The Q&A Archives: Compare Greenhouse Glazing

Question: I am planning to buy a hobby greenhouse kit, about 8'x12' for seed starting, bulb forcing, rooting cuttings and overwintering a few tender plants. I'm in Zone 6. I'd like an impartial comparison of some of the glazing options. I've ruled out plastic film (I want something more permanent and attractive), and glass (I need better insulation). On the market, I'm finding twin wall polycarbonate at 4.5mm, 6mm and 8mm, Lexan corrugated polycarbonate, ?mm, Lexan "Dripguard," 8mm, "Tedlar/Courtguard," 6mm and Acrylite, 8mm. The various companies make a variety of claims about insulation, light transmission, condennsation control and durability. Can you help me sort it out?

Answer: Basically, it's a matter of cost vs. benefits. You need to isolate the main requirements to meet your needs and work through a hierarchy that way. In your case, to overwinter tender plants in zone 6 will take a lot of heat so insulation value in relation to your heating costs may be the determining factor. After that, look at the other benefits -- if the structure is visible from the street you may want to reduce condensation, if the structure may need strength to combat heavy snowfall then that may be a consideration. Longevity may also be important to you if this is a major construction project and/or your budget is tight. You might want to talk to some greenhouse owners in your area and find out what their experiences are; you might also be able to see some of the materials in action -- they don't all have the same "look". Finally, regardless of the material you use, keep in mind that every individual greenhouse has its own individual "quirks" that you'll discover them over time so you just make the best choice you can and then work with the results. Since I don't know your specific requirements (and I'm not you) I can't begin to tell you which one in my opinion would be best in your situation -- they all have pluses and minuses one way or another as you have already realized! I guess my last bit of advice would be to make sure you read and understand all of the manufacturer's literal guarantees and follow any installation recommendations to the letter. Have fun with your new greenhouse -- I just know you'll love it!

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