21 Types of Greenhouse Structures (The Ultimate Guide)

A greenhouse is a wonderful addition to any garden whether you have a small urban raised bed or a large farm. Greenhouses can give you a leg up on seed starting, add protection for sensitive plants during cold snaps, and extend the growing season.

Yet, there are so many different kinds to choose from. It can be overwhelming. Which is best for your home garden?

Look no further! We have put together a comprehensive guide on greenhouses that will explain each style and material, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each. This will help you make the best decision for your garden.

1. Glass Greenhouse

This type of greenhouse glazing can be heavy to lift and maneuver

The glass greenhouse has been around since the 18th century when travelers began bringing back exotic plants that needed to be overwintered in the cooler, European climates. Although the structures have come a long way since then, they are still very similar.

Glazing refers to the material used to cover your greenhouse. Glass is an aesthetically pleasing glazing. Double-walled glass and tempered glass are recommended for a stronger structure. They also provide more insulation than regular glass panels. Glass greenhouses can come in a variety of styles and sizes.

This type of greenhouse glazing can be heavy to lift and maneuver. They are also easy to break. Glass greenhouses are difficult to construct. They must be perfectly leveled and plumbed, or the glass can crack over time. You also need several support bars to secure the glass in place. These greenhouses can be susceptible to hailstorms and high winds.

Yet, they provide excellent, clear natural light for your plants and have a long lifespan.


  • Lots of natural light
  • Long-lasting (roofs can last 20+ years with proper maintenance)
  • Customizable design and style
  • Great curb appeal


  • Expensive
  • Construction needs to be perfect
  • Difficult to repair
  • Susceptible to hail, fallen limbs, and high winds

2. Sawtooth Greenhouse

Sawtooth Greenhouse lined up side by side ventilation

The sawtooth greenhouse design became popular in the 1970s and 80’s, especially in tropical, subtropical, and desert climates. These greenhouses are often used for the commercial growth of tropical fruits such as bananas, oranges, and pineapples.

The frame is usually made from galvanized steel, which is easy to build and install. The roof and surrounding walls are either polycarbonate sheets, glass, or polyethylene film. 

The key feature is the sawtooth design. The roof is built as a series of valleys and ridges which maximize natural light while also providing airflow. The design allows the hot air to escape through these ridges. It also allows breezes in to provide cross-ventilation throughout the structure. This lowers the cost of cooling and ventilation.

This type of structure can be built in a variety of sizes to meet each gardener’s needs.


  • Natural ventilation
  • Plenty of sunlight
  • Easy to construct
  • Saves money on ventilation
  • Comes in a variety of sizes


  • Maintenance can be difficult due to the shape of the roof
  • Expensive
  • Limited headroom
  • Less resistant to high winds and heavy snow

3. A-Frame Greenhouse (Ridge & Furrow)

The A-frame greenhouse is a popular design

The A-frame greenhouse is a popular design. It is simple to construct and uses fewer materials than many other types of greenhouse structures. The shape of this type of greenhouse resembles the capital letter A. The sidewalls come together in a triangle to create the roof. The panels can be made of glass, polycarbonate, or polyethylene film. The supports can be made from steel, wood, or plastic.

Many people in home gardens use the A-frame design because it is easier and more cost-effective. 

This is typically a smaller greenhouse design. The corners of an A-frame greenhouse can have less air circulation. Also, spacing can be an issue. This design is best for single-row planting or a small number of plants.


  • Cost-effective
  • Easy to construct
  • Uses fewer materials


  • Limited growing space
  • Poor air circulation in the corners
  • Less headspace

4. Gothic Arch Greenhouse

Like the A frame a Gothic arch greenhouse uses the side walls to form the roof

Like the A-frame, a Gothic arch greenhouse uses the side walls to form the roof. However, in this case, they bent over a frame to make a pointed roof that has more curvature than an A-frame design. The end design tends to look a bit like a flattened teardrop.

It uses fewer materials and allows for easy snow and water runoff. The shape also helps to conserve heat. These are elegant-looking greenhouses that are great for areas that receive a lot of snow.


  • Fewer materials
  • Lower cost
  • Good run-off for snow and water
  • Conserves heat
  • Strong structure


  • Limited growing space
  • Less headspace
  • Small with less storage

5. Polycarbonate Greenhouse

Polycarbonate is a clear plastic often used as a replacement for glass in greenhouses

Polycarbonate is a clear plastic often used as a replacement for glass in greenhouses. This material is stronger than glass and less likely to break when exposed to hail, tree limbs, and high winds. The panels transmit about 90% of light, which is comparable to glass.

