Sunday, December 15, 2013

10 Steps to Build a DIY Greenhouse at Home

Built correctly, a greenhouse can offer a wonderful haven for your plants where you can enjoy growing all manner of plants to your heart’s content.

However, get it wrong and you’ll have a disaster on your hands, not to mention all the money you wasted on the construction.
  • The good news is that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money on a greenhouse.
  • You can build one yourself for a reasonable price and just a few hours of labor on your part.

If you’re ready to gather your supplies and get to work, here are 10 helpful steps you can use to build your own DIY greenhouse at home.

Step #1 – Consider Your Climate and Choose a Design

Before you even get started on your DIY greenhouse, your first step should be considering your climate and choosing the design of your greenhouse.

A design that works well in a humid, tropical climate may not work well in a cooler climate that experiences cold wind and snowy winters. 
  1. Your climate will affect the level of protection your greenhouse needs, which is important for controlling the inside environment of your greenhouse.
  2. Consider the climate problems you are facing and choose a greenhouse design that will help you to overcome these problems. For example, if you live in a humid, tropical climate, venting and bug protection is important. 
  3. In cold temperate climates, keeping plants warm during the cold winters is important.
  4. Bug netting can keep out bugs and extra thick plastic can help keep plants warm.
  5. Spend some time researching your climate and the best greenhouse construction for your climate and your growing needs.

Step #2 – Gather Materials

The next step to take is to gather the materials needed to construct your DIY greenhouse.

If you don’t have all the materials, you may need to purchase them. However, you may be able to freecycle, recycle and scrounge up some of the supplies to help save some money.

While every greenhouse will vary, here is a look at some of the common materials needed for a simple greenhouse design.

  1. PVC plumbing pipe (schedule 40 works well)
  2. Steel fence posts or re-bar, 8ft
  3. Clear plastic sheeting – thickness can vary, depending on climate
  4. 2x4x16 – cut into 2x2s
  5. 1x6x8’ pt to rip into 1x3s
  6. 2x4 studs
  7. 1x4x12’pt
  8. Staples
  9. Drywall Screws
  10. Nylon wire ties

Step #3 – Start By Constructing the Ends

Once you have all your supplies on hand, then you’re ready to start the construction process.

  1. You’ll want to begin by constructing the ends of your greenhouse.
  2. The end frames need to be sturdy or your entire greenhouse will be weak.
  3. It’s easy to begin the ends in a garage or other work area.
  4. Decide on height of your greenhouse, making sure you have a fairly high peak, especially if you live in an area that gets heavy rain or a lot of snow.
  5. A higher peak will make your greenhouse less susceptible to collapse.

To construct the ends, use a piece of PVC pipe to create the arch you want for the greenhouse.

  • Attach the pipe to a piece of 1x4, creating the first outline of the greenhouse.
  • Using a screw to attach the pipe will allow the pipe to naturally adjust and align.
  • If you’re working on the door end of the greenhouse, build the rest of the end frame around the door size you plan to use.
  • Three feet wide is fine, but you can choose a wider door if you want.
  • 1x4 lumber can be used to reinforce the frame, although 2x4s will offer a sturdier frame if you get a lot of snow.


Step #4 – Add Plastic to the Ends

After constructing well reinforced greenhouse ends, you’ll need to add plastic sheeting to the ends before constructing the rest of the greenhouse.
  • Greenhouse plastic is available, although you can use other types of plastic if you have it on hand.
  • Cut the plastic to fit your ends, stapling it to the front first.
  • After it’s stapled to the front, you can fold it over and then begin stapling to the frame on the back as well.
  • Any excess can easily be folded together.
  • Excess can be trimmed off and on the door end, you’ll want to cut out the door opening, but leave enough plastic to fold the plastic over to the door frame.

Step #5 – Place Ends and Reinforce with Steel Posts

Now you’re ready to place the ends of your greenhouse up on the greenhouse site. Tough steel fence posts help to reinforce the ends and keep them in place, which is especially handy if your area gests a lot of wind. Install fence posts, making sure they are plumb. Then, rope, wire ties or wire can be used to attach the end frames to your fence posts.

Step #6 – Add Intermediate Ribs and Secure

The next step is to begin adding the intermediate ribs to your greenhouse. It’s a good idea to have these ribs every three feet, or closer together if you need a stronger greenhouse. Before you begin adding them, use a piece of string to line up your stakes to add the ribs. Steep rebar pins can be used to help secure these ribs. Install the PVC pipe on the rebar pins to secure them. Tougher, larger pipe can be used as well if you’re worried about a stronger structure.

Step #7 – Reinforce the Top of the Frame

The ribs aren’t enough to keep the top of the frame reinforced, so you’ll want to reinforce it down each size with 1x2s or2x4s.
  • The ridge of the greenhouse needs to be reinforced as well.
  • This can easily be done with a length of PVC pipe.
  • This will help keep your greenhouse from sagging if you end up with heavy rain or snow on the greenhouse.
  • Screws and rope can be used along pipe intersections to keep them together.
  • The extra work and money for the ridge pole can keep your greenhouse from collapsing later. 
  • You can also add some 1x2s on the sides to offer further reinforcement to the overall structure.

Step #8 – Measure and Cut Plastic Covering

After you’re satisfied with the sturdiness of your frame, you’re ready to measure and cut your plastic greenhouse covering. Make sure that you cut out plastic that offers a bit extra in every direction. It’s better to cut it too big than too small. It’s important to know the dimensions of your greenhouse, before making the cut to ensure you cut your plastic in the right size.

Step #9 – Secure Plastic to 2x2s

On the ends, you’ll want to use 2x2x15’ boards in the center of the plastic, which will be used to help hold the plastic in place. Attach plastic to the boards and then roll the board at least one turn, then secure the plastic to the wood. This offers some weight to the bottom and offers a great way to make your connection secure

Step #10 – Position Plastic and Fasten to Greenhouse

You’re ready to position the plastic over the greenhouse frame.
  1. You’ll probably need a second pair of hands to help you get the plastic over the greenhouse. 
  2. Make sure the plastic is even on each side.
  3. Then, make sure you roll the edges under on the ends, securing them to the rest of the greenhouse frame.
  4. This can be done with staples or you can use screw battens, which may be a bit stronger and easier to take apart if you need to.


To ensure you don’t have any gaps around the bottom, you can use some mulch or soil and rake it around the greenhouse.

  1. To keep out animals, add some stepping stones, blocks, rocks or bricks on top of the mulch or soil around the edges.
  2. To add some extra security for your plastic, you can also add some poly pipe clips, which keeps the wind from grabbing the plastic and ripping it off your greenhouse.

About the Author:

This article was written by Whitney Segura, founder of Mini Greenhouse Kits, follow him online on Twitter @GardeningFun.

He is a member of the following organizations, companies, associations, and special interest groups;
Southern Nursery and Landscaping Association: Member Since 2012
Hobby Greenhouse Association: Member Since 2011

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