How to Build a Mini Glass Greenhouse on a Budget

The backyard greenhouse trend is here to stay, and gardeners are getting more creative than ever. Take a look at this family's mini greenhouse made from antique glass windows that they built for $500.

family posing in front of greenhouse

"I had always wanted a greenhouse made from windows," Jennifer Oswald says. "But my husband, Chris, didn't seem interested. That is until our daughter became interested in gardening." In spring 2017—as seedlings blanketed surfaces in the dining room and kitchen—Chris got on board with Jennifer's dream project and the couple got to work prepping the back of their Pennsylvania property for a mini greenhouse.

Jennifer took to Facebook and Craigslist searching for materials. Her first inquiry was answered by a woman who was replacing the wood frame windows in her historic home. The seller sent a list of window sizes, which the couple used to determine the greenhouse layout. They bought $180 worth of windows and supplemented them with found windows, including a modern unit of three they used as the back wall and two 4-foot windows that became part of the roof. All in all, they gathered 22 windows and an antique door, spending a total of $500 on supplies and furnishings.

blue potting bench in vintage glass greenhouse

The couple laid the windows on the ground around the building site to double-check placement before erecting a custom framework from 2×4s and plywood panels. Inside, they added stylish storage, flexible workspaces, and meaningful collections to amplify the shed's functionality and welcoming vibe.

"The greenhouse works great," Jennifer says. "The kids adore playing out there. The best thing about the project is that Chris and I did it together—he helped me figure it out, and I helped him build it."

The kids also had fun making the mini greenhouse a go-to gardening zone, updating a Craigslist-sourced potting bench with durable semi-gloss interior paint and antique knobs. The cheery turquoise bench can be seen through windowed walls, creating a playful and welcoming scene.

antiques window frame in greenhouse

Jennifer and Chris landscaped around the 6x10-foot mini greenhouse with hostas, flagstone, and solar lanterns to highlight the entry. Dry-brushed white exterior paint unites the stained window framed with the newly painted pine and plywood framework.

Jennifer Oswald, Homeowner

I like to use vintage things because when my friends say 'What's up with that thing?' I can tell them the story behind the piece."

— Jennifer Oswald, Homeowner

Turquoise paint was chosen to complement spring and fall landscape colors. The couple connected a PVC hand pump designed for camping to a mobile home faucet that now directs water pulled from a bucket set below the table into a $5 wooden bowl. Finish nails frame the pump to keep it from wobbling, while a wall-mounted bracket secures the pump handle. Drain holes drilled into the bowl and tabletop allow water to flow back into the bucket to fashion a recirculating water system. Jennifer turned the faucet into an artistic focal point with hot-glue vine patterns and spray paint. Meanwhile, deep window ledges (made by doubling up 2x4s) offer the perfect display area to show off a collection of terracotta pots and their verdant inhabitants.

interior of greenhouse made from antique windows

Strategically set shelves, stacked 2x4s, and a pair of up-high plumbing pipes help support the window-paneled roof while enhancing the shed's storage and display capacity. If you build your own small glass greenhouse, keep it from overheating by including a few functioning windows. You can also follow the Oswalds' approach and add vent panels (available in the heating and cooling section of most hardware stores) to your shed's gables.

The family greenhouse has become the perfect place for Jennifer's grandfather's wooden ladder, which now holds plants and tools. Holes created with a 2-inch drill bit turn two inexpensive 1x4 boards into a seedling-holding worktable.

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