Many things will determine what materials you might need for your next greenhouse project.
If you have a lot of land and want to make a greenhouse the size of a small garage, you might look into a concrete base, wooden or metal walls, and either polycarbonate, glass, or plastic walls.
However, if you are just looking for a little greenhouse to house your kitchen herbs indoors, then you could get away with a simple plastic and aluminum framed greenhouse.
Knowing your needs beforehand is crucial when shopping for the right greenhouse for the first time.
An Overview of Materials Used to Make Greenhouses:
Greenhouses are constructed from aluminum, wood, or plastic, with coverings made from glass, plastic, fiberglass, or even polyvinyl. The base of a greenhouse can be simply dirt or as strong as concrete. Depending on your needs, the materials will vary.
Materials & Construction:
There are so many different materials or possibilities when constructing your new greenhouse.
Whether you are building it yourself, buying a kit online, or paying someone else to design and build it, your greenhouse may be made from any one of these materials:
Greenhouses require coverings to protect plants from animals, bugs, weather, and accidents.
Depending on your budget, the walls, windows, and ceiling could vary from cheap plastic tarping to sturdy, shiny glass.
Here are a few different materials that your greenhouse coverings can be made from:
- Tempered Glass
- Basic Plastic
Glass is the most beautiful and dangerous to use when constructing your greenhouse. If your greenhouse isn’t sturdy, it could blow over and shatter. It is also expensive.
Polycarbonate or polyethylene plastics are a great alternative to a glass greenhouse, as they are usually cheaper and sturdier, as well as less likely to shatter or crack. They are not as clear as glass but are more transparent than fiberglass.
Fiberglass, likewise, is very sturdy, but it isn’t crystal clear. However, don’t worry about your plants not getting enough light. Fiberglass lets in enough light for your plants to stay healthy!
Tempered glass blocks heat better than regular glass and are just as clear and beautiful as regular glass. It is cheaper, too! If you go with tempered glass, it is recommended that you get double-pane instead of single-pane, as it is considered more energy efficient.
The frame of your greenhouse is very important when you need to make sure that it will be sturdy enough to withstand the weather.
Wind, heavy rain and hail are huge dangers to a greenhouse that isn’t built with sturdy enough materials.
That’s why it is important to decide what kind of materials you want for the frame:
- Galvanized Steel
Steel frames are great to use with polyethylene or polycarbonate sheets because they are both incredibly sturdy and support one another well.
Wood, on the other hand, works well with plastic or fiberglass. Plastic frames are generally only used for small indoor greenhouses or little tent-like greenhouses that cover a small garden patch.
Aluminum is a pretty common alternative to galvanized steel greenhouses and is way cheaper. It is pretty sturdy but is not as strong when trying to hold up heavy panels like glass or polycarbonate.
Probably the most crucial part of the greenhouse is the flooring.
So many reviews on Amazon complain that their greenhouse fell over after the first week from strong winds. This is almost always a problem with the base of the greenhouse.
If you build your glass greenhouse on top of a patch of grass with a few stakes to hold it down, of course, it will blow right over. It is the same with a patch of dirt.
Instead, proper greenhouses are built on a foundation of concrete, stone, or even just reinforced corners with heavy bricks to hold it all together.
Therefore, picking a flooring is an important step:
- Stone Slabs
However, if you just want to buy a small tent-like greenhouse to cover flower boxes, small garden patches, or your herbs, then staking them into the dirt or grass is a totally fine idea!
If you want a full structure, you’ll need to dig a few inches into the ground, prepare your flooring, and secure the greenhouse on top.
New greenhouse owners should absolutely hire someone to install it for them or teach them for next time.
Accessories & Supplies:
Once you’ve built your greenhouse and filled it with plants or your collection of nursery sprouts, you will need to outfit the greenhouse with accessories and helpful supplies.
