Everything to Consider Before Building a Greenhouse


Have you ever dreamed of having your own greenhouse? It might seem too good to be true, but building a greenhouse on your own might be more feasible than you think. You just need to gather as much helpful information as you can, and luckily, I have done the research for you!

There are many critical factors to consider before building a greenhouse. But through careful planning, it is possible to successfully complete such a project. Start by evaluating your need for a greenhouse, then focus on a practical way to fund, construct, and maintain it.

Thoughts of a personal greenhouse have crossed the minds of many gardening enthusiasts. If you choose to take on a project like this, here’s everything you need to know.

Reasons You Should Build a Greenhouse

The fact that you are reading this means you probably already know some of the benefits of having a greenhouse. But perhaps there are a few you are not aware of.

Greenhouses allow you to:

  • Grow plants year-round
  • Protect your plants from harsh weather
  • Provide ideal growing conditions for your plants
  • Garden all year-round
  • Produce food for you and your family
  • Grow plants that wouldn’t otherwise grow in your region
  • Save on nursery costs
  • Keep pests away from your plants
  • Have transplants ready and waiting at all times
  • Add an additional indoor space to hang out in

A quality greenhouse is the perfect environment for you and your plants. Greenhouses give you a dedicated space to carry out the hobby you love, while also giving your plants a place to thrive.

Yet, while there are many upsides to having a greenhouse, there are some downsides as well. Read on to consider some facts that may deter you from building a greenhouse.

Reasons You Should Not Build a Greenhouse

Some of the reasons not to build a greenhouse are obvious. However, it is still important to consider them before you make any construction plans.

Greenhouses are:

  • Expensive to build: The process of building a greenhouse represents a significant initial investment.
  • Expensive to maintain:  You can expect an increase in utility bills as you heat and light your greenhouse.
  • Challenging to build:  Building a greenhouse requires careful planning and significant labor.
  • Time-consuming:  After your greenhouse is built, there will be many maintenance tasks demanding your attention.
  • Large:  You may find that the greenhouse you desire takes up a large portion of your outdoor space.

Weigh these disadvantages against the advantages of owning a greenhouse listed above. If you find that the pros outweigh the cons, it may be time to start planning the construction of your greenhouse.

Does a Greenhouse Add Value to Your House?

It remains inconclusive whether or not greenhouses specifically add to the value of your property. But there is some hope.

To determine how a greenhouse could affect your property value, there are two factors you should consider.

  • How landscaping impacts property value in general
  • How potential buyers might view the presence of a greenhouse

Let’s take a closer look at these two aspects.

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Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)

Landscaping and Property Value

Statistics suggest that quality landscape design and maintenance is likely to boost the value of your home. There are a few landscape features in particular that are known to have this effect. Some of those elements include:

  • Fences
  • Privacy hedges
  • Paved walkways
  • Sheds
  • Patios and other outdoor-living spaces

There is no distinct evidence to suggest that greenhouses add to your property value. But if some of the above features do, it is not outlandish to assume that a greenhouse could as well.

As with any venture, selling a house is also tied to human psychology. So how does that play a role in a greenhouse’s contribution to property value?

The Potential Buyer’s Opinion

Property valuation and the likelihood that a greenhouse will increase it can be a bit up to chance. The goal of increasing property value is to eventually sell that property for a profit. Successful value appreciation from building a greenhouse will come down to the buyer’s perceived utility of the building.

Every potential buyer has a unique lifestyle. This can include any level of outdoor activity, such as gardening. As such, buyers are apt to look favorably at houses that will match and support their chosen lifestyle.

Some buyers may have green thumbs and live active lifestyles and will likely be thrilled by the presence of a greenhouse and see it as an asset.

Other buyers may have little to no interest in gardening. They will probably see a greenhouse as nothing more than an unnecessary expense.

What Makes a Good Greenhouse?

Anyone interested in building a greenhouse will certainly prefer to build a good one. What exactly does that entail?

A high-quality greenhouse should have the following characteristics:

  • Heating and insulation
  • Good ventilation
  • Proper location
  • Glazing
  • The right equipment

In the following sections, we’ll break down each of these aspects that help create a good greenhouse.

Heating and Insulation

One of the primary benefits of a greenhouse is climate control. If you live in an area with harsh winters, you understand how this is a significant benefit. A greenhouse will allow you to keep gardening even as the ground outside is frozen.

This is only possible if your greenhouse has adequate internal heat. How you heat your greenhouse is dependent on its size. As you might expect, the larger your greenhouse is, the more substantial your heat source will need to be.

Here are some heat sources greenhouse owners commonly use for heating.

