An Inexpensive, Hail Proof, PVC Pipe Greenhouse

I’ve finally built my greenhouse for my new garden. It’s a twenty by twelve foot hoop-style greenhouse with wooden ends and is covered with 11 mil woven poly. This greenhouse has some pretty cool features that I really appreciate, and I think you will too.

My third hoop style greenhouse

First of all, the poly I used to cover it is fantastic. It is a super tough woven poly that I got from Northern Greenhouse out of Manitoba. How tough is it? Well, my brother (who operates the Saskaberry Ranch near Sundre) just got pounded by hail last Sunday. The hail broke windows, shredded siding, and striped everything off of his saskatoon and raspberry bushes – but his greenhouse covered with this same woven poly was completely undamaged! Amazing! (I’ll try to post a picture if I can get one.)

Secondly, to eliminate wear and tear on the plastic, I covered edges of the wooden ends with copper pipe insulation. This foam protects the poly from the sharp edges of the wood.

Insultation on greenhouse

Thirdly, it was very inexpensive and easy to build. The lumber was under $100, the poly was just over $200, and the pvc pipes were under $100. By the time I got all the misc. stuff, I was still under $500 total. Not bad, eh?

My third hoop style greenhouse

Being so late I only got a single row of tomatoes down one side, but next year I’ll be bursting at the seams once again! If you want to build a greenhouse like this one, check out my previous post that gives step by step instructions for building this same greenhouse. Since I’ve improved the design since then, I would recommend the following changes:

  • Use wooden ends instead of plastic – and cover the ends with pipe insulation.
  • Use 11 mil woven poly instead of the 6 mil.
  • Put the PVC pipes on the inside of the frame rather than on the outside

Other than that, you should be able to follow all the other steps. If you do follow this design, be sure to leave me a comment – I’d love to hear (and see) what you’ve been doing!

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147 Responses to An Inexpensive, Hail Proof, PVC Pipe Greenhouse

  1. KM says:

    AWESOME! Thank you so much for posting this online! I’ll be moving in the spring of 2012 and was afraid I’d not be able to do a greenhouse (realistically, 2 or 3 for organic gardens) for a few years due to cost. I can swing this and, for an absolute beginner in handy-stuff, this looks do-able. Thanks again so much.

  2. Magdil Blignaut says:

    Ditto! What an awesome design and great that you share it! I have been drooling over the plans for weeks, going to the shops tomorrow to buy what I need, and will start my hoophouse in 2 days’ time, cant wait! I have changed to organic gardening a while ago, and now use only organic seeds as well, and will forward pics if I can! Thank you once again for the time dedicated to this site!! May all your seeds germinate, all your flowers bloom and may there be enough bees to pollinate all your plants! Regards M

  3. Brian says:

    Love you design and plan on building one this season in Green Bay WI. My question for you is why did you decide to move the PVC pipes from the outside of the frame to the inside?

    • Dave says:

      Brian: The plastic attaches to the bottom much easier if it doesn’t have to go around each hoop! That’s why I’ve moved them to the inside.

  4. marah says:

    I came across this design today & got started right away! I cannot believe how much I got done in one day and all by myself – female – no prior experience;) I have turned my 8′ x 11′ square-foot raised garden bed into a hoop-style greenhouse. (oh & was able to frame out around the 4′ x 6′ raised bed too.) Still need to purchase the 11 mil. woven poly. Here’s a picture of today’s work.
    I am so happy with the process & it’s just beautiful ~
    [img]http://www.albertahomegardening.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/025.JPG[/img]
    [img]http://www.albertahomegardening.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/017.JPG[/img]
    [img]http://www.albertahomegardening.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/018.JPG[/img]
    [img]http://www.albertahomegardening.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/023.JPG[/img]
    [img]http://www.albertahomegardening.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/024.JPG[/img]

  5. Carrie says:

    We are using welded wire livestock panels attached to side of our barn and then covering with the greenhouse plastic. We plan on removing plastic for the winter because of snow load from barn. But the question is- will the metal panels heat up too much and damage the plastic? We have seen these on a website used as row covers but now can’t find it to ask . What do you think?

