Selecting and Building an Aluminium-framed Greenhouse
As we pointed out in our article on the selection and erection of wooden greenhouses, many of the issues are the same regardless of the choice of material. The factors surrounding the location, size, price and shape of any greenhouse are largely the same whether it is made from wood or aluminium.
But assuming you have weighed the pros and cons and decided that aluminium is the choice for you, what are the specific considerations when choosing and putting up and aluminium framed greenhouse, as opposed to a wood framed one?
Colour Choice for Your GreenhouseThe first thing you'll need to choose, which might surprise some people, is the colour. Although the vast majority of aluminium greenhouses are seen in an unfinished flat metal colour, painted and powder coated finishes have been available for some time. White and various shades of green are on offer and brown, terracotta and black are available.
Paint isn’t that popular as it doesn't last too long and the colour isn't easy to reapply. Although powder coated finishes are pretty much impossible for the ordinary person to touch up, they last a lot longer. One tip is to look at the display models that are out in all weathers at DIY stores or garden centres and see how they are coping.
Look For a Strong FrameThe light weight of aluminium framed greenhouses, at least compared to wood framed greenhouses of a similar size, means that they can flex and move more than their wooden counterparts. Pay close attention to the joints and corners of the frame to make sure they are well made and strong, particularly if you are looking for a large greenhouse.
If at all possible try and see a completed version of the greenhouse you are thinking of buying. Visit garden centres, DIY stores and other outlets to get an idea of the difference in quality and strength that a higher price should deliver. It may be cheaper to buy something sight unseen off the internet or from a Sunday magazine but if it starts bending and falling apart after a few years it could prove to be a false economy.
Light Aluminium Frame Helps InstallationFrom an installation point of view the light weight of an aluminium frame comes into its own. Although you will get better use out of any greenhouse if it is on a proper foundation, it is perfectly possible to place an aluminium greenhouse straight on to soil or grass as long as it is reasonably level. This can't be done with a wooden greenhouse because the damp will attack the wood and destroy it in very short order.
This is a huge advantage for many people, making the erection of a greenhouse something that is within their capabilities. The fact that installation can be done without any involvement with cement and concrete can be a great advantage. Having said that, an aluminium greenhouse that's going to be put straight onto on earth or grass will get less and less stable with size. So if you are having a large greenhouse you may need to bite the bullet and put down a concrete slab or paving slabs as a base.
Greenhouse Base and FoundationsThis brings us to an important point when selecting greenhouses. Many suppliers will say that a base is included but they mean a strong section of aluminium framework that goes around the edge at the bottom, which can be put straight down on the ground. What we think of as a base, particularly if we are talking about concrete slabs and foundations, is a platform that will take the whole of the greenhouse.
If you do put a greenhouse straight down on some earth, wood chippings or lawn, it would be worth putting down some sort of flooring, some paving slabs or even a few planks. This will stop the area you walk on becoming a quagmire when it rains.
Getting Help With InstallationWhen it comes to erection many companies will offer an installation service or you can do it yourself. The vast majority of aluminium greenhouses are delivered as flat packs and are bolted and screwed together. This is perfectly within the capabilities of most people, but it can be a tedious task that many will prefer to pay someone else to do.
Many garden centres, if you buy from them, may know someone who can deal with the erection of an aluminium greenhouse. Failing that try looking in newsagents windows for people who advertise doing odd jobs.
Final Greenhouse Erection TipOne particular tip will help you get more out of your aluminium greenhouse. A lot of them use self-tapping screws for low cost and to make erection quicker. If you think you may want to move your greenhouse, replacing these with nuts and bolts will make it more likely to survive a move.
They aren't really meant to be moved once installed, but this will help. It will definitely make erection of the greenhouse even more tedious but it could be worth it in the long run.