How do I Build my Own Greenhouse?

Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn

Extending the growing season in cold winter climates is an attractive option for avid gardeners, and many have constructed greenhouses next to backyard gardens. Whether the goal is to get a jump start on a summer garden, to house delicate flowers, or to grow citrus fruits in cold climates, most greenhouses can be constructed by the novice builder. Costs run from the budget friendly use of salvaged materials to high priced greenhouse kits purchased from deluxe gardening stores.

Cheaper greenhouses can be constructed with PVC pipes.
Cheaper greenhouses can be constructed with PVC pipes.

The first step in building a greenhouse is site selection. The greenhouse should be placed on a level, solid piece of ground with southern exposure. It's best if the top ridge of the greenhouse runs from east to west as this angle allows for the most sun exposure in winter months. However, grow lights can be installed if greenhouse placement fails to provide adequate sunlight exposure.

A homemade greenhouse may be built from a prefabricated kit that includes a PVC frame and plastic sheeting.
A homemade greenhouse may be built from a prefabricated kit that includes a PVC frame and plastic sheeting.

The next step is to build the foundation and there are several requirements to adhere to. The foundation must be anchored to the ground, allow for water drainage, and steps should be taken to inhibit weed and grass growth in the greenhouse floor. Foundations can be made quite easily and cheaply from wood, but cement slabs are also frequently used.

Framing is done next. Different styles and materials can be used for framing, but the typical backyard greenhouse is constructed of either wood or PVC plumbing pipe, though kits will often provide frames made of aluminum. Greenhouse plans can be found anywhere on the internet, but the basic frame is a simple rectangular structure, with walls made of beams set at equidistant positions along the base. A roof is added, then the covering is attached.

Greenhouse coverings are commonly made of polycarbonate or polythene materials. Both of these offer a range of options in durability and resistance to chemicals and UV rays. Selection is highly dependent on area and purpose of greenhouse and can accommodate most budgets. Instructions for installation of coverings varies depending on the materials used, so individual instructions should always be consulted.

After construction, modifications can be made to alter the temperature to suit the plants housed within. Doors and windows can be added to allow for better ventilation, and small heat lamps or heaters can be placed inside on very cold days. Much care should be given to the placement and use of any electrical devices within the greenhouse as smaller houses will easily overheat.

Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn

Joining the wiseGEEK team has helped to satisfy Hillary’s insatiable curiosity for knowledge. She also manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. Hillary has a passion for satirical writing and enjoys traveling, especially to places of historical importance.

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Discussion Comments


I retired about 5 years ago and it was my dream to spend the rest of my life gardening. As a kind of retirement/birthday/anniversary gift my husband built a greenhouse in our backyard.

It has changed my life. I feel like I have my own little plant laboratory in our backyard. It has fairly advanced temperature, light and humidity controls so you can replicate just about any condition. It has allowed me to tinker with various flora and fauna in ways that would be impossible outside, even in someplace like Florida.

The greenhouse also means that we have fresh veggies on the table year round. I grow amazing heirloom tomatoes in the middle of January when there is snow on the ground. It has done wonders for our diet. I thin this greenhouse might actually extend our lives.


The DIY movement is bigger than it has ever been before and there are a lot of people crafting really cheap, simple and ingenious greenhouses that just about anyone can build.

I have seen designs that use nothing more than PVC pipe and clear polyurethane sheeting. All the materials cost less than $30. You can't grow everything in one of these, but you can grow more than you expect and it is an easy way to extend the growing season even in harsh climates.

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