Shipping a hoop house greenhouse for the first time can be intimidating. For many, it is often the largest DIY product they have tackled to date. This guide will walk you through a breakdown of what happens after you order your hoop house style greenhouse kit and what you need to unload a freight delivery. From the supplier’s warehouse to your door, freight shipments can change hands and trucks multiple times. It’s important to understand how expectations and reality can collide when shipping an item this large across the country. Bootstrap Farmer is here to take you through everything you need to know about freight deliveries and shipping hoop houses, greenhouses and high tunnels.
What is Really Involved in Shipping a Hoop House Kit Across the Country?
There are a number of important steps involved in shipping any greenhouse or hoop house kit. The steps that will affect how efficiently your kit arrives at your destination include:
The time of year you are ordering your kit.
Warehouse lead times for packing and shipping greenhouse kits.
Freight truck driver availability.
Supply chain shortages.
Unforeseen delays due to weather, equipment failure, etc.
How long does it take to ship a greenhouse kit?
It takes around 3-4 weeks on average to ship something as large as a hoop house or greenhouse kit across the country. However this can be affected by a number of factors along the way.
Once your items ship you can expect 2-3 weeks of transit time. Keep in mind these estimates refer to business days. Most freight companies do not move trucks on the weekends except in the case of expedited items.
Expedited shipping may be available at an additional cost. In many cases the expediting will apply to the fulfillment of your order and not the transit time.
Warehouse Lead Times for Hoop House Purchase
“What is your lead time for shipping out a hoop house?” Is honestly the first question you should be asking any greenhouse supplier when you are getting ready to place an order.
Here at Bootstrap Farmer we frequently get calls from people who are surprised to hear that our lead time for shipping out a hoop house kit is typically under a week. Many people have been told by other companies to expect 6-8 week lead times for shipping greenhouse kits at the very least. These extended lead times are frequently because those suppliers do not keep all of the parts and pieces needed to build their hoop house kits in their own warehouse space.
Because Bootstrap Farmer stocks all of our parts within our own warehouses in Texas, we are usually able to get your order packed and on its way within a few days. Having our metal manufacturing take place within 100 miles of our warehouse also allows us to restock quickly. Busy season for farm supply, January-April, will affect this for us as it does for everyone. During this period we have seen our lead times shift upward. This is why it is important to plan farm expansions and projects around the peak season.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Place Your Hoop House Order.
Taking lead times and possible delays into account as you make your plans for the growing seasons is vital. Plan ahead for the time it will take your items to get to you as well as building time needed to complete your greenhouse kit. Think honestly about when you will need your hoop house built by and factor in all of the time it will take. If you want your hoop house ready for planting in March you should be getting your order together by January.
All farm supply companies see a significant jump in calls and orders come January 2nd. It seems that once the holidays are over most people have the mental space to begin preparing for the next growing year. If you have the ability to get your major orders like a hoop house kit placed before this, you will be subject to far fewer possible delays or “out of stock'' issues.
What Happens After Your Hoop House Order is Placed
Once we receive an order it is reviewed by our greenhouse sales expert before being sent to the warehouse to be picked. Make sure you provide the best phone number and email to reach you at when placing your order. This is vital because if we have any questions about your order we will need to be able to contact you before we fulfill your order. If we do not have good contact information for you it can delay your order. Additionally, a reliable contact number is needed because freight delivery drivers need to reach you to set up your appointment for unloading the hoop house kit.
At Bootstrap Farmer after your greenhouse kit order has been reviewed, the warehouse will put together all of your items and build them securely onto a custom pallet. Then we contact the freight company and arrange for a pick up. These pickups typically take a few days to occur after we have requested them.
Transit Times and Possible Delaying Factors for Shipping Hoop Houses
Transit times will naturally vary depending on distance traveled but certain factors will apply no matter what. Once your item is picked up from the warehouse it will go to the nearest hub. It is then transferred to a large, hub to hub, transport truck. Once it arrives at the hub nearest to you it is typically transferred to a smaller local delivery truck that may or may not be part of the same company. That truck driver will contact you to arrange a delivery window either the day before or the morning of delivery.
There are any number of small disasters that can happen along the way. From flat tires, to sick drivers, to someone getting a little lost, delays can happen.
What is a Drop Gate and do you Need one for Your Shipment?
A drop gate or lift gate is a feature on some freight shipping trucks that allows the driver to place the pallet to be delivered on a hydraulically operated tailgate. This means the shipment can be easily transferred from the back of the truck to the ground without the use of a forklift. Because trucks with operating drop gates are less common, there is an additional fee added to these types of deliveries and you will need to request it.
If you have access to a forklift or a tractor with forks you will not need a drop gate. Also as long as you have a few people available to help you unload on delivery day, you should be able to unload the truck without one.
