Greenhouse lean to plans

This step by step garden project is about how to build a lean to greenhouse. Building a lean to greenhouse will help you grow vegetables and flowers in your own garden. Gardening is one of the best choices if you need a hobby or you just want to relax and reduce the stress level. Attaching the greenhouse to your house is an option, but you need to make sure the moisture won’t damage the structure of your home.

A lean to greenhouse is the ideal project for you, if you want to grow vegetables and flowers by yourself, but you don’t have enough space in your backyard. Don’t forget that you should pay attention to the preliminary steps, such as reading the building codes and get a permit, if needed. In addition, we recommend you to invest in quality materials that are resistant to moisture and sunlight.

Always adjust the size of the lean-to greenhouse to your needs before starting the actual construction. In addition, use a circular saw with a sharp blade to cut the components at the right size before assembling the frame together. Always align the components at both ends and drill pilot holes before inserting the screws to get the job done as a professional. Plumb the studs with a spirit level and check if the corners are right-angled, by using a carpentry square.


Made from this plan

Building a lean-to greenhouse

Building a lean to greenhouse


  • A – 2 pieces of 2×4 – 192”, 9 pieces of 2×4 – 46 1/2″ WALL
  • B – 3 pieces of 2×4 – 46 1/2″, 1 pieces – 57 1/2″, 1 pieces – 70″, 1 piece – 30″, 1 piece – 89″, 1 piece – 14 3/4″, 1 piece – 7 3/4″ WALL
  • C – 2 pieces of 2×4 – 192”, 9 pieces of 2×4 – 81″ WALL
  • D – 2 pieces of 2×4 – 89″, 5 pieces – 46 1/2″, 1 piece – 33″, 1 piece – 23 3/4″, 1×14 3/4″, 1 piece – 7 3/4″ WALL
  • E – 11 piece of 2×4 – 102 1/2″ RAFTERS
  • F – 6 pieces of 2×4 – 22 1/2”, 6 pieces of 2×2 – 30, 6 pieces – 19 1/2″ VENTS
  • G – 2 pieces of 1×3 lumber – 68 1/2”, 3 pieces of 1×3 lumber – 25″ DOOR


  • Safety gloves, glasses
  • Miter saw, jigsaw
  • Chalk line, tape measure, spirit level, carpentry pencil
  • Drill machinery and drill bits


  • Build a loft to increase the storage space
  • Secure the walls temporarily with braces


  • One Week


  • How to build a small greenhouse
  • How to build a cold frame

How to build a lean to greenhouse

Building the side wall

The first step of the project is to build the frame of the lean to greenhouse. In order to get the job done as a professional, we recommend you to assemble the walls on a level surface. In addition, check if the corners are right-angled and drill pilot holes trough the plates, before inserting the 3 1/2″ screws into the studs.

Building the tall side wall

Build the opposite wall in the same manner described above. The only difference is that we recommend you to cut the top of the studs at about 20º, before attaching the top plate. In this manner, it will be a lot easier when fitting the rafters into place and you will reduce the amount of work needed. Place the studs every 24″ on center, in order to provide enough support to the structure.

Assembling the frame

Place the side walls on the chosen location and plumb them with a spirit level. Use wooden braces to lock the walls into place, before building the front and the back faces of the greenhouse. In addition, you could place the frames on top of 4×4 skids, as to protect them from moisture.

Front wall plans

Building the front face of the greenhouse is a straight-forward job, as you just need to attach studs to the bottom plate, after placing it between the sides of the construction. Plumb all the studs with a spirit level before fitting them into place. Leave enough space for a large door, otherwise you won’t have an easy access to the greenhouse.

Back wall plans

Build the back wall of the greenhouse in the same manner described above. The only difference is that you don’t have to leave space for a wooden door. On the contrary, we recommend you to place the studs every 24″ OC and to lock them to the plates, as tightly as possible. Check if the corners are right-angled, after fitting each component. Make 20 degree cuts to the top of the top studs.

Attaching the rafters

Build the rafters from 2×4 lumber and lock them into place with 3 1/2″ galvanized screws. Cut the ends of the rafters as in the image, if you want to get the job done as a professional. Double the rafters at both ends of the greenhouse, in order to add support to the structure.

Building the rafters

Use the information from the diagram to cut the rafters at the right size and shape.

Building the vents

In order to keep a proper temperature inside the greenhouse, we recommend you to fit wooden vents between the rafters. As you can see in the image, you can get the job done in a professional manner by yourself, by building 2×2 lumber. Fit the frame into place and lock them to the structure with metal hinges.

Attaching the door

Build the door for the greenhouse out of 2×3 or 2×4 lumber. As you can notice in the image, we recommend you to build a simple frame by cutting the components at the right size and lock them together with galvanized screws. Check if the corners are right-angled before fitting the door inside the door opening and locking it to the frame with hinges.

How to build a lean to greenhouse

Last but not least, we recommend you to take care of the finishing touches. In order to get a professional result, fill the holes and the gaps with wood filler and let it dry out for a few hours. Check if there are protruding screws and fix the issue if necessary. Cover the structure with translucent polyethylene foil / polycarbonate sheets and lock it into place with strips of wood, over the greenhouse framing.

Thank you for reading our project about how to build a lean-to greenhouse and we recommend you to check out the rest of the projects. Don’t forget to LIKE and SHARE our projects with your friends, by using the social media widgets. SUBSCRIBE to be the first that gets our latest projects.

