Greenhouse as part of home

ohiohomesteadJanuary 26, 2014

I'm looking to add a greenhouse to the cabin I'm currently building and had a few questions that Google couldn't seem to answer for me...

I'd like the greenhouse to actually feel like part of the home itself, so I guess my questions start at:

Can you have an attached, open air-flow greenhouse in your home without moisture causing damage to the rest of the house? I know with Earthship homes, they tend to have indoor greenhouses, but they're also not homes constructed of wood, so I wasn't sure how that would work.

Also, branching off that question, what floor would I need to accomplish this? Could I build directly over dirt or would I need a subfloor of some sort? I've been thinking a cement floor for the majority of the time I've been planning this, but I would prefer no subfloor if possible.

Has anyone here done anything like this? Or know anyone who has with any photos or video I could check out?
Thanks in advance for any insight!

This post was edited by ohiohomestead on Sun, Jan 26, 14 at 8:50

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It depends on what you are growing in the greenhouse, its size compared to the rest of the building, and how it is ventilated and connected to the living area.

If you want to grow high-humidity tropicals ... it's a problem.

If you want to have ordinary house plants, succulents, and start your summer veggies in there, it's less of a problem.

You also have to have a plan for dealing with heat buildup in the summers.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 8:53AM
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I wasn't planning anything too tropical, was just hoping to keep everyday vegetables(tomatoes, peppers, herbs, etc) going year round. I was contemplating French doors into the greenhouse, that way I could shut them come summer when it gets too warm.

The cabin is 32x12 with 10ft sidewalls and an 8ft gambrel roof. It's pretty much completely open with cathedral ceilings(if that matters). I was hoping for a 20x10 greenhouse coming off the back of the home.

And as far as ventilation, I have no build plans yet and would be open to whatever it takes to make it happen. I was leaning polycarbonate walls if that plays into this at all.

This post was edited by ohiohomestead on Sun, Jan 26, 14 at 9:18

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 9:17AM
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I'd second lazygarden's thoughts, and toss in a few new ones...

What are your expectations regarding pulling heat from the GH for the house? In cold climates, a rough rule of thumb is that you can't use the GH to heat the house, and still have the GH self heat too. But if the GH and house are open to each other, then your house heating system can help heat the GH. Integrated GHs do have the advantage that you can use the house's thermal mass for storage.

One of the aspects often not considered about integrated GHs is the GH operations, the necessity of spraying and fertilizing and the effect they may have on the house. Even using organic methods, GH growing will likely require the use of some sprays and predator insects. And the use of manures or other not so house friendly things in the soil. How will those work inside (or very near) the house living spaces?

You mentioned growing tomatoes year round. Unless you are just talking just one plant, that will likely create a fairly humid GH environment for sharing with the house. (Which can be an advantage during NE heating season, but can pose problems too).

I would think that you could build the GH with a dirt floor, however you'd still want an insulated perimeter several feet down, to thermally decouple the dirt under the GH from the outside in the winter. Especially if the GH is integrated with your living space. Certainly dirt (or dirt with gravel/stone over it) would be cheaper than concrete. However depending upon the perimeter foundation, this may lead to rodents coming in. The air humidity level is mostly due to the living plants giving off moisture, not the floor material. Although if you are in a very wet location with a high ground water level, that may dictate another solution.

My general impression is that those people who like having an integrated GH in their home, generally don't do intensive GH growing. Their GH use is primarily ornamentals or a few fruiting plants and perennials. They are not using the GH as a typical GH grower would, maximizing the planting space and trying to get significant production out of it. Even if you aren't going commercial, if you plan on having year round vegie production in there, there will be quite a bit of GH growing activities going on, many of which may not be compatible with a living space.

Heat build up in the summer will be something you will need to plan for. It will happen and if there is not other means to remove the heat, it would move into the house, especially if they are open to each other, but even with doors closed. Probably not something you would want. You will likely need active ventilation (fans and vents), and possibly shade cloth too. Also the noise of the fans might be something to consider regarding an integrated design.

I think the french door idea is a good one. That way you have the option of isolating the GH from the house if/when you need to. And if you find you keep them open all the time, then they could eventually be removed.

Also, depending upon how the GH and house would share a wall may make quite a difference as to how these potential issues come into play. If they are sharing a long wall, then the effect will be quite a bit more than if they share just a small/end wall or corner.

Anyway, a few things to consider. Good luck on the project sounds like a fun one.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 6:21PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

My main concern in Ohio is moisture damage in the house or walls between. In winter it's going to be very humid in that greenhouse if you have anything much growing. All that humidity can do major damage. Don't take that issue lightly as some other posters here have come to regret.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 6:40PM
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