For larger greenhouses:

  • Propane
  • Natural gas
  • Coal
  • Oil

For smaller greenhouses:

  • Electric heaters
  • Soil heating cables
  • Solar heaters
  • Heat lamps
  • Hydroponic heating

It is up to you to decide what heat source is best for your proposed greenhouse. No matter what you choose, you should also have some sort of interior fan to work with your heating system. The fan will help to ensure an even distribution of heat throughout the greenhouse.

A good heat source is vital, but insulation is essential as well. A non-insulated greenhouse will quickly lose its heat as soon as the temperature drops. Having good insulation helps establish a consistent climate for your plants.

Ventilation

Stagnant hot air has the potential to cause problems with your plants. This is another reason why having a fan is so important because it maintains a constant circulation of air throughout the greenhouse.

The previous section noted the importance of keeping your greenhouse warm. But did you know that your greenhouse could get too hot?

As with excessive cold, most plants will underperform in extreme heat. This is why good greenhouses have built-in vents.

These vents often operate via a hand crank. This lets you evaluate the temperature of your greenhouse and release hot air when needed.

Location

The location also contributes to the success of a greenhouse, as it affects the following:

  • Ease of access and use
  • Good water and electric connections
  • Sun exposure

You will generally want to locate your greenhouse where you and the necessary utilities, like water and electricity, can easily get to it. You will also want to be cognizant of the sun as that plays a major role in the overall temperature of your greenhouse.

Glazing

Glazing simply refers to the material that comprises the exterior parts of your greenhouse. This material should be effective on two fronts.

  • Letting sun in
  • Keeping precipitation and wind out

There are multiple common options for greenhouse glazing, but glass stands out as the number one option. Glass is clear, allowing sunlight to enter easily. It can also be durable enough to withstand the weather without breaking.

The Right Equipment

One fairly intuitive feature of a good greenhouse is the ease of use. Once complete, your greenhouse should be well equipped with all the items you need to garden, which includes tools, storage, and much more.

Just know that constructing a greenhouse alone is not enough. Plan properly so that your greenhouse will be filled with everything needed to carry out the care your plants need.

How Easy is it to Build a Greenhouse from Scratch?

The difficulty of building a greenhouse varies greatly based on your goals and your situation. The listed items below represent a few factors that can help determine how difficult building a greenhouse could be..

  • The size of the greenhouse
  • The complexity of the shape
  • Your intended level of quality and detail

Building a greenhouse on your own will be a laborious undertaking. But relative to other structures, building a simple greenhouse is not overly complex.

Maintaining a modest size and a simple shape decreases the difficulty level. The features within your greenhouse also matter.

For instance, do you anticipate that the interior of your greenhouse will have a hard floor or shelving? Features like these will only add to the difficulty of building a greenhouse.

This is a broad view of greenhouse construction. So, let’s have a closer look at some of the minimum requirements for building a greenhouse.

Framing

Framing is one of the most important parts of the greenhouse construction process. The stability of your frame dictates the long-term success of your greenhouse.

Making a stable frame from the beginning gives your greenhouse better structural integrity. That means your greenhouse will have a better chance of standing up to everything nature has to throw at it.

Greenhouse frames are usually made with these materials.

  • Wood
  • Aluminum
  • Galvanized steel
  • PVC

How difficult is it to make a frame for a greenhouse? The answer to that question lies in the materials you choose to use and your comfort in working with them. For example wood is easier to work with then aluminum or steel but is less durable.

Glazing

The other main task you need to carry out is glazing. After you create your frame, you can proceed to complete the exterior of your greenhouse.

This is another scenario where you have some material options, which include:

  • Glass
  • Fiberglass
  • Plastic

Each of these materials comes with its own pluses and minuses. For example, glass is quite attractive, but it does not retain heat very well.

Siding a greenhouse may involve a significant learning curve for those who are completely uninitiated with building greenhouses or construction in general..

How Easy is it to Assemble a Greenhouse Kit?

If the idea of building a greenhouse from scratch is off-putting, don’t be discouraged. There is another option that may keep your greenhouse dream alive.

Using a greenhouse kit is far easier than building a greenhouse on your own from scratch. In most cases, greenhouse kits come with major components of the greenhouse already complete, so all you need to do is assemble the pieces together.

Greenhouse kits come in many shapes and sizes. So, while your creativity is somewhat limited compared to building from scratch, you still have options.

Some greenhouse kits are just large enough to house a few plants. Others are large enough for you to enter and operate from within.

While easier to assemble, greenhouse kits still take some time to set up. For a larger kit, you can expect multiple days of work. This is a time investment, but it is one that is significantly less than building a greenhouse from scratch.

How Much Space Is Needed for a Greenhouse?