The Gardeners Corner

If you plan everything in advance and stick to your plan, building a lean-to greenhouse can be a weekend task. To start, you’ll need to assess whether your available wall space gets enough daylight and whether the finished lean-to will obstruct your neighbour’s view. Always check the local building codes before you begin.

Tall Wall and Small Wall

Your lean-to will need a structure other than your house exterior to keep it stable. This is referred to as the tall wall, while the exterior wall is the small wall. To construct your tall wall, you will need to know the height of your small wall, the width of your lean-to and the angle of your roof. But don’t panic: no geometry is required. Simply get some help to hold the tape measure and then eye-ball the height of the roof. You’re aiming for a roof slope of 30 degrees. If you get this right, it’ll be easier to shape the top of the frame. Now construct your tall wall on the flat, using a carpentry square to ensure your right angles are precise. Use 2×4 blockings between the studs to strengthen the frame. Then lift the tall wall and attach to your house exterior.

The small wall is constructed in the same way with the top of the studs flat to ensure the roof sits tightly. However, you’re not going to build a roof and mount it. It is much easier to cut rafters. These will hold the small wall in place. The rafter edges will be cut to 60 degrees at he bottom where they meet the small wall and 30 degrees at the top where they meet the house exterior. Be careful not to make the mistake of cutting both ends the same.

The Front, Back and Door

The front and back of the structure are built in situ, but consult a plan to see how a door is constructed within the triangulated frame construction. Once all four walls are in place, reinforce the whole structure with metal braces using galvanized screws to protect against rusting.

Once more, the door will be constructed on the flat and lifted into place. You can choose to use a very simple design with just one horizontal for extra support, but think about a solid lower door to avoid kick damage. Using the same principles as the door, you can also include a ventilation window in the roof.

The Shell

Polyethylene foil is the best option for a lean-to greenhouse. It’s easy to roll out, cut and fix in place. You can measure sections and cut it out on the flat, but always leave a little overhang for a margin of error. Secure to the frame with 1×2 wooden strips and screw down tightly. Once the screws are in and the greenhouse is weather-tight, it’s time for the finishing touches. Fill in all external screw heads with filler and, once dry, rub down with sandpaper. Once this is complete, your greenhouse is all finished.

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Lean to greenhouses from White Cottage

Table of Contents

Lean to greenhouses are a fantastic way to grow food close to your home

Solariums are similar, a sunny 3 sided room off of your house. Sometimes solariums aren’t used to grow a lot of food and are more similar to a sunroom. What is the difference between a sunroom and a solarium? Read the answer here. Conservatories and sunrooms are used more as a sitting room not a place to grow food. I still have fond memories of my grandparents sunrooms as they’re seen more in the UK where I grew up. Here in North America weather like deep snow and cold reduce people’s desire for sunrooms. However lean to greenhouses offer an opportunity to grow food year-round close to your home.

Whether it’s a lean to greenhouse or solarium they’re used to grow plants year round, or seed starting with benches

While we grow food year-round in our unheated 20’x 20′ greenhouse, we’ve thought about building a lean to greenhouse against a garden shed or the chicken coop. When we started designing our chicken coop I had in mind to use the coop warmth for cold frames, however because we get snowy winters is was more important to have our chicken coop raised off of the ground for increased roaming area.

Love this water collection idea from woodpecker

Lean to greenhouses are great because:

  • They make a great use of space because one wall isn’t glass or polycarbonate
  • They retain heat better than stand alone greenhouse because one wall is against a building
  • They add a wonderful architectural feature to your home
  • Other building option other than your home, are building such as chicken coops or a garden sheds

Considerations before building your Solarium

There are things to consider before building your lean to greenhouses:

  • Sunlight- you need to have adequate sunlight so you can grow plants.
  • The height of the walls of your house will be a factor to the width your solarium can be (in general the wider the higher the supporting wall must be)
  • Building code for your area
  • Whether or not you’ll add supplementary heating
  • If you’re growing food or using it as a conservatory
  • If you have a lot of snow keep in mind glass breaks easily and polycarbonate might be a better choice unless you plan on heating your solarium
  • Ventilation systems, windows and doors
  • COST will be a major factor to the design
  • Whether you’ll add cold frames on the outside of your solarium

Some ideas for lean to greenhouses & solariums

Here are some visual ideas for lean to greenhouses and solariums. Check your local area for any builders specializing in building them. You can also build your own, I’ll share some DIY lean to greenhouse plans at the end of this post. Although there are many greenhouse kits, it’s harder to find lean to greenhouse kits.

One thing to consider is whether you’ll use brick or wood for your base building construction.

I love these lean to greenhouses build from woodpecker in the UK

Very extravagant corner solarium and potting shed

Greenhouse from Sturdi Built

LOVE this cottage garden lean to greenhouse spotted on Instagram

Lean to Greenhouse Plans

If you want to build your own lean to greenhouse you can check out these plans.

Click here for more plans

Lean to plans from Grovida

Lean to greenhouse kits

There are some greenhouse companies like Windsor that offer small lean to greenhouse kits

Will a lean to greenhouse work for you?

That depends on your finances, backyard size and whether you can find someone to build a solarium in your area or build your own. In general I absolutely love these lean to greenhouses and find them to be a great way to grow food if you can afford one!

My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.