This includes things like:
- Misting or Irrigation
- Shade Cloths
Putting a bunch of delicate plants in a hot box for days at a time will definitely kill them. That’s why you need to be able to shade, ventilate, and irrigate your plants during the day or on a semi-regular basis.
Furthermore, working for an hour or more in a sweltering greenhouse without ventilation is hazardous to your health.
Therefore, snaking hoses and misting systems, opening panel windows, installing fans or ventilation, and even hanging grow lights or shade cloths is a great way to keep your plants happy and healthy!
Does a Greenhouse Have To Be Clear?
Greenhouses do not have to be totally clear.
In fact, fiberglass greenhouses are commonly and widely used by commercial and agricultural companies which grow thousands of plants every year.
This is because the plants are able to get enough light and stay warm or cool with proper ventilation within a fiberglass greenhouse. It is also less expensive so these greenhouses can be built-in bulk without breaking the bank.
If you have your own greenhouse you can absolutely build it with beautiful, clear glass, but I would recommend starting out with something sturdier and cheaper on your first try.
Plastic or Glass for Greenhouse Windows?
Depending on the kind of plastic that you choose, though, that price can go up. A cheap, plastic indoor greenhouse for herbs in your kitchen or succulents in your dorm room is different than the strong polycarbonate glass built on a garage-sized greenhouse.
Small plastic greenhouses or little tent-like greenhouses can cost between $30 and $100, while glass greenhouses are at least $5,000 to start!
However, polycarbonate greenhouses can range between $3,000 and $8,000 depending on size, frame, and structure.
Furthermore, glass is much more likely to crack, shatter, or take a beating from the elements. Most greenhouse glass is pretty sturdy, especially double-paned tempered glass, but polycarbonate is less likely to crack, scratch, or shatter upon contact with a blunt object.
That’s not to say that polycarbonate can’t break, because it can, but it is less likely to break than glass.
Beginner gardeners and greenhouse owners should opt for something cheaper and sturdier until they have more experience.
Can You Save Money From Building Your Own Greenhouse?
Depending on your skill level, building your own greenhouse could end up costing you more money and time than if you had just paid someone else to build it.
Paying to have it built right the first time might be expensive, but it is still cheaper than having to repair, fix, change, or re-do your greenhouse several times if you don’t have enough experience to do it yourself.
On the other hand, if you are a contractor by trade and a gardener by hobby, then you might find that designing and building your own greenhouse is one of the most fun and rewarding things you could do for yourself!
It all depends on your capabilities. Don’t sink money into something you aren’t prepared for, and just have someone else do it.
Keep in mind, though, that some companies are less legit than others and may not build it right the first time. Do your research and pay professionals who care about their work and know what they are doing!
How Can You Save Money on the Materials?
If you buy from an online kit, waiting for sales is really the only time that you can save money on materials.
However, if you are building a greenhouse yourself, you can always find deals and recycled materials to build your next project!
Pinewood is much cheaper than cherry or mahogany, while aluminum is a lot cheaper than galvanized steel. Furthermore, you can get wooden boards at most stores like Lowes or Home Depot for $3 to $4 apiece.
Yes, those prices do add up if your greenhouse project is pretty huge, but for a small or mid-sized greenhouse, you could probably build a pretty sturdy, well-ventilated space for less than $1,000.
What Are the Best Materials for a Greenhouse?
The best materials for greenhouses are ultimately going to be the sturdiest ones that allow for the best energy efficiency.
Double-paned tempered glass is a great option over single-paned, and polycarbonate plastic is better than glass for protecting your plants.
That being said, the best materials for greenhouses are a classic polycarbonate and wood combination. This is sturdy, inexpensive (compared to metal and glass), and is easy to ventilate and keep your plants dry and healthy.
Everything else after that is more of an aesthetic choice. Glass is beautiful, metal is sleek and modern, and concrete or stone slabs are easy to clean and maintain on the bottom of your greenhouse.
In the end, depending on your preference or need, the “best” materials are going to be a matter of opinion.