The space needed for your greenhouse depends on how big you want your greenhouse to be. To determine this, think of the number of plants you want to grow. This is the clearest indicator of your spatial needs.

When building from scratch, you have the option to customize your greenhouse’s dimensions. When working with a kit, these dimensions are set for you.

To give you a better idea of the space you will need, here are some common greenhouse size categories measured in feet.

  • Small: 6×8
  • Medium: 8×12
  • Large: 10×20

There are many other greenhouse sizes. The list above serves as a quick reference and is intended to help you roughly estimate the space you need.

In addition to plants, you should also consider your spatial needs. Ask yourself how much space and storage you will need. The more you need, the larger your greenhouse will have to be.

You may find that your property is not large enough to accommodate a large greenhouse. In that case, there is an alternative. Mini greenhouses are little more than a set of protected shelves. This option will take up only a few feet of space in your yard, or even inside your home

What is the Best Shape for a Greenhouse?

A traditional greenhouse has a simple rectangular shape. Despite being the most common shape, it is not the most efficient.

Ideally, your greenhouse should have even light and heat throughout its interior. A rectangle is likely to capture sunlight very well from one side but not from others.

This means there will be parts of the day where your greenhouse receives a lot of light, as well as large portions of the day when your rectangular greenhouse gets little sun at all.

The good news is, there is a greenhouse shape that proves to be superior to a simple rectangle.

Geodesic Dome Greenhouses

A geodesic dome greenhouse consists of a series of triangular panels. These triangles coalesce to form a dome at the top.

This shape offers many advantages.

  • Even light distribution throughout the day
  • Greater structural integrity
  • Better wind resistance
  • Improved heat retention

Geodesic domes have an overall curved shape similar to a half-sphere. This lets sunlight in from more angles. It also helps to easily convey wind around the greenhouse.

The triangular panels offer benefits as well. It is well known that triangles are one of the strongest shapes in construction. This means that geodesic domes are sturdier, and can hold up better when placed under the weight of heavy snow.

How Tall Are Greenhouses?

Greenhouses come in many different heights. However, as with length and width, there are some common greenhouse height dimensions.

A residential greenhouse is typically between 8 and 12 feet in total height. You can change this dimension based on the height of the plants you hope to grow.

For anyone interested in larger crop production, a larger and taller greenhouse is necessary. The average commercial greenhouse is around 16 feet tall.

How Many Hours of Sunlight Should a Greenhouse Get?

Keeping a greenhouse warm in the winter is a primary goal. The best way to do this is to make sure your greenhouse receives plenty of sunlight.

The rule of thumb is that your greenhouse should get full sun, which means six or more hours of direct sunlight per day.

When choosing a location for your greenhouse, you must evaluate the sun exposure. Freestanding greenhouses make this process easier, and allow you to  select the sunniest parts of your yard.

Attached greenhouses should be located on the south side of your house. This promotes the greatest sun exposure. Remember that tall trees and buildings can cast shadows on otherwise sunny locations.

What Are the Different Types of Greenhouses and What Are They Good for?

There are three general categories of greenhouses:

  • Freestanding
  • Attached
  • Gutter-connected

Freestanding Greenhouses

A freestanding greenhouse is detached from your house and stands alone as an individual structure.

The main benefit of a freestanding greenhouse is a greater level of freedom. These greenhouses are not limited by an attachment to another structure, such as a house. They also tend to let more sun in since they are not blocked on any side.

To sum this up, freestanding greenhouses give you control over:

  • Location
  • Solar orientation
  • Size
  • Style

Freestanding greenhouses offer flexibility. But they are far from your only option.

Attached Greenhouses

Freestanding greenhouses have their advantages, but so do greenhouses that are attached directly to your house.

Some advantages of attached greenhouses include:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Ease of access
  • Aesthetic value

Attached greenhouses are also called lean-to greenhouses. They are connected to your home. That means they can draw heat from your house rather than relying solely on the sun. This will cut down on the cost of heating your greenhouse.

Ease of access is also better with attached greenhouses, in that you can walk directly from your indoor living spaces into your greenhouse.

Lastly, an attached greenhouse can enhance the visual appeal of your home. This is true for both the interior and the exterior.

Inside, your greenhouse may become a new living space, where you can sit and relax amidst lush plant life.

From the outside, greenhouses have the potential to complement the architecture of your home. When well-designed, a greenhouse will accentuate the existing form of your house.

Gutter-Connected Greenhouses

Gutter-connected greenhouses are more common in commercial settings. If you are a homeowner, it is unlikely that you will use this style of greenhouse.

Gutter-connected greenhouses are really more of a series of greenhouses connected to one another. This style proves to be very efficient compared to other commercial greenhouse types.

