Using the Right Materials to Build Your Hoop House
Before you get ready to build a DIY hoop house, we recommend you get a good grasp on what materials are best for the build. Read about the pros and cons of different building materials that are used to create DIY backyard greenhouses, high tunnels, and hoop houses. Learn about the different types of maintenance that will be required for hoop houses constructed from various materials. Decide what materials you want to use for your hoop house project.
Watch this video where we discuss many of the common building materials used to build a hoop house.
What are the Best Hoop House Options?
There are a few common hoop house greenhouse building materials considered for the construction of DIY hoop houses. There are benefits and detriments to each material for building a hoop house. Hoops are made from either metal or PVC pipes. Hoop house hip boards and baseboards can be made from metal or various types of wood. The structure is then covered by UV stabilized hoop house plastic.
Using PVC Pipes to Build a High Tunnel
PVC pipe is made from polyvinyl chloride. It is commonly used for both electrical applications and cold water supply lines. PVC pipe is not a terribly strong material and is prone to bending when exposed to heat. The main reason people choose to use PVC pipe when building a high tunnel or hoop house is the low cost associated with the material.
When used for building a hoop house or any other application where it will be covered with the plastic it must be painted. PVC pipe and plastic are not compatible materials. PVC will degrade the plastic when exposed to UV rays. Using PVC directly against polyethylene plastic will void the warranty on your plastic.
Using EMT to Build a Greenhouse
EMT or electrical metallic tubing comes in narrower sizes than fencing or rolled pipe. It is also a different strength of the metal. It contains more lead to make it malleable since it is used in building houses where the tubing may need to be bent to make multiple 90 degree turns. EMT tubing can be a valid choice for smaller hoop house structures but will be extremely flexible in hoop house structures over 10’ wide.
Building a Hoop House with Top Rail
Top rail is named for its use as the top rail of chain link fencing. These are typically sold in 10’ 6” pieces that are swagged on one end to fit easily into each other. The top rail fencing sold at most big box stores can vary in gauge. We have seen 17 and 18 gauge sold but nothing as strong as 16 gauge rolled steel pipes like those used to build our all inclusive All-Metall Greenhouse Kits.
Top rail is a good choice for many DIY projects as it makes a nice compromise between price and quality. For a hoop house or a greenhouse under 20’ in width, it is strong enough to withstand a decent amount of snow and wind load.
Rolled Steel Tubes for Building Hoops and Ridge Poles
Pipes made from 16 gauge, or stronger, rolled steel are the high strength, high-quality choice for building hoops and ridge poles in any hoop house. Particularly for those 20 feet or more in width, stronger steel is better.
Bending Your Own Hoops for a DIY Greenhouse Build
If you will be bending your own hoops for your build you can either build a jig or use a specialized tool like our heavy-duty hoop bender. Any of the materials listed above can be used to make hoops to support greenhouse plastic but top rail fencing or rolled steel tubing are the best choices. For more information on bending different hoop house widths, you can read this article from our blog on Bending DIY Hoops.
PVC Pipes for Hoops
STRENGTH greatly reduced by UV exposure
Heavy and sustained winds can push a PVC structure to failure.
Compounded expenses later in the cost and time to rebuild the structure
*Bootstrap Farmer recognizes the need to start on a strict budget but encourages anyone considering this route to do their research.
Electrical Metallic Tubing for Building Hoops
The thin walls of this material do not give you a lot of strength to work with.
EMT makes great individual bed covers for microclimates
Stronger gauge metal than available top rail fencing
Double galvanized, zinc coating, and proprietary coating from Flo-Coat®
* Up to 5X the corrosion resistance of cheaper metals
Types of Woods Used in Building Hoop Houses
Many DIY hoop houses use wood for baseboards and hip boards as well as endwalls and doors. Any wood used in hoop house style greenhouses is going to be exposed to moisture and extreme temperatures. Depending on your location the types listed below may be easier or more difficult to access. We DO NOT recommend using pine if you can avoid it. Likewise, plywood is not designed for outdoor exposure and will break down much faster than expected due to moisture dissolving the glue.
All types of cedar will hold up well under elements. It is insect resistant and stands up to water relatively well.
This is extremely good for use with constant moisture exposure. It is also insect resistant and long-lasting. Redwood can be difficult to find and expensive outside the west coast.
Many types of cypress hold up well, similar to cedar, and are sometimes available in areas where the other types are not common.
Treated lumber is water and insect-resistant. Most people avoid using it near growing food or play structures because of chemical leakage.
When Using Lumber on Your Hoop House Build Ongoing Maintenance is Required
Depending on the materials you use, ongoing maintenance may be required. If you use lumber for parts of your structure it will eventually need to be replaced. No matter which type of wood you choose, if it is in a moist environment it will rot over time. You will need to remove your plastic and your lock channel in order to replace the lumber.
Read this article on Hoop House Maintenance including caring for your greenhouse plastic and other routine maintenance.
Comparing Greenhouse Kits Based on Strength of Materials
As we discussed in Are You Ready to Buy a Hoop House, there are several factors that can be tricky to compare kits from different companies. It is important to consider the strength and reliability of the materials when comparing kits. One hoop house kit may be less expensive using a weaker gauge of steel while another may be priced slightly higher but provide extra strength in materials.
Building Materials Not Included in a Hoop House Kit
When purchasing any kit but particularly a DIY kit is vital to confirm which items are included vs. which will need to be purchased locally. Many kits do not include the hip and baseboards. You can choose to build these from lumber or purchase metal hat channels to complete these. Some kits will include all of the hardware that you need while others will just provide a list for you to purchase.
Building Solid Endwalls
Some people choose to add solid endwalls to their DIY hoop houses using polycarbonate sheeting, corrugated metal or lumber or by buying premade kits. If you will be building solid end walls for your hoop house we highly recommend using materials that will stand the test of time. Using the best materials you can afford will reduce maintenance costs and labor over the long term.
Hardware Needed for Hoop Houses
We recommend using hardware that is the same as the material you will be building your hoops from or at the least has similar corrosion resistance. Galvanized or zinc-coated is best. If you buy a kit from us the galvanized hardware is included. The hoop house will flex in the wind so the shear strength of your hardware is important.
Build the Best DIY Greenhouse that You can Afford
Anytime you are adding a new structure to your farm there will be a dance between cost and quality of materials. We always recommend building with the strongest materials you can afford. Using a smaller DIY kit to help your farm scale up and then adding a larger stronger greenhouse later is always a possibility. Do the best you can with what you have available and think about upfront costs vs. the cost of materials and labor down the road to fix possible issues that can arise with lower grade materials. Want to learn more about building a hoop house. Check out Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Build a Hoop House Style Greenhouse.
Putting up the hoops is one of the most dramatic steps in your build process. Finally, all of your preparation and work starts to look as big as it will be. Putting the hoops together and setting them is when the structure really starts to look like something. Read more to learn all about installing hoops for a hoop house.