Freestanding vs. Attached Greenhouses (Pros and Cons)

Rundown greenhouse

This is Part 8 of the Gnome’s Greenhouse Guide. It considers the benefits and pitfalls of freestanding and attached greenhouses. But it doesn’t stop there! The guide is packed with a lot more super useful stuff about greenhouses you won’t want to miss, so check it out from the beginning.

Updated: October 30, 2019

Freestanding greenhouse

PROS

Design – A freestanding greenhouse can be any shape or style.

Flexibility – Can be oriented east to west to maximize the amount of light it receives.

Location – Can be located anywhere as long as it is sheltered from winter winds, where the soil is well drained, and where it is easily accessible. It can also be placed near the garden, making it easier to move plants in and out of the structure.

Expandable – If you need more space it can be expanded as needed

Size – Whereas the size of an attached greenhouse is limited by the building to which it is attached, freestanding greenhouses can be as large as you like.

CONS

Distance – Power and water will need to be brought to the greenhouse. This may require digging a ditch to lay a water pipe below the frost line or using an extension cord for electrical power. The extra distance from the home as compared to an attached greenhouse also means that it will be used less and will require more energy to go to and from the greenhouse to the house multiple times per day.

Heat loss – Freestanding greenhouses experience higher heat loss than attached greenhouses because all four sides are exposed to the elements. To most effectively cut down on heat loss you can insulate the north side of the greenhouse. Bubble wrap or layers of polyethylene sheeting can be used for insulation, though this significantly cuts down on the light levels in the greenhouse, leading to your plants suffering sunburn when you bring them outside in the spring.

Inconvenience – If you live in a climate where it snows in winter, your greenhouse is more likely to get buried after a heavy snowfall and since it’s farther away from your home you’re less likely to walk out there to clean it.

Security – More susceptible to theft due to its easy accessibility.  For this reason, you should keep the structure securely locked.

Our Picks

If you’re looking for a gorgeous, freestanding greenhouse, then the Exaco Royal Victorian is the greenhouse for you. This is the best greenhouse on the market, with high ratings and attractive aesthetics.

 The Royal Victorian greenhouse is small enough to comfortably fit on almost any property. But, it is also large enough to accommodate a wide variety of plant life. If you’re an avid gardener with a lot of grandiose plans for plant-keeping, this is a great way to ensure the plants’ safety and longevity.

It does sport some customizable features. You can choose where to install the sliding glass door, for example. All of the panels of this greenhouse are one solid glass piece, so it’s easy to arrange exactly where you want the door to be positioned. 

At no extra charge, this greenhouse comes with a misting system that promises to keep your plants comfortably hydrated and the inside of your greenhouse perfectly humid.  All you have to provide is the water source and hose! This will save you money on having to purchase a completely separate misting or sprinkling system.

The foundation frame is six feet tall, without accounting for the roof or peak of the greenhouse.  No matter how tall you may be, you’ll have plenty of headroom to work around the greenhouse comfortably. You won’t have to worry about running out of space for shelves or feeling cramped.

This greenhouse is built with high-quality materials. The frame is made of a powder-coated, heavy-duty aluminum that is thick and durable. It resists rust, corrosion, and daily wear and tear. The panels of this greenhouse are 4mm thick laminated glass. This glass is not only the safest kind of glass for greenhouses, but it’s guaranteed to stay clear and resilient in almost any weather conditions. It’s rated to withstand high winds, heavy snow, and intense heat without fail.

There’s a 15-year warranty included with the purchase of this greenhouse. Additionally, the customer service team for this manufacturer is fantastic. They’re punctual, polite, and helpful with every call or email.

If you’re not totally comfortable with an all-glass freestanding greenhouse, then a great alternative is one made of polycarbonate plastic. The best polycarbonate greenhouse out there right now is the Rion Grand Gardener 2.  

This particular greenhouse has all of the aesthetic beauty and clarity of a glass greenhouse with none of the potential safety risks. Polycarbonate plastic won’t shatter like glass can, and the plastic used in this greenhouse is crystal-clear. It also offers full UV protection. 

Available in four different sizes, you’re sure to find one that fits your gardening needs and is about your available yard space for placement. You can also choose the panels – the crystal-clear polycarbonate, or the twin-wall polycarbonate panels, which are a bit more private. 

The twin-wall panels are standard for the roof of this greenhouse, but as side panels, they will additionally diffuse any harsh external light by approximately 90 percent. This provides the inside of the greenhouse with a soft, even penetration of light. It’s ideal for a mixture of plants that may have low-light needs, as it will be hard to overwhelm them. If you have plants with higher light cravings, you could add small, LED grow lights. 

The barn-style roof is high enough to offer plenty of headroom for easy maneuverability, while also optimizing all available spaces for your plants. The roof also has a convenient vent for ventilation and to aid in the proper circulation of the air in your greenhouse.

Durable, safe, and attractive, this is a fantastic greenhouse for all of your gardening needs! 

Attached greenhouse

attached greenhouse - freestanding vs attached greenhouses

PROS

Extra space – Provides additional living space, adding several hundred square feet to your home.

Daytime heat source – Source of additional heat during winter daylight hours. During long winter nights, however, you’ll need to use blinds or shades to slow heat loss through the glazing.