It is usually paired with an aluminum frame and can come in a variety of styles and designs.  Polycarbonate greenhouses are flame and UV resistant. They are also easy to build and have lightweight materials that are easier to haul, and cheaper to repair.

However, they do get dust and algae build up on them. They need regular cleaning and maintenance to keep them looking their best. Over time, the polycarbonate can begin to yellow, so the panels will need to be replaced regularly.


  • Lightweight
  • Cost effective
  • Strong
  • Easy to repair
  • Good light transmission
  • Flame and UV ray resistant


  • Not environmentally friendly
  • Needs regular cleaning and maintenance
  • Yellows over time
  • Scratches easily
  • Condensation can get trapped between the layers

6. PVC Greenhouse

PVC greenhouses are built using PVC piping as the framework

PVC greenhouses are built using PVC piping as the framework. PVC piping is a material usually used for electrical conduits and water pipes. It is inexpensive and durable. These are usually easy to assemble as DIY projects. They do need to be securely anchored into the ground. They are lightweight and blow over easily.

These types of greenhouses are typically covered in either PVC film or polyethylene film. Polyethylene film is thin, transparent plastic. It is a very cost-efficient glazing for a greenhouse, but the light transmission reduces over time. In just one year, the light transmission of polyethylene film can be reduced to 58%.

PVC film is a thermoplastic that can be either rigid or flexible. Its light transmission reduces much quicker than polyethylene film. It can be reduced to about 15% after one year.


  • Easy to construct
  • Affordable
  • Durable
  • Great DIY project


  • Lightweight
  • Susceptible to winds
  • Can loose light transmission

7. Gable-style Greenhouse

Also known as post and rafter frames

Also known as post and rafter frames, gable-style greenhouses are shaped like traditional houses or cabins. They have supporting walls and a center rafter that holds up the roof, which is shaped into a triangle. This style is very top-heavy and requires a sturdy base. Smaller gable-style greenhouses are typically square-shaped. Commercial greenhouses in this style are usually rectangular.

This building design can use a variety of materials for the frame and glazing. The downfall of this design is that it uses more materials than many of the other styles to build. However, the shape makes it easy to heat and better for multiple growing benches.


  • Spacious for plants and headroom
  • Promotes air circulation
  • Easy design style
  • Easy to heat


  • Can overheat quickly
  • Uses more materials
  • Costs more than some designs

8. Hoop House

A hoop house is a common design style used by commercial growers

A hoop house is a common design style used by commercial growers. It was originally developed to protect crops that are sensitive to blight and to extend the growing season. This design uses either aluminum piping or PVC pipes to create a semi-circle. The greenhouse looks like a tunnel with an opening at the front and is usually covered in a polyethylene film.

This type of greenhouse is a temporary structure. It is extremely cost-effective and easy to build. You can make them smaller or larger according to your needs. They are perfect for pest control and shading-sensitive crops, but the temperature can’t be controlled with anything but fans and shade cloths.

A hoop house also cannot stand up to heavy winds and snowfall.


  • Easy to DIY
  • Cheap materials
  • Protects plants from blight and pests
  • Extends the growing season
  • Easy rain runoff


  • Temporary structure
  • Can’t withstand heavy winds or snowfall
  • Temperature cannot be controlled

9. Uneven-span Greenhouse

Uneven-span Greenhouse

The uneven-span greenhouse has a lopsided design. It is usually built in places where leveling is not an option, such as a hillside, mountains, or steep terrain. This can be a great option if you need to build your greenhouse in an atypical space.

This type of greenhouse is built using a tiered system that follows the terrain of the hill or mountainside in which it was built. The north or uphill wall can be insulated to create a barrier in cold climates.


  • Good for cold climates
  • Can be built in hilly or mountainous terrains


  • Limited indoor space, especially vertically
  • Uneven sunlight distribution

9. Even Span Greenhouse

even span Greenhous

An even-span greenhouse’s roof’s pitch is of equal length and angle. It has a distinctive two-sloping roof structure. These can either attach to the house or stand on their own as a structure. You can design it to be as large or small as you need, but it will need an independent heating system.


  • Variety of sizes
  • Plenty of space for plants
  • Snow and rain runs off easily
  • Uniform temperature inside


  • Expensive to build
  • Requires a separate heating system

11. Lean-To Greenhouse

A lean to greenhouse attaches to the home

A lean-to greenhouse attaches to the home. Lean-tos use the house’s exterior wall to complete the frame. The roof is angled, and the surrounding walls lean into the house.

It is a smaller-sized greenhouse and has limited space, light, ventilation, and temperature control. The location is usually convenient and is perfect for someone who doesn’t need a lot of growing space.


