greenhouse structure

Ultimate Guide On Different Types Of Greenhouse Structures

In Types by Ana M

It’s extremely important to choose or to build a greenhouse for your property so it will get all available sunlight.

There are many factors to consider but first of all, you should choose the right greenhouse structure.

Read on to learn about the greenhouse types along with their advantages and disadvantages.

What are the different types of greenhouse structures?

All hobby greenhouses can be divided into two types – attached and freestanding. Subsequently, each of these structures come in different shapes and styles, including:

  • Even-span
  • Lean-to
  • Uneven-span
  • Quonset/Hoop-house
  • Gothic arch
  • Conventional/Post-and-Rafter
  • A-frame
  • Cold Frame and Hotbed

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different types of greenhouse structures

Probably the hardest decision to make is whether you want an attached or a freestanding greenhouse.

Let’s discuss what these are and what’s the difference!

What is an attached greenhouse?

The attached greenhouse as its name suggests is connected to the building. One of the striking pros of having this type is using fewer building materials than it’s required for a freestanding structure.

Also, the heating and ventilation tools can be used to maintain your home. However, it comes with a major drawback – it’s hard to control the temperature within the greenhouse.

Moreover, the building can shade the attached greenhouse and limit the light required by plants.

You can get an attached greenhouse in two shapes: lean-to and even-span.

Lean-to or Even-span Attached Greenhouse?

Lean-to attached greenhouse is usually set up on the south-facing side of the building and the ridge of the roof connects to the building. This type of greenhouse is easy and cheap to heat especially if you live in a cold climate.

On the other hand, an even-span greenhouse provides more space for plant growth. Why? Because the end wall is fully attached to the house and the rafters are of equal length.

Another con of the even-span attached greenhouse is in the actual cost of the building and heating the construction in comparison to the lean-to type.

Therefore, you might just invest the same money into a freestanding greenhouse. However, don’t forget that water and electricity are easily reachable when the greenhouse is in the building.

To sum up, both lean-to and even-span attached greenhouse structures encounter the same problem – shadowing. The shadowing of the house they are attached to leads to the reduction of sunlight.

Window Mounted Greenhouse

I came across this construction recently. This structure attaches to the window frame on a south-facing side of the house wall.

It is a good option for a gardener with a limited space or for someone who lives in a flat and wants to grow some herbs throughout the year.

Moreover, the structure is very little and compact, easy to heat and inexpensive to maintain.

What is a freestanding greenhouse?

A freestanding greenhouse is a separate structure that is made of sidewalls, end walls and has a roof. In comparison to an attached greenhouse, a freestanding structure provides more space to grow a variety of plants, allows more sunlight and its environment is easier to control.

Similar to the attached types, freestanding greenhouse can be in even-span and lean-to shapes. I am going to compare these two first and then move onto describing further freestanding models.

What is the best shape for a greenhouse?

The best shape for a greenhouse depends on your needs – whether you want to grow tall plants or need different growing zones. Generally, if you live in a country where it’s snowing, a hoop house or a gothic shaped greenhouse are the best options as they can hold heavy snow loads and are easier to clean.

Even-Span Freestanding Greenhouse

The structure is characterized by the equally sized rafters, roof truss and self-supporting construction. Here is an example of an even-span freestanding greenhouse:

even-span freestanding greenhouse

It is one of my favorite hobby greenhouses picks – Juliana Compact Greenhouse which is available on Greenhouse Emporium. What I like about it is that you can choose between two different types of glazing – 3mm toughened glass and 10mm Polycarbonate glazing.

You can easily recognize an even-span structure by a traditional gable (a triangle between the sides of the sloped roof). It is the most common type of greenhouse because it utilizes the maximum amount of sunlight.

Also, lots of space allows growing wide range of plants whilst maintaining the best conditions. However, even-span type usually requires floor-to-ceiling glass panels and aluminum frame for an extra support.

Uneven-Span Freestanding Greenhouse

It is a complete opposite of the even-span type as the rafters are unequal and the structure is not self-supported. This is ideal to be built on a hillside placement.

greenhouse structure uneven span

The advantage of the lean-to freestanding greenhouse is in the maximization of the sunlight but the disadvantage is in the difficulty to work in it due to the limited space and orientation of the greenhouse.

Okay, now let’s move to the next types.

