My wife and I spent nearly a year finding and restoring historical windows to build a 12 x 12 greenhouse from 63+ historical windows. The project was a labor of love, and we couldn't be happier with the end result. My blog will be about the journey over the last 12 months to create this wonderful peaceful place in our backyard together.
My wife and I wanted to have a chicken coop as part
of our backyard renovation project. Our neighbor has chickens, and we enjoyed
getting fresh eggs. It did not seem to be too much work for him, and having the
chickens looked fun. Knowing the scale of our greenhouse, we didn’t want an
ordinary coop just feet away. As a result, we looked through Pinterest to find
the right design to go with our plan.
Looking through all the Pinterest pins, one pin
stood out. It had what we were looking for, and was just too cute for words.
Since we live in the Pacific Northwest and our chickens would not be free
range, a covered run was important to us. Additionally, we loved the rustic aged
look of the wood from the picture. Lastly, the historical window of the coop
would tie in to our greenhouse theme we were trying to create.
Inside Chicken Coop
Neither my wife nor I had ever owned or been around
chickens, so knowing what was needed in the coop needed to be researched. We
looked up the internal coop needs like roosts, nests, poop deck, lighting,
heating, and ventilation needs. From there, we laid out the inside of our coop
ourselves because there wasn’t a corresponding Pinterest pin from the coop we
One of the creative solutions we made was to have
both an egg door and a hinged 4’ x 4’ door for access to clean. The full access
door is invaluable for us to maintain the chicken coop. The cleaning of the
coop is simple, and when we have issues with our birds, we can easily get them
One of the touches we were looking to do was to have
different colored cedar to accent our chicken coop. For the trim of the coop,
we wanted an aged or grey cedar. While shopping for cedar, I was informed that
cedar can be easily aged with steel wool and distilled white vinegar.
The process of using steel wool with distilled white
vinegar is quite easy. Put tore up steel wool into a container with a gallon of
vinegar, and let it sit for about a week. Then, paint the mixture on your cedar
boards, and it will turn the wood grey. It will also turn your fingers grey,
and it is almost impossible to get off, so I highly recommend using rubber
gloves. Lastly, when you have construction cuts where the color doesn't match,
use the mixture to touch up the project.
Our Fancy Birdhouse
During construction, one of our neighbors asked, “What
kind of fancy birds are you putting in that house?” It reminded me of my wife
and my first trip to New York City. We saw a very large dog, and we said it was
a big city dog. Was it a BIG CITY dog? Or, a BIG city DOG? Our coop is definitely
a fancy birdhouse. However, it fits in with our entire backyard plan, and
anything less would have taken away from our vision. The chickens provide
entertainment, eggs, and fertilizer for our garden. We couldn’t be happier with
the way our coop turned out.
Once the decision is made to build a greenhouse from
wood windows, locating enough of them becomes the first challenge. The
scavenger hunt for enough windows to build your dream is like looking for rare
vinyl records or the perfect antique to finish decorating a room. You may get
lucky, and find a bunch of perfect windows in one location. Or, you may spend
time looking, and come home with nothing. As long as you are willing to spend
the time or travel some distance, windows are actually easy to come by.
Considerations should be made prior to jumping in
and picking up any wood window. Some of these considerations are appearance of
your greenhouse, the size of the greenhouse, and do you want to restore the
First, what look do you want for your greenhouse? Do
you want a random appearance with varied sizes of windows? Do you want a clean
look with windows of the same size? Each answer has pros and cons for construction
and finding the required number of windows.
For a random appearance greenhouse, locating windows
is pretty easy. Almost any wood window will work ultimately. Additionally, your
windows costs will be lower because you can bargain shop over time. The
downside to building a greenhouse from varying sized windows is construction
becomes more of a challenge. It will take time to fit each window in its place
without compromising the integrity of the building. Additionally, you will need
to make more construction adjustments to the window sashes to make the puzzle
If you want to build a greenhouse from windows of
the same size to give it a clean symmetrical look, finding the required amount
of windows becomes more of a challenge. If you are picking them one at a time,
it will take a substantial amount of time to locate each window of the same
size. Additionally, if you want to try to purchase the windows in quantity,
odds are you will need to do some driving to get them. Lastly, your costs
will be slightly higher because of having to have the perfectly sized windows.
There are two benefits to building your greenhouse
from similar sized windows. First, the aesthetics are cleaner because of the symmetry
of size. Second, your construction time, cost, and frustration will be all
lower with the same size windows. It is much easier to frame your greenhouse if
you have the same size vertical beams to hold your windows in place.
Next, you will need to determine the size of your
greenhouse for the number of windows you will need to locate. Figuring the size
will give you a rough number of windows to purchase. Most wood windows in
quantity are approximately 28-34 inches wide. Therefore, for whatever size (length
and width) greenhouse you determine, divide the feet number by 30 inches, and
that will give you a good estimate for one row. Then for a typical 8 feet wall multiple
the number by 3; the number of rows of windows on each side. For example, to build a 12 foot greenhouse wall, you would
need (12 feet/30 inches*3) = 12 windows. Calculate each side for your ultimate
number, and I would add 10% to your number for mishaps like construction
breakage or an anomaly shaped window sash.
