Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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Building a Greenhouse in Your Yard


A greenhouse is a great way to keep plants going during cold weather and get an early start on your spring planting. Watch this video to see how to build a greenhouse in your yard from stock materials found at the home center. ...More




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Building a Greenhouse in Your Yard

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Watch this video to see how to build your own greenhouse in your yard from stock materials from the home center, including:

  • Making the pressure treated wood frame.
  • Installing corrugated fiberglass panels on the roof and sides.
  • Building shelves for storage in the greenhouse.
  • Adding a gravel floor in the greenhouse.
  • Installing a door and window in the greenhouse.

Read episode article to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner, we’re tackling the heat to prepare for the cold. Come hang out with us while we help an avid gardener get ready for winter with this budget backyard greenhouse.

Danny Lipford: Right now, the temperatures are still very warm, but once it starts cooling off, that doesn’t mean that everybody that likes working out in the garden has to hibernate. The solution is a backyard greenhouse. Now, my friend Storey Walters, who’s also my neighbor, has been talking about wanting a greenhouse forever. Well, this week, she’s getting that greenhouse. Storey is one of those people who is constantly working and planning to improve her garden.

Storey Walters: Well, it’s almost every day, I feel like I’m still searching for the plan sometimes ’cause I’m always digging stuff up and moving. I kind of can go shopping in my own yard. One day I really want to have a lot of, more vegetables and fruits ’cause I’m kind of into the organic stuff.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. Now, we talked about the greenhouse before, and now we’re about to build you a greenhouse, but what about the location of it? Have you thought about that?

Storey Walters: Well, when you all first brought it up, I thought it would be kind of cool to have it really close here ’cause the idea of starting all my winter vegetables and things soon and just being able to move it over here would be great, but…

Danny Lipford: Maybe somewhere where it’s a little more shady?

Storey Walters: Well, if we could get it to go way back. The yard’s an acre, so it’s a lot of yard, but this is a fig tree and it’s eventually going to get big. And these azaleas, they can get big and if we kind of could nestle back there then it would get shade and still get sun but be close enough for me to be able to work with that.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, let’s take a look at it and see if we can find a spot back here.

Storey Walters: Well, I like the idea that you said when you set it up, we can move it exactly where I want to before we finish it.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, it’s real light. I mean, I used to build these things, and me and one person can lift it over a fence.

Storey Walters: Oh, good. If I get tired of it, they can borrow.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, that’s right. You can loan it out for the winter.

Storey Walters: When theirs comes down.

Danny Lipford: But, it’s a, I mean, it’s, you know, a little unlevel. But it will be pretty easy to level all of this up. And then have the door right there. Maybe you can put a little stone path going over to the grass. And, I mean, I don’t see any problem at all. This seems perfect.

Danny Lipford: While Storey and I have been chatting, Allen’s been out on the driveway, checking out our materials for the greenhouse.

Allen Lyle: This is everything?

Danny Lipford: That’s it. That’s the whole greenhouse.  And, I mean, the whole thing of course is an 8 by 8. Still, that’s, that’s $800 worth of materials.

Allen Lyle: And how long ago were you building these?

Danny Lipford: Well, actually look at this. This was from about 30 years ago. And I built… This was my big multimedia presentation here. And back then, which was something like… I don’t know, 1985 or so. I sold an 8 by 12 greenhouse for $395 delivered, including tax.

Allen Lyle: And you expect me to believe that you still remember how to build these, huh?

Danny Lipford: Well, that’s gonna be a bit of a challenge. ‘Cause I had these little cool patterns that I used, that I would do all the cutouts on.

Allen Lyle: You don’t have them anymore?

Danny Lipford: I don’t have them anymore, so that’s gonna be our first step. It’s to grab a few of these 2 by 2s, and let’s reinvent 30 years ago, all right?

Allen Lyle: Sounds good.

Danny Lipford: But I got a plan here, see?

