Dramatic Greenhouse Transformation

Updated: 5 days ago

Built entirely out of recycled windows, Andi Teggart from East Nashville has turned a drab, shabby backyard garage into a glorious, inviting oasis filled with botanical loveliness!

After moving from a small 650 square foot apartment in San Francisco's Lower Haight neighborhood, Andi and her family purchased a 100-year old, 2,000+ square foot home in the warm and trendy neighborhood of East Nashville.

After moving in, some projects emerged. The house (more photos here) had a standalone garage located in the backyard. But, not only could it not be accessed from the back alley, but the family learned the structure was falling apart and had termite/rot damage. It was time to get creative, so before demolishing the building completely, Andi's husband Eric came up with an incredibly creative way to turn this useless structure into a meaningful, functional, beautiful space to house plants and herbs.

The transformation process was not an easy road. From start to finish the entire process took about seven months, with many hiccups along the way. Inexperience with a project to this scale, weather, and city codes, etc made this experience less than smooth sailing. But with much determination, the family kept the eye on envisioning the final goal, and what a prize to enjoy the final outcome!

Below we will share with you a beautiful mess that was completely transformed into a grand backyard centerpiece.

Quick note: The greenhouse building process started by tearing down the falling apart, termite-infested garage in the backyard. If you already have a spot in mind for your greenhouse and don’t have an existing structure in that place, you can skip Steps 1 and 2 and start at Step 3!

1. OUT WITH THE OLD. Start with any siding, windows, or doors and start swinging your sledgehammer—just making sure to leave the frame intact! Make sure to keep testing the structure along the way so it doesn’t collapse on you! When you get down to the studs, use a jigsaw with a wood and nails blade to cut down the wall and knock it down. Andi's husband Eric did this all by himself, but recommends finding a helpful friend for this part of the process, as it’s pretty challenging and labor intensive.

2. CLEAN UP. This part isn’t glamorous or fun, but necessary after Step 1, as you have to get rid of the old stuff before you can build the new! Andi and Eric got rid of A LOT of debris, but ended up saving some of the garage siding, a couple of old doors, and windows that were integrated into the final greenhouse. They also found some really old license plates (from the 1920s!) in their garage and saved those to clean up and display in the greenhouse.

3. COLLECT OLD WINDOWS. Now to the fun stuff—the hunt for windows! There were a ton of renovations happening in their neighborhood of East Nashville, so it was really easy for Andi and Eric to collect windows. They were able to pick up windows (for free!) from five different houses in the area. They loved that they weren't all the same shape or size—it makes the greenhouse more unique and interesting! Facebook Marketplace, garage sales, estate sales and auctions are other great places to look for old windows.

4. FRAME THE STRUCTURE. Using old windows means that you will have super unique framing throughout the greenhouse structure. Their greenhouse was 10×14’ in size, so Andi and Eric laid out the old windows like a puzzle and spaced out 2x4s of different lengths to put together four mostly glass sides of the structure. They recommended collecting all the windows first, and then taking the time to plan out the full structure with detailed drawings. Make sure to invest in pressure treated lumber when building an outside structure, too. Being new to this, the couple had a non-pressure treated 2×4 on the ground on one side of the greenhouse and had to remove it and replace the board halfway through the project! Learn from their mistakes and just use pressure treated lumber. 🙂 An avid gardener friend also told the family to make sure they had a fan for air circulation in the greenhouse, so they bought a solar powered attic fan and installed it into the back wall of the greenhouse.

5. BUILD THE ROOF. The easiest greenhouse roof covering is corrugated plastic that you can attach to the rafters. This will make the roof-building process a whole lot shorter and much more manageable. It will still look beautiful, too! Andi and Eric had collected so many recycled windows that they ended up using the old windows for the roof, too. This posed some unique challenges, but we love the finished product! If you want to make the roof out of windows, here’s what to do: start with a long ridge board (2×6) and attach your rafters with birdsmouths cut out on either side to support. Similar to building the frame, plan out window placement on the ground to size where your rafters should be making sure that the rafters supported by the top beams on the structure all the way to the ground. You will then attach the rafters using hurricane ties to the frame and frame in the windows. Andi and Eric filled in the gaps with a silicon sealant and used white asphalt roof panels along the ridge beam.

6. FRESHEN UP THE SPACE. The area around the greenhouse wasn’t so pretty, so the couple decided to spruce up the space around it. They had built the greenhouse on a concrete slab where the garage used to be, so they planted flowers and plants around the greenhouse, which really freshened up the exterior. They hired a local contractor to build a deck on the front of the greenhouse to make more of a special entrance to the space. The deck covers the existing concrete slab, and overall, allows the greenhouse to look more finished.