Building the Greenhouse

This is a Greenhouse made by me alone and is in memory of my Mother and Daughter. It is mainly made from 110 yr. old windows obtained from the Eastern Shores of Virginia.The Doors were obtained from down the road at a house that was being remodeled and the cinder block and mortar used for the foundation are left over from a house being built around the corner. It measures 16' x 12' and is wired for 110 volts. I particularly like the split level roof and the open concept Credit belongs to Buildeasy-Greenhouse for the basic design which I built to suite. This is a labor of love with no deadline, and as a result you will see rough but quality work. All wood is pressure treated , primed and painted prior to assembly Tools used were circular saw, zaw-zaw, chop saw, cordless drill, hammer and measuring tools. Don't forget PPE, (personal protective equipment). I'll talk about that later. I am currently in the process of building a Hydroponic growing system for growing vegetables and flowers. The first type of system will be Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) using channels constructed from UV-stabilized, recycled plastics, 6"Wide x 2.5"Deep. It is suitable for large, leafy plants and vine varieties, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum and zucchini, in which the recycled nutrients flow past the roots 24/7. I will learn this technique before starting a second type. (if you're wondering why there is one yellow window frame it's because that's what I visualized in my mind what it was going to look like when it was finished. )

Picture of Let It Be, Hydroponic Greenhouse, for Lois Lee & Rachael Marie

The 110 year old Windows

These are some of the windows I used for the project. As I was visualizing the greenhouse in my mind, I wondered where I would obtain the windows I saw. I began by looking on Craig s list under several different headings. I typed in (old windows) and was happy to see that there were postings for them. I read all the posts and found one that said "antique windows" it said that they were 110 yr. old lead content windows removed from a Victorian house and he wanted to sell them. He said to make an offer. Just for the heck of it I posted that I would give him 5-7 dollars each depending on the sizes. To my surprise he answered with "I accept your offer" I called him and made arrangements to pick them up. They were about 2 1/2 hours from me so I knew it would be an all dayier. I picked them up and was happy with the panes. Pretty wavy glass that when the sun shown through you could see beautiful vivid shades of vibrant rainbow colors. All together I had scored 27 windows, Small, Medium and Large. It was a start for sure. Now for the hard part.

To be continued.............

Picture of The 110 year old Windows

More Windows

On my way back to the Chesapeake tunnel I noticed on my right an old gas station with a bunch of nautical items scattered around. I spotted some old pained windows leaning up. I turned around and investigated finding 20 more. They were not the old lead windows but they would work. Paid 5 bucks each for them. Now I had a trailer full of old windows, 47 total. I managed to get them home with only 1 breaking "Rats". During the next 5 months I worked on them after work and on weekends. The first thing I did was to pressure wash them all. This removed some of the old paint after that I scraped all the old paint off the best I could. ( Use caution and do not eat the paint or create dust and breath it, you must assume it is leaded) I also removed all the old glazing, while doing so I cracked a couple of panes, "Rats again". When I was happy with them I replaced window points and put all new glazing on them. (over one gallon) That was sure tedious work, remind me never to do that again! Once that was done it was time to prime and paint.I used Kiltz exterior primer and Behr semi gloss exterior white paint. I believe they turned out quite nice. A note on the Glazing compound: Read the instructions as far as painting it. I think is says to allow two weeks dry time before painting. I did and the glaze took the paint well.

                  Picture of More Windows

Make it Square

The first thing I did was to decide where I wanted this to be built. After doing some measurements and thinking I decided where I wanted it. A couple of things needed to be done before I could mark the spot. I contacted the city and asked what the biggest size was that did not need a building permit, The answer was 200 sq.ft. so I decided on 16 x 12 for 192 sq. ft.. Then I had to submit a request to the HOA along with a plot plan and get it approved prior to starting. Once all that was out of the way I used white spray paint , 25' tape measure, some scrap conduit I had laying around and a hammer. I measures 16' length and 12' wide. At the end of both I drove a rod. Doing the same for the other side as well. I then measured the distance between the ends opposite each other on the 16' side, recorded the distance and did the same for the other ends. Both sides have to equal lengths. After making a few adjustments I took a couple of 2x4's and laid them end to end to make a straight edge. Then using the white spray paint I marked the area and came out with some relatively straight lines. I don't guess you really need to do this cause you're going to dig it out anyway. I did it so I could take a picture of it and see the total dimensions plus it looks cool from the 2nd story

