What to Consider Before Building a Greenhouse

Sina Kamran

Sina Kamran

Founder and Owner of Design Scapes Inc.

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Are you an avid gardener who wants the joy of nurturing plants to fruition all year long? Or maybe you want to create a warm outdoor space that you can enjoy during the winter while still being “outside?” Whatever your reason, if you have come across this article, you have researched how to build a greenhouse. To get you started on building a greenhouse, we have written a comprehensive article to address the purpose and building style as well as building requirements and materials. Let’s jump right in!

What to Consider Before Building a Greenhouse

1. What is the Purpose of the Build?

First and foremost, what is the purpose of this build? Most homeowners invest in a greenhouse to grow produce or plants all year long, even those in the temperate climate of Southern California like Encino. However, others have chosen greenhouse designs to build a conservatory, a garden shed, a recreation space, a hot tub room, a dining room, etc. 

You, as a homeowner, can do whatever you want, but determining its function will significantly aid in designing the greenhouse and minimize unnecessary costs.

1.1: Budgeting

Before diving further into building a greenhouse, take the time to analyze your budget and timeline. Greenhouses start at $250 and can be as expensive as $25,000, so it is highly advised to lay out a budget before making decisions. Plus, remember to consider operating and maintenance costs that will continue after the build.

2. What Style of Greenhouse Do I Want?

There are two ways to determine a “style” of a greenhouse, according to temperature or architecture. 

2.1: Temperature Styles

Temperature styles are based on the desired temperature you want to maintain within the greenhouse, such as:

– Cold Greenhouses: Below Freezing

– Cool Greenhouses: 45-50F

– Warm Greenhouses: 55 F

– Hot Greenhouses: 60F

2.2: Architectural Styles

When choosing an architectural style for your greenhouse, it is generally recommended to pick one that complements the home’s existing architecture. Here are a few general styles to choose from, although a designer may be able to modify the structure depending on your specific wants. 

– A-frame: Minimizes materials and looks like a triangle.

– Gothic arch: Curved roof and resistant to extreme temperatures.

– Conventional / Post & Rafter: Excellent roof support and maximizes space.

– Freestanding: Allows transport or removal of the greenhouse when not needed. 

Welcome to Part 2 of the What to Consider Before Building a Greenhouse Guide! In this two-part guide, we walk homeowners through the greenhouse building design process. If you haven’t read Part 1 of the series, we highly recommend reading it first. If you have, good job, and let’s go straight into the next part!

3. What are the Building Requirements?

After determining the function and style of the greenhouse you desire, it is necessary to determine what building requirements you will need to have a safe and effective greenhouse. These internal systems must work cohesively together to create a functional space. Here are the basics that must be addressed:

– air circulation

– flooring type

– heating or cooling

– electricity

– water access & irrigation

– drainage

– weather resistance 

– sunlight maximization 

*If you intend for this greenhouse to be a recreational area, some of the above may not apply to you.

3.1: How Much Space Do I Need?

How much space you will need depends on how you plan to use the area. If you are using it as a recreational zone, you will need to plan out which furniture and items you intend to put in the space (with some wiggle room, of course). 

However, if you are like most who plan to use a greenhouse to grow produce or plants, you will need to consider: 

– What and how much do you want to grow

– How much space each plant will take from seed to full growth

– How much space each plant will need around it as “dead space” 

– Where you will place aisles, walkways, and working space

– Where you will place benches, racks, hanging baskets, or other tools

– How much room your essential utilities and building requirements will need. 

Additionally, remember to consider how much space you have available to work with before making lofty plans; it all has to fit in the end. 

3.2: What permits do I need for building a greenhouse? 

Whether or not you need permits will depend on your specific location and what you intend to build. We highly suggest researching your city’s requirements and speaking with a hardscaping consultant.

4. What Materials Do I Want to Use?

Again, your function and style will significantly determine what materials you will need. For example, an A-frame would likely have glass windows, whereas a freestanding would use plastic. 

The primary materials in a conventional greenhouse build include that needed for covering, framing, and excavation: 

– Covering: Glass, fiberglass, polyethylene, or polycarbonate

– Framing: Wood or steel

– Excavation: Concrete, pavers, or gravel

Speaking with a design consultant will help you narrow down which materials are suitable for you and your budget. We want to point out that greenhouses are ideal for using recycled or repurposed materials. If you have access to old windows or are willing to hunt for recycled materials, you could save quite a lot of money and reduce waste. 

