How to Build a Greenhouse from Used Windows or Storm Doors

Building a greenhouse can be inexpensive if you use recycled doors or windows. And a small DIY greenhouse is a great way to grow a few vegetables right through the coldest months of the year.

  • Hawlman Greenhouse
    This greenhouse is made from reused aluminum storm doors.
  • Hawlman Greenhouse 2
    The south wall of the greenhouse is made of 2-by-6s and four storm doors.

  • Hawlman Greenhouse
  • Hawlman Greenhouse 2

Early that autumn morning, I knew it was going to be a great day: I dropped my toast, and it landed honey-side up! Then in the morning newspaper, I saw an announcement for a public auction of “dozens of used aluminum storm doors.” I could hardly wait to hitch up my trailer.

My bid was $4 when the auctioneer said, “Sold! How many do you want?”

“All of them,” I said. I went home with 25 used double-track aluminum storm doors with screens and tempered glass.

Building the Greenhouse

I always wanted a home garden greenhouse to start my own vegetable plants (and a warm place to putter as the snow swirled outside). When I announced my new project at our Sunday family supper, my son smiled as he said, “I thought you were running low on things to do.” The next day he was helping me unload stones for the greenhouse base.

We made the greenhouse frame from 2-by-6s. The studs and rafters are on 36-inch centers to accommodate the 36-inch storm doors. Top and bottom plates are double 2-by-6s with overlapping corners. The frame is held together by three-eighths-inch bolts and galvanized spiral nails. The north side has no glass exposure. It is sheathed with oriented strand board and covered with vinyl siding. It shelters the greenhouse from cold winter winds. That sheltered side also makes working in the greenhouse bearable on hot summer days. The worktable is in the shade.

Heating the Greenhouse

The greenhouse is heated by hot water piped in via underground lines coming from a woodstove outside my shop. I modified the stove by laying a cast-iron radiator on top of it. The water in the radiator is drawn to the greenhouse radiator by a small circulating pump. The pump runs constantly in cold months. The greenhouse thermostat controls the blower on the remote woodstove so it maintains a water temperature of about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I think this is more efficient than having the water temperature fluctuate widely. I know it provides a more even temperature in the greenhouse, which ranges from 70 to 80 degrees on cloudy days.

4/10/2016 11:56:31 AM

It has always been my belief that our forefathers got things right, and all we do is mess it up. The re-purposing of the doors seems to be a great idea on the surface but lacks in the application when it comes to dealing with safety. If you look at the green houses of the past you will see that the glass panels are all small. This is not due to the size of glass panels of the times. It is for lower replacement cost and "SAFETY". If a glass panel, made from old used glass doors, would break overhead, I am sure I do not want to be standing underneath. If you were a victim of this event you may find yourself taking a ride to the ER and maybe beyond. You need to take steps to secure the glass in the event something does occur. At "minimum" chicken fence needs to be secured to catch the raining terror when that baseball appears. Nothing, and I mean nothing is worth doing unless safety is done right. Doctors take an oath that any home project entrepreneur should head. "Do no harm."

6/2/2013 6:17:15 AM

I have 24 pieces of commercial glass about 32 by 32 inches enough to make a good sized wall I have some of it on the north wall of my current greenhouse and wondered if this would make a good Southern wall/roof it is heavy nearly 1 inch thick double pained insulated and slightly tinted it came out of an office building.  I know it is UV treated but that is about all.  My concerns are that it will block the good light too much, and not allow the green house to heat up enough. my idea is to make the southern facing wall out of the glass canted at an angle starting about 3 feet from the ground.  What do you think will it work and are there any issues I have not considered? 

Michael Cohen
3/18/2013 6:55:44 PM

HI,, I would love to build a greenhouse or sunroom with recycled storm windows or doors. Where/how can I find a supply of them?



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