A lean-to is a rustic, three-sided shelter built for the comfort of campers and hikers. In Harriman State Park, these shelters — nine of them, with two additional “ironsides” — are made of rough glacial boulders gathered at the site. Some have tin roofs, and some have shingles. The lean-tos are dispersed throughout the park but are generally in the back country, and must be hiked to. All of the Harriman lean-tos are located along the trails — you won’t have to bushwhack to reach them.

They were built by volunteers nearly 100 years ago. (Read this New York Times archived article from when the shelters were built: New huts constructed at Harriman State Park) Situated along the longer trails in the park to offer shelter to weary hikers for the night, they might have beautiful views, or access to water, or interior fireplaces. They all have big fire pits in their “front yards”, close enough to the shelter to offer warmth and light.

A camper or hiker can spend a night in one of these lean-tos, sleeping inside on a raised wooden platform or bunk bed, in front of a fireplace. The shelters are large enough to comfortably sleep almost a dozen hikers.

Some shelters have wonderful views of valleys or even New York City. Some are set on large grassy hilltops, with room (and fire pits) for several tents and campsites, in case the lean-to is filled to capacity.

So, plan your lean-to adventure soon. Spring, summer and fall are, it goes without saying, top seasons for lean-to camping, while the winter offers its own challenges and rewards (and for proof, read this account of camping in Harriman in the winter. Exhilarating and harrowing, and well-written throughout.)

Here are the rules, and some frequently asked questions:

The Rules of the Lean-To (the written, and unwritten)

  • You can’t reserve the lean-tos; they are first-come, first-served only.
  • You should only stay in the lean-to for a single night, and then move on. You can stay in a different lean-to the following night.
  • Lean-tos are to be shared; you can offer to share the shelter with others who arrive after you, and you can expect to share the lean-to if you’re the later arrival. Or, you can pitch at tent or set up your hammock or sleeping bag nearby. Most of the Harriman lean-tos sleep eight — lots of room, but maybe it’s a bit weird when you’re sleeping next to a complete stranger.
  • The DEC website reinforces the idea of sharing: “Lean-tos cannot be used exclusively and must be shared with other campers.”
  • You are permitted to camp anywhere within 100 feet of the lean-to. Or, if you don’t have your tape measure with you, camp within sight of the shelter. The grassy areas around Tom Jones Shelter, Big Hill and Bald Rocks shelter are especially good for this.
  • Clean the lean-to (and surrounding area) before leaving! Please.
  • Make absolutely sure your fireplace is cold to the touch before you leave it. Know how to properly extinguish a fire.
  • Never, ever keep food inside the lean-to with you, as there are all kinds of woodland critters who will ransack your shelter as you sleep (or don’t sleep). This includes the black bear — they have been seen hanging around Harriman shelters. Use a bear canister, or make sure your food is otherwise properly secured.
  • Dispose of human waste by digging a hole 6″-8″ deep at least 150 feet from water or campsites. Cover with leaves and soil. This means: Bring a li’l shovel/trowel. (It’s really kind of gross to find bunches of toilet paper blooming behind boulders of Big Hill Shelter.
  • Here’s a tip for your toilet paper, and it comes to you from the wisdom of thru-hikers. Save your ziploc Craisin bags (or any other plastic food bag that ziplocs and is opaque with printing). Fold toilet paper inside, sprinkle a little baking soda in there, and pack it in your backpack. After you’ve used the TP, put it back in the bag, zip it up (tight!) and pack it out.

Frequently-Asked Questions:

Q. Can I drive up to any of the shelters?

A. No. The shelters are accessible only by hiking in, and this is of course one of the pleasures of the lean-to! However, you can park at the trailheads and take a beautiful walk in.

This means you will have to plan your camping equipment carefully. Pack only what you need, and try to minimize the amount of trash you’ll be carrying out. Bring a water filter and collect water on your hike in.

Q. How many lean-tos are in Harriman?

A. There are a total of eleven commonly-used shelters. You have the historic lean-tos, which are:

  1. Stockbridge
  2. William Brien Memorial
  3. West Mountain
  4. Dutch Doctor
  5. Tom Jones
  6. Big Hill
  7. Bald Rocks
  8. Stone Memorial
  9. Fingerboard

…and then there are two metal structures (“ironsides”) of more modern vintage: Cohasset Shelter, along the Long Path, and one above the Kanawauke traffic circle (used by some of the group camps in the park).

There are others that are tucked away in the park, and these were built for more rustic getaways for campers in the group and children’s camps. One is above Lake Stahahe, just off the White Bar Trail.

Q. What are some of the features of each shelter?

A. Check out our page about the features of the historic lean-tos.

Q. Are there garbage cans close to the lean-tos?

Q. How long can I stay in one lean-to?

A. It is recommended that you only stay for one day, and then move along to try another lean-to.

Q. Are there any toilets nearby?

A. No. Follow the DEC guidelines in this matter: “Dispose of human waste by digging a hole 6″-8″ deep at least 150 feet from water or campsites. Cover with leaves and soil.”

Q. Where are the Harriman State Park lean-tos? How do I reach them?

A. Locate them on the map of Harriman State Park (download any of the maps, below). Plan your route ahead of time; decide which lean-to you’re going to stay in, and plan where you’ll park and what trails you’ll take. Download our free map: Harriman State Park Trails, Shelters and Parking Areas: A Free PDF Map to Download,

Q. Will local wildlife bother me?

A. In the wood, wildlife is present, be it raccoons, bears, or drunken campers. Keep all food out of the your tents and lean-tos. Hang it up or put it in a bear canister to protect yourself from rummaging, ransacking raccoons and beasties. Tell drunks to keep it down (politely).

