Home-made, Big, Low Cost Glass Greenhouse from Free Recuperated Windows Part 2

The very first step in constructing the greenhouse was to decide on the size for it. We'd earmarked a vegetable plot where it was to go and as it had a hedge along one edge and a rose border on another, both of which we wanted to retain a practical size of 5m long by 3m wide was decided. This gave adequate space for access with ladders or steps during construction.

Although it is a large sized greenhouse and in itself quite an imposing feature, it actually fits very well into its surrounding landscape. Being surrounded by greenery as it is now, obviates the need for shade cloths, which in the early days were necessary to prevent the scorching of leaves in the very hot, clear days of Summer. We live near the sea and at times the light here can be very intense.

The roof covering was to be of 200 micron polythene UV stabilised (polytunnel material) and this could be purchased by the metre and was 7.5 metres wide. As the roof was to be gabled we bought a 4m length, the polythene width was more than enough to cover the greenhouse length.

For the south 3m wide end I had recuperated some French windows and these and the entrance door on the North end set the wall height of the greenhouse.

Having now decided the overall dimensions of the greenhouse the preparatory work could begin.

All of the windows I'd collected were casement windows, that is, windows that open on hinges attached to one vertical side of the frame. Most of them were paired and had a weather strip where the two windows met in the middle.

Along the bottom edge of all these windows was a weatherboard to deflect rain running off the window onto the window sill. As the casement window fits into a frame this moulding is not flush with the bottom but is attached about 10-20mm from the bottom edge.

Apropos of hinges

The hinges need to be removed as they will interfere with the fit.

Recuperating old windows to make a greenhouse

Some hinges can be removed by unscrewing but, bearing in mind that these are old windows, the screw heads will usually be sealed under several coats of paint. Nevertheless, with a little care they will usually come out. I clean the paint away from around the screw heads with a sharp awl and ensure the screw heads have all the paint removed so that the screwdriver fits tightly. If after all this effort the screws refuse to budge then you have to resort to drilling out the heads, it won't matter if the rest of the screw remains in the frame. Alternatively, you can use a hacksaw or angle grinder to remove any protruding part of the hinge and leave the remaining metal plate complete with screws in place.

To bring the windows' heights to that of the French windows I decided to support them on walls made from pallet wood. Now that I knew the wall lengths I could sort the windows to fit, number them and mark their position on a plan.

Before making the walls, the bottom of each window projecting beyond the weatherboard was sawn off providing a wider face to rest on the wall.

TIP: (photo above) Screw a plank of the appropriate thickness to the face of the window so as to ensure that the saw blade will cut a square face to the bottom of the window. 

The wall panels were made from pallet wood planks nailed to a rectangular frame. Each frame was again of pallet wood but I selected planks for this from more robust pallets (approx 100mm x 22mm, 4" x 1"). These planks were screwed together to form the frames and the pallet wood planks were nailed to what was to become the outside face thus forming a box.

There were seven 75mm (3") square wooden posts, each bolted to a galvanised steel stake driven into the ground (one at each corner, one midway along the longest sides and one to form the doorway). A line running from post to post marked the perimeter to which the wall panels needed to abut.

In addition, I made T (Tee) shaped stakes from 22mm thick pallet wood, which were to be driven into the ground on the inside of the greenhouse. These would provide a solid support for the wall panels.

All the above preparation meant that when we finally came to construct the greenhouse it went together as a kit.

The roof trusses too we pre-fabricated in the workshop too but for clarity I'll deal with these in a separate post

If you are thinking of building a glass greenhouse and would like to know of some of the extra plants, in particular tropical spices you will be able to grow, then sit back and take a look at this film:

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this article, comment, ask questions and if you'd like to be assured of getting the next post, then sign up to follow this blog.

All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014


  1. Its very efficient to install greenhouse windows in the house to a great extent. A mini-solarium would be good for those who cannot built a bigger one but need a nice environment in their home.
    Windows Thornhill

  2. Very nice! A couple questions about the birds: How do you keep the chickens from destroying everything? What is your quail setup like in there and how do you manage to get them back into any sort of cages? Also, I have heard quail and chickens should not be kept anywhere near each other, as diseases can wipe out both flocks very easily. Have you ever had any problems with that?

    1. Hi Lee, Thanks for your comments, much appreciated. Sue will answer your questions as the poultry are her preserve. Chickens will only destroy a garden under certain circumstances. Firstly you have to make sure they have enough greenery in their diet, otherwise they will eat edible flowers and leaves. Chickens, in my experience never overeat on anything so once they have enough leafy greens per day, that is it. Secondly you need to initially shield any delicate annuals, emerging perennials and new cuttings as they will scratch around roots and newly dug ground. In the case of cuttings, I just place a ring of stones around them and cover the former with a little wire mesh. For our quail, we have several blog posts on: http://holistic-hen.blogspot.fr and films on: http://www.youtube.com/user/Pavlovafowl As you will see they are pretty much imprinted on the mother hen who hatches and raises them and when she leaves them they imprint on us, so as long as we are around they will follow us. We don't freerange them on their own (unless they escape!) as we do on occasion have predators, which could take them. When they are in the greenhouses or out in a run they have a house, which travels with them which they see as home and they go in there at night. Sometimes they need to be put in as it is quail's natural impulse in the evening to dig a shallow hole in the soil and sleep in that. In the 12 years we've been keeping poultry we've never had any disease, it is not a situation I would expect with a good organic diet and an outdoor life with plenty of room per bird. I would see the sort of scenario you describe as a problem of closely confined, stressed out, medicated poultry on grain diets, with the resultant poor immune systems. We keep fantails as well and the only problem we sometimes get is a few arguments over nest boxes or food plates. Interestingly I've had pigeons sit on and hatch hens eggs and hens adopt baby pigeons when the parents start to leave them to go out finding food together. All the best, Sue and Andy

  3. This is beyond wonderful! Hope it is serving you well as it is beautiful!!

  4. Love the greenhouse working on similiar style with french doors. Just curious as you said you used pallet wood staked in ground. Are you experiencing ang wood rot? Did you treat wood with anything like lindseed oil?
    Ed from Massachusetts

    1. Hi Ed,
      The pallet wood stakes for the wall panels were untreated. To date I haven't lost any to rot. I did select the closer-grained planks for this. On the other hand a coat of linseed oil would certainly help. The other point with this design is if you did notice rot in any post it would be fairly easy to replace one. The six 3" square posts (3 per side wall) are furnishing the main structure to the greenhouse and as I say in this post they fit into galvanised stakes driven into the ground.
      If you need any more information don't hesitate to ask.
      Thanks for commenting and visiting The Green Lever. Best Wishes from Normandie, Andy.


    1. Thank you, the structure would certainly take the additional weight. This year we're putting a half-size cast iron bath in the corner so as to enjoy getting clean in a lovely warm and green environment. Needless to say, on finishing the water is to be used for irrigation.

      Once again thanks for your kind comment and for visiting The Green Lever.

      Best Wishes from Normandie, Andy.

  6. This is beyond wonderful! thanks for sharing with us.