4.1: Labor 

In Part 1, we briefly talked about budgeting. Choosing the appropriate materials for your budget is highly important, but it is also critical to add in the costs of labor as well. When pricing out your build, make sure to get an in-depth estimate from your contractors that includes all materials and labor. 

Design Scapes Garden Landscape Services – LA

Are you ready to take the next step in designing your greenhouse? Give us a call today to book a consultation. We will help guide you through the backyard design process and advise you on which actions you should take before building a greenhouse. We serve the greater Los Angeles area, from Encino to Rancho Palos Verdes. 

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Andrew H.
Los Angeles, CA
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Sina and his team worked with us to design and build both our front and backyard. The results exceeded our expectations and the team worked patiently during COVID and through a challenging permitting process with LA City. The team was professional and always prompt. The pricing was fair and transparent, and communication was great. The project was large overall so we worked together with Design Scapes for almost one year. I have recommended the team to many people already and think they do great work.
Ben L.
Los Angeles, CA
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We hired Design Scapes to turn our backyard into a hostable space that would feel welcoming to guests, but more importantly, utilize what we felt was completely wasted space. It's hard to put words to just how incredible of an experience we had with Sina and his team. From the get-go, they were efficient, communicative, and dedicated to making us feel content. Sina, Aaron and everyone they work with truly understand design - the technical, architectural, and aesthetic elements that are needed in order to create the best results. We never had any doubt that we went with the right company. The results were ten times better than we ever could have imagined. Our backyard is a total haven, we feel like we're on vacation at our own home! We would give ten stars if we could!
May M.
North Hollywood, CA
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I worked with Sima at Design Scapes on a recent backyard renovation. He was extremely patient as we began from concept to finished project! His crew was very professional and it turned out exactly how I envisioned. The reno included building a pergula with a cover, hardscaping with pavers and adding lighting and ficus trees. We were so happy with the finished product!
Jeff R.
Santa Monica, CA
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Design Scapes constructed a composite wood deck and two planters in my back yard and I couldn't be happier with the result. Very professional, terrific work, really nice people (especially Heli, who worked with me throughout), and they got it done when they said they would, completely satisfied with the whole experience!
Charles M.
Santa Monica, CA
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Sina and his team are your go-to for innovative and beautiful outdoor construction. They installed a gigantic, closeable pergola over our wrap around deck. They handled the entire process from plans to permits to installation and did a tremendous job. We feel like we've added a room to our home. They did an amazing job. Five stars!
Laurene F.
Manhattan Beach, CA
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Design Scapes is very highly recommended! Very professional, creative and reliable. They were very timely and reasonable with their estimated budget and time line to complete the project. Also, they were very responsive with additional requests after the initial project. I will refer them to my friends.
Mersedeh M.
Los Angeles, CA
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I can not say enough how great working with Design Sacpes was. My husband and I met with several landscaping companies and Design Scapes seemed to be the most honest and professional one. Sina is an awesome person, he guided us in choosing the best design for our backyard while he was considering what we want in all the steps. We ended up planting some great fruit trees in addition to a cute fountain and some design with beautiful rocks. The crew was very clean and professional. We did not feel we have workers in our background the whole time. The final invoice reflected exactly what we had spoken of, although we made some changes and ended up choosing better material and plants in some occasions. I highly recommend Design Sacpes if you are looking for the best landscaping company.
Bob K.
West Hills, CA
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Sina and his crew are great. We started off with replacing a block wall we shared with our neighbor with a wood fence. Once we saw the excellent quality of the work we had him transform our backyard which was basically a dirt lot into a backyard oasis with pavers, a grassy area, a new tree and a section of plants. His crew is unbelievable. Vert talented and hard working. On time every day. Courteous and friendly. Always kept the work area clean. Sina when not on site was always available by phone or text. His estimates were clear, and his on line billing system was easy to use.
Charity B.
Thousand Oaks, CA
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We did 2 projects with Sina at the same time. One was done on time and was exactly to our specification (even though we changed our minds once the project started as is sometimes the case when you start to see it come together). Sina was always available with ideas, feedback and keeping us up to date. The other project was delayed through no fault of Sina's. The material he ordered came in damaged. He took care of it completely and rescheduled his crew to come back once the material was received. I didn't have to fight with anyone over damaged materials and he didn't even ask me to accept sub-quality. He just rejected it immediately and took care of the problem. Both projects were beautiful when finished. I am very happy with the quality of work. I have worked with many contractors. I can easily say that Sina is one of the best. He is amazing because he does exactly what he says he will do... follow up calls, shows up on time, sends detailed work plans, etc. Seems like a little thing but if you've worked with contractors, you know that's rare! I have already referred him to friends and will definitely use him again in the future.
Bill O.
New York, NY
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When my wife and I moved into our new home at the beginning of 2020, we loved the potential of our new backyard. It has a pool with lots of room for gatherings and two healthy fruit trees that provide good shade. Unfortunately the existing planters were overrun with tall unorganized grasses and the "grass" area was nothing but dirt. As soon as I called Sina at Design Scapes, he scheduled a quick visit to view the property and get an understanding of my design intent. He listened closely to what I wanted, offered his expertise and suggestions when appropriate, and created a plan that met all expectations. When I explained that the plan was slightly above my cost limit, he offered adjustments that kept the design incredible while aligning with my target budget. All work was performed professionally and on schedule and he has consistently followed up to ensure satisfaction. I would absolutely work with Sina on all future exterior projects! (Before and after photos attached)
Keithh N.
San Francisco, CA
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I can't express how happy we are with Sina's work. He is extremely professional and reliable. He was always at the job site when needed. And he clearly went the extra length to get our work done. One of the things we needed done was adding mesh to a quarter acre property around the Fenceline. Sina's team made sure to dig down over a foot under the dirt to make sure our animals couldn't get underneath it. He made sure The mesh was tied tightly to the fence around the entire property line. His work was very clean and he did not disrupt any of the plant life. He is extremely knowledgeable about landscaping and plant life. I would definitely recommend using him again and sure we will in the future! Thank you for everything Sina