Evidence of bears. Black bears have been seen hanging around the shelters at Harriman. Make sure you store your food outside the lean-to, in an appropriate bear canister.

Q. Is there water available?

A. Some shelters are located near water sources, but these can be unreliable, especially in July and August. Best to bring your own water.

Q. Will there be firewood?

A. If a shelter’s been used well, finding firewood can be a problem. You’ll have to leave yourself enough time between getting to a shelter and sundown to find firewood at a distance from the lean-to. Don’t rely on your fire to cook your food; bring a little camp stove.

If you have time, gather firewood to replace the wood you burned. Stack it near the overhang of the shelter, but outside the shelter and not on the wood floor inside.

Q. Can I leave my car overnight in a parking area?

A. Yes. Park only in areas designated with a “P” on the trail map (refer to the trail maps, the downloadable maps, or OpenStreetMap for parking areas.) All of the designated parking areas within Harriman State Park allow overnight parking.

Q. Does it cost anything to stay in a lean-to?

A. No.

Q. What are the chances of a lean-to being unoccupied for the night?

A. It varies throughout the year. On holiday weekends like Memorial Day, the park is naturally crowded and the lean-tos will probably be occupied, every last one of them. On beautiful summer weekends, you can expect the same thing.

In this case, you can either: 1) get there early to make sure you have a spot in the lean-to (although you might have to share it); 2) go to one of the lean-to spots that you know will have room in the surrounding area to camp, either in a tent or in a hammock. If you’re hammocking, do it on a night that’s clear and warm. 3). choose one of the lean-tos that furthest away from any parking area. Avoid Tom Jones and Bald Rocks shelters for that reason.

Q. Can I bring my well-behaved dog?

A. Yes, you can. For his own protection, make sure he’s not going to wander off in the night, or have a bear or other wildlife encounter. Don’t bring a barker — if there are other campers, they might not enjoy the vocalization. Make sure you have water for him. If he’s active, bring a frisbee, which can double as a dog dish when you’re not tossing it to him. And clean up after him!

Implementing Lean Practices: Managing the Transformation Risks

5.1.1. Strategic Mandate

In the case of this firm, the need to adopt lean was identified at board level, that is, was a strategic decision. To compete within the international market the firm needed to show the value of a local supplier by reducing lead time and manufacture costs and developing ability to handle demand variability (e.g., achieving flow and eliminating wasted effort including reducing run setups) as well as increasing quality. Lean methods can be used to treat these areas and therefore lean was considered a strategic priority.

At the strategic level the firm needed to treat key factors for success and sustainability of lean. These factors have been identified and summarised in Table 2.

Change leadership Leadership commitment with the vision and its communication for engagement of staff. The initial steps of change and ongoing “wins” for momentum of change. The development of a new organisation identity.
Managing internal resources Physical, human (availability and capability), and financial resources need to be managed for amounts of training, learning, and implementing changes.
Managing external resources Use of consultant (sensei) or other external resource for training.
Other factors Market conditions and forecasts (risk), demand variability, and expected product mix (variety), among others.

Table 2 Lean risk treatment at a strategic level.

5.2. Evaluating Risk within the Lean Strategic Principles

One of the authors (AP) worked half-time for six months in the firm as part of a government-industry-university partnership. This provided the contextual knowledge for our analysis. We then took each of the strategic principle tools and evaluated, for this firm’s context, the impact and ease of implementation (see Tables 3 and 4). We then plotted these on the risk chart; see Figure 7.