However, these efficiencies only come into play when your greenhouse space exceeds 20,000 square feet. The vast majority of residential greenhouses will not come close to this size.

What Are All the Components of a Greenhouse?

Greenhouses need many components to function properly, which we have alluded to throughout the article. Here is a complete checklist of greenhouse components.

  • Foundation
  • Frame
  • Glazing
  • Vents
  • Fans
  • Benches/Shelves
  • Storage

Those are the essentials of a greenhouse. However, there are more common optional components you may want to add as well.

  • Heating systems
  • Watering/misting systems
  • Fertilizing systems
  • Artificial lighting
  • Furniture

Add these components at your discretion. The essential elements are necessary to create a simple greenhouse, how you enhance your greenhouse after that is up to you.

How to Budget for a Greenhouse

At the most basic level, there are two costs to consider when planning to build a greenhouse: the initial cost and the ongoing cost

Both costs depend on multiple factors. For instance, the initial cost relates to the money needed to build your greenhouse in the first place.

To figure this out, you need to think about:

  • The size of your greenhouse
  • The materials you intend to use
  • The labor needed to build your greenhouse

Here’s another reference point. When building from scratch, the average cost for a residential greenhouse is $25 per square foot.

But remember, the cost to build a greenhouse represents a single initial investment. Maintaining a greenhouse is an entirely different issue.

How Much Do Greenhouses Cost?

Want some hard numbers to give you a better idea of exactly how much a greenhouse will cost? Well, here you go!

The national average cost for greenhouses ranges between  $13,000-$20,000. The average cost of a greenhouse in the U.S. is just over $16,000. The numbers will be slightly different depending  on your location within the United States.

What Are the Ongoing Costs of Having a Greenhouse?

After spending money to build your greenhouse, you must continue to maintain it. This comes at a cost.

This ongoing cost is mostly based on:

  • Heating
  • Electricity
  • Water

Of these factors, heating is most likely to have a significant impact on your monthly bills. You can expect to pay at least $10 more each month. However, this will vary depending on:

  • Greenhouse size
  • Greenhouse type
  • Fuel source for heating

Before building a greenhouse, keep in mind that having a greenhouse incurs ongoing costs, so make sure to create a budget for recurring expenses.

How to Use a Greenhouse in Winter

There are a few ways that you can use your greenhouse in winter. The first, as you might expect, is as a means to continue gardening year-round.

Your greenhouse is a climate-controlled area. So even if it is the dead of winter, you can still grow plants if your greenhouse has heating. Since there is less sunlight in winter, you might want to add artificial lights. This will help your plants get the light they need.

You can also use your greenhouse in winter to keep your tropical plants alive. But another winter greenhouse use is something called overwintering.

Some plants will grow well outdoors for most of the year. But they may be unable to survive the winter outdoors in your region. In these cases, overwintering can save your plant.

Overwintering just means taking your plants inside for the cold season. A greenhouse is a perfect place to do this.

Beyond plant care, there are other ways to use your greenhouse in winter. Some ideas include:

  • Winter sunroom
  • Hot tub location
  • Place to entertain guests
  • Sanctuary for pollinators

All of these winter uses share one thing in common: they all rely on your ability to keep your greenhouse warm. Without this, your greenhouse becomes unusable when the weather gets cold.

Closing Thoughts

Building a greenhouse is no small task. But it is far from impossible. By following the guidelines laid out in this article, you can plan and build a greenhouse of your very own. Soon you will be enjoying your gardening hobby regardless of the season.

Here are Some of my Favorite Gardening Products and Tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful for growing some new plants in your home or garden. Here are some products I like that I hope you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, and I am compensated for referring traffic. But in all honesty, these are the exact product that I use or recommend to everyone.

Soil: For high-quality soil, I really like Fox Farm Ocean Forest. I do all my growing in containers and this soil has worked great for me. I like how they use nutrient-rich contents like earthworm castings, bat guano, and composted crab and fish.

Fertilizer: Currently I am using a seaweed-based organic fertilizer call Neptunes Harvest. This is a great milder fertilizer option if you want to use something organic. If you want a more powerful fertilizer, I recommend Fox Farm Liquid Nutrient Trio, lots of people have had great growing success with this product.

Pruning Shears: Pruning shears are one of the most useful gardening tools to have because it’s important to prune your plants to keep them healthy. The pruning shears I recommend are the Gonicc 8’’ pruning shears. I like them because they are built sturdy and work both on bigger and smaller plants, so you don’t need to have multiple pruning shears.

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Supriya

Hi! I'm Supriya. I'm a home cook, bulldog mom, spicy food lover, and founder of The Spicy Trio. I have been a home cook for about 15 years and have been growing plants for the past six years.

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