When it comes to framing out the end walls of your greenhouse, it can be all too easy to overthink what should really be an easy procedure - end walls go up, get covered, and get to work.
But as simple as it might seem, there’s a good reason so many greenhouse owners find themselves struggling to decide on an end wall design. That’s where we come in - helping to make your end wall build as easy as possible, so you can get to work growing your best harvest yet.
Here’s a look at how to simplify your end wall framing without sacrificing any of the strength, style, or superior performance on your high tunnel - because all it takes is a little planning and you’ll be on your way to a finished greenhouse easier than you might think.
First, Choose Your Design
Although often overlooked as a particularly personalized element of your greenhouse construction, your end walls actually offer a unique opportunity to show a little creativity while matching your intended function.
From the materials you’ll use to what you’ll actually need your end walls to do, everything should be considered prior to getting started - since most of these decisions will drive the materials, design, and construction of your end walls.
One of the major benefits of a custom-built greenhouse is the ability to choose which material you’d like covering your end walls. Depending on your usage - including what you plan to grow and how easily you’ll need to access your greenhouse interior - you will have the choice of several different covering options.
Polycarbonate makes an excellent covering for your greenhouse end walls, offering easy construction, little to no maintenance, and high-quality insulation without the use of chemicals. Paired with standard metal framing, polycarbonate can provide plenty of support and protection from wind, snow, rain, and other natural forces. And because polycarbonate has an air space in between two or three walls, it makes for an excellent barrier between your crops and outdoor pests.
Polycarbonate may even help boost your grow in the long run, being a great heat insulator to help keep your crops at the right temperature throughout the seasons, all while providing plenty of diffuse lighting to keep everything bright for health growth. That’s not to mention the incredible structural integrity you’ll enjoy with polycarbonate end walls, as well as the generally pleasing aesthetics that will give your end walls that classic greenhouse look.
Growers all around the world have found simple success with their end walls by relying on easy-to-install polyethylene film as their end wall covering. Light, inexpensive, and widely available, polyethylene film is perfect for growers looking to keep their end walls as simple as possible.
However, polyethylene film is not nearly as beneficial for structural integrity as polycarbonate, and generally offers less heat and wind resistance than other alternatives. If you can anticipate high winds or rough conditions over the course of your grow, polyethylene may not offer enough protection - but otherwise, it can make a great and inexpensive alternative for high tunnels and other grow structures.
For growers looking to maximize aesthetics while minimizing up-front costs, wood framing can offer an excellent alternative to traditional poly end walls. But while cheaper to start off and typically more readily available than steel, wood framing typically must be replaced every few years, as moisture and age can significantly weaken wood’s ability to protect your plants.
While many wood covering options can be painted and customized for a truly unique look, there are several downsides of wood to consider before moving forward. For instance: because wood is a natural material, pests and diseases can inhabit your wood end walls and eventually transfer into your greenhouse itself.
And for growers looking to keep their crops fully organic, pressure treated wood may contain chemicals that can contaminate your organic grow. Plus, wood generally prevents light from entering your structure and isn’t the best insulator, and so those growers who choose wood should be ready to adjust and replace as needed.
Regardless of your level of experience working in a greenhouse or high tunnel, one fact remains fairly consistent for all growers: access to your crops is critical, and fussing around with entry and exit only slows down a critical part of the growing process. This is where the right door selection becomes a hugely important part of your end wall design.
Pass Doors - Lightweight vs. Insulated
If you’re looking to keep entry and exit from your greenhouse as small and simple as possible, there may be no better option than a simple pass door. These can generally be framed out fairly simply around your covering material, and installed with simple metal framing kits. However, it’s important to consider how extensively you plan on using your entryway, and what kind of protection your crops will require from it.
Simple lightweight pass doors can make for easy in and out for growers entering on foot, and are generally less expensive and simple to install. However, because of their lightweight construction, these generally do not offer the kind of heat retention and wind protection needed in particularly tough grow areas.
Slightly larger insulated pass doors can resolve many of these issues, offering better insulation and wind/heat resistance while providing the same simple in-and-out functionality. However, these insulated pass door options generally cost a bit more up-front, and require slightly more effort to open and close - but make for a great way for growers to access their plant while providing plenty of protection.
Large Doors - Roll-up vs. Sliding
Storing your equipment in a greenhouse or high tunnel can be a smart way to keep your most important tools out of the elements - but in order to do so, you’ll need slightly larger access than a simple pass door can offer. That’s where larger sliding or roll-up doors can offer the unique benefit of greater room for access without sacrificing stability.
Roll-up doors are generally the least expensive of these options, and are built from stronger metal. Growers can open and shut doors by simply lifting from the handles, which allow the door to roll up above the entrance for easy in and out. These roll-up options can also be automated for even easier hands-free access - perfect for those growers who don’t want to have to dismount from equipment before entering.
Sliding doors also open wide for easy equipment access, while also offering a good deal of wind protection and insulation for crops inside. The major benefit of sliding doors is that they also allow for insulation in the form of gables or windows, which will not be affected by rolling up when opening or closing.
Gables & Fans
Growers looking to better regulate heat, humidity, and other interior conditions may want to consider installing one or several gable shutters or ventilation fans in their end walls, which can be opened or activated to allow airflow in or out of the structure. Many of these gable options are easy to install and simple to operate, and can even be hooked into an existing climate control system for automated operation without the need for constant monitoring.
Once You’ve Selected Your Design, It’s Time To Start Framing
Actually framing out and building your end walls is not a particularly complicated process - but it is one you should take care when executing, since the durability and quality of construction on your end walls will play a major part in the overall stability of your final structure.
To begin, construct and square the plot of land on which your greenhouse will sit to ensure everything is secure and level before you get started. Once your ridge is constructed and squared, plumb the ends with a string line to ensure your end wall is even and level for framing.
Start your framing construction with the vertical supports, taking time to frame out any gable shutters or doors that will be present in your end product. Dig out holes for each vertical and begin stabilizing with concrete - about a bag of concrete for each vertical should do the trick. Center those verticals, and then move on to the sides.
This is the time to begin framing out any doors that will be present in your structure. Add your horizontals for structure and aesthetics, leaving the bottom a few inches up from ground for room for your covering later on.
Once all of your metal framing is up and secured, begin applying your covering. If using poly, attach a wire lock around any doors or gable shutters along with vertical wire locks directly onto the frame itself. The plastic should go right into ground, as well as on top of the bow near the roof for total security.
The final layer of roof poly will help secure your end wall covering, leaving you free to remove any wire lock when the roof is constructed. You may want to use a small amount of duct tape where the double wire lock hits bow to ensure there are no gaps in your finished end walls.
Double check all of your connecting points for stability, and then move forward with installing your doors, fans, and gables - and that’s it! Your end wall should be up, stable, and ready to get growing. Simple!
Congratulations On Your End Wall Construction
Building out the perfect end walls for your greenhouse doesn’t have to be difficult - and, in fact, it can be one of the most unique and rewarding parts of your finished structure when all is said and done.
If you’re struggling to figure out your final design - or if you need assistance getting your final design up and built - don’t hesitate to contact us or check our website for tips, tricks, and advice on how to best get your greenhouse end walls up on stable footing. Once you’ve built your structure, send us a photo - we’d love to see how your design has come to life, and what you’re able to accomplish when it’s done. Together, we grow!