This greenhouse is a testament to recycled materials and out-of-the-box thinking. For the whole summer of 2008, I prowled Craig's List and salvage yards collecting windows and other materials. Once I had enough, I used graph paper to design the greenhouse structure to best use the available materials. (The greenhouse is 12 feet wide and 20 feet long.)
It's hard for me to believe that this is the first photo I have of the greenhouse construction. Normally, I would have details of how we sited it, construction of the foundation (made from salvaged 6x6 timbers), and so on. At this point, the foundation is finished, the gravel floor is in place, and we have two walls up.
I hired a handyman to help me with the initial framing. I hate ladders (though I use them when I have to) and it seemed most prudent to use skilled labor to help get the frame up quickly and efficiently. This decision wasn't without problems, because it was difficult for him to come into a project like this ... an out-of-the-box design wasn't what he was accustomed to doing.
The handyman came in most 'handy' for the roofing and skylights ... since I avoid ladders, remember. The skylights are another Craig's List find, salvaged by a builder on a remodeling job he was working on.
At this point, it's late October 2008. The weather is turning cold and I have to get this greenhouse into service to hold my roses over the winter, and the handyman and I are having a disagreement about how to best install the salvaged windows to close up the building. MY project ... MY design ... no arguments allowed. Because I was running out of time with winter approaching, and it was more important to USE the greenhouse than anything else. I sealed the building up by wrapping the walls in greenhouse plastic, and this is how it stayed for THREE years.
FAST FORWARD to this summer.
The greenhouse, still wrapped in plastic, was perfectly functional ... but less than the lovely element in the landscape that I envisioned it could be. I vowed that was the year that I would FINALLY install the windows and finish the greenhouse according to my original plan.
I stripped off the plastic, removed the window framing that had been installed by the handyman, and I set off to finish this project alone.
Functional, but ugly.
I can see daylight.
Ready for action!
What a view!
Each window fits into a specific opening, and I laid them out ahead of time to make sure that the plan would go together like I imagined it. Having gathered sets of windows from entire houses helped this process immensely ... all of the windows I used are 28 inches wide, with groups of them the same length, so they could be arranged fairly logically. (The graph paper plan was a BIG help figuring this out!)
To actually install the windows, I first screwed 1x6 pressure treated boards to the outside of the 4x4 frame members, creating a 1-inch lip in each opening on the inside of the greenhouse.
The windows on the top row are each screwed to this lip from the inside, using 2-inch exterior grade screws.
The second row of windows is hinged so they can open to ventilate the building in summer. I screwed a strip of 5/4 board to the bottom of the top window, clamped the second window into place, and installed two galvanized hinges on each bottom window.
Instead of using hardware to keep the windows latched, I put a screw in each bottom corner form the inside to hold the window closed. In summer, I will simply remove the screws and prop the windows open.
There's that view again!
Bottom row ... finished.
It was the same process for all four walls of the greenhouse.
In order to use the smaller windows I had on hand, the north wall has three rows of windows. The top and bottom row are fixed, and the middle row is hinged.
Here is the view toward Hartwood Winery on the north side of the greenhouse.
The space below the windows on each wall is covered with plywood. I would have loved to continue the windows all the way to the floor, but having the plywood base makes a much stronger and more stable building. Each opening below the windows needed a little bit of framing to support the plywood.
It took a couple of days, but soon all four walls of the greenhouse had their plywood and things were beginning to look almost finished.
Next step ... trim and corner boards. These decorative elements are actually functional, sealing up the spaces between the windows and the plywood.
The corner boards are not pressure-treated, but they have two coats of primer on their back sides to protect them from the moisture inside the greenhouse.
Last week, The Husband helped me install the ceiling fan ... which creates air circulation and keeps the expensive propane-heated air off the ceiling and down by the roses where it belongs. I spent an afternoon caulking and weather-stripping the cracks around the windows, and the greenhouse is finally finished ... for now, that is.
Next year, when the weather is warm, I get to do the fun part of this job. The plywood in the gable ends will come out and be replaced with glass ... those large spaces are framed to accept the Gothic church windows you saw at the beginning of this post. The plywood panels at the bottom of each wall will be covered with decorative shingles (left over from construction of our green garage that you can see in the background of some of my photos.) Each window opening will get decorative molding, inside and outside. The last thing will be paint ... I wonder what color?
The inside of the greenhouse is still a mess, but the roses are all tucked inside to safely spend the winter.
It's been a struggle to stay on track to get the greenhouse to this point. Many times, other projects have tempted me ... but I did the best I could to stay focused and see this one through. Though it's not truly, completely FINISHED, it's finished to the best of my ability for now ... and it feels really, really good to check this one off of my list.
If any of you who are reading this would like some advice or encouragement for your own project, I will be happy to see what I can do to help. Building this greenhouse was an exercise in using what I had on hand, devising construction methods to make best use of salvaged materials, and I love the results.
If you would like to see more of the process that went into the construction of the greenhouse, click on the 'Greenhouse Windows' tag below to see all the 2011 blog entries that I posted as construction was happening.