Allen Lyle: Okay, I believe you.

Danny Lipford: See, I used to use… Take 2 by 4s and I had this old table saw.

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: And I’d rip these things right down the middle. And of course now that you can get the 2 by 2s, back then you couldn’t get the 2 by 2s as much. All right, so 8 by 8. So, what we’re going to do is do the two ends. Like, the front and the back.

Allen Lyle: Okay.

Danny Lipford: And… So, let that be one of the bottoms.

Allen Lyle: All right.

Danny Lipford: And take that one, just kind of overlap it a little bit. Just kind of lay that out there.

Allen Lyle:  All right.

Danny Lipford: Now, let it overlap. And then slant it in a little bit.

Allen Lyle:  All right. Like that?

Danny Lipford: Like that, yeah. Essentially, we’re recreating the pattern for one of the in-walls of the greenhouse, from my memory and this old photo. First, the wall has to accommodate the storm door we picked up at the home center. So at the center of it, we’re laying out a 32 by 80 inch rectangle. Then, we’ll fill in the rest of the structure around this opening. If you make sure you keep a 90 degree angle square, and make measurements from a common center point, you can basically mark the other cuts in place. Now, while Allen makes those cuts on the miter saw, let’s check in with Joe for a Simple Solution that’s ideal for those who garden.

Joe Truini: Container gardening is growing in popularity because it allows you to exercise your green thumb without a huge investment in time, money or even space. All you need is a container of some sort. We’re using a five-gallon bucket that you can get in any hardware store or home center. And I started by drilling some drainage holes in the bottom. Then I’m going to add 5 or 6 inches of Styrofoam peanuts to help excess moisture drain out. Sometimes you see people use gravel. But gravel’s extremely heavy, so this is a much smarter technique by using the peanuts.

And then I’m going to add soil. But I’m only going to add a little bit of soil at a time. Maybe 3 or 4 inches. That’s plenty. And then spread it out. I’m going to add some gelatin. This is just plain old gelatin you get at any supermarket. Add one pouch, just sprinkle it in. And what that’s going to do, it’s going to

retain the moisture, then release it slowly over time, which is going to ensure a nice, healthy plant.

And then you just keep repeating this. Add a little more soil. Spread it out. And another packet of gelatin. And you continue in this way until the bucket’s full. Mix it in. And once it’s full, pack it down a little bit and you’re ready to put in your plants.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re building a budget backyard greenhouse for my neighbor and friend Storey Walters, so she can continue to enjoy her gardening through the colder days of winter. Allen and I are working from a design I perfected 30 years ago to build and sell these things when my remodeling business was a little slow. We’ve nailed down the layout, and started making our cuts for the template wall. Now, it’s time to start piecing it all together. That’s 45, that’s that. That goes to that. Mmm-hmm. So, if that goes there, that goes there, then.

Allen Lyle: These two come together.

Danny Lipford: Well, pretty good, huh?

Allen Lyle: Mmm-hmm.

Danny Lipford: All right, so there’s really.

Allen Lyle: So, I need to just mirror this on this side?

Danny Lipford: Right.

Allen Lyle: Basically, all the cuts.

Danny Lipford: Right. The only thing would be whether or not we’re still…I don’t see where anything would throw it off side to side, even though it has. Let’s see, maybe…

Allen Lyle: We’re not square down there. I mean, it’s all going to come this way a little bit I think.

Danny Lipford: There. Okay, all right. Okay, good. All right, we’ll go ahead and do that, cut one more of those.

Allen Lyle: Right.

Danny Lipford: Same angle, one more of those, right. And we might be nailing then. Allen Lyle: All right.

Danny Lipford: So, while Allen makes the final cuts, I get the nail gun ready, so this thing can start going together. With this narrow stock, even with the nail gun, there are occasional miscues, some more painful than others. The first piece comes together fairly quickly. Well, just almost exactly. All we’ll need to do. Well, we got a 32 inch window just like the width of the door. We’ll have one 2 by 2 going down there for the bottom of the window. And then, that’s it. We can put this together. Put another one together, we can start assembling it down there.