Brief description Benefits sought Detriments/barriers
Analysis of risk to sustainability of method or entire implementation effort
To maximise benefits, and eliminate or minimise detriments
(A) 5 Strategic principles
(1) Defining value Lean begins with defining value from the customers point of view, that is, what is not value is waste to eliminate. Gives clear strategic focus based on what the customer is willing to “pay for.” Requires survey of customers, may challenge traditional thought of what the company should be focusing on and therefore create conflict of identity and resistance. Take to the required extent only—dependent on size and customer pool and current situation; for example, need to pull in more customers may need wider survey.
Be prepared to develop new identity based on outcomes.
Voice of the customer.
(2) Process/value stream mapping (VSM)
(difficult for Shamrock case)
Analysing of processes and waste there in by mapping current and the desired state. Complexity depends on need. In principle start with core process.
This, together with defining value, sets the vision and course of action.
Gives a health check on now and identifies key processes or faults with a system. Gives future goal and direction. Requires training and at higher levels all staff are involved. Can be simplified process where improvements and waste are more obvious but as more detail is required it is an involved and time consuming exercise.
This is difficult in the Shamrock case due to the complicated jobbing processes that rarely repeat.
Training and prioritizing are key. Take only to the extent required for the current state of operations. Involve key persons from functional groups rather than all staff except where key to general training or staff identity development.
At Shamrock initially concentrate on information flow (rather than cellular layout) and try to identify core processes for mapping and improvement.
Value must be clearly defined.
(3) Flow/one piece flow
(difficult for Shamrock case)
Flow is a key concept to lean. It is seen ideal to approach one piece flow. Process flows should be made as visual as possible.
Concepts like FIFO are introduced.
Lean is “not trying to optimise the utilization of people and equipment but optimise the flow of material;” includes information.
Reduces lead times, makes problems visible (bringing them to the surface) and supports quality at the source (see below under Tools). Takes skill and training to understand flow and adjust the systems, for example, to make flow logical and visible. Typically involves changing of habits (e.g., FIFO) and takes rearrangement of physical and human resources (e.g., cells).
Again this is difficult in the Shamrock case due to the complicated jobbing processes that rarely repeat.
Training in lean “flow thinking”—try reading The Goal and Lean Thinking .
Promote to staff the reason why it is necessary and educate them about the benefits of flow.
At Shamrock initially concentrate on information flow (rather than cellular layout) and try to identify core processes for mapping and improvement.
VSM done adequately.
(4) Pull
(difficult for Shamrock case)
Process initiated by the customer’s order “pull.”
The goal is to reduce batch size to approach one piece flow/JIT manufacture. See also “JIT” below.
Powerful in reducing waste and lead time. Inventory stores have all sorts of problems (space, quality, damage to stored goods, superseded parts, sales pushing on old stock). Takes skill and training to understand properly.
Promotes a lack of stability because buffers reduced—difficult for job shop and project based style organisations.
Again this is difficult in the Shamrock case due to the complicated jobbing processes that do not repeat.
A progression from higher end of flow thinking to ensure flow is well developed.
Can use buffers to support stability but not ideal.
Use training of staff to overcome resistance (see Flow above).
May need to use pull of order to pull paperwork and push material to flow.
(5) Journey to perfection Continuous improvement via PDCA (plan, do, check, act cycle) of above steps. Drives continuous improvement. Needs Perseverance/sustainability Build into processes (and culture). Target small wins at the beginning, maintain momentum, and leverage a new staff identity. Value, VSM, flow
(B) Effective communication processes Use of A3 management, nemawashi, and catchball—that is, concise reporting and feedback for consensus through simple and effective communication. Consensus reached, staff engaged, vision shared. All contributing to the one goal and vision. Development of the process is required e.g., training in A3 management. Sustainability and discipline required for regular but not excessive communication. Training, persistence, building into procedures processes and regularity; try weekly meetings, tailor process to business situation.
(C) All staff kaizen Lean engages all staff in continuous improvement. Emergent change from all adding up to significant change. Also positive culture. Training and engagement of staff required. Meets resistance “not my job description.” Create new employee identity and train them in simple problem solving techniques for example, 5 Whys. Assess whether to remove negative influences among staff.

Table 3 Strategic principles: lean key principles and higher order processes risk analysis table (reference case SI).