  • Conveniently located
  • Cheaper to build
  • Uses existing structure for one of the walls
  • Sturdy


  • Limited space
  • Light, ventilation, and temperature control limited

12. Wooden Frame Greenhouse

A wooden frame greenhouse is a classic choice

A wooden frame greenhouse is a classic choice. They come in every style, shape, and size. Wood has many advantages. It is aesthetically pleasing, provides great insulation, and is environmentally friendly. It is also a material that is easy to find, can be repurposed, and is an easy DIY solution. Wood is also sturdy against heavy snow and high winds.

However, wood is not as long-lasting as other frame choices, such as aluminum and steel. The wood needs regular maintenance. It also can potentially rot or become infested with insects.


  • Cost-effective
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Great insulator
  • Attractive
  • Materials are easy to find
  • Great for DIYing
  • Sturdy against heavy snow and high winds


  • Needs regular maintenance
  • Can rot
  • Looks weathered after a few years
  • Bugs can infest the wood

13. Geodesic Dome Greenhouse

Geo Dome Greenhouse

Interconnecting triangles create the unique frame of the geodesic dome greenhouse to create a frame that looks like a jungle gym you’d see on a children’s playground. Because of this structure, the geodesic dome greenhouse uses fewer materials and optimizes natural light.

This dome shape is perfect for letting snow and rain wash off the structure. It also stands strong against heavy winds.

However, this structure type is costly and can be difficult to construct. It also requires more space than some other designs. The odd shape can limit usable space inside.  


  • Modern looking
  • Optimizes sunlight
  • Uses fewer materials
  • Strong and resistant to harsh weather


  • Expensive
  • Limited indoor usable space
  • Sometimes requires a building permit
  • Difficult to build

14. DIY Greenhouses

DIY Wood Greenhouse

Since prefabricated greenhouses can be costly, many people choose to DIY greenhouses. Several of the types of greenhouses we have already listed are easy to DIY. For example, the PVC greenhouse is one of the easier DIY greenhouses to build.

You can also build a hoop house easily. If you are handy with tools, there are plenty of plans for different DIY greenhouses available on the internet. These range from wooden structures to greenhouses made with reclaimed materials, such as old windowpanes. With a DIY project, you can completely customize the greenhouse for your purposes and needs.

Yet, you’ll need some knowledge of building things to create a sturdy structure.


  • Can use repurposed or on-hand materials
  • Completely customizable
  • Can be cost-effective


  • It can be difficult to build
  • It may become expensive based on your plans
  • Time-consuming

15. Mini and Portable Greenhouses

A mini greenhouse is usually comprised of lightweight aluminum shelves covered with PVC film

If you have an apartment or rental property that you can’t put a permanent structure on, a mini or portable greenhouse may be a good option for you. These are also good for someone who doesn’t need a lot of growing space, but who may need a few shelves for seeds and starts.

A mini greenhouse usually comprises lightweight aluminum shelves covered with PVC film. Usually, you would sit it on a deck or patio to protect plants from frost and pests.

You can get these greenhouses in some larger sizes, but they are meant to be temporary, so they are not very sturdy. They are susceptible to winds and can easily get knocked down.


  • Easy to assemble
  • Small size fits anywhere
  • Portable
  • Great for smaller need
  • affordable


  • Temporary structure
  • Susceptible to winds
  • Not very sturdy
  • Limited growing space

16. Plastic Greenhouse

Many modern greenhouses are glazed in plastic

Many modern greenhouses are glazed in plastic. There are several types of plastic including polycarbonate paneling, acrylic, polyethylene film, and PVC film. Each type of plastic glazing has a different level of light transmissibility and durability, which we’ve discussed throughout this list.

The structure of a greenhouse can also be plastic. This includes PVC piping and plastic tubes. This type of structure is not very sturdy. It blows over easily in the wind. Yet, they are cheap, easy to put together, and portable. 


  • Affordable
  • Easy to assemble
  • Portable


  • Susceptible to wind
  • Weak structure
  • Temporary

17. Metal Pipe Greenhouse

Metal Pipe Greenhouse

Some people use galvanized tubing for their greenhouse structures. These metal pipe greenhouses can be built in square, rectangular, and rounded styles. They are corrosion-resistant and strong. They stand up to heavy snow and wind. They also resist bending, flattening, and chipping. They are usually also cost-effective.

The downside of using a metal pipe greenhouse is that they are most compatible with polyethylene film. This can be an unattractive look. Also, even though it is corrosion-resistant, eventually, the metal pipes will rust.