With all the angles and lengths figured out, the other end goes together very quickly even with the addition of that extra piece for the bottom of the window. Now, we move to the location where the greenhouse will sit and begin filling in the framing between these two in-walls. By connecting the two ends with 8 foot 2 by 2s, we’re establishing the final footprint of the structure, but it’s a little tricky because the whole thing is very fragile at this point. This is actually the trickiest part of the whole thing. ‘Cause you just feel like it’s all going to fall over.

Right.

Danny Lipford: But it won’t. Not with you there. A total of five boards join the two ends before we can begin adding the vertical supports in the middle. At each step the structure gets a little more rigid and once the framing is finally done, we’re ready for Storey to give the location her final “Okay,” so we can begin leveling the ground.

Danny Lipford: All right, we pretty well have it framed up. And we can move it if you don’t like it. But this is where we talked about. Where you have the door here, and you got enough room to walk around it and everything. So, what… What do you think?

Storey Walters: I’m thinking it looks good, but I’m thinking we definitely want to move it.

Danny Lipford: All right.

Storey Walters: Because… You want to know why?

Danny Lipford: I hope we’re not… I hope we’re not moving it to the front yard.

Storey Walters: No, I’m just thinking, from looking up at my house, I’m not getting as much shelter from it. I’ve got this tree here and all that and it’s going to be kind of glaring with the door. The white door right there.

Danny Lipford: The big white door, yeah.

Storey Walters: So, maybe if we can flip it and have the door facing the north, and…

Danny Lipford: But none of this is important to you anyway, is it? All this stuff.

Storey Walters: Oh, it can be gone instantly. I have my shovel right there.

Danny Lipford: Well, I mean, there’s no problem. I mean, it’s level enough and everything. We can bring it back. Like I say it’s 8-foot by 8-foot, so if we wanted to come back, say, to here. Let’s see, Allen. Right there. So that would be where the front door is. There. If we did that.

Storey Walters: Okay. And I can just have a path come through there, and this azalea, that fig, and all this…I mean, if I fertilize it I’ll just get it nothing but bigger…

Danny Lipford: Yeah, and this is a little lower than that, too.

Storey Walters: And it’ll get a little more sun here, but it’s still going to get the shade ’cause of all the stuff, but it won’t bake.

Danny Lipford: Well, you’re the one that knows all about plants.

Storey Walters: Well, I don’t know about that.

Danny Lipford: We just throw these things together. But you know about building greenhouses. All right, we’ll do that. Let’s chop this stuff down. And we’ll move it in place. And then we can tweak it a little bit before we put the fiberglass on.

Storey Walters: Sounds good.

Danny Lipford: Okay. And you’re going to help us on that?

Storey Walters: I’m going to do it right now. All right.

Danny Lipford: All right. Great.

Danny Lipford: Clearing and leveling the new location goes very quickly because this fertile garden soil is so soft and apparently, we’re not the only ones who appreciate that.

Allen Lyle: Ooh, look at them earthworms.

Danny Lipford:  Earthworms. Yeah. You were right about your cardboard, Allen.

Allen Lyle: Yes, sir. See? You doubt me.

Danny Lipford: Moving is pretty easy too, because the skeleton structure hasn’t taken on much weight yet. After a little fine tuning, we’re set on the location.

Storey Walters: I think that looks a lot better. I think the door’s going to be…

Danny Lipford: We can move it back more if you want.

Storey Walters: And you’re probably glad I said that, so, you don’t have to just keep moving the frame around.

Danny Lipford: No. We can move it… We can move it back wherever you want, I mean, either way we’re probably going to have to cut that because we can’t put the glass back there. We can’t put the fiberglass back there like that.