Brief description Benefits sought Detriments/barriers
Analysis of risk to sustainability of method or entire implementation effort
To maximise benefits, and eliminate or minimise detriments
(A) Lean methods
5S—sift, sort, sweep, standardise, sustain General organisation, cleanliness, and maintenance. General efficiency and basis for on-going improvements. Training required (to low/medium level).
Needs sustainability.
Develop new culture and expectation, use visual cues, develop new identity.
5 Whys—root cause analysis Basic root cause analysis tool; ask why 5 times. Get to the root of the issue so it does not repeat. Simple effective way of doing root cause analysis and simple way to get people thinking about analysis. Training required (to low level). Once trained if not used and ideas not acted on can be a negative experience, and reason for disinterest and failure in future. Find a mechanism to drive root cause analysis of issues/events and ask why for daily activities. Implement suggestions to get momentum and show commitment (maybe even when not ideal).
Visual systems Emphasis on visualisation of flow and systems of control and reporting. Part of 5s, flow and all aspects of lean. Visualises processes, makes waste visible.
See other aspects, for example, 5s and Flow.
See other aspects, for example, 5s and Flow. See other aspects, for example, 5s and Flow.
Quality at the source, Jidoka, and Poka-yoke Quality at source means control is given to the worker at the source of the issue—for example, on the production line. Jidoka is the respect for humans principle which includes mistake proofing (Poka-yoke) and in cases extends worker control to even shut down the production line. Quality problems are not repeated, engagement of worker. Training required (to medium/high level).
If ignored, momentum/morale lost.
Make training a priority with key staff and then build training into daily activities.
Systems for capturing ideas for poka-yoke and ensuring they get implemented.
SMED—single minute exchange of dies
(particularly beneficial to Shamrock)
Reduced setup time for machinery. Only essential internal setups made. External setups preferred to reduce downtime. Setup time down, shorter runs possible and economically viable, enables reduced lead times and ultimately JIT.
(particularly beneficial to Shamrock due to short runs).
Training required (to medium/high level). Downtime whilst working on improvements. Make training and kaizen a priority with key staff and then build training into daily activities for others.
Balance and make priorities clear (how much to spend on initiatives versus day job).
Flexible work systems Flexibility of employees and equipment preferred over complicated rigid or automated machinery. Quick changeover and easily expanded systems, resources where required Training of staff and their engagement required (to medium level). Loss of specific staff roles and responsibilities. Communication process for change and benefits. Develop new identity.
Total productive maintenance (TPM) Ensuring machines maintained to secure against unnecessary downtime and catastrophic failure—should incorporate continuous improvement also.   Less downtime.
Health and safety improved.
Training of staff and their engagement required (to medium/high level).
Skill of staff.
Select right people, train in appropriate skills, and give understanding to staff (build new identity).
Kanban Simple tool for replenishment/pull system. Typically a card (e.g., kanban card) but could be a bin or another identifier that flags for replenishment and specifies details (supplier, qty, location). One rule of kanban is to review its size (i.e., reduce the buffer towards one piece flow as part of continuous improvement). Links separated processes together for pseudoflow where ideal flow is not possible. Needs setup and organisation. Visual systems and no shortcuts help to enforce the documented procedures. 5S
Just in time (JIT) manufacture.
(difficult for Shamrock case)
Goods arrive just in time for processing or assembly. WIP and lead time down, quality up. Lack of stability because buffers removed.
Process takes much planning, training, and teething during implementation.
Negative results to culture possible during teething.
Again this is difficult in the Shamrock case due to the complicated jobbing processes.
Suggested to hold finish goods only (in production situations) or push and flow used. Both at pull of order by customer.
Must be well prepared for implementation: Staff training for their understanding and engagement, other process prepared as much as possible, ready for on-going teething internally and with suppliers. Use pilot and positive staff member willing to try. Consider carefully before implementation.
Flow achieved, needs Heijunka (level scheduling)
Heijunka (level schedule) & takt time (pulse)
(difficult for Shamrock case)
Level scheduling is smoothing demand—we include also takt time here which is easiest understood as average demand in time (e.g., 2 parts per minute or two quotes per day, two invoices per week). This is key to enable JIT/one piece flow effectively without excessive idle time or overtime in production. Difficult in Shamrock scenarios due to high fluctuating demand, for example, job shops make-to-order and project based manufacture. Level selling/marketing. Keeping buffer of finished goods to help (but not parts throughout entire system).
Understand in terms of the specific business and where it is most applicable there.
Flow achieved
(B) Complimentary Methods
Business systems
software and production control technology e.g., ERP
(particularly beneficial to Shamrock)
Interactive IT databases which may incorporate logarithms for scheduling and financial management. Information collaborative reduced data entry and codification of knowledge.
Particularly useful at Shamrock because of high administrative demands on complicated processes and customer requirements
Typically implementation times, culture change, and customisation requirements all extensive. Can be expensive and restrictive. Ensure the solution is right for your environment (many may be better with simple kanban planning boards and replenishment systems).
Get well prepared and ensure to have the right skill, resources, and technical support on hand.
Theory of constraints (TOC) TOC is in itself a standalone process improvement technique with its own overarching philosophy. It identifies bottlenecks “capacity constrained resources” that need to be targeted to improve flow. Great for training and supporting flow thinking. Read the book The Goal Does not implicitly include philosophy and culture of staff engagement and empowerment—typically consultant driven and not sustained as a standalone. Incorporate for flow training and use as suitable as a complimentary method but be careful not to affect overarching strategy.
Six sigma Six sigma is in itself a standalone process improvement technique with its own overarching philosophy. It is most well known as a statistical method of process analysis and improvement, Six sigma can be applied as a tool within a lean philosophy. Fine improvement of processes after basic obvious waste eliminations is made. High level training and highly time consuming exercise to use.
Workers can become too narrowly focused on statistical tools when simple problem solving is all that is required.
Use and train only as required in the meantime; use VSM and 5 whys for early results. Other simpler methods exhausted.

Table 4 Methods: selection of lean and complementary methods risk analysis table (reference case SI).

All the principles in this first set are of higher level and seen as critical to lean success and sustainability; however it is important to understand the challenges or level of difficulty faced. In our representative case we see particular areas of difficulty for SI around process flow, for example, flow and value stream analysis and application of pull systems. This is because of the make-to-order nature and complicated processes of their business. This is reflected in the Likelihood-Impact chart for these factors.

In Figure 6 we see the medium level difficulty but high impact of defining value, and having all staff involved in enterprise wide continuous improvement. Defining value is key to understanding what the customer desires and what wasted effort is that is, what should be eliminated through improvement. The communication process presents the vision of value and continuous improvement to all staff and allows for staff engagement and development of a learning organisation and hence also high impact. This suggests that the big wins for a make-to-order enterprise like SI would be in the culture excellence for continuous improvement and not so heavily in the process flow tools (although process improvement would occur as a result).

Figure 6
Strategic principles: lean key principles and higher order processes qualitatively assessed for impact and difficulty (likelihood) of success and sustainability (reference case SI).
Figure 7
Methods: selection of lean and complementary methods with a qualitative assessment of impact and difficulty (likelihood) of success and sustainability (reference case SI).

For the same reasons, value stream and flow are assessed as having only medium/high impact in the SI case. In contrast these would have high impact in a continuous production facility.

Pull is very difficult in SI’s case and would need particular adaption as suggested in the table. SI may need to use pull of order to pull paperwork but push material to the process for flow. This would change where higher quantity production permitted and even temporary or isolated flow lines could be introduced.

5.3. Prioritising Lean Methods: SI Case Study

There are many different methods or tools of lean. These were each evaluated for the SI case, in a way complementary to the strategic principles. The likelihood and impact of these methods is plotted in Figure 8.

(b) Figure 8
Methods and strategic principles for alternative (volume manufacture) scenario: indicative qualitative assessment of impact and difficulty (likelihood) of success and sustainability for “higher” production volumes as depicted by arrows.

We do not attempt to justify the implicit judgements in Figure 7 whereby a particular method is given the impact and difficulty scores shown. Instead we suggest that this requires a contextual knowledge by the person performing the assessment. In this particular case the first author was seconded to the firm as part of the research project and spent considerable time learning the context in which Shamrock operated. The assessment presented as Tables 3 and 4 provide insight to the process.