For delivery to areas where a drop gate is needed, things can be a little more complicated. Even when a drop gate is requested and paid for, there are mix ups. If you have requested a drop gate be sure to discuss this when the driver calls you to schedule your delivery appointment.
Freight issues and customer service
Because of the nature of freight shipping, delays and mistakes can happen. If there is ever a problem, contact the company you ordered your hoop house kit from. It is much easier and faster for us suppliers to get ahold of the correct person at the freight company than it would be for you.
Be nice to the driver. They are hard working people who are doing their best. Let us take care of any issues you have with delays or damage because, 9 times out of 10 if these occur, they occurred long before the driver in front of you was responsible for your load.
Setting up Freight Delivery Appointments
When we arrange for a delivery driver to schedule a delivery appointment with you we are paying for that service. Drivers will call ahead of time, usually the day before or the morning of delivery, to give you a window of time in which to expect them. These drivers are professionals and are going to do their very best to arrive within the 1-2 hour window that they schedule with you.
Once your appointment is set with your driver it is time to call in your helpers. Even if you have a forklift onsite it is beneficial to have at least 2-3 extra sets of eyes and hands around to make this process as smooth as possible.
Who Unloads the Hoop House from the Freight Delivery Truck?
A delivery driver’s responsibility ends when they pull up to your driveway and open the back of the truck. They will get your pallet to the edge of the truck bed but getting it down and off the truck is your responsibility. Many customers are used to smaller deliveries that come directly to your door and aren’t prepared for the logistics of unloading the truck.
Most freight deliveries are from loading dock to loading dock or warehouse to driveway. These are large trucks that need space to maneuver. It is up to the individual driver to assess your driveway or road conditions to determine if they will deliver further than your address at the road. If you need your items far up a gravel road or towards the back of your property it is ideal to have a plan in place for the day of delivery to make this happen.
In residential neighborhoods there are often limitations on the size of trucks allowed to deliver. The driver must have a way to turn their truck around and may not fit on some cul de sacs or courts. If this is the case in your neighborhood you may want to consider a local terminal pickup or arranging with a local hardware store to have your items delivered to their parking lot where you can then load onto your own pickup.
Unloading and Taking Inventory of a Hoop House Delivery
Have space prepared to unload the truck and lay out all of your items. Taking inventory of the shipment the day it arrives is ideal for ensuring you have everything you need on hand when you start building. This is especially important if there is any visible damage to your delivery.
Take pictures when your hoop house kit pallet arrives. If anything looks damaged, document it with the driver, take pictures from all sides and contact your supplier right away. Depending on the severity of possible damage your supplier should have advice on how to resolve any issues and get replacement parts on their way to you ASAP.
Unloading a freight truck with a forklift
If you are lucky enough to have access to a forklift or a tractor with forks unloading the truck can be accomplished pretty quickly. Be aware of the weight and size of the pallet you will be unloading. Our pallet is 4’ wide by 7’ 10” long by around 6’ tall. And these things are heavy, usually between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds. Ensure you have enough counterbalanced weight to handle this. The last thing you want to do is damage your load or the driver's truck at the end of the journey.
Unloading a freight truck by hand
If you do not have access to equipment you will need to unload the truck by hand. This can be accomplished by two relatively strong people in less than an hour. You will cut open the pallet and remove the items. Aside from the plastic, the bundles and boxes are not terribly heavy individually. Since the plastic will be in a box by itself and won’t be damaged by a short drop, you can always push it gently off the end of the truck if need be.
Be prepared to take away all of your garbage and the pallet itself. It is not the driver's responsibility to do away with this for you. Plus it is a nice big pallet and who couldn’t use a little extra lumber around these days.
Local Terminal Pickups for Freight Deliveries.
If you request a terminal pick up due to your location. Your pallet will be held at the local hub closest to you and you can pick it up from them. Keep in mind the size and weight of the items you will need to transport and be ready with an extra truck or plan to rent a trailer/flat bed to get your items where you need them to be.
Everyone is Doing Their Best to Get You Your Items on Time.
Anytime something this big moves across the country problems can arise. Be ready for delays and happily surprised that they really only happen about 2% of the time. If issues do come up, contact your supplier.
Shipping a Greenhouse, Hoop House or High Tunnel Kit Cross-Country
With a large purchase like a greenhouse kit it is important to do your due diligence every step of the way with the order. Know what the expected lead times are before you order. Plan ahead for help with the unloading process. And never underestimate the power of being kind to your driver. They may not be required to help you but many of them will.
Managing the shipping and delivery timeline with your own schedule, checking off each of the items received, and being prepared for delays will make the process a smoother one. We are here to help 7 days a week with customer service, video tutorials, and other resources. As always we are happy to make any necessary phone calls for you if delays happen while your hoop house kit travels to its final destination- your growing farm.
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