Greenhouse glass - a blast from the past

Last week, I tried finding windows for the greenhouse in the demolition yard, and on Craigslist, but - no luck. Craigslist has lots of windows, but not the kind that would work in a greenhouse.

So, this morning Dusky Footed Wood Rat and I laid out the footprint of the greenhouse with scraps of lumber, decided that 10X14 feels like a goodly size, and headed into town to explore our options.

At The Home Depot in Soquel, we found some wood frame doors with glass panels that actually looked promising, for around $170 each.

The frames were about three inches wide, though-- Hm. Well, it would be pretty good. We were almost convinced. We almost bought them.

But we decided instead to go to Lighthouse Windows a few miles north in Santa Cruz, and talk to the friendly people there before making a decision. When Rat replaced all our misted-up dual-pane windows, that's where we bought the replacements. They're a local company and we like to shop local when we can.

Guy at Lighthouse Windows got right into the spirit of the project. It would be easy, he said, for Rat to just frame custom cut glass. At around $4.65 a square foot, it worked out to be about half the price of The Home Depot door solution, and it would be much prettier without that thick frame.

Or - even cheaper - he could sell us the panes of glass that go into standard door frames. They are dual pane low-E glass, though. Would that be a problem for a greenhouse?

We did what anyone with a question does: got on his computer and Googled. No problemo - low-E glass is actually good for greenhouses (you can see more details below).

Guy and Rat got into a discussion about using turnbuckles to prevent sagging - and Guy invited us outside look at the cool turnbuckles under the old Santa Cruz to Roaring Camp holiday train, which was parked just behind his fence.

I couldn't believe my eyes. Look what was propped up against the fence:

"Wow! Wow! Look at this door! This door is great! Wouldn't that look cool on the greenhouse?" I enthused.

Guy grinned. "You can take it, if you want it. It is a cool old door."

"And what about all this other stuff - Look, more doors, and even windows!"

These have real character, don't they? Take what you want - it's all going to the dump, except a few things I'm keeping for myself. "

"Really? Really?" I squeaked. I was one tickled-pink mouse. Rat gave his assent, from the woodworker's point of view, and Guy was just delighted at the whole idea.

I was doubly impressed by his generosity as he helped us load up the truck because every door we loaded was a sale he wasn't making.

Five regular size doors, two beautiful narrow doors (you can see them clearly below), and four windows, all wood framed, some from houses nearly a hundred years old, with "wavy" glass.

So having gone around the mouse wheel a good few times regarding the greenhouse covering, we have ended up with super-cool, traditional-looking recycled old doors with that traditional look I really wanted all along but didn't think I would ever be lucky enough to find.

We still have the roof to consider, of course, and you can be sure we'll be going back to Lighthouse with that business.

Low-E Glass
It turns out that glass with low-E coating is actually better for greenhouses than non-coated glass. I did a bit more follow up at home and here are a few links and bits of info for your delectation. (If you want more technical details, just google "low-E glass.") is a Canadian company with attractive kits, and good info on their site. They have this to say about glass:
Double-walled tempered glass reduces [heat loss] by about one third. Low-emissive, or low-E, coating, is another option; it reduces heat loss without a corresponding loss of light. In addition to being energy efficient, low-e glass reduces condensation, partially blocks ultraviolet rays, and makes the inside glass warmer to the touch.
Florian Greenhouse is also a big fan of low-E: "Research has shown that the stability offered by Low-e coated glass enhances the growth for a wide variety of plants. "

I also read on a Google Answers page that "when the sun's elevation is high in the summer the heat will be reflected back and not enter your home. In the winter when the sun's elevation is low the heat will be absorbed." But I don't know on what basis that statement is made.

This invaluable nugget about which side of the dual pane window the low-E coating should go on, comes from a page:
If the windows are designed to provide heat energy in the winter and keep heat inside the house (typical of cold climates), the Low-E coating should be applied to the inside pane of glass.
Yup, greenhouses are designed to provide heat energy in the winter alrighty! Good to know: coating on the inside.


