Greenhouse - garden shed

Steven Laurin & CompanyDecember 15, 2009

My wife has had an ongoing interest with her flower beds for a few years and recently, after a long hiatus, I have rekindled my interests in vegetable gardening. Because of this, one of my visions was to have a small greenhouse somewhere in our back yard. Initially, I think its use will be for starting seedlings to transplant to our gardens.

IÂm very aware of what is available, in both stock and semi-custom models. But I am not about to drop thousands of dollars into a high-end model, especially since weÂre not sure if this new greenhouse hobby will take off or not. Then what do we do with an expensive glass house in the back yard - scorching hot in the summer and a "polar room" in the winter? I also decided to not take the potential risk of a dismal disappointment with an "economy" kit.

My carpentry skills are above average - not much I havenÂt tried building, and architecturally, IÂm certainly able. Therefore, IÂve explored several variations of a small, custom greenhouse structure, nothing fancy, but well-built, functional and with luck, attractive to both us and our neighbors. It will eventually have supplemental heat and I am not yet convinced on going totally passive solar - the growing space is small and there is not much space for storage systems.

Another design consideration, was the effect of my obsession with tools and lawn + garden machines. TheyÂve filled up the existing 10' x 22' shed I had built - attached to the house a few years ago. The garage is for our cars and my workshop tools - so thereÂs a definite need for another storage shed. Why not combine the shed with the proposed greenhouse?

The link below opens some basic drawings I've done to date. TheyÂre certainly not as complete as what I would prepare for a client. The purpose of course, is for obtaining a building permit and for use in building this myself. Also, the materialÂs list includes stuff I had collected through the years, so the design is somewhat specific to these material profiles and dimensions. The footprint also maximizes the zoning exception for sheds to be built as close as 3'-0" to the rear property line - any larger and it would need to be set back 20 feet. My plan, if all goes well, is to start construction early next summer - plenty of time for planning.

If youÂd wish, please feel free to offer comments, suggestions or critiques. After all, greenhouses are not my specialty and I welcome any ideas I have overlooked to improve upon this humble little garden structure.

Here is a link that might be useful: Greenhouse/garden shed drawings

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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

So, when are you going to come over to my place and start construction?!

Seriously, it looks great. What type of heating/cooling system are you planning?

Are you planning to use the shed attached as any type of heat sink or thermal mass for the GH?

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 8:44AM
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Steven Laurin & Company

eagles . . . anytime, if you're willing to pay my hourly billing rate? :-)

I actually haven't yet settled upon a heating system and aside from natural convection, not sure if cooling will be an issue in coastal RI. I thought a small, thermostatically controlled warm air propane gas heater would be efficient and could store the propane cylinder on CMU blocks behind the shed. But - open to other suggestions.

The shed serves as a very efficient buffer from our prevailing N-NW winds. I am considering the various material options for use with the separating, north wall - which currently is planned as an insulated stud wall with a T&G wood finish on the greenhouse side. I suppose as an option, this wall could be veneered with brick - for use as a thermal mass. I may even have enough used brick on hand to do this.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 9:20AM
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The plan looks awesome! I saw another greenhouse attached to a shed where the owner used the shed as an "airlock." They would enter through a door in the shed to minimize winter air from entering the greenhouse. It might be something to think on but your plans look great!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 11:25AM
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Steven Laurin & Company

That is a great idea dv - thanks for suggesting it. I did consider that earlier, but thought the additional door would reduce GH bench space.

A single access door however, positioned in the center of the back wall, may work out better with a U-shaped bench plan. I never liked the looks of the side door to the GH anyway and replacing it with a trapezoid window - as on the east elevation, would allow more afternoon light to enter.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 11:35AM
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You know d a m n well I will pick on you right? LOL

1. Add skylight to shed so that you don't need lights in the shed during the day.
2. Vapor barrier so that moisture from the greenhouse will not get your tools in the shed rusty.

A beatiful project !


    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 11:44AM
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Steven Laurin & Company

Was waiting for your comments dc :)

My initial thought was that the two awning windows on the north wall may be sufficient for light. The skylight idea though is a good one - which I may still end up doing.

I will be incorporating a polyethylene vapor barrier on the warm side of the insulated wall - that's a definite given. Excessive moisture is actually another reason I didn't have door access from the shed. But the door of course, if I choose to include it or use as a replacement to the other one, would not be left open.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 11:58AM
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Nice design. I was thinking of doing exactly the same thing for the same reasons; equipment and supplies needing storage, greenhouse attached. I'm going to do a similar design scaled up to a 12x24 garage size, maybe slightly wider to accomodate benches. My garden power equipment would fill a one-car garage, so that's part of my problem.

My zoning allows a 900sf outbuilding to be built without having to involve the PZ board. That would be a three car garage; one for the equipment, one for the truck, one for the greenhouse.

As an alternative to a skylight, window high up in the wall between the GH and the shop might help with light.

