Generally speaking, greenhouses come in two versions: free-standing or lean-to. Choosing the right type of model for you will depend on a number of different factors and it is important that you bear these in mind prior to making your choice. If this is your first time buying a greenhouse, it is vital that you get it right, to avoid disappointment and an unwanted ‘fixture’ later down the line. Both models of greenhouses have a list of advantages and disadvantages, and we recommend choosing the one that meets your criteria as much as is possible.
Free standing models can provide an excellent greenhouse if you have a large plot of land and the aesthetics fit in with your overall garden design. In order to keep the peace with your neighbors, you should keep the greenhouse over a meter in distance away from your boundary, so it is worth bearing this in mind when selecting where to place the greenhouse! Choosing a free-standing model is likely to give you a large range of options, as you choose the best one to suit your garden and requirements. Shop around a bit, to get the best deal on a greenhouse and take the time to read some user reviews online before making the purchase.
Choosing the location of your free-standing greenhouse, enables you to design your garden around the model. Make sure you have considered what the landscape is going to look like in the surrounding area. You could design your garden in a way that seamlessly incorporates the greenhouse, choosing a model that adds to the aesthetic beauty of your garden.
Furthermore, you might enjoy using your greenhouse so much that you will one day decide to extend it. A free-standing unit enables this, but does the size of your garden?! When purchasing, try to weigh up its potential in terms of whether or not it can be extended, or if you will want to. Bear in mind, however, that not all greenhouses can be extended; you might have to buy a completely separate model.
Unlike most lean-to greenhouses, you can orient the roof on free-standing ones to ensure that you make the most of the seasonal sun. Naturally, you will want to make the most efficient use of the sun’s energy (facing it south when in the northern hemisphere ensures this), so you can change the angle of the roof on many greenhouses, to make the best use of the light.
Despite there being many advantages, it is worth considering the disadvantages of free-standing greenhouses. Unless you have a solar greenhouse, you need to consider power – to ensure the greenhouse is sufficiently heated. Power cables, etc, are not as easy to manage with a free-standing greenhouse as with a lean-to. You might have to explore the possibility of underground ‘trenching’ in order to get power into the greenhouse, which of course will cause extra expenditure.
Furthermore, your greenhouse may become isolated and attract intruders if it is away from your house. You don’t want your prize marrow being stolen by a competitor! Of course, you could protect and secure the door with a padlock, but this will also bring about extra expense.
The greenhouses isolation could also make it more difficult to retain heat. Once more, this problem is solved by ensuring it is well insulated, but this is another extra cost to bear in mind. Lean-to greenhouses already have a degree of heat-retention, by the wall connected to your house or other building.
Before you make that decision, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages associated with having a ‘lean-to’ instead of a ‘free-standing’ greenhouse:
Lean-to greenhouses, in effect, give your house an extra room. You can customize your greenhouse by placing extra seats and tables in space that is not being used. This makes it a versatile extra room that can be used as a summer house or even conservatory if you have the space.
The heat that the ‘lean-to’ greenhouse retains could be used to heat your home. Having a versatile extra room with glass walls can give your home a nice view, whilst providing extra sunlight and heat. However, it is also worth considering that the opposite is also true: when the weather is cold, heat can be drained more easily. Depending on the other fittings within the greenhouse, you could be able to retain heat, for example with a door.
Unlike ‘free-standing’ greenhouses, it is a lot easier to hook up power to a ‘lean-to’ as you can often just run electricity cables from the supplies in your house. This is also true for watering plants, etc: it is usually easier to run hoses and store water from the supplies in your home.
The ‘lean-to’ greenhouse is easier to enter when attached to your home as you are effectively just entering another room. As such, it is also easy to keep an eye on your plants from the comfort of your own home. If you have any nice-smelling plants, their aroma can also drift into your home, giving it an attractive ‘ambiance’ (though bear in mind that the reverse is also true!!)
The limitations of having a ‘lean-to,’ however, include its location. Ideally, it should be against a south, west or east facing wall, for maximum sunlight. In addition, its dimensions are also limited and dictated by the room or building that it is attached to. As it is fixed to an existing wall, you may also need planning permission or a permit for your ‘lean-to’ and build it to specific regulations.
When choosing the greenhouse for you, you should also consider costs and other factors such as the frames (aluminium is recommended if you are expecting a lot of rain), the glass, the base (on soil or with solid floor?) and how you will keep the greenhouse watered. Considering everything before making the purchase will save you a lot of extra expense and headline in the future.