Nell Jean said…
If you can see it in your mind, you can find it. This is wonderful.
Gail said…
What a wonderful find! The greenhouse will be beautiful and functional! gail ps and what a wonderful business man to share the recycled doors, etc.
Kelly said…
Oh am I jealous! I have wanted a greenhouse for a long time and just this summer decided I would build one with recycled windows and doors. When I finally get around to building one, that is! Your blog is scary! This is about the fifth time I have thought about something and then read your blog and found the two mice thinking and/or blogging about the same thing! Congrats on your wonderful wavy glass find!
Randy Emmitt said…
Great find! Can't beat the price either. I'll be taking out 2 sliding doors on a job soon. They ar insulated glass, might just split them into single pane glass so I'd have 8 panes the same size. They will be tempered glass so I can not cut them.
Town Mouse said…
Very cool! So it all worked out. Those windows didn't go to the dump, and you got something you can work with. This will be fun!
Barbara said…
Watching your progress with rapt attention!
Laura said…
What a good find! Not just the cool glass but the super enthusiastic Guy at the glass shop :) Nice job Mummy Mouse :D
Anonymous said…
What a great find...I can't wait to see the progress!
susan morrison said…
How wonderful you found something so perfect! Score another one for shopping local instead of Home Depot.

Has Guy considered running a salvage biz on the side? I've taken or sent clients to places like Omega Salvage in Berkeley before looking for just those kinds of treasures.
Christine said…
Oh my gosh! So, so awesome! The plant gods are winking at you for sure! Absolutely can't wait to see what comes of it.
janie said…
I had not heard a word about your progress on your greenhouse, so I had to come looking to see what you had done. What a wonderful gift! I would run to give that man my business when it comes to the roof! I am so glad you got what you wanted. I will hold out for almost forever, if there is a chance that I can have it the way it see it in my mind. I am happy for you!
Country Mouse said…
Thanks everyone, for joining in my excitement! Rat has laid out the foundations, and I ordered two roof vents. I'll give another update after more progress is made.
ryan said…
Wow, you guys are on it. And free glass doors; it seems like you must be leaving out some detail like your mafia connections or something. Great score. It seems like it isn't going to be terribly expensive at all. I really need to build one someday.
Susan Tomlinson said…
Oh wonderful! I'm almost as excited as you are that you made such a great find. Your new greenhouse will be fabulous, and all yours because you built it form scratch. Inspirational. I must build a greenhouse.

Right after the chicken coop...

And the storage shed...
Anonymous said…
Oh my goodness, pink town mouse, that is the best story ever! Talk about a happy ending. Free, there is nothing better! I guess the fact that you are recycling something headed for the dump??? is good too. Free. Wow.

Oh, nice find! We went over to Capitola Freight and Salvage, behind Orchard Supply Hardware on 38th Ave, in Capitola hoping for a similar find for own shed/greenhouse project. Unfortnately on that day we didn't have much luck finding what we were looking for. We may have to try Lighthouse Windows instead, thanks for the tip!
Great score! always nice to hear of someone creating the greenhouse of their dreams without selling the farm - and a good little fable about buying locally.

Makes sense that the low-e glass would be better for greenhouses: creates fewer extremes. Nice to have the studies, though.
You'll definitely have something to post on as your greenhouse project progresses. As my back yard seems to shrink the greenhouse seems to look like it's taking up valuable planting space. But I do enjoy the boost and protection it gives the seedlings. One little design thing that I did with mine that I'm glad I did was to have a solid, insulated north wall with no glass. Since glass of any sort will lose heat faster than a frame wall, and since there's be no solar gain coming in the north, having a super-insulated wall call save on heating expenses (if you heat the space) at the same time it helps to moderate the extreme mood swings of temperature an unshaded greenhouse can have.
It's always exciting finding just the right thing, especially if it's free and saving things from the dump! Ann Arbor has quite a few places to could get old windows/doors cheap, but I found mine at the curbside. As I'll probably never make it into a cold frame, I might use it as a fake window on my otherwise bring plain old shed. P.S. I love the pseudonym Dusky Footed Wood Rat!
Country Mouse said…
LostLandscape - I'm so glad you mentioned that about your north wall. In fact our north wall faces the backyard pool and we are going to have it solid, with a row of small (recycled from our cupola) windows. I hadn't thought about the point you make but now I can say, ya, of course we did it that way because...
Monica, I enjoy his pseudonym too - we have real dusky footed wood rats and their fantastic villages on our property. Also he really is a WOOD rat to be sure. As Pam/Digging Dog said - lucky lucky me!