The purpose here is to identify small wins (sometimes called “low hanging fruit”) to increase chances of sustainability. Here the tools more applicable to the make-to-order business are featured in the top right corner. In contrast the tools for fine improvement of production efficiency, for example, six sigma and JIT, are in the bottom left. These were assessed as particularly difficult to implement in this particular situation, and the benefits would be limited. Implementation of TOC thinking would be more beneficial than six sigma or JIT in this case. Kanban is positioned in the middle, and while (in this situation) it may not be relevant for pulling production, it could still be useful for ordering consumables. Managers and business owners at SI broadly endorsed the validity of this analysis of the situation.

5.4. Implications for SI

Of interest is the high impact of ERP in SI’s case. This is something difficult to implement but if implemented right could have great effect. This is particularly because at SI production was partially being constrained by flow in the office. ERP implemented right would simplify quoting, planning, purchasing, and general data entry requirements which are identified as serious bottlenecks at SI (more so than specific physical production processes). It could also give other benefits such as business reporting. SI has much to benefit in understanding the holistic nature of its systems and the interaction between the factory and office processes.

Resource constraints are significant in SMEs and determine how much the organisation can achieve at any one time. In this particular case SI had just embarked on an ERP implementation that is somewhat separate from an enterprise wide lean journey. Because of the difficulty of ERP implementation our suggestion would be to hold off all other lean initiatives (except for some higher order principles) until ERP is well achieved and the resources are freed to focus on other lean implementation activities. This also implies that if they had a clean slate and had not begun implementing ERP it may have been more beneficial to consider some of the simpler tools first. This could have benefited them with further staff engagement and built culture excellence and staff engagement before implementing ERP with its higher requirements on resources and perceived level of change.

5.4.1. Beyond Production

We have noted that lean has been applied effectively beyond manufacturing or production businesses. Although SI is a manufacturing business we observed they had many gains to be made in their administration centre (hence a high priority for ERP). Whether or not the physical transformation of goods took place in their own workshop there was much waste to be eliminated in their office. These lean office gains illustrate the competitive advantage of lean beyond manufacturing businesses.

5.5. Application to Other Manufacturers

The implications would be similar for other make-to-order, design to order, job shop SMEs, although ERP requirements may drop where products do not demand a lot of records and data entry or process control (as compared with SI’s high tech and precision engineering customers).

For firms of higher production (e.g., low-variety high-volume) we would see more relevance in the emphasis on process flow principles and tools. We have illustrated these and other likely changes by placing arrows overtop of the previous charts; see Figure 8.

6. Discussion

6.1. Outcomes: What Has Been Achieved?

This work encompasses lean thinking and methods, lean implementation, organisational change, and risk management. Exploring the literature at the intersection between risk management and lean transformation we found no application except for piecemeal usage of methods and aspects of lean loosely tied to risk. There was little evidence of risk management and lean implementation being integrated by practitioners.

The present work makes several novel intellectual contributions. The first is methodological, in that it demonstrates a way to integrate risk management into decision making when implementing lean. This method makes the detriments (the threat component of the risk) more explicit and therefore amenable to treatment. The method achieves a high level of integration between the two management methods. We did this by comparing lean management with risk management as codified in the ISO standard and developing a common framework with lean.

A second contribution is that the method provides a way to explicitly identify the organisation difficulty of implementing lean practices. This is important, because although these organisational difficulties have previously been identified in general terms (e.g., the lean iceberg model), it has up to now been difficult to determine how those apply to specific situations. Thus variables that were once general situational variables (or contingency factors to use the change management term) can now be included in the decision-making. The method, while not specifically providing a temporally phased approach to lean implementation, encourages the decision-maker to explicitly evaluate which lean methods are relevant to the organisation at the time under consideration.

The third contribution is that we have piloted a method for applying lean to organisations other than high-volume manufacturers. In particular, the method was developed in a challenging type of organisation: an SME involved in high-variety low-volume manufacturing. This type of organisation has otherwise found it difficult to implement lean, as seen in the late adoption. The method and the case study bring out implications and provide solutions that could be relevant to other types of organisation too. The case study showed that it is possible, given contextual knowledge of the organisation, to predict which lean methods are most important in the setting. This enables the prioritisation of organisational effort, something that is relevant to all organisations but particularly to SMEs with their limited resources for such endeavours.

A fourth contribution is that we have now built another conceptual component in a model for high-value manufacturing. This is of national strategic importance to small countries like New Zealand, whose manufacturing industries cannot easily compete with other countries that have low labour costs and high production volumes. We suggest that intelligent implementation of lean is necessary for high-value manufacturing and is complementary to strategic decision making regarding manufacture and environmental considerations , among others.

6.2. Implications for Practitioners

For practitioners, that is, those managers in organisations that are considering what parts of lean to implement, the primary implication is that they should not only focus on the high impact lean methods but also consider a staged approach. We recommend they deliberately select lean methods that will build lean culture through small wins and staff engagement, before progressing to more overly lean methods. Lean implementation involves a transformation of the organisation, and initially the journey (i.e., the human dimension of the change process) is as important as the destination.

