greenhouse material comparison

Choosing a Frame Material

You can work with many materials for the design of your greenhouse. Each material provides its own set of advantages. When choosing materials, think about how much you are willing to spend on them, if they are ideal for the weather conditions in your region, and how much time you are willing to invest in their maintenance. Here are a few options:

Wood

For DIYers (do-it-yourselfers), wood is the material of choice. It is readily available in the market and people often build up a workshop in their garage or backyard in order to use wood. It is an easy material to work with as well. The drawback to wood is that unlike other materials, it can rot over time. This means that you might need to maintain it properly and provide proper drainage in your greenhouse to prevent the material from getting damp easily. However, wood is a versatile material. What I mean is that you can install attachments (such as hooks) on it, run cables through it, and more. You can even add a lot more holding and storage options to your greenhouse if it is made of wood. All you need is a storage structure and some nails.

Steel

Steel is one of the toughest frames in the market. You will often spot steel frames used on large greenhouses that serve a commercial purpose. Steel is one of the most expensive materials to use for your greenhouse, but it adds more durability to the structure. Steel also anchors your greenhouse much more securely than other materials, which might be a useful feature to consider if you live in an area with strong winds. Ideally, you should look for the other frame material options on this list.

Aluminum

These frames are durable and lightweight. They add strength to your greenhouse and are cheaper to use than steel. However, because of their lightweight design, you can find them connected to steel foundations at the bottom to hold them in place properly. One of the best aspects of aluminum is that it is a good conductor of heat. During daytime and in summer, they can retain heat well. This heat retention helps your plants grow better and even supplies them heat during the night.

Plastic

Plastic is a flexible and lightweight material that is ideal for the budget-friendly gardener. It is a good material to use when constructing small greenhouses. It does not retain heat as well as steel or aluminum, as plastic is a poor conductor of heat, but it is easy to work with and also offers a small degree of durability.

Choosing the Cover Materials

Once you have decided how you would like to approach the frame of your greenhouse, it is time to work on the cover.

Plastic

While most people might think of using glass for their greenhouse, it is important to know that glass might require a bit more investment from your side. The other alternative to glass is using plastic, which does not trap heat as much as glass but is ideal for getting started with your greenhouse. Plastic also provides a good cover for lean-to structures (those that lean against a wall), Quonset framed greenhouses, and other small framed greenhouses.

Plastic comes in various forms. When you are working with your greenhouse, make sure you choose your plastic carefully. For example, PET is an inexpensive material that is also readily available. It is easy to use and is typically affordable. However, it is known to have a short life, so you might have to replace it frequently. You could instead choose to use LDPE, or low-density polyethylene. LDPE is another form of plastic that is a bit more pricey, but one that lasts longer.

Polycarbonate

You can choose to use polycarbonate panels for your greenhouse. The best part about this material is that it is slightly flexible, giving you more ways to work with your greenhouse. Additionally, polycarbonate is stronger that regular plastic and does not crack like glass. However, the material is mostly translucent. This means that it does not let in sunlight as much as glass does. Do note that polycarbonate could contain certain industrial chemicals, so you should always choose to pick one that is of high quality.

Acrylic

Also know as Plexiglas, you can use acrylic if you would prefer to have more transparency than polycarbonate. Acrylic also provides a degree of flexibility, allowing you to work with most types of greenhouses. It is fairly strong and durable, giving your greenhouse a fair amount of protection. Do note that acrylic is weaker than polycarbonate, so you cannot rely on it when it comes to physical damage.

Fiberglass

One of the inexpensive, and sturdy, options as far as plastics go would be fiberglass. While you might not often spot translucent fiberglass on the market, you can easily get transparent fiberglass sheets to help you get the job done on your greenhouse. The only drawback to this material is the fact that it does not stay clear for a long period. The plastic loses its transparency faster than both polycarbonate and acrylic.

Glass

Finally, you can choose glass as the covering material. If you have seen any pictures or videos of a greenhouse, then you might be aware that they are usually shown with glass paneling. Glass is definitely the most aesthetically appealing material for greenhouses. Glass also provides the most transparency, which in turn filters in the most sunlight. Here are a few points to remember when opting for glass coverings:

  • Glass is an expensive material. Depending on the size of your greenhouse, you might have to spend more to get the right number of sheets.
  • Expounding on the above point; remember that a tiny crack might become a costly replacement.
  • Consider looking at different builders and suppliers to purchase glass. This is to ensure that you get the best price and find the right number of glass panes for your greenhouse. If you are planning to install the glass yourself, then researching the right amount of glass required for the greenhouse helps save money, as you won’t spend unnecessarily on a large order of glass.

Choosing the ground materials

If you like, you can create ground conditions that are ideal for your greenhouse. Although this step is not entirely necessary, it will help add a better drainage system for your greenhouse.

You can choose to pour gravel on the ground as a foundation. This will allow additional drainage for the greenhouse and adds a nice leveled surface for you to walk on. A tip for you to follow is to first measure the area that your greenhouse occupies. Using wooden stakes (or just about any material), mark the border of your greenhouse. This will give you an idea of the space available for you to add gravel or concrete. Using measurements creates a clean working space.