Lastly, you need to think about if you want to restore
the historical windows or not. This is a decision that carries a lot of weight
in the amount of time you will need to invest in building your greenhouse and
the ultimate longevity of your greenhouse structure. If you can restore the
windows yourself, the cost to do so is not appreciable in the overall cost of
building your greenhouse. However, the time is a serious commitment in order to
do the work. If you take the time to correctly restore the wood windows, your
greenhouse should stand for 20 – 40 years. I will have several upcoming blogs on the
window restoration process.
One consideration for way you chose,
restoring or not restoring, is the condition of the window glaze. If you are
not going to restore the windows, the better condition the glaze is in the
longer the windows will last. Additionally, finding windows that have no broken
panes of glass is beneficial when not restoring. There is higher costs
typically for windows in good condition. Conversely, if you have
determined you are willing to put in the time to restore the windows, the
condition of the glaze and broken or missing panes of glass are less important.
In fact, it is much easier to remove old glaze if it is a poor brittle
condition. Finally, your upfront window costs will be much lower.
Now that you have determined the type, number, and
if you want to restore your windows, searching for them becomes fairly easy.
Your typical internet sources work very well; Craigslist and EBay. These
sources are excellent for locating a large quantity of windows at once. The
downside is you most likely have to pick up the windows yourself. Windows do
not ship well, and the costs to ship are not feasible. The next source is
garage sales. You can often find wood windows at garage sales inexpensively.
However, you will be most likely picking them up a few at a time. Lastly, your
local retail repurpose location often has wood windows. Additionally, if you
are looking for a unique window to accent your greenhouse, they will usually
have that too. The downside of finding windows this way is you will often be
paying full retail; usually $5 per window pane.
The hunting for windows is one of the best parts of
building a wood window greenhouse. It is a day out going to garage sales. It’s
a late night searching on the internet to kill time. It is salvaging through
second hand stores for the one window you need. You never know who you will
meet, or where you might go in order to build your vision. For me, the hunt
took me on a journey half way across the country to find the windows I wanted.
I know it wasn't the easiest road or the most cost effective. However, for me and as
Robert Frost’s poem states, “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made
all the difference.”
As little as two years ago, I had no idea I wanted
to have a greenhouse or chicken coop. In fact, most would state I didn’t really
have a passion for gardening at all let alone an urban garden to build and
maintain. I had a few ideas I wanted to incorporate into our backyard. However,
the scale was minimal along with the vision of what could be. Then I found Pinterest,
and everything changed.
In trying to refine my initial wants and needs for
my backyard, I kept seeing little pictures of cute greenhouses made from old
windows. Each one of these Pinterest pins planted seeds that this is something
I might do someday. Each greenhouse had unique features, but all had old, or historic,
glazed windows for roofing and siding. Additionally, most had comments like, “Absolutely
love. Wish my husband would build one for me.” Or, “If I had the time or money,
I’d have one.” Finally, “Someday, I will have one of my own.”
Over time, these seeds began to propagate by me
asking questions of construction friends about the process, reality, and
potential costs of building a greenhouse of this nature. Because I had little
construction background, I would ask about the process of building a greenhouse
from windows that are 50-100 years-old. I was encouraged by the responses, and
started to want to build one of my own.
As time went by and I became a little more serious about
the possibilities of actually building a greenhouse, other Pinterest branches
formed to complete the greenhouse (backyard) plan. Some of these branches
included potting bench, chicken coops, compost bins, and interior greenhouse
ideas. My wife started watering (pinning) ideas to make the greenhouse project idea
grow faster. We would share our pins, discuss what we liked and disliked, and fine-tuned
the idea of someday building one.
Backyard Map Winter 2013
The someday became a real possibility about 18
months ago. I started mapping out our backyard to where everything would fit in.
I made a crude hand drawing on graph paper to scale that included the chicken
coop, raised garden beds, compost bins, and greenhouse. Little did I know how
much work it would take to make this vision come to fruition, and to believe 90%
of the inspiration came from little cute Pinterest pins. Once the decision was
made to make our vision become a reality, where to start became the next
the help of neighbors, friends, businesses, and family, my greenhouse project
could not have come to fruition. The project took over ten months to complete,
and I am forever grateful to those who assisted. Below is a list of those who
Willie, Jim, and Arron – The “Jones” helped throughout this project. There were
best practices for both the chicken coop and raised garden beds shared, so each
one was built correctly. Additionally, since Trina and I do not own a truck, we
often borrowed one to haul building and landscape materials. Lastly, there was
the constant supervision and affirmations from everyone coming over to see what
was going on. Sorry guys, the first annual “Keeping up w/ the Jones” award is
going to Trina and I. The rest of you are playing for second place J.
Cudaback – Without you this project would have been virtually impossible to
complete. Your window restoration skills were essential and exceptional.
