Building A Greenhouse Out Of Storm Windows



Who Says You Need A Man

When a Woman Will Do


Who says you need a man to build something? I made it a personal goal of mine to build a small greenhouse without the help of my husband. Not that he would not help me if I asked but I just wanted to prove that I could do it myself. Although it was just a small greenhouse it was the biggest thing I have made and I was able to do it without needing the help of a man.  I firmly believe that women can do anything we are determined to do. My husband may be bigger and stronger and can do some things better than myself such as lifting heavy things, hammering and operating a power screw driver but as a woman I have learned how to work smart. Men love to employ their brawns (muscles) but we women need to use our brains to conquer the challenging tasks. In this blog post I will share some carpentry tips to hopefully inspire women. Yes, you can build something if you want to.


Greenhouse Made With Storm Windows
I made this Greenhouse all by myself without the help of a Man

If I Can Do It, So Can You

 

My first challenge was the budget. It is not like I have lots of extra cash laying around so I always look at what materials I have on hand first. I love the principle of recycling things and find it quite fun to find creative ways to use old items for a new purpose. Repurposing items has actually become a popular and trendy activity. Pinterest is filled with all sorts of those ideas. If we can use what we have on hand that means less junk cluttering up our back yard or less junk to haul off to the garbage and less trash filling up our landfills. They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. By turning cast off items into something useful they become treasures of sorts.  

 

Storm WindowsSo, what did I have on hand? I had a bunch of storm windows that I had removed from my back porch because I was working on transforming the back porch into two regular rooms and did not want so many windows. I hate to throw things away so looking at my collection of windows I had six good size windows that could be used to build my greenhouse. So, the windows themselves became the framework for the design the greenhouse would become. It would not be as cute as those greenhouses on Pinterest made with old windows but it will do the job.

 

I used my car to haul the table saw  and other power tools into the backyard and set up shop there to save me from having to walk back and forth across the yard to my wood work shop for cutting. I have a spare work table that has served me in so many ways over the years. Mobile Work ShopIt had been a sewing table, a craft table, and a school table. When the kids were small I lowered the legs for a kiddie table. It has served as a birthday party table, a classroom school table when we homeschooled and a special project table such as when I built the Victorian doll house. I also used it for conducting Art Lessons for students that came to my house. Now it hangs in the back porch and is used as a hobby work shop table. Wow! in writing this I just realised that I have had this table for more than 30 years. It is our oldest piece of furniture that we still have and use. What a multi-function table it has been and will continue to serve me for many years more.

 

SUV hauling lumber Framed Storm Window
 This is one reason I like the lift back of my SUV for hauling stuff.
First window framed

I started framing the windows, two to a side to form a wall.  I didn't have enough spare lumber so had to make a trip to Lowes to purchase some 2" by 4". I discovered Lowes had 2" by 3" which were a little less money so decided to go with that. Just for your information:  2" x 3' do not come any longer than 8 feet. 2" x 4" come in longer lengths such as 12 feet.

Framed Storm Windows Table Saw
 I used two windows per wall
The table saw is the most used power tool besides a drill

Having Good Tools Makes a Job Much Easier

If you don't have any power tools the first tools I would recommened are a Power Drill with different drill bits and interchangeable screw bits. Even better than that is a Cordless Drill/Driver with a Lithium battery, they are lightweight and powerful. And then get yourself a Table Saw so you can cut everything straight. We bought this table saw on sale. It was a store model and had no legs or stand so we got it at a reduced price. We have used it so much to do lots of home improvement jobs and small building jobs. It really is easy to opperate. Another tool that is helpful but not used quite as much as the table saw is a Miter Saw for cutting angles. Every job does not need angles. You can cut angles with the table saw but it is a bit more complicated to do. The Miter Saw makes the task super easy if you know what degree of the angle to cut.

Miter Saw Miter Saw
Miter Saw cuts precice angles easily
It is very easy to change the angles with a Miter Saw

The basic carpentry tools are a hammer, a T-square and a pencil. The T-square helps you draw correct perpendicular lines so your straight ends will have a proper right angle from the side of the board you are cutting. See the photo below (left) how I allow the top of the "T" to rest along side of the length of the board so I can make a straight line that is a 90° angle from the side of the board.

Square Hammer
 T-Square to help keep things square
Hammer two spikes to join 2" by 3"s to each other

Another tool that helps you to make things square so they line up correctly is a leveler. It can be used horizontaly or vertically as shown below (left). When the air bubble falls between the two black lines in the center your work is leveled.  Sometimes you may need a helping hand holding something in place while hammering or screwing. That is where a clamp with a long bar can be useful as shown in the photo below (right). I needed to hammer in the cross board (where the hammer is laying) on both sides so the clamp held everything together while I hammered away. Without the clamp hammering on one side would push the nails out on the opposite side.

