My previous post – The Recycling Cycle – paid tribute to our former greenhouse as an inspirational example of a DIY project made with mostly recycled materials. Today I’ll share the history of how it came to live at Stonehaven.
We called it "The Greenhouse" – but it really served us more as a storage building, mainly to keep the rain and snow off gardening tools, store extra beekeeping equipment and to provide off-season storage for the snowblower and lawn tractor. It even briefly served as a paint shop for railings and other long pieces when we added our pet-gated veranda several years ago.
Boat shed beginnings
The bow-roof design resembles an upside down boat hull – similar to this one (photo on right) built using these plans from Stimson Marine in Boothbay Maine.
The bow shape is perfect for northern locations and easily handles our winters of heavy snow thanks to the steep slope and wide ribs.
The wood ribs on our greenhouse were cut from salvaged 2×3’s – that previously served as a floor in a building owned by the provincial Department of Natural Resources. The ribs are made from two 3/8" x 2 1/2" strips ripped from the long 2x3s with spacer blocks glued and screwed in between. A clamping jig was used to form the arches and make them a consistent shape.
The tops of a pair of aches were connected with a plywood gusset and the bottoms were bolted to a 2×3 T-rail that sat on the ground with the tail of the T facing up. The ribs were connected to each other with more 2 1/2 x 3/8 strips screwed to the ribs along the peak and sides as well as running diagonally from top to bottom across several ribs to add strength.
The previously-used greenhouse plastic also came from the same Government department, so it was likely close to 25 years old when it finally blew out last winter.
Since this was never meant to be a long-term structure – it was built with easy disassembly in mind – using lots of drywall screws and no nails.
Transplanting the Greenhouse
In 1997, my brother-in-law wanted to build a garage so he disassembled his boat shed and kindly delivered the components to Stonehaven to be resurrected as our greenhouse.
The original structure never had a floor or doors on the ends so I decided to add a few ‘home improvements’ to suit it’s new use. Sadly, besides the picture above, most of the pictures that show the interior construction are the ones I took while I was tearing it down.
Since I was placing the structure directly on a grass field with no fill, I used several pressure-treated 4x4’s to make a rectangular ‘foundation’ for it to sit on.
The floor was mostly made from hardwood shipping pallets picked off the ‘free-for-the-taking’ pile at a local home building supply centre. Before laying in the pallets, I put down a two-inch layer of old newspapers and cardboard to prevent the weeds from growing up through my makeshift ‘parquet’ floor. Odd sections and narrow spaces were filled in with odds and ends of material including part of and old sundeck that was past it’s prime.
Over time, I filled in the gaps between the pallet boards with strips of wood leftover from other woodworking projects.
The end shown in the pictures faces the house and is the primary entrance. The board and batten siding and large wood door were made from rough sawn cedar that I bought for the purpose from a local sawmill.
I roughed in an opening for a wide wood door and an old storm door that used to be on the house. With both doors open I could drive the lawn tractor inside and park it for the winter to free up space in the garage for the car. The opposite end just had two large wood frames covered with greenhouse plastic hinged to open for ventilation and access to beekeeping equipment in the summer months.
Workbench & Shelves
I built a potting bench along the entire 24 foot length on one side using 1×3 spruce strapping which is relatively cheap and perfect for a rough structure like this. The legs of the bench were 2×3 spruce and the bench was anchored to the ribs to further strengthen the whole structure. I also built some tall storage shelves on the other side at one end out of 1×3 strapping.
Salvaging the remains
Since it was sited on a gently sloping piece of land, the greenhouse always had a bit of a tilt which had gotten more noticeable over the years as wind and gravity took their toll. I didn’t know if the whole thing would pancake on me during demolition, so I started dismantling at the ‘uphill’ end with the board and batten siding. I have an idea for repurposing the large wooden door so I kept it in once piece.
The ribs, bracing and sills were toast and destined for the burn pile. Along with the hinges and aluminum vents, I was able to salvage most of the rough cedar boards, 1 x 3 strapping and 2 x 3 bench supports. The floor is still in place and relatively weed-free so I’ll probably use it as a base for another temporary structure.
Since the salvaged wood has been well-weathered and subjected to a lot of moisture and temperature extremes it’s not suitable for indoor use so it will live out the rest of it’s new and repurposed life in the great outdoors.