your budget and, of course, you can always get the help of professionals.

If you're feeling inspired to get active in your garden you might also like to try to: Build A Shed With Your Own Hands!

Have you ever built a greenhouse? How did it go? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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