Level

 

 

 

Leveler

 Leveler helps insure things are level and square
Clamps can be helpful to hold things for you

 

Assembling A Greenhouse Made From Storm Windows

The storm windows were attached to the 2" x 3"s with screws. I used long nails to join the 2" by 3's. Each wall was built separately. When I began this project I was not sure how I was going to do the roof. I figured I would get the walls up and then decide. When I first assembled the walls I used the full length of the 2" x 3" which was 8 feet long. But when I stood up one wall I saw how tall it was going to be and with a roof added on top of that it would be way too tall so I changed my mind and turned the wall over so the windows would be going sideways instead of up and down as usual. So what, the windows will open sideways. Who cares. It is just a greenhouse. That would also make the length of the greenhouse longer. The height would be close to 5 feet tall and the depth of the greenhouse will be 8 feet long. I used the shorter window on the backside. One window was not the same size as the others. Once the length of the walls were determined I framed the floor and covered it with some board that was sitting in my back porch. I placed a cinder block or a brick under each corner so the floor would sit up off the ground a couple of inches.

Greenhouse Asembly Greenhouse Asembly
 Laying out the floor and 3 of 4 walls
 The height of the wall was determinded by the width of the  2 windows

 

With the glass as part of the wall they were heavy. I was a bit unsure how I was going to stand up and secure the first wall all by myself but I was determined not to ask for any help. I had seen some construction done on movies and have always been a good observer of what is being done. In the movie "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" in the barn raising scene I noticed they had braces holding up the wall so I used some of my remaining 2" by 3" as arms or braces that would pivit as I lifted the wall into position. Before standing the wall up I made sure to strategicly place my hammer and nails for easy access once I had the wall standing so I could secure it to the floor.  I have to admit that I was scared about standing up that first wall for fear that it would fall one way or the other and I would shatter the glass ruining my whole plan. So I worked very carefully thinking out my process before the task of standing the wall arect.

Greenhouse Asembly
I did it! I secured the first wall all by myself!

Once the first wall was up I breathed a sigh of relief. All of my fears were vanquished because it was much easier than I thought it would be. All my thought and careful planning paid off so that I did not have any trouble at all securing the first wall. Once I got past that first wall, the rest was even easier.  I was so pleased with myself I had to go fetch my husband to come see what I had accomplished by myself. He was impressed too.

Greenhouse Asembly Greenhouse Asembly
 The second wall went up easy.
 Third wall is up.

The second wall was secured to the floor and also to the first wall at the corner. Corners give stability to a structure. I was a pro now.  The second wall is narrower than the side walls but the window opens up correctly. I used braces to support the third wall as well because as I said before it was heavy because of the glass. Next challenge was to figure out how to fashion the front wall that would house the door and how to build the roof. No, I did not have a concrete plan when I started. When you are working with reused or recycled materials it may not be possible to have it all mapped out from the begining. Sometimes you just have to figure it out as you go. That is usually the way I roll.

 

Greenhouse Asembly
 How to use a support arm to erect a wall.

Have you ever said to yourself, "I sure could use an extra pair of arms?" Well that's what I did to help me stand up the walls. I made two extra arms to support the wall as I lifted it arect. The above photo is a closer look at my braces to help support the walls once stood up. The arms or supports are partially nailed into both sides of the frame. The nail creates a pivoting point. The base of the wall is resting on top of the floor where it will be standing once erect. I needed to add a pile of boards to raise the height of the wall frame so the support arm could be under the frame while on the ground. As I stand up the wall the arm will move helping to prop up the wall. Notice the stategic location of the hammer and nails placed where there is an opening just in case the wall fell over and within easy reach for me to secure that side of the wall into the floor. The support arms can be removed after the walls are secured. I left them in place until I had all four walls up.

 

A Few Carpentry Tips To Make Things Easier For You

Nailing Tips

As women we may not have the physical strength of a man so we must use our brains to find the easiest way to tackle a job that might be a bit more challenging for us. I am not so good at hammering so I used a few techniques to help things work more smoothly for me.

 

Tip 1: Prestart your nails on a flat surface before hammering them into the adjoining board. Nail them in until just before they begin to poke out the other side.

 

Tip 2: Use gravity to your benefit and swing the hammer like a pendulum as you join two boards with a nail. Try to swing straight or you will bend the nail.

Nailing Tips Nailing Tips
Use gravity to your advantage
 Use scraps to level the joint

Tip 3: If the surface you are working on is not level place a scrap board under the location where you want to join two boards so both peices are evenly lined up.

 

Tip 4: If you are hammering close to the ground, dig a shallow ditch to allow for the swing of the hammer.

 

Nailing Tips Cutting Tips
Dig a path for the pendulum swing of the hammer Run blade on the side of the measured line

Tip 5: Make sure that when you cut your measured board that your blade is on the outside of the line. Run the blade along the edge of the line. Do not center the blade right on the line or your measurement will come up slightly short. In the photo below (right) The peice on the left is what we want to keep so the line marks the full lenth. I ran the left edge of the blade beside the line, to the right of the line. Otherwise the board would be shortened the width of the blade.

 

Cutting Tips Cutting Tips
 Wear safety glasses
Keep hands away from blade

Tip 6: When using any power cutting tools always wear saftey goggles to protect your eyes from flying splinters of wood.