                      Picture of Make it Square

Back Breaker

Digging and building the foundation was fun and a good workout. I had to scratch my head a couple of times on this one. Foundation work is not my specialty but overall I did OK. I dug the trench to about 12" or more by shovel. Renting a trenching machine would have been the smart way to do it but not me, (make sure you wear gloves to avoid blisters on your hands from shoveling). The first 6-8 inches was pretty easy but when I hit the clay it was slow going. I managed to get it all dug out and the plan was not to use concrete because I wanted it to be semi permanent so I chose a product called crush and run. Once it was tamped it was pretty strong plus the clay was packed solid. At first I ran two courses using my eyeball as a level. I did not use mortar on this dry run and I'm glad I didn't. To me it looked pretty level. Just for the heck of it I ran a string level. I couldn't believe my eyes when I did this. It was really, really not level. Man I'm glad I did. The one thing I have learned over the years is square and level. Caulking and paint will take care or the rest. Time for the mud now. This was pretty easy but backbreaking. I survived it and was ready to start the walls. I was a quite pleased with myself !

   Picture of Back Breaker

My Eyes are Deceiving Me

As you can see the foundation is completed and as the title states "my eyes are deceiving me" and they are. By looking at this picture it appears that I have made a huge error in making the foundation level. I checked and double checked and believe it or not it is perfectly square and level. It looks like this because of the slope in the yard. I know what you are thinking, "Why didn't you start out with the yard being flat"? El Cheapo?, Naw, I wanted it at ground level, figured I could backfill and I did. Anyway, I put threaded J-hooks in the cinder block with mortar and a 2x6 pressure treated plate on them to nail the walls to. Then I used a waterproof coating on the blocks. Now it was time to build the walls. You will see that it was like putting a puzzle together.

Picture of My Eyes are Deceiving Me

All Laid Out

Here you can see some of the windows laid out in the yard. This wasn't to bad but it was time consuming but no worries, I was not in a hurry,. I started out making an 8' x 8' square frame using 2 x 4's. I used 16P galvanized nails for this. (no nail gun for this guy) By the way, all the wood for this project is pressure treated, all the wood was primed using exterior Kiltz. and painted using exterior semi-gloss white paint made by Behr. Once it was nailed together I started putting the puzzle together. My goal was to fit as many windows within the frame as possible and to make it uniform. Once I was satisfied with the look I cut and laid in section framing. With caution I nailed the framing, (not windows) in place. Using masking tape I labeled the windows with a number and section letter. 1 LF (left front) then removed the windows and stored them in a safe place. Special Note: Remember I told you how old and back then when they poured glass it had a lead content? Well, with all the windows scattered around while I was selecting the ones that fit, I accidentally mis-stepped and walked on a full pane one. 180 lbs on a window made today would break. Not that baby, I couldn't believe it. I am really glad because it was a larger one. "Next Slide Please"

    Picture of All Laid Out

Perfect Fit

You can see here that they fit really well in this section. They all look like they belong together and I was very pleased with the first one. That would change near the end when all the easy fits grew slim. You will see later what I mean. But, so far - so good. (still no nail gun for this old guy)

   Picture of Perfect Fit

Windows Removed

Here you can see where I have removed the windows and now the wall is ready to be erected. I built two walls at a time then put them in place on the foundation.

Picture of Windows Removed

One Wall Up and Braced

Moving in the right direction with the walls. Not much to say about this slide. I will tell you one thing for sure, It was not easy putting them in place by myself. I have learned over the years to work smart not hard and there are a lot of ways to do something when working alone. I must have been a pioneer at one time cause I feel comfortable working this way using old fashioned ways.

Picture of One Wall Up and Braced

Two Walls Up

Side wall up. I like the pattern on this wall, the opposite side wall has the same pattern. This wall is built in two pieces. Not much to say about the walls other than, so far so good and they are held together using 16 penny galvanized nails which measure 3 1/2" long. Now they are call 16D nails. Back in the day you could get 100 of them for 16 cents. (16 Penny nails).

Picture of Two Walls Up

Four Walls UP
All the walls are up. Notice the headers above the door. The cripple joints are overkill but who cares. Remember how the foundation looked a few slides back. I told you it was square and level. I could hardly believe it myself but it is the same height all around. I followed up by putting the sill plate on top. The whole structure was a little shaky. One of my friends told me I should put diagonal braces on the inside walls. I chose not to at this point. Remember I have many windows to screw inside their custom frames plus the roof. I did not want the visual obstructions the diagonals would cause.