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We hold the following ICPI certifications:

Concrete Pavers

ICPI—Concrete Paver Installer Course

  • Introduction to the construction of interlocking concrete pavement systems using concrete pavers and slabs

 ICPI—Certified Concrete Paver Installer

  • Job planning and layout
  • Safety
  • Soil classification and compaction
  • Bedding and joint sand
  • Paver selection and installation
  • Use of labor-saving specialty tools
  • Edge restraints
  • Base material selection and compaction

ICPI—Residential Specialist Course

  • Creating an outdoor living area.
  • Bringing the indoor comforts outside.
  • Locations
  • Heat Materials
  • Utility Hookups
  • Appliances
  • Building Codes
  • Overlaying pavers on existing asphalt or concrete, and best installation methods. 
  • Includes paver overlay application around the perimeter of a pool, and general construction of a paver pool deck around most common types of pools (linear pool, fiberglass shell, or concrete shell.
  • Existing Site Conditions
  • Existing Pavement Preparation
  • Installation Details
  • Paver Overlays with Mortar or Adhesives
  • Types of Pools
  • Construction Details
  • Drainage
  • Paver Selection
  • Building Codes
  • Seat Walls
  • Lighting
  • Decorative Borders and Edges
  • Utilities under the Pavement
  • Once course is completed, requires documentation of 50,000 square feet of concrete paver installation experience in residential projects to receive Residential Paver Specialist credential.

ICPI—Certified Concrete Paver Installer—Residential Specialist

                        • The Residential Professional Course is the highest level designation for ICPI certified installers.
                        • Base and Subbase
                        • Edge Restraint
                        • Bedding Sand
                        • Concrete Pavers
                        • Joint Sand
                          • Supervisor’s role in finding and fixing workplace hazards.
                          • Jobsite Planning and Logistics
                            • Site Management
                            • Equipment
                            • Common conversions and equations needed when estimating materials, including perimeter, area and volume. Converting between different dimensions such as cubic feet to cubic yards.
                            • The three basic components of a functional and attractive raised patio: walls, flatwork, and steps. Visualizing the levels and steps and then developing solutions for the site. 
                            • Considerations
                            • Steps
                            • Railings
                            • On-Site
                            • Building Codes
                            • Once course is completed, installer must document 25,000 square feet of concrete paver installation experience and 20 residential projects to receive Residential Paver Specialist credential.