 

Tip 7: Keep your fingers clear away from the moving blades

Lumber Lumber Covered
Assembled walls stacked
Tarp cover to protect lumber

Tip 8: Store your lumber flat. Most 2" by 3", 2" by 4", or even 2" by 6" are made of pine. Pine is a soft wood and if not laid flat can warp and twist out of shape in humidity or rain.

The sun was setting on my project so I needed to close up shop for the evening so I stacked the walls on top of the floor and placed all the extra 2 x 3's flat on top of the pile. Yes, I did that also by myself which was probably the hardest task of all. I also covered the pile with a tarp just incase we got an unexpected rain shower and to protect against the morning dew. I tossed the extention cords on top prevent the wind from blowing off the tarp. This would be a two day project for me.

Tip 9: Cover stored wood under a tarp if left outside.

 

Pulling Nails
 Nail pulling

Tip 10: When pulling out long nails use a block of wood under the head of the hammer.


Pulling out nails is part of the task. We all make mistake ocasionally. I was working with 4" nails so I stacked two 2" boards to make pulling the nails much easier with less effort. Plus it prevents you from bending the nail so you can reuse it.

 

Temporary Shoring
Temporary Shoring

After the three walls were arrect and secured I needed to build the fourth wall which would house the door.  I had an old screen door I thought to use so my orginal plan was to build a frame around that door. This wall would need to be taller than the other three which meant the roof would be slanted down towards the back. So after I framed around the door I needed a way to hold it while a built the walls on either side of it to join to the corners. I used a 2" x 3" as a temporary support to hold the door in place. This is called shoring up a structure. The nails are not driven all the way in because they will be pulled out once I have the wall surrounding the door frame completed. 

Temporary Shoring Temporary Shoring
 Temporary shoring to hold door frame
Door opening framed in

The orginal screen door that I had planned to use was warped and did not hang straight so I decided to just build my own door and cover it with plastic like I intended to do with the open spaces on the greenhouse. I used angled corner braces with both ends cut at 45° angle on both ends to give support to the door. That is where the Miter saw came in handy.

Framing a door
 Framing a Door

Tip 11: Build on a flat surface. If you do not have a good size work table choose a level piece of ground to work on.

 

Greenhouse Greenhouse
 Left side
 Right side


Corner Support Nail Path
 Plan the path of the nail
Choose angle for driving nails

Tip 12: Before nailing choose the path or the direction the nail needs to be driven and make sure it is the proper length to join the pieces of wood together.


Door Handle Door Handle
 Driftwood shaped like handle
Cut flat edge for handle

One day I found a cool shaped piece of driftwood that just looked like a handle. I held onto it waiting for the right place to use it as a handle. It was it's destiny. My greenhouse became that place. I trimmed off a flat edge so that I could secure it to my new door then screwed it in place. It was dry so I accidently broke off a piece while screwing it in place.

Greenhouse Door Handle

 

Adding Hindges Adding Hindges
Add center door hindge first
Then top, then bottom hindge

I purchased some medium weight Vinyl from a fabric store to cover all the openings that had no glass including the roof. Vinyl is stronger than just plastic that might tear with wind or heavy snow. The vinyl was secured to the wood with staples using a staple gun. Certain places where water might seap in I used Gorilla Tape because it is waterproof. I made sure that any places that overlapped was done in such a way that rain water would not flow inside the greenhouse. Think of the way shingles go up. Start at the bottom wrapping around the base. The next piece above that would overlap the bottom piece so the rain flows down but only on the outside not inside. For the roof, I started on the bottom with the vinyl and worked my way to the top. I wrapped the roof including the eves with the vinyl. My green house survived the winter including a heavy snow storm with no damage.

Greenhouse
 Greenhouse made with storm windows

I had some closet shelves that were not currently being used from the house that make a perfect addition to the inside of the greenhouse. I can use the shelf for storing starter plants or hang potted plants underneath. I love not having to spend money and just working with what I already have. I had an old fish tank aquarium table not being used. I added a board on top to be used as a potting table in my greenhouse.

 

Greenhouse shelves Closet Shelves
Adding Shelves
 Inside Greenhouse
Closet Shelves Potting table
Double use: shelf or hanging Fish tank aquarium table for potting table

 

Garden greenhouse

My greenhouse is near my garden so it serves as storage of all my garden tools, unused pots, potting soil, a place to start seeds, and to protect certain plants from cold winter temperatures.

Greenhouse
Hanging pots
Greenhouse
Starter plants
Greenhouse
Getting an early start on spring planting
Greenhouse in the garden
The Greenhouse is small but serves my purpose.

The whole project cost me only $200. Half of that was for the vinyl, the rest for the 2" by 3". Everything else was recycled materials. It is not the cutest or the prettiest greenhouse but I am proud of my little greenhouse because I proved to myself that I could do it without anyone else to help me. If I can do this, I can do even bigger things. Conquering small challenges gives us the courage to take on bigger challenges. There is nothing we cannot do if we have the mind to do it even if we are women. We don't have to be helpless females that leave all the bigger jobs for the males.

 


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