Greenhouse Construction, Part One

Brief book unpacking update: I unpacked the last box of books shortly after Thanksgiving. We had a small gathering with only a few really close friends and it was really nice.

And now. The greenhouse.

The day after Thanksgiving, some folks showed up and cleaned up the site and broke the rough bits off the walls (which will be tiled).

Finished greenhouse walls

That's a finished greenhouse base. For those who may be curious, the tall base wall is because I don't want every inch of the greenhouse to be relentless sunshine. A high-humidity warm environment with low sunlight replicates a lot of understory jungle conditions. Hence the taller base walls than usual.

We still had a ton of work to do setting up the condo for my parents so it wasn't until yesterday that we were able to start assembling the greenhouse itself on the base.

Uncrating the parts

The greenhouse was delivered in a bunch of crates, and we stored them improperly so they got wet. Not a huge deal because the greenhouse itself is made of redwood and we always intended to paint it, so some staining is not an issue. But if you might have your permit delayed for six months by a vindictive, sexist permit tech who likes yelling, you'll want to store it better than we did if you want a more natural wood look.

We got started by opening all the crates and figuring out where the parts were that we needed to start with. The first step is to build the front and back walls, then you build the roof panels.

Building the back wall

The process of assembling the kit was fairly straightforward if you have some carpentry experience. I'm pretty sure it would have been challenging if we had never built anything before, and for sure I would not have wanted to do it alone. I'm not even sure that would be possible.

Alignment tool from the manufacturer

Sturdi-Built includes a couple mockups of the wall and roof assemblies that help you orient pieces correctly, and also this great little alignment tool that helps you get the vertical pieces aligned right so the glass channels line up. This mostly worked great except a couple pieces were a little weird.

Assembling the front wall

When we built the walls, it was really clear why they sent them unassembled; they are large and quite floppy.

The first day, we basically uncrated most of the parts and assembled the front and back walls and the roof (the side walls came fully assembled, which was nice).

Today, the next step in the instructions was to put the wall panels in place, so we started with the front wall and the north wall (the house side).

Putting the wall panels of the greenhouse in place

A prefabricated greenhouse is obviously much easier to build than a scratch greenhouse, so in a fairly short time we had all four wall panels up and tacked together (you avoid tightening any fasteners between the panels until the whole thing is plumbed and squared).

All four walls in place

Next up was the roof. First we put in the two large beams that support the roof span, then the four panels of the roof notched into place.

Making the built-up ridge board

The roof is made in four panels, with what ends up being a built-up ridge board at the top (a ridge board is a non-structural board at the peak of the roof; the structure of this greenhouse is the two large beams we put in earlier that at lower than the peak). The panels are basically one-third and two-thirds of the width of the roof on both sides of the ridge board, and offset so that there's a decent lap. You then bolt the pieces together through pre-drilled holes.

Before we bolted the ridge board together, I was concerned that the roof pieces were going to take a lot of fiddling to get to the right place, but that process sort of snapped everything to roughly the right place and it will take much less fiddling than I expected.

Biting nuts for the built-up ridge board

The bolts for the ridge board have these biting nuts that will not loosen over time, which was pretty interesting. Noel asked me "do you want me to line them up in the same direction?" and I said yes. This is what a couple decades of marriage is like.

Greenhouse frame with roof panels in place

One thing we have to do at a less than ideal time is install the roof vents. They ended up overlapping the seams between the panels on both sides of the roof, so none of them could be installed at grade (unless we wanted to assemble the whole roof on the ground and lift it as a whole into place which I definitely did not want to try to do). So we're going to have to get up there on ladders and put the three roof vents in the right places which will be a bit of a pain.

Next up is installing the doors, then we plumb and square the whole thing. After that we will pause construction so I can seal and paint the whole frame.

posted by ayse on 12/05/21

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