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.

| March 19, 2009

Hawlman Greenhouse

This greenhouse is made from reused aluminum storm doors.


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?

2/23/2012 10:20:07 PM

We're planning our greenhouse now. As I'm in the plumbing sales business I have access to many used / incorrect shower doors (no, I don't order them wrong just to get more!). They're all different sizes, but we'll be able to create something pretty funky!

Carol Klein
2/3/2011 1:50:30 PM

Rather than storm doors, I have bought three double paned sliding glass door sets which gives me 18 feet of glass wall space. The total cost for the three doors was $135 at the local RESTORE by Habitate for Humanity. Its recycleing and at the same time helping a good cause. I have not started construction yet (it won't get above freezing today)and found the article helpful. However, heating a greenhouse is an important consideration. Mine will be built on the South (front) side of my house for maximum winter sun, summer shade and shelter from winter storms. But more importantly, I will be able to open the window from the house to keep the greenhouse warm at night. Hopefully when the winter sun is out, it will also provide some warmth back INTO the house to make up for night time use. This will also save the expense of making the solid side of the greenhouse and provide some stability. The roof will be double layers of greenhouse plastic for sale at a local greenhouse. I was told that 'if' I can get the plastic pretty well sealed, I can blow air between the layers to provide maximum insulation value above. I'm still looking at how to ventilate the place in summer.

Tim Vincnet
5/5/2009 11:22:15 AM

I cut and sell firewood. I only cut already dead trees killed by pine beatles. When you burn the wood you help reduce the number of beatles released to kill other trees. I always try to clean up the area so it is in better shape than when I started!! AQnd I plan on collectinng a bunch of the cones that fall off and grow trees from the seeds and plant them in place of the already dead or dieng trees.

5/3/2009 11:39:51 AM

ludwig wrote: "The wood stove idea is not a cool idea because it adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere there contributing to making global warming worse. Sure it is just one woodstove---but when its output is combined with other such discharges around the the globe it adds up BIG TIME to the carbon dioxide load of the Earth's atmosphere." Sorry, but this is just not true. The carbon dioxide released when we burn wood is merely carbon dioxide that the tree has absorbed from the atmosphere. If you plant trees to replace the ones you cut, your net release of CO2 will be less than your new trees will absorb. And, if you use only "found" wood that is already dead (which we do, there is LOTS of it here in Louisiana, thanks to recent hurricanes), you are only releasing CO2 that would have been released anyway, as the wood rotted away. It is a fact that there are more trees in the United States now than there were 100 years ago, so burning wood for heat is ultimately NOT a source of significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere; in reality, by keeping a woodlot and planting new trees to replace those we burn, we reduce the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. So, a wood buring stove is GOOD for the environment! Don't be ashamed to burn wood.

4/27/2009 7:21:40 PM

I could not help but cringe at the suggestions from Mr. Kennedy about using D-Con to kill the mice. Not only will it kill his mice, but it will kill anything else that eats it, walks across it and licks the feet, or eats a dead mouse who ate the D-Con. A child could get into it, his own dog (if he has one) could suffer because of it. This stuff should be outlawed. If he has mice problems, get a cat. Swift, clean, useful.

4/27/2009 7:20:28 PM

I could not help but cringe at the suggestions from Mr. Kennedy about using D-Con to kill the mice. Not only will it kill his mice, but it will kill anything else that eats it, walks across it and licks the feet, or eats a dead mouse who ate the D-Con. A child could get into it, his own dog (if he has one) could suffer because of it. This stuff should be outlawed. If he has mice problems, get a cat. Swift, clean, useful.

