My new glasshouse - finished at last

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emydura

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I finally finished building my new greenhouse. My old one was getting too full and was looking pretty ratty (as you can see from the first two photos). It also had poor insulation and hence the electricity costs were getting pretty steep. So in April 2013 I bought a Grange greenhouse from Sproutwell. It is 4m x 4m, so it is a good size. It has 10 mm twin-walled polycarbonate panels, so it is well insulated. I think it is the only 10 mm polycarbonate house you can get here in Australia. The frames are very strong. It is built like a tank.

Old glasshouse



glasshouse2-2.jpg



It took me over a year to build the thing. I was paralysed by indecision. The biggest problem was that I had to pull the old glasshouse down in order to build the new one. So what was I to do with all my orchids in the meantime. As winter approached I felt it was too cold to do anything then so I would wait till it was warmer. But then as spring came I had lot of orchids in bud so I didn’t want to interrupt this cycle. Summer was way too hot. So before long I was back to autumn and decided I’d better do something.

So in April this year I moved all my orchids into the house. The whole lounge room was covered (much to the frustration of my wife). The spare shower and bath was full (much to the frustration of my daughter).

Our lounge room




I then pulled down my glasshouse which wasn’t too difficult, except I had a 60 cm high besser block wall which I had to knock down with a sledge hammer. That took the best part of a day and a lot of hard work.

I was hoping to be able to use the existing slab, but there were a couple of problems. Firstly it was a fraction smaller than my glasshouse and secondly it wasn’t as flat as I thought it was (see the next two photos). My neighbour/builder friend told me you have no choice but to build a new slab, which would basically double the cost of the whole project. This was way beyond my technical ability but fortunately not my neighbours. So he helped me build it. Actually it was more like I helped him. And he did an amazing job. Everyone who sees the glasshouse comments on how nice the slab is. It was a big slab too. I ordered 2.4 cubic metres of cement. The problem was the glasshouse was in the far corner of the yard and there was no easy access to it. So we had no choice but to haul wheelbarrows of cement from the front yard to the slab. I lost count of the number of wheelbarrows I moved. Maybe 30 or so. The cement truck owner said the first twenty minutes were free. After that it would cost me a $1.50 for every minute it took. It took well over an hour, maybe even 90 minutes. As anyone who has lifted cement would know, it is incredibly heavy. I could barely lift the cement off the ground let alone push it over uneven ground for 60 metres. I was totally exhausted by the end.

The problem with all this was it was taking time. I had taken a week off work to finish the whole thing, but building a slab takes time. This wasn’t helped by the fact it was Easter, and the shops were closed for several days. So we couldn’t start the slab till mid-week. It took a day to setup and a day to lay and then we had to wait for the cement to dry. By the time it was finished I had barely started to build the greenhouse and then had to go back to work. So I had to wait for the weekends to complete the glasshouse. I couldn’t get an electrician for two weeks. So instead of a week, it ended up taking about 6 weeks. Meanwhile I had to keep watering my plants, which meant carrying every plant outside. And then take them all back into the house. It was too cold to leave them outside. Once a week I did this. The plants really had to suffer a bit of neglect during this period.





Ready for the cement. You can see how the large gradient going from right to left. It was about a 6 or 7 cm drop.



Here is the glasshouse partially completed.




Canberra is the coldest city in Australia, so I really needed to insulate my glasshouse well. Especially as it was much bigger than my old one. So I fitted industrial strength bubblewrap which is designed for greenhouses. I used 30 x 1.5 metres of bubblewrap. I just used bolts and nuts and big washers to hold it in place. Based on JohnM’s advice I also put sheets of polystyrene under the slab to insulate the floor. I think it has worked very well. Despite being way bigger in volume, the heater seems to be on way less than previous. In my old glasshouse, when the heater went off I would just watch the thermometer plummet before the heater came quickly back on. In the new glasshouse, the temperature drops very slowly. You have to wait much longer for the heater to kick back on.

The other advantage of better insulation is that the new greenhouse is much better in retaining moisture. That is, it is much more humid. You may have remembered my problems with my old glasshouse where in winter the humidity levels would get very low during the night (down to 30%) and I was constantly having to water my plants as they were drying out so fast. I just put it down to the heating drying the atmosphere. I think it was Ray who said the problem was the insulation in my glasshouse. He was absolutely right. Now that my glasshouse is better insulated the humidity at night during this winter is always above 80%. So I’m currently only watering my plants once a week.




An outside photo of the finished glasshouse. The shade cloth is aluminet.




Looking inside



As you can see I now have plenty of room. I can fit more benches in the middle as well as in the back corner. So I can fit in a lot more orchids. And if I run out of space I can order another 2 metre section and append it to the existing one. I believe 20 metres is the limit. You can see my fogger mounted at the top of my glasshouse. I’m loving the slab floor. I was going to put gravel or something over it. I was worried a concrete floor would mean low humidity but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The slab is just neater and easy to clean.






