“How much does it cost to build a greenhouse?”
This is the million-dollar question—or, rather, depending on a multitude of factors, it could be a $2,000 question, a $15,000 question, or an even more expensive question.
Greenhouse cost involves much more than simply the building materials themselves. Like buying a car or house, or adopting a pet, or buying the plane ticket for a vacation, the initial expense is just a small piece of the ongoing (but worthwhile) investment.
There are plenty of ways to keep your costs down, though. Start by doing lots of research on how to build a greenhouse and do loads of planning.
Overall Greenhouse Building Cost
The cost of building a greenhouse varies so greatly that it can even be difficult to put an estimate on what you’ll pay up-front.
The average range is anywhere between a few thousand dollars to $15,000 or more. Hiring a professional to install a pre-designed greenhouse will cost at least $10,000—but save you a heck of a lot of time, elbow grease, potential frustration, and potential catastrophe down the line (should you mess up the installation and allow for air leaks, water leaks, unstable foundation, insufficient ventilation, and the like).
A small DIY greenhouse with less expensive materials could cost a couple of thousand dollars to build. Prefab greenhouses that you just have to put together range from teeny little ones for just a few hundred dollars, a nice-sized model for $1,000–$2,000, to the whole high-end kit-and-kaboodle for ~$8,000. Remember, that doesn’t include installation!
But beyond the cost of panes and frame, there are a multitude of other pricey parts of owning and operating a greenhouse that you might not expect when first dreaming up your garden oasis. Better to be prepared than taken off guard.
Greenhouse Cost Factors
Greenhouse prices can vary dramatically depending on a few major several factors.
The bigger the greenhouse, the more expensive it will be. Logical, right? More square feet, more dollars spent.
But the size of your greenhouse affects more than just the amount of building materials you need to purchase. Bigger greenhouses hold more plants. They need more irrigation, more fans and therefore more electricity. They need more attention to cleaning and pest control. You get the idea.
Vertical Gardening can help to save space. Check out our complete guide here!
Give our different types of greenhouses guide a read because some designs are more cost-effective than others. Certain designs are better for solar panels, temperate climates, and windy landscapes too – you get the idea. Find the one that’s right for you before budgeting or you may find that your budget isn’t even close to the final tally.
Have you ever heard of a coldframe? Depending on your situation, they can be a great alternative to greenhouses. See the greenhouses and coldframes juxtaposed, here
You’ll be running the powered aspects of your greenhouse (lights, fans, thermostats, etc.) off your home electricity.
As a result, be ready to see an uptick in your utility bills!
Will you use fans or just vents? How many fans you’ll need depends on the size and shape of your greenhouse, as well as climate factors.
Check out our guide to the best types of ventilation and cooling in greenhouses.
If you live in a place with very hot summer days, you’ll need to go the extra mile with ventilation and cooling. Alternatively, if you plan to grow in your greenhouse through cold winters, you’ll need some sort of heating. That heat can be passive, like that from a heat sink, or active, like that from a greenhouse heater.
In addition to where in the world your greenhouse is you’ll also need to consider whether it’s going to be in complete sun to fully harness natural light. Or will it be shaded some of the day? Remember that the trees on neighboring properties can cast a lot of shade onto your yard when the sun is at certain angles.
Is it close to or attached to your house? (That will help insulate and therefore lower heating costs in cold weather.) Did you thoroughly plan properly oriented greenhouse placement, with maximum exposure?
Where you place your greenhouse on your property can make a big difference in terms of light and temperature control, and therefore energy efficiency—and therefore: cost!
Hidden & Overlooked Costs
Let’s talk more about those unexpected costs that sneak up on you and can add up quickly. Before you build or install your greenhouse, you really want to start thinking about everything from climate control to what kinds of plants you’ll grow.
Site preparation & foundation
Clearing the plot, leveling, setting a raised foundation—that can be hard work. And might cost a pretty penny, especially if you need to hire a professional (or a neighborhood kid with a shovel) or rent earth-moving equipment.
You may’ve expected a slight increase in your overall utilities cost after the installation of your greenhouse, but you should be fully prepared. The costs tend to be more staggering than expected.
It’s certainly worth noting that careful planning and budgeting can mitigate a surprise when the first bill comes around.
Besides heating and cooling operations in your greenhouse, you’ll be running fans and possibly lights. Prepare for your electricity bill to go way up, and vary throughout the seasons.