Picture of Four Walls UP

Roof Truss Test Fit

Well the time has come for me to start the roof. Dennis, a friend of mine standing on the very top of a ladder holding in place a hand made roof truss. (At least the ladder was tied to the wall frame and he had safety shoes on :)). I only made one of these because I was not sure if this was truly the design I wanted. I tried doing it by myself the day before but could not get a good visual and besides it was shaky and scary. This roof design is the one that came off the plans I purchased from Buildeasy - Greenhouse. I like the way it is vaulted and has windows in it for ventilation. Also it allows for the open concept design. " To much HGTV for me". Anyway I stood back and took some pictures and looked at it from a distance and decided that this roof plan was for me.

                  Picture of Roof Truss Test Fit

All My Trusses

So the decision was made to use the prototype truss design. Here you see most of them laid out on the floor. When I attached the plywood triangles I used liquid nails and Simpson strong tie nails. I wanted them to be galvanized and short and stubby. I spaced them about every two inches. It seemed to have worked out OK.

Picture of All My Trusses

Roof Trusses Complete

Here are the completed trusses standing by to put in place. I think they are excited to become part of the greenhouse. The plans to build these are on the plans and they are very easy to follow plus they have pictures. You can see some of the finished windows patiently leaning against the wall wait to be installed. So far I have not busted one moving stuff all around them.

Picture of Roof Trusses Complete

Hammer Head

Talking about a difficult time getting these in place and trying to keep them straight. Remember, I am doing this by myself. I cut a board that was used to keep the distance between the trusses the same and the braces on top to aid in keeping them straight. This worked OK but there was a lot of up and downs on the ladder. I invested in a 10 foot ladder when I got to this point. It was still pretty shaky and made me nervous just the same. The reason I titled this hammer head is because this is the time I had a hammer fall off a ladder rung and land on my head. "OUCH" That really smarted. It didn't break the skin but swelled and a headache started. It was about noon when this happened. I chose to ignore it and continue working. At around 7:pm I still had a headache and began to worry about the worst that could happen. I decided to go to the E.R. and ask for their opinion. After the questions, answers and CAT scan I passed and was sent away. Needless to say the very next day I found a hard hat, a nail pouch and a hammer holder. I even borrowed a set of scaffolding from Dennis. Now I was Good to Go. So if you try this, use me as an example and do it SAFE. Nuff said.

Picture of Hammer Head

Custom Made Vent Windows

OK, Well, I survived putting the trusses up and now I began to build the vent windows. Notice the scaffolding. This made the project much much easier and way safer. The windows have hinges on them so I am able to open them up for the heat to vent out and also CO2 will be able to circulate throughout the space. CO2 is very important in a plants life. It is to them what O2 is for us. Without it, well you know what happens. I am having some level problems with the top portion of the ridge. I will address this before to much longer. Little be little I am making progress.

Picture of Custom Made Vent Windows

Roof Panels Going up

This view shows that all the vent windows in place, the roof panel batons in place and the clear poly roof panels on the back side on. The roof panels went on pretty good. It was time consuming because there was a lot of screws to put on each panel. You gotta use the screws with the rubber washer on them and make sure you don't over tighten them. Tighten them just enough to compress the washer. I used a cordless drill with a quarter inch driver attached. Don't forget to use the clear poly adhesive on all the seams. I paid like seven dollars a tube for the stuff. I imagine you could use the cheaper stuff but I didn't want to cut corners on the roof products. You will be needing to cut the panels to fit your length if it is not exactly eight feet long. I used a circular saw blade for cutting plywood and paneling. You will get the best results if you turn the blade backwards. I marked the cut with a straight edge and just followed the line. Don't forget the safety glasses and hearing protection.

Picture of Roof Panels Going up

Front Roof

Getting there, I am nearing completion of the front roof and all the custom vent windows are in place. Believe it or not I did not incur a hand injury putting these panels in place. I figure I must have screwed in over a thousand screws doing both front and rear panels. I don't think I told you that I drilled pilot holes prior to putting the screws in. It was a big hassle with only one drill. From here I will be moving to the door installations. I also want you to know that I used Sampson strong tie hurricane clips to attach the trusses to the walls. This State gets lashed by hurricanes from time to time, plus some straight line winds. Hopefully these ties will keep it together. I purchased one of those palm nailers for this part since there were a lot of nails. It was loud but saved the wrist some.

Picture of Front Roof

Re-purposed Doors

These are the freeby doors I found down the street from me. On my way to work one morning I saw them laying up against the side of a house and stopped to see what was up with them. I was lucky and the installer was there at the time. He told me I could have them and said it would save him a trip to the dump. His helper even helped me load them. I painted the lite frames my mother and daughter's favorite colors. I also had to install a door knob on one of them.