Unlike my old glasshouse I have built this one east to west. This has meant that it is heating up much better on these cold winter days. On a sunny day, it would reach about 23oc by about 9.30 AM and quickly gets to around 27-28oc. It stays around the mid 20’s right through to about 4:00 pm. So for a good 7 hours or so the temperatures are really nice and warm inside. Outside the current temperature is around 13-14oC. My old glasshouse would be around 5oC cooler and would only be warm for a short period of time. The big test may be summer where the temperatures get very hot. It may be a struggle to keep it cool enough. I will need a lot more shade cloth. I will cross that bridge when I come to it. But at the moment I am very happy with the way it is warming up on these cold winter days. I think the multi-floral Paphs will also be happy.

It was a long drawn out frustrating process but I now have a glasshouse I use to dream about.
 

Stone

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Congratulations David! Its very nice. Now you need one for the warm growers and another for the cool...:evil:
 

Ozpaph

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Wow David, that's awesome and a great 'walk through' the project.
You have SO much room now!
You might need something on the floor (ie industrial rubber matting) as the wet concrete will grow algae and get very slippery, I think. Be careful!
 

emydura

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Congratulations David! Its very nice. Now you need one for the warm growers and another for the cool...:evil:

I do need a cool house. I might reuse my old glasshouse for this purpose. A bit small though for all my Cymbidiums and Dendrobiums. I was thinking at the end I could have bought another 4 or 6 m section and attached it to my warm house. That is, you walk through the cool house and open the doors into the warm house. Maybe one day. :)

Wow David, that's awesome and a great 'walk through' the project.
You have SO much room now!
You might need something on the floor (ie industrial rubber matting) as the wet concrete will grow algae and get very slippery, I think. Be careful!

Thanks Stephen. I'll see how it goes. Eventually I will put a bench down the middle so there will only be a small passage way. If it gets slippery, I'll do as you say.
 

eggshells

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Very nice, I am jealous. I particularly like the extra metal that separates the aluminet from the roof. Does it hold strongly against winds?
 

naoki

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Wow, nice greenhouse! The concrete slab is shiny, it looks like you polished it! Are you heating it with electric heater? That must be pretty expensive.
 

fibre

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Gratulation! What a nice greenhouse!
By reading your story I can feel my arms becoming longer and longer while pushing the cement. What a horrible job for an untrained body like mine.
 

emydura

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Very nice, I am jealous. I particularly like the extra metal that separates the aluminet from the roof. Does it hold strongly against winds?

The shadecloth frame is drilled into the glasshouse frame, so it is pretty sturdy. It actually was very windy yesterday and handled it fine. Funny thing with that shadecloth frame. I finished building the glasshouse and then started thinking about installing the shade cloth. I opened the box and it hit me. I really needed to screw in the shade cloth frame before I assembled the glasshouse. I had to screw in four sections on the top of the roof which is very high. So I had stand on the top of the ladder in the greenhouse through one of the windows and at full stretch holding a heavy drill make four screw holes. And I’m not great with heights. It would have been so much easier if I had preplanned.
Actually the whole building of the greenhouse was a bit like that. The instructions were terrible and it was very easy to put sections around the wrong way. I ended up having to spend a full day undoing all the mistakes we had made. I ended up with all these pieces that were left over that I had no idea what to do with. I assume they weren’t important. The company says a single person could put this greenhouse up in a couple of hours. Yeah, right.

Wow, nice greenhouse! The concrete slab is shiny, it looks like you polished it! Are you heating it with electric heater? That must be pretty expensive.
I had just watered the greenhouse before I took the photo, so it is reflecting the light a bit. Still it has a very smooth surface. Yes, I use an electric heater. We will see how the costs go. It should be cheaper than my previous glasshouse. If the winters stay as warm as the current one it won’t be so bad.
Gratulation! What a nice greenhouse!
By reading your story I can feel my arms becoming longer and longer while pushing the cement. What a horrible job for an untrained body like mine.
Believe me Chris, my body is as untrained as yours. While I’m tall, there is little muscle on my body. I’m pretty lanky and not designed to lift such weights. The first few wheelbarrows felt OK. But then fatigue set in. While carrying a load of cement, I also cracked the wooden handle of my neighbour’s wheelbarrow. So added to all my costs, was a new wheelbarrow.


I forgot to mention to those Australians who might buy this glasshouse. You can see inside the glasshouse, there are two supporting poles in the centre. The instructions said these were optional and were only required where the roof had to support a heavy snow load. So I had no intention of using them. However, without them I found that the centre of the roof sagged badly and hence decided that I better use these supporting poles. I would have preferred not to.
 

NYEric

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I forgot to mention to those Australians who might buy this glasshouse. You can see inside the glasshouse, there are two supporting poles in the centre. The instructions said these were optional and were only required where the roof had to support a heavy snow load. So I had no intention of using them. However, without them I found that the centre of the roof sagged badly and hence decided that I better use these supporting poles. I would have preferred not to.

That's silly. Looking at the unsupported span i think its obvious that the supports are necessary. I think they can only be replaced with a top truss. Good choice to use the poles.
 

abax

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Gooooood job. As a home greenhouse builder, I appreciate all your effort
and everyone needs a gofer to hand 'em tools rather than climb down a
ladder to fetch things. I have a rough finished concrete floor and algae
does build up and it's VERY slick. Keep a one gallon pump sprayer around
with a mixture of bleach/water to spray those slick spots. Stay upright and enjoy your new greenhouse!
 
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