Building a greenhouse for idiots!
First off, if you’re here looking for greenhouse plans, or want to find out how to build the world’s cheapest greenhouse, then you’re in the wrong place. I explained my reason for building my own greenhouse in my last post, and if you didn’t read it, well shame on you!
My criteria was to build a greenhouse that was very strong, very affordable, and that met my needs. It also had to not look like a bunch of shit. Aesthetics were important, because I sold the idea to Mrs IG on the proviso that it wouldn’t look like a bunch of crap. It also had to reflect the “Idiot” part of my life. It’s how I roll (actually, I don’t roll; I tend to hit the floor like a sack of shit).
I had no plans. I made it up as I went along, and I just made things fit. I’ve tried to outline the work in steps, but to be honest it was just an on-going shitfest. If you think this approach is a bit idiotic, then you probably aren’t the right type of person to embrace freestyle construction!
Step 1: Find somewhere to put your greenhouse. Common sense implies that this should be an area that is level and clear. I didn’t have one of those, as many of you might not, so I opted to put my greenhouse on the corner of neglect.
It might not be ideal, but it was all I had to work with. Now, if like me, you look at that picture and think, “I couldn’t arsed to clear that”, rest assured that neither could I! Step 1 is “find somewhere to put the greenhouse”, not “clear somewhere”. Got that? Happy? We’ll move on.
Step 2: Work out what you need. Glass and wood: that’s what I needed. In order to deliver strength, I figured I’d go for double glazing. There are a ton of different ways to get old windows for free, so I figured I’d do that, break them up and use the sealed units. Glazing for free; I liked that idea.
As I started to consider this great idea further, I realised that double glazing is bespoke, so the reality was that it would be a patchwork affair that looked crap. I didn’t like this idea
I soon realised that if you want something good, start looking for things that other people don’t want. If I could find one window, one really big window…
I checked with a few shopfitters, but the hassle of obtaining and moving a serious lump of plate glass didn’t seem a good idea. I hunted around until I found my goal: a brand new sash window that was 2 x 2.2 metres. It had been custom-made, but the job had fallen through. The guy had two of them, but one had been purchased for £950. He couldn’t find anyone else with a large enough opening to pay proper money for the second one, and he wanted shot of it as it was causing an obstruction in his workshop. I suggested £100 delivered. He didn’t seem pleased, but I explained it was that or he could keep his window. It was a take it or leave it face-off…
That’s in my back garden. Obviously, he took it.
I also managed to get a set of patio doors by watching ones on Ebay. I worked out the popular sizes, and ignored those. Eventually I found a set that no one had bid on. I put in a last minute low bid, and won them. They were a bit narrow for most people looking to replace French windows at 1.4 metres, but they were ideal for a greenhouse door. As I said, go for things other people won’t want.
Finally, I tracked down some three-wall polycarbonate with scuff marks. As it would be used for the sides of the greenhouse against the fence, I figured it would do the trick. It took a couple of months to sort most of the glazing, and it cost under £150. What few bits I needed after that I figured I’d buy.
Because of the weight of the window, I decided to build the frame out of 6 x 2 timber. I had some spare lying around, plus a few phone calls got me some at a decent discount from a timber yard. I just waffled on about the green agenda and biodiversity and that Beeny woman, and then asked if they couldn’t help me out in this worthwhile venture with some advantageous pricing! I didn’t lie or mislead; I just bored them to tears. I think they gave it me just to get me off the phone. Another £150 down!
One area where I didn’t scrimp was on screws. Cheap screws are shit and you’ll waste loads. I used good screws, and Joist Ties (I love them, and so should you), and decent polycarb fixings. The running total for materials ended up being about £450.
I used the doors and window to work out a rough layout, and opted for a pent roof, because the thing would have been very high with an apex! Plus, pent roofs are easier to build.
Step 3: In order to start, I cleared a strip of ground. I didn’t bother leveling it because the uprights were going to be concreted in. About 99 per cent of people you know will have half a bag of cement in their sheds that has gone hard. They’ll happily give it to you because it saves them going to the tip. Just chop it up with a shovel, add some sand and you’re good to go.
So, as I said, I cleared a strip and cemented in four posts. This made up the back of the greenhouse. I wanted the roof in two sections – no, I don’t really know why – so I created a small back area.
One tip is to make the uprights taller than you need them. You can always cut some off, but you can’t add! Then, I used a spirit level to work out the floor level, and screwed side pieces on the three sides.
Step 4: It was at this point I realised my tomato plants needed to go somewhere, so I added a second row of boards at the back and built an integral bed. I also added a cross piece between the rear two posts at roof height, so I could put in the rear glazing. Then I planted my tomatoes. Yes, I was building around the tomatoes, and why not? I was also regularly falling over the shit which I hadn’t yet cleared. It’s one of the perils of building when drunk.
Eventually I lost my temper, as well as my footing, and cleared the rest of the space. This was such a shock that I decided to add the door frame without taking any pictures.
I dug out a strip under the frame, filled it with concrete, and then set bricks in it so the frame was sitting on a solid base.
I used Joist Ties (trust me, they are so worth the money) to screw the door frame to the post that had already been concreted in. Then I dug a hole, rested another post in it, and used Joist Ties to screw the loose post to the frame. The frame then held it in place, and I chucked in concrete and let it set. This method is great because you don’t have to measure a gap accurately: the frame fits correctly because you use it to make the spacing!
Step 5: I took the sash window apart (it’s an easy job) and installed the window frame in the same way as the door frame. I dug out a trench, and used concrete and bricks to provide a solid base. Then the fantastic Joist Ties were used to screw one side of the frame to the post holding the door frame. I then used the window frame to support the loose post, concreted it in, and after that the final corner post went in.
The remaining lower cross pieces were added, as were the upper cross pieces, which then allowed me to mark up the angles for the roof purlins. Yes, I do know that roof purlins go across the drop of the roof, not along it! Well, I know that now. When I did it, I didn’t know that, but who gives a fuck?
I then used my last remaining Joist Ties to shore up the structural cross pieces, and the thing was as solid as a turd after ten days on codeine!
As an aside, when very drunk, three of us tried to make the thing move by lashing a rope around a post and pulling, very hard. It didn’t budge. Of course, if it had moved, I would have destroyed all my work, but I would have failed anyway so it had to be done!
Step 6: A quick whizz around the timber with primer, before the doors were added to the frame, and the sash window reassembled. These work smoothly, and allow the top windows to be opened slightly for ventilation, without letting any dirty bastard cats in! Then the three wall polycarbonate was used to finish the glazing. It’s dead easy to cut and handle.
I wanted to use it for the roof too, but I didn’t have enough, so I opted for corrugated clear PVC. It’s easy enough to use, but I’m not sold on the look. I might change it next year if it hasn’t grown on me.
Then I tidied up with some stripwood and beading. Stripwood and beading are our friends! They hide the shit bits.
Step 7: Step 7 is the future. I need to fit the gutter (I haven’t got a water butt yet; I fancy a big old water tank), give it another coat of paint and run a bead of silicone around some of the joints.
I also need to level and pave the floor inside, put in a path outside and add some shelves and staging. I also need to get Mrs IG to clean the windows.
So, that’s that for now. I might do a follow-up as the interior takes shape.
If anyone is contemplating making a right bollocks of a greenhouse and needs to know how to really screw it up, feel free to ask. Otherwise, I’m off for a beer … in my greenhouse!