Picture of Re- purposed Doors

Roughed In Front Windows

This view is the front after all the windows are in place. I used corrosion resistance deck screws. I like the screws that have either the star or square head. The bit comes in the box with the screws. There are some gaps that need to be filled and then caulked. Take note of the gap on the top left side. Later on I will show you what I did with this. It is pretty unique. Also notice the little dip at the top of the roof. I tried resetting it before the panels went up but was unable to make it straight. This bugged me so I had some thinking to do on this one. You'll see later on what I did to cover it up. It's called "Finish Work" :)

Picture of Roughed In Front Windows

Special Section Shadow Box

This is what I did with the space that needed to be filled in between two windows. I tried several different variations and finally decided to leave it this way. These are some keepsakes my mother gave me. She collected old bottles and when I was growing up I helped her with her hobby. you cannot see it very well but there is a Lexan panel covering them. About the cracked glass: I chose not to replace the pane because of the crack. I would rather have one of the large single pane antique windows with a crack in it than without. Even with the crack the texture and sunlight shinning through is amazing.

                         Picture of Special Section Shadow Box

Mother's Entry (Lois Lee)

This is the completed side that I have titled Mother's Door. This was her favorite color. What I like about this door is that it leads into the outside garden. There I have raised beds where I plant summer veggies and flowers. The window at the top is on hinges so I can vent the space as well. The installation of these doors was difficult for me at first. My first weekend attempt was to install the first one straight to the framing of the door opening. That was a big mistake. Now I know why they invented door jams, wedges and trim. You will never, never get a door plum and level without one. I won't bore you with the details. YouTube has some good videos on the subject.

                    Picture of Mother's Entry  (Lois Lee)

Daughter's Entry (Rachael Marie)

This door is the one leading from my workshop. It is about 20 ft. away. I've built a ramp for this one. It makes it nice getting things in and out. This was her favorite color. Notice the corrugated panels I used to feel the gaps the windows did not fill. I used left over roofing material. I cut, used liquid nails and nailed 1/2" trim on the inside of the frames. This allowed a surface area to attach the panels. This took a while because of the amount of trim needed. I used foam weather stripping and small corrosion resistant screws to attach them. I expect it will take a while before I will need to replace them but If I ever do I will either use Lexan or Glass. You might not be able to see but I used drip edge at the top to finish off the sides of the roof. I used the same screws that I used to attach the panels.

                 Picture of Daughter's Entry (Rachael Marie)

Mother's Garden

This is a shot of the outside garden. I call this Mother's garden because its just outside her door.I think it's pretty neat looking. The fence around it is your run of the mill rabbit wire with the metal line fence poles. It is three ft. tall so if I get lazy and don't want to go through the GH I can step over it into the garden. Eventually I want to replace it with split rail to match the rest of the yard. I will still put some wire fencing along the bottom to keep out those Twicky Wabbits out. The squirrels are another story. : (

 Picture of Outside Garden

Night Lights on Hunters Ridge

This was taken right after I had completed the wiring installation. I had roughed in all the conduit and boxes, dug an 18" deep trench x 15 ft long, (by hand, yuk!) in preparation for the wiring. One of the best Master Electricians I know ( B.J. ) did the wiring hook up. We added a separate breaker and came off a 100 amp service panel in the garage. The first receptacle in the GH was a GCFI, a must have, from there it branched out. I installed two, 8 ft. T5 lights and an outside security light. There is a total of 5, 110 volt receptacles on the inside and one outside on the garden wall. Of course there is never enough, now I want to add 2 more. All in all I am very pleased with the power. It is very nice to be able to work inside past 5 P.M. in the winter months.

Picture of Night Lights on Hunters Ridge

The Back Side

This is the back side. It turned out pretty good. Since it was the last section for window placement the good fitting ones were used in the other walls. This part was tricky as far as the window placement. I still wanted it to be uniform in appearance so I had to come up with a design that I could work with. This is how it ended up. Using the clear panels was acceptable and cost effective. Gutters installed as well.

Picture of The Back Side

2nd Story View

This is the final product ya'll, It took me well over a year to complete this project. That was a very hard year worth of grief after losing our 16 yo. daughter to an accidental drug overdose, building this has helped me in the that process. I think it has turned out to be a one of a kind. Now that it is complete I have to figure out how to control the climate in there. So far it has been very frustrating with temperatures reaching as high as 110 degrees. I have and exhaust fan rated for the size of the space, 70% shade cloth on the top front and 50 % on the west side, still it was 108 in there yesterday, It is useless to try and grow anything in there. (Cactus might be OK.) Tonight I'm going to install a vent intake and put a fan in line with it to try and draw some cool air in. I am also researching swamp coolers and fogging systems. Nobody told me this was going to be easy.