Insulation – Provides additional insulation for your home. Acting as a buffer between the walls of the home and the outdoors, an attached greenhouse can increase the insulation value of an exterior wall by 10 to 15 percent.

Humidifier – Source of humidity for your home during dry winter months. If you suffer from aches and pains when humidity levels drop, you may find that an attached greenhouse alleviates such symptoms.

Easy access – Plants can be easily tended to at any time without having to walk outside—particularly useful in the winter as you don’t have to shovel snow to get into the greenhouse.

Added value – In most cases an attached greenhouse will increase the value of your home.

CONS

Insects – Insects can more easily find their way into your home via the greenhouse. If you spray insecticides in the greenhouse to get rid of them, the spray can also get into your home.

Heat in the summer – All greenhouses get hot during the summer months and attached structures will vent that extra heat into the home. A well-designed attached greenhouse includes ways to vent excess heat, shade the structure and close it off from the home.

Potential for rot – Because plants transpire, greenhouses are humid. This humidity can get into the walls of your home and cause rot. When installing an attached greenhouse, you will need to add a good vapor barrier over the wooden walls of your home where the greenhouse is attached to prevent humidity from getting to the wood.

Inflexible – An attached greenhouse’s size may be restricted by the size of the space available beside your home.  This can limit your future expansion or even the size of the plants that you can grow.

Orientation – The most efficient greenhouses face due south or slightly southeast. If you cannot build on a site with southern exposure, you won’t get optimal results. If you attach your greenhouse to a wall that does not face south, which may be good for certain types of plants, it will be more expensive to heat in winter.

Cleanliness – In an attached greenhouse, you will want to promptly clean up dropped soil lest you track dirt into your home.

Our Picks

When you don’t have a lot of extra yard space but still want an attractive, walk-in greenhouse, attaching one to your home is a fantastic option! There’s no better attached greenhouse than the Rion Sun Room 2 for this. 

With an attractive curb appeal and a comparatively low price, this attached greenhouse is guaranteed to meet and exceed your gardening needs and expectations. It is designed and manufactured to be durable and maintenance-free with years of use. 

The frame is made of a heavy-duty resin which is sturdy and able to withstand a lot of daily use and exposure. The panels are made of a 3mm thick translucent acrylic, not glass or screen. This makes them safe for use even if you have rambunctious pets or small children that may frequently enter the greenhouse. The panels are 100 percent UV protected, so along with being as attractive as glass, they are much safer by comparison. 

The roof of this attached greenhouse is also protective. It is a 4mm thick twin-wall polycarbonate plastic, offering great, full-coverage UV protection. It is guaranteed to endure harsh weather conditions, such as high winds and snow, without any problems. 

The door of this greenhouse is hinged. Along with the easily-accessible roof vent, this will allow for adequate air circulation and ventilation for the greenhouse space. For especially hot climates or summer days, this is a great dual-feature. 

This greenhouse comes with a limited seven-year warranty through the manufacturer. It may take some time to assemble this attached greenhouse, but it’s absolutely worth it according to customer reviews on both Amazon and Target.com. 

If you want something made with materials a little sturdier, or an attached greenhouse that matches the darker colors of your home, another great pick is the Sojag Outdoor Charleston Solarium

This is an all-season sunroom or gazebo. The greenhouse is made of aluminum coated in an attractive dark grey powder that resists harsh weather conditions, high winds, and things like rust, corrosion, or general deterioration. 

The roof of this greenhouse is made of galvanized steel that has also been powder-coated for added protection. The steel is incredibly durable, and the powder coating is primarily a protective zinc, which will protect the steel from premature rust and corrosion. 

This means weather conditions like rain, snow, ice, and hail are handled without a problem. However, the manufacturer still suggests taking appropriate action in inclement weather. An example of this is to make sure you remove any accumulated snow from the roof of the greenhouse. 

The window paneling of this greenhouse is made of clear PVC. Additionally, the walls of this sunroom have mosquito netting to ensure you don’t have any unwanted guests entering your greenhouse. 

One of the best things about this attached greenhouse is that it is certifiably flame-resistant. This solarium meets CPAI-84 international flame-resistant safety standards. You would be hard-pressed to find a safer, more durable attached greenhouse for your home and gardening needs. 

Available in two sizes, 10-feet by 13-feet and 10-feet by 16-feet, this attached greenhouse should fit most standard houses without too much hassle. You will have to assemble this greenhouse yourself, and the manufacturer suggests that it takes approximately five hours to construct when two people are assembling it. 

Some reviews insist that two people working on the greenhouse isn’t necessary for proper assembly and installation, while others say that they completed the construction in the five-hour approximation with the appropriate help or extra. 

The general consensus is that the roof was the most difficult part of this greenhouse to properly assemble, so keep that in mind if you decide to purchase this product. You may also want to take extra precautions if the greenhouse is not fully flush against your home, by sealing it with silicone sealant to prevent any possible leaks. 

Even so, this is one of the best attached greenhouses available on the market. It is a great alternative at a similar price point to the Rion that was suggested earlier on. 


featured image: ladyleaf; image 1: Scott Webb

More from Kristi Waterworth

Greenhouse Location

This is Part 4 of the Gnome’s Greenhouse Guide. It introduces you...
Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *