• Jen

Building a Greenhouse Part 1: The Shell

What an exciting and exasperating project! Exciting because we’ve been talking about a greenhouse all year, exasperating because it was a BIG project!

We faced many challenges with this project every step of the way. The first challenge was right off the hop. We initially wanted to build a 12”x12” greenhouse, but of course we changed our minds. When we laid the base of the greenhouse down in our selected location we realized that 12”x12” was incredible small for all the space we had. We compensated by doubling the length to 12”x24”.

We used 2x4s to create the base and create the doors and doorframes. Jon and I are the furthest thing from carpenters. I mean I understand the whole concept of carpentry but seriously trying to get something square, ya right! Kudos to all those that can build a damn box, you are deeply admired. To ease our agony of attempting to get everything square we had nearly the entry greenhouse butt up at 90 degrees so we didn’t have to cut any angles. Yes, that is how bad we are at carpentry. We did have to cut a couple of boards angled in order to support the doorframes but we almost completely eyeballed it and when installing we did a lot of finger crossing.

Once the base and the door frames were installed we wanted to add some support across the whole structure and added 2x3 boards that sat on the door frames as overhead beams. These beams will also be used to support the hoops of the greenhouse. Once the beams were installed, we determined they needed support in the centre as well so we added 2 supporting beams at the halfway mark through the greenhouse. Because there was nothing to support the beams at the base we ended up tying them into the raised beds later.

Note: My husbands brother in-law, who is a professional carpenter, came by to check things out once the greenhouse was built. He recommended more support beams in the structure so we added 4 more support beams in the greenhouse. There is a beam approximately every 4 feet to support the upper beams.

Before getting too far along we laid garden underlay along each side of the greenhouse where the raised beds would be going. If you haven’t gotten to know me yet you will soon learn I hate weeds and weeding. I’ll do it as necessary, but I will take every step (natural not chemical) to avoid weeds, which includes underlay to keep the crab grass out of my gardens.

Once the structure in was in place we positioned the hoops. Our intention was to use PVC pipe for the hoops, however when we went to the store we couldn’t find exactly what we were looking for. We ended up purchasing 1 inch Pex pipe in 10 foot lengths. We had to purchase joiners in order to make the pex pipes 20 feet long which is what we needed. We purchased 10, 10 foot pex pipe pieces altogether.

Jon salvaged some old steel pips around the yard that were small enough for the

pex pipe to fit over. (each steel pipe was 1 -2 feet long) We positioned each hoop every 6 feet. Jon then pounded the steel pipes into the ground at each position until only 6 inches showed above ground. We covered each steel pipe with the pex pipe, this is all temporary as we want to do the next stage in building prior to securing the pips in place.

Building a Greenhouse Part 2 – Finishing Touches will be posted next week stay tuned!


Sourcing supplies: Given COVID-19 this was probably the worst time to be building a greenhouse. In our town it seemed like everyone was doing just that. Finding the necessary supplies to get the job done was a huge task. We couldn’t find enough 1 inch pex pipe and actually one of our hoops is only ¾ inch pex pipe because we just couldn’t get another 1 inch.

Cost: the cost for wood has gone up outrageously in our area, despite having a sawmill in our town. The price for wood was crazy and made it difficult to keep costs down on this project. We will certainly have to sell some of our produce in order to get some of the costs back.

Location: looking back one of the things we may have done was ensuring that the ground was more level in our selected location. It was difficult to keep the greenhouse square while building because it wasn’t that level, however, we did not want to invest too much time and money to make it level. Even now I'm not sure having the area perfectly level is necessary. It’s a greenhouse as long as it grows plants, I’m good! Right?

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