    • Dave says:

      Carrie: I can’t say for sure. It may depend on the color of the metal panels. My plastic manufacturer recommends painting anything metal that touches the plastic with white paint to reflect the heat.

  6. Tom says:

    I built my 12′ x 16′ hoophouse in Michigan with a Gothic arch so help shed snow. I did this by installing a 90 degree pvc elbow in at the peak (actually heated them up and bent them to approx 60 degree to alleviate stress on the joint), see attached photo. I wonder if anyone has experimented with ground insulation around the edges, or is that ineffective?

  7. Dave says:

    Tom, your pics didn’t come through. But do try again – I’d love to see what you did.

  8. Matthew says:

    We are planing on building a series of hoop houses with 10 – 12 peaks 30′ long and E W orientation
    What would the spacing have to be between them to still receive full southern sun in the winter?
    Located in west central NM
    Not sure but they might be N S orientated .
    Great stuff here
    Thanks
    Be well

  9. Gar says:

    UK

    Hi Dave,
    I’ve got a retired 2mx1x1 deep septic tank, sealed side, so I am going to build the polytunnel over it, solar panel, and water pipe heat the polytunnel sub soil! Since the soil heating system is above the heated water reservoir, I shall use a pump, for the purpose. I may be able to integrate that from the storage battery of the Solar panel also, depending on its size.

    I’ve been looking for the cheapest and best polytunnel diy, which is how I found your site.

    Regards,
    G

  10. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the tips……. gardening rocks!!

    Have you had any problems with polination in the hoop house and have you added a ventiation system?
    Cheers

    • Dave says:

      Andrew: No issues with pollination! I usually keep both the front and back doors open throughout the summer, so that’s my ventilation and it allows plenty of bugs to get inside to pollinate!

  11. R D McKeever says:

    Just discovered your site. Had a couple questions & recommendation. Has anyone tried adding foil coated bubble insulation to the polar side to block heat loss and reflect sunlight? Also, has anyone added hydronic heat to the floor to speed germination?

    If your readers haven’t been to builditsolar.com, they may find it helpful with heating in cold season.

  12. Lunieri says:

    Hi Dave – for your latest 12X20 what was the size you ordered of the 11ml poly? Was it a custom size?

    • Dave says:

      Luneiri: If I remember correctly, I ordered 24×16 – looking for a two foot overhang on each side. But I can’t remember well enough to say that with certainty!

  13. Sue says:

    pvc pipe – is there a certain type besides the size of 3/4 inch, is there a psi#? or a schedule type?

    thanks

    • Bryan says:

      To me that looks like regular cheap sch40 pvc… The thing that worries me about making this green house, it that pvc degrades relatively fast in sunlight and becomes brittle. Makes me wonder how long it could last on it’s own. But I think if you were to paint the pvc before covering it with plastic, it would last longer… ?

      • Dave says:

        Bryan: I’m not sure what the life span of this PVC is – mine’s going on three years and so far so good. Painting could extend it’s life, but that’s something I’ve never tried…

  14. Lunieri says:

    Thanks Dave!

  15. Mike Doyle says:

    Dave: Love the design. I am involved with an organization in our small community and we want to start a community garden. Right now our garden space is about 50′ x 70′. Could the 3/4″ PVC be attached with couplings to make the hoop span and still be sturdy and perhaps put wood support uprights under each connection?
    Have you had any problems with burroughing critters i.e. rabbits-so they get under the 2×6′s? I was thinking digging a trench 1 foot deep and putting chickenwire in it and bring it up on the sides of the 2×6 to prevent critter invasion. Thanks again for sharing and great plans. Mike

  16. [...] around $400 and there’s been plenty of space. I pretty much followed the following plans from Alberta Home¬†Gardening. Check them out they have a pretty good materials list and tips. I got the cover for mine from [...]