  • Versatile construction
  • Cost-effective
  • Easy to build
  • Strong and corrosion resistant
  • Perfect for commercial growing


  • Will rust eventually
  • Often used with polyethylene film
  • Not aesthetically pleasing for residences

18. Acrylic Greenhouse

Acrylic Greenhouse

Acrylic is another glazing option for a greenhouse. This clear plastic imitates glass. It is clear and nearly as durable as glass. It can withstand the weather and is heavier than other plastics. It is flexible, so it fits into a greenhouse frame more easily than glass. Acrylic can be costly, especially if you get a high-quality kind. Low-quality acrylic can scratch easily.


  • Durable
  • Strong
  • Weather resistant
  • Looks like glass


  • Expensive
  • Scratches easily

19. Fiberglass Greenhouse

Fiberglass is a translucent plastic that is strong and lightweight

Fiberglass is a translucent plastic that is strong and lightweight. It withstands hail storms and conducts light similarly to glass. It has a long lifespan of about 10 years. This is a great choice for greenhouse glazing.

However, over time the top of a fiberglass greenhouse can start to wear, exposing the fibers. These fibers catch dirt and begin to muddy the light transmission. This type of greenhouse needs regular maintenance of cleaning and resealing breaks.


  • Weather resistant
  • Great light transmission
  • Long lifespan


  • Needs regular maintenance
  • Can lose light transmission effectiveness

20. Combi Shed Greenhouse

combi shed greenhouse

A combi shed greenhouse is a multipurpose space. The structure can be built using a lean-to-style greenhouse against a garden shed frame. You can store your tools and potting materials in the shed and conveniently grow your plants in the greenhouse.

These structures usually are professionally built, expensive, and large, but they are attractive and have great value.

You may see a simple design where a greenhouse is connected to an ordinary shed. You can DIY the process or have customer combi shed greenhouses created based on your needs.


  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Multipurpose use
  • Convenient
  • Strong
  • Durable


  • Takes up a lot of space
  • Expensive
  • Needs to be professionally constructed

21. Abutting Greenhouse

a standard greenhouse shape that is attached to your house

If you are looking for a standard greenhouse shape that is attached to your house, then the abutting greenhouse works for you. This structure looks like a gable-style greenhouse, but the backside of the structure uses your house’s exterior as the back wall.

This style is large enough to accommodate 2-3 rows of benches, but the extra space can cost more to heat.

These are typically built with a wooden frame and either polycarbonate or glass glazing. You can build it with only an outdoor entrance, or you can have an entrance built into your house for easier access.


  • Convenient
  • Space for several rows of plants
  • Flexible design style
  • More light


  • More expensive than other options
  • Costs more to heat

What’s the Most Common Type of Greenhouse?

The gable-style, hoop house, and A-frame structures are the most common types of greenhouses for backyard gardeners. These are not only aesthetically pleasing but optimize space, materials, and cost. They are sturdy and accommodate temperature control and irrigation accessories. They also come in a variety of sizes that suit the needs of both commercial and hobbyist gardeners.

What Greenhouse Type is Best for My Backyard?

When considering the best type of greenhouse for your backyard, you need to think about the purpose of your garden. If you only have a few plants you need to overwinter or a few seeds to start, a lean-to or mini greenhouse may work best for you.

If you have a medium-sized garden, you may want to go for a separate structure such as a smaller A-frame, gable-style, or gothic-style greenhouse. For a larger garden, you may want to opt for a large style hoop house. 

But the space you have isn’t the only consideration. If you live in an area with lots of snow and/or high winds, you’ll want a structure that can withstand those conditions, so make sure you build based on your surroundings.

You’ll also want to consider what budget you are working with since some of these structures can become very costly. DIY options can save you tons of money; if you are handy, you can build a DIY greenhouse that can last longer than a purchased one at a fraction of the cost.

The longevity of the greenhouse, the material available to you, whether you intend to build the structure yourself or have it constructed by a professional, and the upkeep of the structure should also be taken into consideration.

What Type of Greenhouse Structure Will Last the Longest?

A well-maintained glass greenhouse can last from 30-40 years. Wooden frame greenhouses can last up to 50 years if they are maintained properly. These structures are durable, but they require more care than some of the more modern materials. They are also more environmentally friendly.

There are many factors to how long a greenhouse will last, but if you want your backyard greenhouse to stick around proper care is required. 

If you have rot, replace the area. If you have rust, clean it up and consider applying a rust-prevention coat of some sort. If you see buckling pipes and materials, replace them accordingly! The better care for your greenhouse the longer it will last. 

Metal, glass, wood, and PVC are all durable materials and can be expected to last for decades.

Final Thoughts

There are so many types of greenhouses to consider for your gardening needs! Think about your budget, space, and growing needs. You can always start off smaller and work your way up in sizes. Learn what it takes to grow in a greenhouse in your yard, and then consider upgrading your growing playground. 

Leave a Comment