4/20/2009 3:50:48 PM

Building a greenhouse this way is a good idea. However, Greenhouses which are not properly thought out before building can be VERY EXPENSIVE to operate and maintain if you are on the grid or using other sources of energy. The wood stove idea is not a cool idea because it adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere there contributing to making global warming worse. Sure it is just one woodstove---but when its output is combined with other such discharges around the the globe it adds up BIG TIME to the carbon dioxide load of the Earth's atmosphere. If Global warming is not brought under control soon---we could be facing extinction and a parched earth that is more like the planet Venus than the living green earth that we have known in our lifetimes. Build this house and seal all possible water leaks and unwanted air vents (you will need vents for hot days when temps in the house can soar up to 150F depending on where you live. Painting 100 gallon oil drums black filled with water, then providing an unshielded glassed in the area over them can provide residual passive heat that will greatly reduce maintenance costs. At night fans blow air across the drums into greenhouse. Build your greenhouse big and tall enough (for Bananas and trees) and you not only can enjoy tropical flowers/orchids but also tropical fruits that you can not find in most grocery stores or if you do they are like 5.00 or more each as well as the normal vegetables that you garden outdoors in warm months. Now taking a lesson from Icelanders---install geothermal heat as well as take advantage of the sun's heat. On the coldest day of the year this can heat not only the greenhouse but also your house as well as provide cooling in summer and provide off the grid electricity to boot. You will want to drill down far enough into the earth so that the temperature is at least 400 degrees or higher. The resulting 'geyser' of super heated steam in a closed system will not only heat whatever

Neil Kennedy_1
3/30/2009 2:08:06 PM

Hi I have a great idea to keep Deer out of your garden At each fence post tape or screw 4'furing strips to each post. Wrap or tie heavy string or twin one at the top, and about 2' from the top and go all the way around the garden. Next tie 2'strips of cloth any color from the string.This makes a false high fence of 8' that the deer knows they cant jump over..Thus you have a deer free garden.. To keep out smaller animals out?? use real small chicken fence any height, I used 2' wide and go all way around your garden..This keeps out wood chuck, and rabbits To keep out mice?? I use De-Con they eat it and they die I always have agreat garden

3/29/2009 3:28:28 PM

I agree with the comment about the commercial glass companies. Usually they will order more glass than they need to account for breakage. Especially with new office towers. I manaaged to pick up 3 by 5 feet 1/4 in tempered glass for $20.00 ea. I am now in the process of adding a sunroom to the house with similar but larger panels.

3/27/2009 6:34:27 PM

I happen to have been on jobsites where the glass was all measured wrong and they were going to toss it in the dumpster/. Go around to the local commercial glass companies that may be changing out older windows, with newer , more efficient windows.You'll want the old glass- not the new low-E that reduces the suns'rays. Even storm windows would work. For those who don't have great construction skills, you can build simple cold frames to get you gardening weeks earlier and later. We installed an 'air-tight' wood stove in our living room last year, and didn't burn an ounce of propane . I like the idea of being able to provide heat to a greenhouse without a big expense or a lot of work. I think about 50' of copper pipe in a coil wrapping the first section of single layer stove pipe, with a circulating pump from a 55 gallon drum of water in the crawl space beneath will be all my future greenhouse would need, piped to the greenhouse in insulated cpvc pipe buried 6" deep . Just some thoughts- I like your innovation!

3/27/2009 11:11:02 AM

Hello, This is a great idea and I would love to do it! However, for those of us who are not necessarily familiar with building, some type of blue print or pdf plans with step-by-step explanations would be helpful. Thanks, Jerome

Nicol Gilbert
3/25/2009 8:11:47 PM

This is a great article. I never thought of doing it with just the doors. I've been wanting a greenhouse for a long time but they just cost so much. So I've been collection old used windows and doors the people are getting rid of and don't cost anything except for the gas to pick them up... I now have enough windows and doors that when it quits raining I can start building my greenhouse. If I would have seen this article first I could have had it up and using it already.. And with this idea it doesn't need as much wood as it would the way I was going to build it... Well with what I have left I guess that I can also make some hot boxes... Thanks for the idea.... It's going to save a lot of money, time and headache..

3/25/2009 6:44:13 PM

ps: over my 4x8 work area I have the 2 -- 4 foot fixtures on chains to raise/lower as needed to keep a foot over plants as they grow.

3/25/2009 6:41:43 PM

I have considered a greenhouse, but have decided my heating costs would be too great. I have settled on a room in my home with 4 T-8 tube fluorescent lights of various colors [3500/5000 degrees for color rendition in the red/blue wavelengths] (4x8 space) I am happy with my results so far, but it is early in the season. My seedlings are doing great; my salad plants are at the edible stage. I am going to tinker and buy some red and blue colored sleeves to slide over 2 bulbs to see if that helps any on vegetative growth and flowering ability. I also have 6 high output T-5 bulbs. These are a bit pricey and I honestly haven't seen any difference in plant growth of same seeds under the T-8s vs T-5s. My timer runs 14hrs/day + times a floor fan to move air. Nice job on your project though!!!

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