Picture of 2nd Story View

Give Me Water

I dug down a bit and laid in some schedule 40 PVC. What I did was install a riser at the end and attached a water hose from the outside water faucet. Doing it that way saves me a lot of time and still achieves my goal of having water inside. I did not post a picture but I went inside and installed a faucet but from the line I continued it and ran it through and outside again. I put another faucet there and have water to Mothers garden. Works out nice. this way I don't have to run a water hose all over the backyard. Yuup, Good eye.

                   Picture of Give Me Water

Side View Showing Shade Cloth

I really like this picture, August 2013, Most of these pictures were taken with my i phone and streamed to my i pad and were downloaded into my desk top pictures the into here. Some were taken with just the i pad and others with a Nikon D3000. I don't guess it really matters as long as you get to see this. I have been reading a lot on the subject of Hydroponic Systems, Plants, Nutrients, Climate Control, The next few slides show the Hydroponic system I am starting with.

Picture of Side View Showing Shade Cloth

GT70: 6.5"W x 2.75"D (supply side)

Earlier on we talked about this hydroponic system. I want to grow a variety of veggies. You can find all of this material and thousands more at It is a great web site I found that has thousands of green house items and the customer service is great.. Anyway, You can see I have the channels, holes for the 2" net pots, the tank with pump inside, the air pump for the air stones inside the tank. there are water flow supply hoses going into the channels that are duel. A lot of systems I have seen only have one. They say the second one is a back up in case one gets plugged. (works for me). I have not placed it into service yet because I am having major summer heat issues and why fry my stuff. I have added an exhaust fan on a thermostat, louvers with an intake fan on the opposite side, shade cloth on the front top (70%) and on the west side shade cloth (50%). It has helped quite a bit but I still don't like the 100 + temps. I have been reading about a misting system or evaporation cooler, aka.. Swamp Cooler.
Picture of GT70: 6.5

GT70: 6.5"W x 2.75"D (return side)

This is the return side if the system. All the channels have a a down slope to them. I forget to what degree. I guess as long as water flows down it that should do. The water gravity feeds into the trough and flows back into the water tank. Since I used PVC as a stand it has a tendency to be a little slippery PVC to PVC and the channels slid around some. So, to prevent that I used velcro under the channels, works well.

Picture of GT70: 6.5

Seedlings in the System, Week One

This is the first time I have ever tried this and am hoping I get it right the first time, but who doesn't. The grow pots are 2" and from what I read this size channel and grow pot will be adequate to grow vine plants and tomatos. Let's see if my reading and calculations pay off. On one side I have this set up and on the other, soil. Plus I will be able to keep my annuals in here over the winter months. Herbs is one of the products I plan on growing.

                             Picture of Seedlings in the System, Week One

Plants in the System, Week 4
This is week 4, so far so good. About every 4 days I check the tank for the PH balance. It is staying at about 5.5 or 6. It is pretty easy to do and does not take long. I have added about 1 tsp PH down in 4 weeks. Some websites say change the solution every 2 weeks while others say not to and then they tell you when to after some many water top offs. It water evaporates but the chemicals don't. I will post that website the next time I update so you can read it. BTW these nutrients costs about $15 per qt. and there are 3 different types you need. Just like any other hobby it is going to cost you so pick what you may. Right now mine is this. Once upon a time It was deep sea fishing,

Picture of Plants in the System, Week 4

Update, This is week 6, first grow
Hello everyone, Looking good, better that I could have imagined for only six weeks of growing once they came from the germination tray. Richt now the tomatoes and peppers are blooming. I read online that when it comes to pollination the way to do it inside a greenhouse is to use your electronic toothbrush or go buy a cheap one. It said to turn it on and touch the flowers with it. Well I tried it and it worked. When I did it I saw a little yellow puff spray our of it and I guess that's how you make baby tomatoes. Last weekend I took 2 small lettuce plants from the tray and made a salad for two. It was yummy, I actually thought it was better than store bought, sweet and tender. Or, maybe I'm just bias since it came from my GH. When I get more I will give some away and get their feedback.This is exciting for me being able to do this considering. I really do think that there is a force field surrounding this Greenhouse. When I go inside it I feel life. Like the title reads. "Let it Be"

                    Picture of Update, This is week 6, first grow

                                                                                                                                John 3:16

1 comment:

  1. Muito bom seu blog ; eu sempre gostei de hidrophonia e vendo o seu blog estou pensando em entrar para este maravilhoso mundo.