  17. Rene says:

    Could you tell me where you bought your pvc piping? We love this idea but costing it out here in Northern Ontario (homedepot, Rona, Homehardware)and it seems a lot more than $500.

    • Dave says:

      Rene: I bought my PVC at UFA, if I remember correctly. But I’ve also seen it at Home Depot and my local Co-op. Keep in mind that this was in 2009 too – so prices may have increased since then.

    • Judy G says:

      I found rolls of pvc piping at Home Hardware….300 foot roll @$180.00 plus tax….this way I cut the lengths as required with a small hacksaw

  18. Thelma McCaffery says:

    Hi, what a great idea! I’ve been trying to find 20′ lengths of pvc pipe, but Home Depot only sells in 12′ lengths. Where did you find yours?

    • Dave says:

      Thelma: I believe I got mine at UFA – though I have seen 20′ length in Home Depot and in Co-op.

      • conrad ashworth says:

        Get your PVC at any irrigation supplier. They will have it in 20′ lengths. And I don’t mean the irrigation installers out of the yellow pages, I mean the suppliers to those people.

  19. Bill Middleton says:

    Hi Dave, well i have been reading your board for a couple of years and finally have the time and ambition to give this a try. I have found everything i need a the coop but the prices have certainly gone up. I am into this for about $1300 now, the pvc in 3/4 inch is around $400 and is only available in 10 foot lengths. I have to use a joiner to make the twenty feet,the 11 mil poly is around the same price as the pipes. We are just waiting for the coop to bring in the materials and then we can get started. Bob at Northern green house was very helpfull and extremely great to deal with, our poly arrived very quickly, with Canada post.
    Thanks for your plan and all the great info and all the folks who have added to this board.

  20. Lunieri says:

    Hi Dave – I wanted to show you my greenhouse we built from your plans! We did a couple of modifications – but it works great!! I do have to admit it took more than one weekend to finish:)

    Thanks for providing great plans and ideas!
    Lunieri~
    [img]http://www.albertahomegardening.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/greenhousedoors.jpg[/img]

  21. cw williams says:

    Hi, looks like a great idea, i have mine started then the weather turned cold,the prices have gone up quite a bit since this blog started, i am sitting at 1300 dollars for 12 x32 with plywood ends the 11 mil poly is around 370 dollars. thanx for all the tips and tricks great project

  22. Chris says:

    Hi Dave,
    I’m all set to build this greenhouse out in Jaffray, BC, loving the design. I’ve got all my materials ready to go and just noticed your improvements. It looks like you’ve now used plywood on the ends – can you give me an idea how much plywood you used (how many sheets of 8 foot and whether 1/2″, 3/4″) and what kind of lenths?
    Thanks for the great post, you’ve inspired me!

    • Dave says:

      Chris: I’m glad I could inspire you! I did use plywood on my ends in my latest version. I think I managed to get away with only using two sheets of 4×8 plywood (just 1/4 inch) for the actual walls and then I had a few scrapes from another project that I used for my doors. So I should think 3 full sheets should be sufficient.

  23. Phil Bowyer says:

    Love this! Thanks for sharing this, you are the man!

    Has anyone used this in the winter? I’m in “windy” Idaho and am planning to grow all year long.

    I think I will turn the doors on each side into solar heaters, plus add a one or two heaters as needed, but I’m concerned about how well this is sealed and if this design would meet my needs.

    • Becky says:

      Don’t know how expensive copper pipe insulation is…but kids pool fun noodle toys work great on camper corners to protect your head…maybe they would work here

  24. Judy G says:

    For those who live in Canada….Canadian Tire also carries the long lengths of PVC pipe….I’m looking forward to trying to build this myself with my oldest son’s help(am a senior citizen;just had a knee replacement and can’t kneel)I will be putting shelves inside about mid thigh height & filling them with gardening loam…but this will be done before it is assembled) and am looking forward to having fresh vegetables….will post some photos of it as we build it.
    I have old windows that I used for cold frames and I think I might even be able to install them in the ends to provide circulation.