                                                  Permeable Pavers


                                                  ICPI—Permeable Interlocking Concrete Pavement (PICP) Specialist Course

                                                  • Use of permeable pavers can reduce the quantity of runoff and maximize irrigation of your property.
                                                  • Benefits
                                                  • System Components
                                                  • Types of Systems
                                                  • Precautions

                                                        National Concrete Masonry Association Certifications


                                                        Certified Segmental Retaining Wall Installer (CSRWI)


                                                        • Advanced topics include: 
                                                        • Wall layout and planning
                                                        • Water and drainage
                                                        • Cut and fill walls
                                                        • Tiered walls
                                                        • Corners and curves
                                                        • Stairs and patios

                                                                  Pricing

                                                                  • Our pricing is completely transparent. 
                                                                  • Estimates, quotes, and invoices are always line-itemized for different trades or sections of scope of work. No big mystery numbers where you don’t know what you’re paying for.
                                                                  • We quote the installation based on existing site conditions, local codes, bespoke materials or layout, and/or pattern picked.
                                                                  • If there are any change orders, they are quoted and approved by the client first. They are fully documented, leaving a complete paper trail. 
                                                                  • Labor cost is based on what it takes to do the job right, and do right by a professional crew.
                                                                  • Expect to invest up to 7% of your property’s value for a completely new outdoor space. 
                                                                  • The design phase cost is approximately 3% – 7% of the total installation cost.
                                                                  • Each project is custom designed, and cost depends on design.
                                                                  • When needed, we work with you to accomplish your project in stages—rather than diminish your vision.
                                                                  • You know what your costs are upfront before any work starts.

                                                                  Payments

                                                                  • We accept Visa, Master Card, Amex, Discover, check, cash, wire transfer, Venmo and Zelle.
                                                                  • You get a payment schedule with your project schedule. 
                                                                  • You only pay for labor, and materials delivered up to payment date. You’re not paying in advance so we can buy materials.
                                                                  • When implementing your project in stages, the Design Phase is completed and paid for in advance of implementing the first stage.

                                                                  Return on Investment

                                                                  • You expect a return on investment when improving your property. 
                                                                  • Studies show that a beautifully landscaped yard can increase your property’s value by up to 20%. 
                                                                  • Money magazine estimates that you can recover up to 120% of your project’s cost when you sell your property.

                                                                  Implementation Phase

                                                                  • We provide you a detailed project and work schedule that shows orders, deliveries, installation dates, and payment due dates.
                                                                  • You know exactly how many days your project takes, and what to expect each day.
                                                                  • Your designer / estimator is present on-site every day of installation, supervising the project from start to finish. Eagle-eyed supervision prevents aesthetic or functional mistakes.
                                                                  • Our team includes only trusted workers who have been with us for years. All workers are bonded.
                                                                  • Design Scapes Inc is fully licensed under both C27 Landscaping and General B licenses.
                                                                  • We never sub-contract our work to others, or hire from the parking lot of the local building supply superstore.
                                                                  • Every installation team member has decades of experience and expertise in their area of specialty.
                                                                  • All work is insured, and supervised. 
                                                                  • We carry all required insurance policies like workers’ compensation, liability, and vehicle coverage.
                                                                  • Our efficient process controls the chaos of construction. Only the tools, equipment, and materials that are needed for the work week get delivered and stored for that week. 
                                                                  • Site, tools, and materials tidied up and secured at the end of every work day.
                                                                  • We need no interior access and bring our own toilets and power generator.
                                                                  • We leave your work site spotless and hazard-free.

                                                                  Design Phase

                                                                  • You get one-on-one consultation from an award-winning landscape designer, Sina Kamran.
                                                                  • I will generate picture designs for your new outdoor space, and present them to you.
                                                                  • Design goes through an extensive revision stage. Together, we go through all different layouts, patterns, material types and colors, or different functions to consider. 
                                                                  • The revision stage eliminates problematic surprise change orders and project delays. It also enables us to deliver your project per schedule.
                                                                  • Your project installation is scheduled as soon as you approve the final project plans.
                                                                  • Lead time is usually three to five weeks from approval.

                                                                  Complimentary Estimate

                                                                  • We get a copy of your plot plan and general yard measurements in preparation for the initial consultation.
                                                                  • We draw inspiration from your property and listen to your dreams for your outdoor space. The meeting focuses on your vision and how we could help you realize it. 
                                                                  • We survey the area and point out possibilities and discuss potential issues. 
                                                                  • We make a point of providing an accurate bid rather than bidding low to get the work. You have our promise on this.
                                                                  • We want you to have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what your project will cost from the very start. No surprises.
                                                                  • Once you approve the initial estimate, we move on to the Design Phase.
                                                                  • You receive a final and firm quote once the Design Phase is completed and all work has been identified.