Near to where I live is a shed that has been added onto three times. The result is something akin to the New England Vernacular type of structure; a rustic, rambling and very attractive little structure with lots of architectural elements. I have dreams of recreating that sort of cunning little potting shed/shop, to include some basic facilities like plumbing. It would make a nice retreat.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 4:19PM
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Steven Laurin & Company

The shed near you live reminds me of a book in my personal library on NE connected farm buildings - "Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn". I actually have a current design client who desires a very large custom house that gives a visitor the sense that it has been expanded through necessity, but with everything connected. Your vision sounds very charming.

I can build an outbuilding by right (w/o going through PZ) up to 25% of my lots' total area - minus the main house + garage - which equates to about a 5,000 sf shed/greenhouse. But, it would have to be 20 ft from the rear property line, instead of 3 ft with my current footprint. I do not need a structure that big, since we already have a 2.5 car garage and 10 x 22 shed, and my gardens would be compromised with that setback. Although, as you most likely know, we never have enough space for our toys :).

I like your idea of a high window between the shed and greenhouse - or a half-glass door connecting the two spaces - would be great for light, and/or a transom over the door. I also like the relationship of a potting/garden tool shed - perhaps open to the greenhouse with French doors via a set of steps. Thanks for the ideas.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 7:49PM
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Steven Laurin & Company

. . . near WHERE you live.

At home now with the Cabernet sauvignon influence. ;-)

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 7:55PM
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Julia NY(6)

I read your post and was wondering if you ever completed your design and got to build your structure?


    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 3:46PM
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Steven Laurin & Company

Hi Julia,

For the past few months, I had forgoten all about this thread . . . and gardenweb as well. Got frustrated with all the advertisements and outdated forum formats here.

Additionally, my focus has been with my clients for the past year - been very busy. But, I have been very active with our vegetable gardens during the spring-summer months as well. As with most here, gardening is a zen release for me, recharges the imagination and enables me to take a break from the "drawing boards".

Needless to say, I did not build the shed-greenhouse structure yet . . . only virtually on my 3D program. There's a link below to some screenshots of the computer model and 2 pics of the organic veggie garden - taken about mid-summer.

Here it is mid-November in RI and we're still harvesting and freeze-storing veggies and herbs.

The structure is still in my list of things to build - just need to find the time. I just may get the foundation started before the ground freezes - so I may work on it in the coming weeks/months, during down-time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Virtual Greenhouse-shed + 2010 garden

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 7:40PM
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Can I ask: What CAD program is that?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 10:59PM
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Steven Laurin & Company


That model was done fairly quickly in SketchUp-Pro about a year ago - not as realistic as using AutoCad Revit - but much simpler, intuitively faster to work with . . . and much less expensive - $4k. The basic SU version is of course, free.

BTW, resolution of those jpeg images was greatly reduced for online sharing and (as you have most likely discovered with your SU experience) the proprietary landscape textures provided with the program are embarrassingly bad.

I've since modified the material palettes with custom textures I've photographed/converted and have greatly improved on the process - use the latest version almost exclusively for 3D schematic design, at times integrating models with actual site and aerial photos.

Goes without saying - clients appreciate experiencing real-time walkthroughs and flyovers - enabling more efficient decision making. Animated videos, although somewhat time-consuming, are great sharing tools as well - especially when recorded on DVDs.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 9:00AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)


I can't wait to see the finished product! I notice that you removed the door on the end of the greenhouse, in favor of the door to enter the greenhouse from the shed. I think that was a good idea...more bench space, without reducing walking space.

Have you considered your flooring material in the greenhouse? There have been quite a few discussions in this forum over the years about this. Secondly, are there any plans for heating during the winter months, and cooling in the summer?

Below I've included a link on a subterranean heating and cooling system. Your structure certainly isn't on the scale that this individual normally operates, but his ideas are certainly very intriguing (at least to me). Imagine hooking his set-up to a solar panel system and having a FREE TO USE heating and cooling system for your greenhouse. Larger initial investment, obviously, but in the long run it would pay for itself a few times over, I would suspect in energy savings.

Here is a link that might be useful: Subterranean heating and cooling system

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 9:57AM
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Julia NY(6)

archdiver: Wow, seeing in 3D really brings it to life. Too bad you didn't get to start it. I've been wanting a greenhouse/garden shed for a couple of years and kept searching around for the perfect design plans and yours seemed to fit what I was looking for.
It looks to me like the length which includes both the greenhouse and shed is 16' (8 + 8) but what is your width, 12'?
Your garden looks great too.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 4:49PM
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Thanks, ArchDiver. It's really impressive to see what a pro can do with Sketchup.

For a wanker like me, the free SU has been great. I've used it on several projects, including a kitchen and bath remodel. But boy does my stuff look crummy compared to yours.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 1:12AM
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Thank for the such a wonderful post. I'll defiantly apply your ideas.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 6:04AM
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