We restored over 70 historical windows including 250+ panes of glass. Through
our good days and bad days we pushed on together, and I feel I have made a
long-term friend. I am forever grateful and in debt to you for your assistance.
Kirkham – Thank you for having a young back, and being willing to do the dirty
digging during this project. You were saddled w/ all the manual labor that
nobody else wanted to do. Also, often when I couldn’t count on anyone else, you
Da Hammer (Hawk) – Thank you for encouraging me that this project could be done
initially. We spent quality shop time working together, bouncing ideas off each
other, and having a few adult beverages mulling over the possibilities.
Additionally, I appreciate the assistance and time to run both water and power
to the greenhouse site. I wish we could have found a way to build this
together, but I am thankful for all your foresight prior to construction.
Smith – Thank you for the hospitality coming and going from Warrensburg, MO. It
has been a very long time, and it was good to catch up after so many years.
Kellison – Thank you for the constant positive feedback through social media
throughout this project. I am glad I went the extra miles, so we could catch
up. You are absolutely one of the most positive people I have met during my
Glasswww.soundglass.com– During the
restoration of the historical windows, many windows were broken, and they
needed to be replaced. Sound Glass provided quality work, and was patient with
me coming in almost daily for several months.
paint shop at Lakewood Hardware has been the best in town since I started
painting at 15 years-old 30 years ago. Their expertise is unparalleled. Scott
Shaw provided any assistance I needed, and was always genuinely interested in
the progress of the project.
Outlet – With all three, chicken coop, raised garden beds, and the greenhouse,
cedar was used during the construction. The Mill Outlet of Tacoma was able to
provide all the necessary building materials and an affordable price.
Greenhouseswww.littlegreenhouse.com– Their website has calculators for
the required heating and ventilation for any type of greenhouse imaginable.
Additionally, they stock quality products, fairly priced, and ship quickly. Lastly,
I had a return to manufacture product that I underestimated my needs, and the
exchange was processed hassle free and quickly.
Architectural Woods (Alex)www.awi-wa.com– Alex and I used to work at
Lowes together. He was able to professionally provide all the necessary
moldings for the trim work throughout the greenhouse product. I have used AWI
before, and if you are looking for a hard to find and quality product, they are
the only place to go.
ConsThe Urban Gardener www.urbangardenerllc.com/ - The Urban
Gardener provided assistance in creating a comprehensive landscape plan for our
backyard. The plan incorporated existing features, our input for plant types,
and other creative ideas to improve our current landscaping. Christy’s plan was
complete, easy to follow, and provided a detailed material list for shopping.
Christy’s enthusiasm for gardening is contagious, and my wife and I look
forward to enjoying the execution her plan.
DTS Construction (Shane Davis) – I didn’t have the necessary construction skills or
experience to pull off a project of this magnitude. As a result, I tried
everything to contact Shane who built my garden shed in ’12. It took writing a
snail mail letter to finally locate him, and I am glad I did.
completed 100% of the construction of the chicken coop, raised garden beds, and
greenhouse. Additionally, he assisted in moving landscape materials, and
completing the remaining smaller construction and landscaping.
the rare ability to take a homeowner’s vision, and execute it without
compromise. Additionally, his carpentry, concrete, landscaping, and you name it
skills are exceptional. As proud as I am of this project, he should be too. He
has as much of him invested as I do. I am grateful for all his expertise, and
feel I have formed a friendship during this project. I highly recommend his
work, and would not hesitate to hire him again.
Spiedell (Deceased 1982) – Uncle Hal, my stepfather, had a seasoned yard that
had many varieties of fruit trees and flowers. Additionally, the backyard had a
well thought-out plan and garden shed. I know now how much time he must have
invested to make it the way it was. In some way, I feel the time I spent there
in my childhood was the inspiration for this project.
Spiedell (Deceased 1996) – Mom…All those times when you had to nag me to do any
yardwork in order to maintain the property, and I did everything possible to
not do it. I fondly remember all the canning you did, and look forward to being
able to have Trina do the same. I wish you were here to see this more than
anything because there is no way you would believe that this project was my
idea. Thank you for what you tried to teach me.
Wiswell – It is difficult for me to express the thanks, gratitude…love I have
for you. Even though this project had ups and downs, you never wavered in your
support of me. All the nights in the shop, all the days working too much, and
all the money invested, you stood by me unconditionally. You are an amazing
woman, and I am the luckiest man to spend my life with you. Forever, we will be
able to enjoy what we have accomplished together. It’s time to sit back, have a
cold beverage, and smell the flowers.
I am new to blogging. How new? This is my first blog. My wife and I have been completing a backyard renovation over the last 10 months. It is nearing completion, and should be done within the next several weeks. It has been a wonderful journey, and we look forward to enjoying the fruits of our labor for many years to come. From the photo below, you can see we built a chicken coop, raised garden beds, compost bins, and a greenhouse. The greenhouse is made of 63+ restored historical windows including 230+ panes of glass. Each window was meticulously restored prior to construction. I can and will go on about the greenhouse project, but I will save that for future blog posts. Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope I can share my experiences to possibly inspire someone else to build his/her own.