Home-made, Big, Low Cost Glass Greenhouse from Free Recuperated Windows Part 1

Over the next few weeks I will be involved in several projects using recuperated glass windows and doors and I thought I'd start by taking a retrospective look at the greenhouse I designed and made 5 years ago. 


Several of you have commented on this greenhouse, which has been shown in various films and blogs. Sadly, when I designed and made it, we did not have a digital camera with which to take detailed step-by-step photographs. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity, whilst it is being restocked with Spring plantings, to take some shots of the fabric of the interior for a detailed explanation of the design and construction. This will form Part Two of this post. In the next few weeks, I will also be giving a hand to my neighbours, who are in the process of constructing a large lean-to, verandah-type greenhouse, so there will be another design, both in film and blog form to share. 


What, where and how to get supplies


Unfortunately for the good of the Planet and paradoxically fortunately for us, there seems to be an unlimited supply of virtually brand new, as well as interesting and beautiful old,  glass doors and windows. To judge by the veritable mountains outside joiners and carpenters businesses en route to landfill, many people change their windows as often as others might paint the frames. Over the years we have collected dozens of examples, including, in the UK some very pretty leaded lights. These latter turn up in architectural salvage yards or 'junk' shops, with the very best examples finding their way into auction rooms and antique shops. In a greenhouse or house these can be used to great effect. 


For a supply of general glass windows and doors though, there is nothing like your local joiner's shop or doubleglazers. I made contact with the owner of our local one, having seen a huge pile of useable material in his yard and he was delighted we wanted to take it away and make use of it. We also sent him photographs and film links for everything we made and when we were looking for a front door for the house, he even carefully got us a door with the doorframe and keys intact! As a matter of fact over the past five years, from just this one source, we and our friends have glazed two entire houses (one of them completely doubleglazed) and built several greenhouses.


Stand alone greenhouse - the basic design criteria




The idea for the greenhouse was to have something that was both decorative and practical. In particular as it was going to form the centrepiece for the flower garden. We wanted plenty of height both for aesthetics and because we intended to grow many climbing vegetables and flowers and also to incorporate our solar shower.







We had been collecting suitable materials for some time and in all we used 24 windows/French windows of various ages and designs but which overall seemed to fit pleasingly together. The sides and the back were to be made of windows set on pallet wood walls, similar in design to those of the hen house. On each side there was also to be guttering for the collection and harvest of rainwater.








The front was designed to incorporate a matching set of old French windows and glazed panels with the addition of a panel of leaded lights incorporated into the gable end. The French windows and the door on the rear elevation were both of the same height and these together set the height for the greenhouse.








It's all in the planning


There are two ways to go when designing a glass greenhouse, you can either plan it around available materials or you can plan it first and then search for the windows to fit. We actually were lucky, in that five years ago PVC mania hit our part of the coast and we had a plethora of great windows to choose from. In effect, the whole design was built up around the French windows, matching panels and leaded light, which were really elegant when placed together. The planning of the design was in fact the most difficult part of the whole operation, in that the location of the windows had to match the desired length for each side. Furthermore, any difference in window height had to be accounted for in the construction of the pallet wood walls to ensure that the overall height was respected. In conclusion though, we were left with a unique bespoke greenhouse which would have cost us several thousands of Euros.

Here is the film we made about this greenhouse, showing both exterior and interior views and giving some initial pointers to the design. See you in Part Two


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All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014

3 comments:

  1. Andy, you and your wife are lucky to live in a beautiful quaint farmhouse. I wish more people embrace the sustainable agriculture concept instead of depending on dangerous chemicals. Nice work Andy!

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    1. Hi William, sorry to be so late in replying - we have had a bit of a hectic time recently - lots of poultry hatching, plus looking after a neighbour's smallholding/homestead as well as our own. May, June and July are sort of a blur!

      Yes we bought this old ruin some years back now because it had potential to make a really great home for us, which it has, we are just short of land now and also would like somewhere with its own water supply. However, we are just taking it easy and there is still a lot of things we can do here to improve it, such as getting a rain water harvesting system for drinking water.

      All the very best and thanks for your comment, much appreciated by us both, even though late in replying.

      Andy and Sue

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  2. i've never built anything ... but this is exactly what i want to do ... we a 8 old window (long & narrow) with an assortment of small odd ball windows from an old 1960 trailer house plus one set of patio sliding glass doors (non-working due to bent frame) ... would you be willing to perhaps guide me ???

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