Storey Walters: No, I can dig all that up.

Danny Lipford: Okay. You sure you like it where it is?

Storey Walters: Yeah. ‘Cause then I’ll just have my blood orange tree and then I don’t need anything else back there.

Danny Lipford: Okay. All right. Well, let’s level it up then. While we finish leveling the ground here, and brace the framework to hold it square, why don’t you check out this week’s Best New Product.

Jodi Marks: There are several different advantages to having a greenhouse. First of all, if you want to make your plants last all season long, when the weather starts to turn cold, all you got to do is bring your beautiful plants into your greenhouse, and they’ll last all year long. Now another thing that you could do is that you could use these little pots here, and you could plant your own seedlings, so that you could grow in your greenhouse.

Now, to get a good start for your seedlings, you need to get a good soil. Now, I’ve got Miracle-Gro Seed Starting soil right here. And this is perfect if you are considering growing your own plants out of seeds.

What makes this so good? Well, it’s chockfull of phosphorous, which really helps the root and the stem systems grow really strong in your little plants, so that they’ll be good and hardy to go when you want to put them in the ground. So, whether you have existing plants or you want to start your own plants, make sure you have a greenhouse, and also make sure you start with some good soil before you do.

Danny Lipford: Our project this week is a backyard budget greenhouse for my neighbor, Storey Walters. Allen and I got the framework assembled just in time for Storey to check our work.

Storey Walters: I’m thinking it looks good.

Danny Lipford: And make a few adjustments.

Storey Walters: I’m thinking we definitely want to move it.

Danny Lipford: Once we got that ironed out, we decided to call it a day. And now we’re ready to wrap this thing up. Well, we’re at start of the second day. Yesterday was brutal. It was, like, 97 degrees. Today, cool spell. Only 96, but a ton of humidity. But we got a little bit of shade down here where we positioned the greenhouse, so it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Now, the fiberglass that we’re using is a pretty traditional type of fiberglass. It’s corrugated. We’re using a green color because Storey wanted to try to camouflage and kind of hide the greenhouse as much as possible.

Now, Allen and I will be putting the fiberglass on the ends first. Squaring things up, we’ll trim it all out and then start with the main part of it starting at the top and wrapping it around. It really should only take about an hour and a half or so to put all the fiberglass on.

Danny Lipford: The panels are secured to the frame with self-tapping roofing screws. These things have a little rubber washer beneath the head, so that they seal the hole they go through once they’re tightened. As you go up the wall, each panel overlaps the one before it by a couple of rows and the whole greenhouse gets sturdier with each one. We’re overlapping the ends of the wall, so we can cut them all flush once each wall is complete.

A regular saw blade will make a mess of this stuff, so Allen is using an abrasive blade which basically burns through the panel. It also makes some incredibly fine dust which makes the particle mask a must if you try this project yourself. We’re covering the two ends first because the roof and sides have to overlap them. The roof starts with these foam gaskets which help seal off the gaps caused by the corrugations in the panel.

Danny Lipford: All right, we’re going to center this pretty much right over the top. You grab that. Let me see if I can walk it up the ladder here. You got it?

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Lining up the first roof panel with equal margins on each side of the ridge and a proper overhang on each end takes a little time, but it’s important, so all of the other pieces will follow suit. Once the first panel is in, the process speeds back up again. One panel after another, working down the roof onto the sides. Before we cover the sides completely, I’m cutting out the openings for the window and door. And figuring out a template for the shelf braces that’ll mount on the walls inside. The scrap pieces of 2 by 2 left over from the framing are ideal for this stuff.

Danny Lipford: All right, just a couple more of these shelf brackets.  You see where I’m talking about being able to use up every scrap? That’s why I was able to sell it for $395.

Allen Lyle: Sure.

