Greenhouse plans come in handy to save money over prebuilt kits that involve installation costs anyway. A DIY project can save you 50% just off the material costs and give you the satisfaction that only a self made structure can give, providing you with herbs, vegetables and fruits supply all year round. However, before you embark is a DIY project you should consider carefully what kind of greenhouse you need, the location at your disposal and your budget, as they can vary wildly.
Greenhouse plans come in different styles and materials, raising or lowering the expected budget considerably. Greenhouses can be built free standing or lean to (attached to) the house. Free standing structures are the most efficient but also the most expensive to build, anything else being equal. They can be built with a cheap PVC pipe frame and plastic sheeting or with more expensive wood or aluminium frames that require proper foundations to support their own weight and the glass, fiberglass or double wall plastic parts closing the structure. Greenhouses can also be built modular for growing vegetables and for future expansions..
Lean to greenhouses offer several advantages because they are cheaper to build and close to the house water and electricity supply. However, they are less efficient for temperature control as the house wall they lean to can radiate heat stored from the sun rays. Having space available, an even span lean to greenhouse is a better option because is like a full size one with the small side attached to the house, allowing for better air circulation and modular expansion.
Free standing greenhouse plans come in different styles. Quonset, Gothic, A frame, rigid frame, post and rafter are the most common styles available. They all offer advantages and disadvantages. Quonset and Gothic shapes can be easy and cheap to build with a PVC frame and plastic sheeting but offer low headroom at the side walls, while a rigid frame allows for better air circulation and high side walls, hence giving more space for two full side benches and a central bench separated by two walkways.
Victorian style greenhouses or wood and aluminium frames are the strongest and most durable, especially in strong winds or cold climates where temperature control, inside circulation and ventilation from outside are paramount. PVC solutions are very cheap and can be used as removable applications even in the cities or to keep the budget down but are vulnerable to strong winds and snow.
Glass, fiber glass, double plastic sheeting and plastic film are the materials used for the coverings, depending on structure and shape. Glass and fiber glass are by far the best for durability, with different pros and cons. Glass lasts a lifetime, let all the light in but retain the heat at night. It is strong and durable but expensive to purchase at first and fragile to hail. It is also very heavy and requires a strong frame with accurate fitting.
Fiber glass lets in still a lot of light, though less than glass, but is much lighter and resistant to hail. However, is covered with a resin that needs a new coat every 10 years because light penetration deteriorates. Double plastic sheeting is more opaque and needs replacement every 10 years or so but is cheaper to buy and retains the heat better, like a double glazed window. Lastly, plastic films are the cheapest option but need replacement every 1 to 3 years depending on material and are unsuitable to snowy climates.
Once decided which greenhouse suits best your needs and budget, you can go on building one. Greenhouse plans should give you guidelines not just for materials and measures but also for dealing with drainage, temperature control, ventilation, fungi and pest control. As a general rule, the larger the greenhouse, the more efficient because the internal volume will increase exponentially, more so than the external increase in surface, thus retaining heat better when the outside temperature drops.
Ideally, you should build the largest greenhouse you can get away with, within your budget and available space. Greenhouse plans should be easy to follow even for a novice with diagrams, dimensions and required materials. You may have an idea of what greenhouse you want, but a good plan should also give you suggestions as to what the right choice is for you and your needs.
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