Read more about solar greenhouses to get a glimpse of the sustainable way
Your water bill could exponentially increase as well. You’re essentially installing a second garden.
Of course, increased water usage comes along with the territory of any garden activity—indoors or outdoors—but consider that your greenhouse growing space will be maximized for lots of plants that need lots of water. You’ll (hopefully) be growing even more plants in there than you do in your garden!
Not every greenhouse gardener wants or needs to install lights, depending on what kinds of plants you plan to cultivate. If you want to grow during the winter or you have needy plants that require a lot of light for their growth, plan to invest several hundred dollars in lighting for your greenhouse.
An extensive professional lighting set-up can cost thousands of dollars for equipment and labor.
Even if you install greenhouse lights yourself, expect to pay at least $40 and up to $150 for each light.
Lights vary in cost depending on size, set-up, quality, and other technical factors like reflective additions and wattage. You can get a high-quality, full-spectrum hanging light for less than $50, or go big with a commercial-quality sun-like lighting system.
I recommend investing in LED lights to ensure the highest level of energy efficiency. You’ll save on your electricity bill and do better by the planet.
From thermostats, hygrometers, timers, extension cords, all those essential gadgets will add up! Do your research before setting up your greenhouse in order to be prepared.
Check out our handy guide to the most essential greenhouse accessories to start building your shopping list.
You know, of course, that you’ll need a good, long hose with a versatile spray nozzle. But a savvy greenhouse gardener will also consider a full irrigation system or kit.
While drip irrigation and spray systems aren’t too expensive to purchase (as low as $40), the set-up can be tedious and time-consuming. Your time is the biggest cost for this aspect!
Will you install running water into your greenhouse? Hike up the building costs.
Maybe you’ll choose to install rain collection barrels to increase your environmental friendliness and decrease your water bill. Build in the cost of a rainwater barrel, gutters, downspouts, etc. Read all about rainwater collection systems for you greenhouse here.
Plants & Soil
Plants aren’t cheap. Every gardener knows how much the garden store bill can skyrocket during planting season. If you’re anything like me, going into a garden store is reminiscent of when my grandmother used to take me to the candy store and tell me to pick out anything I wanted.
Unless you’re planting all perennials (and sometimes even if you are—oops), you need to factor in a good chunk of cash every season for plants. Remember that the whole point of your greenhouse is to grow year-round, so you could have a constant flow of incoming new plants.
Actually, another intention of your greenhouse installation might have been to grow more exotic, tropical plants. Guess what? Those are expensive!
And don’t forget the soil and compost. Hopefully you have a backyard compost system going to save money in that arena.
Either way, set aside a reasonable lump of funds to fill your greenhouse with greenery to your heart’s desire.
It seems trivial, but keeping a tidy house can be an overlooked part of greenhouse gardening. You’ve got to keep those windows clean so the sun can shine in!
Cleaning your greenhouse might often make even more of a dent in your free time than your wallet.
Licenses & Permits
Don’t underestimate the potential cost (in time and money) of securing a zoning or building permit for your greenhouse. The image above is a real greenhouse permit requirement list from Nevada County. Take a look at our guide to greenhouse licenses and permits to learn more.
Prevention is much more effective than treatment when it comes to pests.
Invest in pest traps and prevention methods before they take over your greenhouse. This will be a somewhat small cost if you plan preventative measures, but can cost you all your plants if you don’t!
Some all-natural, non-toxic ways to prevent and style bugs are:
- Sticky traps
- Insect barriers/nets
- Neem oil
One amazing cost-effective way to deter pests is companion planting: strategically placing different crops near one another to enhance pollination and propagation of beneficial insects (i.e. good insects that will eat the bad ones).
Repairs & Maintenance
Think beyond broken or damaged panes. A comprehensive maintenance plan will include cleaning fans and other appliance’s moving parts, checking functionality of vents and windows, inspecting plumbing, thermostat calibration, and other control adjustments. The wisest way to tackle greenhouse maintenance, just like tackling pests, is planned prevention.
Doing your own repairs is more cost-effective but tedious and potentially problematic to your greenhouse if you’re not a hobby mechanic. Hiring a professional can get pricey but will ensure it’s all done right!
Last but certainly not least: protect your investment. Check with the company that provides your home insurance about what building a greenhouse on your property will do to your insurance bill.