Designing a Greenhouse: Different Materials, Structures, and Designs


How do you know what the right greenhouse or glasshouse is for you? What factors should you take into consideration?

One of the first things you need to decide is what you intend to do with your greenhouse. A greenhouse is often used to extend the growing season so you can plant year-round. You can grow seedlings, new houseplants, and all kinds of fruits and vegetables in this controlled environment. You can have a mini greenhouse next to your home to grow chillies, basil, and other seedlings.

Greenhouse Materials

Polycarbonate vs Glass

Greenhouses are built with polycarbonate panels while glasshouses, as the name suggests, are created with glass. Cheaper tunnel houses are simply covered with a type of greenhouse plastic film. Most gardeners already have their own preferences about which type of material to use.

Glass is advantageous to polycarbonate panels for its clarity and longevity. Glass panels are also easier to replace. Many gardeners improve the quality and durability of their glass by using toughened instead of standard glass. They may also add a safety film over the glass to prevent it from shattering.

On the other hand, some find that polycarbonate greenhouses are the superior option, for their durability and heat retention properties. These panels can diffuse light and ensure plants don’t overheat in the summer. Twin wall panels can be incorporated to improve thermal efficiency within polycarbonate structures.

Aluminium vs Timber

There are two types of greenhouse frames. Aluminium frames are corrosion resistant and require little maintenance. They can be powder or colour coated to blend with the garden. Timber, on the other hand, is less durable and generally more expensive than aluminium.

Recycled Materials

More environmentally conscious gardeners choose to build their greenhouses with recycled or secondhand materials. For instance, some will install polycarbonate panels then use recycled windows and doors to eliminate the need for brand new structures.

Greenhouse Structures


Some gardeners put up a shade cloth or whitewash paint over their greenhouse to prevent overheating in the summer. They also hang blinds below the polycarbonate panels to diffuse light. If you follow these practices, ensure you’re not compromising the amount of light entering your greenhouse for optimal plant growth.


With lightweight greenhouses, the foundation can simply be the soil or grass. But for heavier ones, the framework is better kept in place with a solid and secure base. This can reduce the risk of wind or rain damage, as well as the rotting of timber frames. Some gardeners incorporate heavy-duty anchors to further ensure the greenhouse remains fixed to a concrete, brick, or timber base.

Greenhouse Design

Woman inside a greenhouse

After you decide on the materials and structures you want to include in your greenhouse, you can think about design and how you want it to look. Greenhouse models can include Victorian style structures or modest cold frames, depending on your personal preferences. Many home gardeners prefer to match the aesthetic of their greenhouses to the style of their home and garden. The design you end up choosing should not interfere with the practical use of your greenhouse.

Your greenhouse can prove highly beneficial for you if you design it in a way that successfully furthers your purpose.

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