Danny Lipford: I was recycling before it was hip and cool. We’re mounting these braces to each side support with three-inch long screws, so that the horizontal leg is level. Another 8-foot 2 by 2 connects the supports across the front before we mount the three 1 by 4s that form the shelf. The gaps between the boards are actually a benefit because they let water drain off the shelf when you water the plants.

Finally we’re putting on the last panel before we begin installing the window. For this chore, you’ll need similar screws to the ones we used on the fiberglass panels. Just a little longer. To keep weeds from popping up inside, I’m spreading a layer of plastic inside the greenhouse before we spread the gravel that would form the floor. It’s easier to get your wheelbarrow in if you do this before you hang the door.

Danny Lipford: Now, that’s about the heaviest storm doors you’ve ever seen. Gee whiz.

Allen Lyle: I had a different one in mind.

Danny Lipford: Nice and insulated there, so. Okay, so let’s see. You want to do it that way or, or just close it off? Close it first.

Allen Lyle: Close it, yeah.

Danny Lipford: Close it and hold it over to that side.

Allen Lyle: All right.

Danny Lipford: It’s important that the door is plumb, or perfectly vertical before it’s attached, so that it’ll operate properly. A few more screws and this thing will be done.

Gerald Asks: I want to stain my new treated lumber deck, but I’m told I have to wait several weeks. Is that true?

Danny Lipford: Whether you have an old deck or a brand new one, it’s important to regularly apply a stain or sealer, so that you can keep your deck looking as good as possible and lasting as long as it should. But with the new deck, the new wood needs a little time to allow the chemicals or the moisture in the wood to evaporate a little bit, so that it will receive the stain or sealer in the best way possible.

Now, a lot of factors play into that, whether or not the material was stored outside at the lumber yard, how long ago it was that they actually treated the wood, and whether your deck is out in the sun or in the shade. So, as a general rule, I would say, wait at least four weeks after your deck is built, or eight weeks if you’re in a real shady situation. That way, when you apply the stain or sealer, it’ll stay there.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re getting a jump on the cold weather by building a backyard budget greenhouse before it’s really needed. We’ve been working from a design I used 30 years ago to create a place for my neighbor Storey to start her spring garden a little earlier next year. Using 2 by 2 lumber for the frame and fiberglass panels for the skin we’ve created an 8 foot by 8 foot oasis from the frigid weather. And we’ve done it on a pretty meager budget. Although it’s not quite as cheap as it was 30 years ago.

Danny Lipford:  All right, Storey, I want to show you around your greenhouse area here. Here we got a little pine straw we were able to dress up around here. Nice insulated storm door. This one has the panel that slides up and down. So that during the winter you’ll close it off but during the summer, open it up, have a little cross ventilation between here and the window. Gravel so that you can water everything and not be standing around in mud. And the little shelves on either side will give you a chance to put the little bedding trays up there and so forth.

Storey Walters: I think it looks absolutely fabulous. I can see starting my vegetables really early and by the time I need to put them in the yard in March I’ll be so ahead of the game.

Danny Lipford: Kind of get a jumpstart on everything. And I know during the winter, a lot of times, people will take their big container plants… And you know, you have plenty of vertical room there, you can put that right in there. You’ll probably need just a small little heater with a thermostat setting for the real harsh part of the winter. Just to put a little bit of a heat source in there.

Storey Walters: Okay, I think it looks great.

Danny Lipford: Good, good.

Storey Walters: And I really like the location.

Danny Lipford: Oh, you do? Oh, that’s excellent.

Danny Lipford: Call you an apprentice all day long. Apprentice.

Allen Lyle: The only reason is because you have this schematic in your 32-year-old memory that you are not sharing with anyone.

Danny Lipford: I know. ‘Cause it’s a little . . . it’s a little faded.

Allen Lyle: You missed one.

Danny Lipford: Good. I do that on purpose. Let me explain why.

Allen Lyle: Yeah, explain that.

Danny Lipford: I can’t explain now, it’s too hot!

Allen Lyle: Yeah.