  25. LORNA says:

    Thanks SO much for the site, this is GREAT STUFF! I have read and re-read all the info and the posts. We are going to do it! However… I cannot find 20′ length of pvc here in Northeastern PA. Lowes, Home Depot and other local shops do not have it. Help please? from anyone one in PA / NJ/ NY area? Thanks!

  26. Gabrielle says:

    Hello!
    I love your plans and want to build this greenhouse in our back yard, however, I wanted to know how well it stands up to LOTS of snow. I live in BC and on a mountain. I figured since your in Alberta (I think I read that right), so it would work well.

    Thanks

    • Dave says:

      Gabrielle: A LOT of wet heavy snow can be hazardous to your greenhouse’s health. Most of our Alberta snow isn’t too bad – but there are usually a couple times a year that I need to go clean off the snow, lest my roof cave in…

  27. kelly says:

    Awesome design. We also live in alberta and set out gatheirng the materials on the long weekend, however we hit a snag with the pvc pipe. We could only find 10′ lengths. Where did you get your pvc from?

    • Dave says:

      Kelly: When I was shopping around (back when I put this together), I found 20′ length PVC at Home Depot and UFA.

    • Kevin says:

      We couldn’t find 20′ lengths at a good price but found ten foot lengths for $5 each, since the have one end belled we can put them together and it will work perfectly. We have the foundation and rebar in, this weekend is the walls hoops and plastic, Northern Greenhouse was awesome, thanks Dave.

  28. Art says:

    Dave, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for! Thank you so very much!
    Could you please explain how you cut the doors? Are you using the frame from the original design and covering the frame with cut wood?

    • Dave says:

      Art: Yes, I’m still using the original design, but with plywood instead of poly. I just used a jigsaw to cut the arc that I had marked out with one of the PVC pipes.

  29. Jim says:

    Dave: Love the plans!! Moved to a little three acre farm in Northern New Mexico(up in the Mountains). I have been trying to find an inexpensive and easy way to grow enough veggies for our family and maybe even some extra to sell at the local farmers market. I am having the ground turned tomorrow and plan to start on my days off(I work on a medivac helicopter and have many days off during the week) but, how many people do I need to put up the greenhouse? Both the hoops and pulling the plastic? Looking to get some fall veggies in before the snow flies!!! Awesome post!!! Will send some pics and post to facebook to give you credit!!

    • Dave says:

      Jim: Sounds like fun! Two people should be all you really need for pulling the plastic (you can do most of the building yourself) – but four or five people would make it much easier!

  30. ulysses nebres says:

    Thanks a lot for posting this. It would help many of us. I plan to build one with other improvement and other alternative materials in my country. Once I have built one I’ll post it to help others.

  31. Greg says:

    Dave, Greenhouse plastic blocks UV, UV is what destroys PVC, so putting the PVC inside was good idea for several reasons.

  32. Chris says:

    I like what I am seeing. I especially like that you are in Alberta. I live in Wisconsin and want to keep my tropical bananas, Colocasias, and Alocasias going until next season. Can you give me some thoughts on keeping it warm through the winter? I have heard of double layering the plastic and blowing air between the sheets but am not sure how to do this. I am also considering a wood burning furnace and heating water to pump through and automobile heater core and fan to heat the place.

    • Dave says:

      Chris: You’ve got some good ideas. I actually don’t heat my greenhouse at all, so I’m probably not the best one to give advice. However, I’m sure there are others who have commented here that have experience with this. Anyone?

    • Helen says:

      Hi, I live in New Brunswick and work in commercial greenhouses.
      Our hoop houses are 20′ wide x 100′ long. they are 6ml double plastic on the top to about halfway down and single plastic on bottom with roll up sides for ventilation in hot weather plus a 4′x 8′ door in each end. we start our plants around the first of march which is still very cold in NB so we use aportable propane fired heater that has a hose on it to deliver heat through an opening on one end. keeps it warm enough to plant started cuttings and colder loving plants..