Quonset/Hoop-house Greenhouse

This structure is characterized by a curved roof and military hut-style design. The hoops are usually made of aluminum or PVC pipes and glazed with a polyethylene film or panels for a better insulation. In simple words – plastic film is stretched across a series of metal hoops.

hoophouse or quonset greenhouse

The sidewalls are set up quite low which limits the storage space and headroom. This is probably the cheapest and easiest type to build that’s why I like it. You can buy it on Amazon for around 200$ or build it yourself. Use this book and build a hoop greenhouse from scratch!

The characteristic hoop appearance is very useful to roll off the accumulation of snow and water from the top. It is good for low-growing crops like lettuce or strawberries. However, I would recommend using it for growing tomatoes and cucumbers.

A hoop-house doesn’t have to be cheap! If you are a fan of a hoop shape and want to invest in a quality material, then get a Solexx Gerdener’s Oasis Greenhouse from Greenhouse Emporium. For a reasonable price you get an advanced double-walled SolexxTM paneling which is guaranteed to last for 10 years+.

Gothic Arch Greenhouse Structure

This is the most aesthetically pleasing structure of the greenhouse I have ever seen (my personal choice). The design is characterized by the walls bent over to form a pointed roof inspired by the windows of the Gothic cathedrals all over the world.

greenhouse structure gothic arch

It is quite a wide greenhouse and is convenient for anyone who wants to grow plants in the rows, on the shelves and hang the pots within the same structure. It is very similar to the Quonset type and carries the same functionality described above.

gothic arch greenhouse structure

Also, it is heat conservative because of the minimal heat exposure. The shape of the structure ensures that snow loads just slide off the sides. I recommend buying a Hoklartherm Riga 4 Greenhouse for anyone living in cold climates with severe winds.

A-Frame Greenhouse Structure

In my opinion, it is the simplest and easiest structure to set up and it looks really cute as well! The design lets you to save up on the construction materials and is perfect for a little backyard garden.

All you need to do is to combine roof and sidewalls together to form a signature triangular structure. The major drawback which you might encounter is a poor air circulation in the corners.

Conventional/Post-and-Rafter Greenhouse

I think that post-and-rafter greenhouses are quite popular as many gardeners go specifically for this type. Why? Well, the construction is relatively simple and is probably the strongest one out of all types. Moreover, the structure is very practical.

conventional greenhouse

With conventional greenhouse you use space and heat efficiently. Also, with this structure you can significantly cut down winter heat loss. If you are after this greenhouse, I recommend Riverstone Monticello Greenhouse 8×12. I am thrilled that it has built-in gutter system for easy rainwater collection!

This is due to the rafter which provides extra support to the roof especially during the winter. However, it makes the whole construction heavier requiring a strong frame which is more expensive. If you go for a conventional greenhouse, then you have to build a foundation for it.

Cold frame, hotbed and mini greenhouses

These are the basic greenhouses. Don’t confuse them with a term a mini-greenhouses. Mini-greenhouses are glazed homemade or professional boxes. These can be either tall or short and can be oriented vertically or horizontally.

That is a good example of a mini-greenhouse. It is ideally designed for seed starting. Want to learn what can you grow in a mini-greenhouse? I put together a list of all plants that can do well in this greenhouse.

What is a cold frame? It’s basically a ventilated box which is placed flat on the ground and has a glazed, sloping lid. It is perfect for raised beds in the spring to warm up the soil. You can buy a sturdy wooden cold frame for just 100$ from Amazon.

greenhouse structure mini-greenhouse hot bed cold frame

What is a hotbed then? In simple words it’s a heated cold frame. The heating methods vary from using light bulbs, hot water and steam to manure and electric cables. So, choosing which one you need depends on the vegetables you want to grow.

What can you grow in a hotbed?

Cold frame is ideal for cold-loving plants, for example cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. If you are planning to grow heat-loving plants like peppers, tomatoes and eggplants a hotbed is a perfect option.

Once you made up your mind about the greenhouse structure you can start thinking about frame and glazing materials.

So, these are the main types of greenhouses please let me know in the comments which ones do you like or which greenhouse structure you have in your backyard.

I hope you found this article interesting and follow me on Pinterest for more greenhousing tips and tricks.

Let me know in the comments section what is your favorite greenhouse type?

Happy Growing Everyone 🙂

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