      Love your idea Dave , am certainly going to build one of these green houses for myself…as I cannot afford the commercial ones…Will post pictures when completed

  33. david at meadowhousefarm says:

    i agree, your site and design awsome. been looking for an affordable option for a while. presently we’re building a 12 X 20 for the farm, using 20′ 1 1/2 pvc probably sounds like overkill, but we get winds and storms in our “holler” in western north carolina.

  34. Chuck Goecke says:

    A super easy, super cheap way to greatly increase the insulation of your greenhouse with very little loss of light is to use multiple layers of the cheap very thin painters drop plastic. It comes in 12 foot(and possibly bigger) width rolls, by like 400 feet(around 25 bucks). It is something like .2 mil, and is so thin it’s like gossamer. The secret to get good insulation from it is to put multiple layers, with a little dead air between them. It’s the dead air that gives the insulation. It needs to go inside of the poly, where it doesn’t have any wind or structural issues. I’ve used three layers, since its so cheap. To install it, just thread it between the poly and the pvc pipes along each side, while still folded up. Attach it along the top with either tape to the pvc or if you have a top center rail that is wood, with staples. I would do one layer at a time, although I have done all three at a time, but they are sort of a pain to keep organized as you unfold them. In other words, I don’t think you save any time doing them all at once. This thin plastic will photo-degrade much faster than the heavier poly, but if you are using long lasting greenhouse poly, with the UV inhibiters, that will protect the painters plastic inside too. I would still consider ripping it out after winter, if you are going to open the sides of your greenhouse to let wind vent it. Wind won’t be kind to this plastic. Another reason to get rid of it is that if it does start to deteriorate, it turns into a trash problem, with lots of little bits that blow around. It may last two or three years with uv protection of the greenhouse poly. Each layer probably only cuts a few percent of the light, so you almost won’t notice that. I’ve used three layers, but I don’t see any reason 5 or 6 would be bad, and if it sags a bit between the pvc pipes, good, because that just increased the amount of dead air. This technique will make your greenhouse nice and snug for the winter. Each layer will probably add up to 3 + degrees of additional protection, so with the 5-10 degrees the outer poly gives, 5 layers might get you 30 degrees of protection. Frost free at 5 degF outside!
    Condensation can be a issue, especially if it gets between the layers. It is important that the most inner layer be sealed at the top and bottom as good as possible with tape, if you want to avoid condensation between the layers, that will stick them together, and thus decrease the dead air somewhat. I’ve found that during the sunny warm days, when the outside temps are fairly nice, the condensation will clear up pretty good, especially if you open the green house up and let the nice dry outer air dehumidify the greenhouse.

  35. bill middleton says:

    Hi,Dave, well first season under our belt for using the poly green house. Lots to learn but was/great fun. The one piece pvc pipe was hard to find for me in here in Saskatchewan but a company called fastenal has it and quite cheap,between twelve and thirteen dollars for a 20 foot length. How do i post pics or do i need a webpage to do that…thanx again for the great info

    • Dave says:

      Bill: I’d love to see some pics of your greenhouse! Contact me via the contact form on this website, and I’ll get in touch with you direct!

  36. Melissa says:

    Hi,

    We live in northern quebec and will be looking to build our own greenhouse, however for the early spring months I may want to look at heating it with a small woodstove, would this method stand up to that or could it melt the plastic? If you think it will do you have any recommendations as to how to incorporate this?

    • Dave says:

      Melissa: I think a wood stove would work just fine – so long as the chimney is clear of the plastic and the stove is far enough away from the walls of the greenhouse.

  37. Robert Stoddard says:

    Where is a good source to purchase the 11 mil woven polypropylene fabric.

  38. Kim says:

    Hi Dave… a few years ago I came across your site and loved this plan for a hoop-house style greenhouse. I made mine 12×20 and found everything I needed at our local Home Hardware and Home Depot stores, all for about $600.00. Happy me! My husband and I put it together in a weekend and will be coming on my 4th growing season with it. I live in North Central BC and I get a lot of snow in the winter so we do not leave the poly on. I just use 3 mil poly, which has held up well in wind/rain storms and hail. It extends my growing season and enables me to grow heat lovers that I have struggled with since we moved here. My PVC pipes are 10 foots joined which was really simple, and less expensive that 20 foot lengths ( go figure?) and so far are holding up very well. Each year we modify slightly as we come up with ideas to make things work better or easier, some work, some don’t…I really do love my greenhouse! Thank you so much for sharing all your great ideas! Square Foot gardening is next on my list!

  39. chrissy rogers says:

    I’m trying to build a greenhouse that’s 24-48-16 feet in I’m trying to find the cheapest way to build it can anybody give me any ideas

  40. Ashleigh says:

    Hi there, I can’t wait to try this! Do you have plants in your greenhouse all summer in Alberta? It doesn’t get too hot? Do you have a way to let some air in? Thanks so much!

    • Dave says:

      Ashleigh: I DO grow in my greenhouse all summer! I usually leave both the front and back doors open to keep it cool enough. Then I close them when things get cool at nights in September. (Sometimes August!)

  41. blair says:

    Took your design and built my own. total cost $388.00 i had some aluminum doors kicking around that worked for me.
    thanks
    bear river, nova scotia.

  42. Shawna says:

    We will see how this greenhouse stands the test in Grande Prairie. We had 90 km/hr winds this weekend that ripped siding and shingles off our house. I can’t wait to build this, thank you for explaining your steps so clearly.

  43. Brian Moore says:

    Hello from Nova Scotia,

    I started the greenhouse this weekend. One thing puzzles me. How do you tie in the end pieces? I noted the braces at each end, but is that enough to steady the structure?

    • Dave says:

      Brian: the poly pulls it together and the center pvc pushes it apart. The braces certainly aren’t excessive, but they’ve been enough for me.

  44. Nancy Severson says:

    Dave – thank you SO MUCH for your greenhouse plans, supply list and directions for building this. We are just about done building, and I already have my tomatoes in it. We live in Montana, so made a few simple changes to add support: reinforced the door frame, reinforced the wooden frame a bit on the doors and drove some spikes into the bottom of the door frame on the inside. Then used your pipe tape again, to screw the rebar spikes against the inside of the door frame. PVC pipe does deteriorate (I don’t know how long to expect it to last), but my husband is an electrician and decided to use electrical conduit. It is gray, sunlight resistant, etc. Can be purchased at Home Depot or Lowes for not much more than PVC pipe. We are SO excited to have found your site and can’t thank you enough for your help and suggestions. We have just a little over $550 into this hoop house and have everything we need. Thanks again – great job!

  45. Lucie says:

    Love this site. We are going to start building the greenhouse soon. We were thinking of using 1/2″ rigid PVC conduits (sunlight resistant, used for electrical wires) instead of the PVC pipes. However they are a bit heavier and less flexible than PVC pipes. We will have to join them at the top, because they come in 10′ length.
    Any thought on that?
    Thanks
    Lucie

  46. Caryll says:

    I cannot thank you enough for the great details for building this item.
    I just happened to stumble on it while looking for suggestions on how to use the pvc piping to construct a dome over our koi pond for winter. Your instructions were the absolute best, particularly the clearly described pictures…..and now I know how to adapt your design for the garden into a Koi pond cover for our cold Ontario winters!! Great job, and even more for the new adaptations for the improvements that you made on your own model.
    Absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much…..
    Caryll.

  47. David Capon says:

    Thank you so much for this! Really appreciative. Great work!

  48. Steve says:

    I have read both in the comments here and elsewhere about sun degrading PVC piping. I have also read that the poly covering will deteriorate faster if placed directly on the PVC pipes and the recommendation was to cover the pipes with tape on the surface that will contact the poly covering. My question is about the gray PVC pipes? Does any know about these gray pipes and their solar survival compared to white pipe?

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