In making the decisions about lean, our suggestion is that managers consider applying the method given here, by evaluating the impact of each of the lean principles and tools and the difficulty of implementing them in that specific organisational context. We suggest that the organisational context is very important, and that the analysis is best done by someone who has deep understanding of how the organisation operates. At the same time it is also important that the analyst understands the capabilities of the various lean principles and tools. In this paper we have only identified these by name, as a full description would overwhelm the present paper. However we recommend practitioners gain the necessary lean knowledge by consulting one of the many excellent texts or employing an expert.

Another implication for practitioners is that the method we propose here is closely aligned to the risk management method. Consequently there should be no impediment to including the lean risk assessment alongside other risk management practices. Alternatively, if the risk management framework is not already part of the organisation’s practices, then we would suggest that consideration should be given to exploring that too, since it is not much more effort than to do so. The management approaches are complementary and mutually supportive having synonymous principles, framework, and process.

6.3. Limitations and Implications for Further Work

A limitation of this work is that the case study was more of a cross-sectional rather than longitudinal design and on only one firm. This naturally limits the external validity (limits the ability to generalise to other situations). It would be interesting to apply the method to a firm or multiple firms over time to assess how well the predicted lean methods actually performed and how decision making priorities adjust in time.

Another limitation is that the analyst needs both contextual knowledge of the firm and knowledge of the lean methods. We have explicitly identified that need in our recommendations to practitioners. It would be interesting to know just how much knowledge practitioners really have about lean. The root of failed implementations of lean might be ignorance, which would also limit our method. It would be interesting to do a widespread survey of the extent of lean knowledge and check whether that causes poor implementation.

7. Conclusions

The objective of this work was to explore how risk management methods are applicable to and supportive of lean implementation success. Risk analysis and management are critical to all serious decision making processes. However there has been little to no documented application or study of risk management in the lean implementation field. We have shown that it is possible to integrate risk management and lean management. We further developed a qualitative method where lean tools may be prioritised for a specific organisational setting. We applied this method to a case study. The case study provided implications for similar high-variety low-volume manufacturers as well as alternative operation modes (e.g., low-variety high-volume manufacturing, service organisations, and administration). The ongoing efficacy of lean tools and methods is very much dependent on the situational variables of the organisation. We believe that each aspect should pass through a risk assessment and analysis of some kind to determine treatments necessary. Our approach focused on treating lean failure by prioritising the tools that not only will deliver performance gains but also are culture building.

Authors’ Contribution

All authors contributed to the conceptual and intellectual development of the ideas in this work and to their expression in this paper. Antony Pearce performed the detailed lean risk assessments and spent the time embedded in the case study firm.


The authors acknowledge with gratitude the willingness of Shamrock Industries Ltd. (New Zealand), particularly Mr. P. Fogarty, to support this research project and provide case study material. A portion of this work was supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation Education Funding through the New Zealand Government, and this is acknowledged and appreciated.

What is a Lean Business?

Simply stated, a Lean business is a business that maximizes value while minimizing waste. A Lean business model focuses on improving processes across the value stream in order to eliminate waste and deliver optimized value to the customer. This can help teams and organizations achieve their goals in smarter, more sustainable ways.

While the Lean business model originated in the manufacturing industry, it can be applied to knowledge work in almost any industry. Unlike other business methodologies with hard and fast rules, Lean is a way of thinking that can be applied in any business environment. A Lean business is rooted in seven principles that we’ve outlined below.

7 Principles of a Lean Business

Optimize the Whole

Every business operates through a value stream- a system of activities and processes that take place in order to deliver the end result to the customer. A Lean business identifies those value streams and figures out how to optimize them as a whole. This is different than only looking at those that are not working.

Eliminate Waste

In knowledge work, waste can mean too much work in process, or time spent manually completing a task that could be automated. A Lean business eliminates any activity that does not result in value for the customer.

Build Quality In

A Lean business uses strategies like testing and pair programming to ensure quality in the process. Rather than checking for quality at the end of a process, it is built in as early as possible as an ongoing focus throughout.

Deliver Fast

Rather than expecting to deliver a perfect product to the customer, a Lean business focuses on delivering value fast, and in increments, so that customer feedback can be included in development. This allows for giving the customer exactly what they want, and ultimately saving time in the overall process.

Create Knowledge

Learning is a top priority in a Lean business environment and can be done through small, incremental experiments throughout a process. It is crucial to create an infrastructure to document and share these learnings across teams and organizations.

Defer Commitment

This Lean business principle, similar to a just-in-time system, encourages waiting until the last responsible minute to make a decision. Doing so allows for agility to make decisions with the most up-to-date and relevant information.

Respect People

A Lean business focuses on creating environments that allow everyone to do their best work. Without this principle, the others are irrelevant. Just as a Lean business shows respect to their customers by delivering maximum value, it shows respects for its employees who are doing the work to create that value.

Benefits of Making your Business Lean

Process efficiency and cost reduction are the most direct benefits of a Lean business model. But the benefits of Lean extend far beyond the obvious. Here are some of the top advantages of operating as a Lean business:

  • More efficient processes, including greater throughput and increased productivity
  • Reduced operating costs, through a decrease in lead times and cycle times
  • Increased team productivity and morale, through spending less time fire-fighting and more time focusing on quality and value
  • Better project visibility at the team level as well as for stakeholders
  • Delivery of customer value through increased quality and predictability, leading to overall customer satisfaction

Using Lean Concepts in your Business

There are many ways to integrate Lean practices into your business at a team or organizational level. These examples of Lean concepts can be a great place to start.

Continuous Improvement

The seven principles outlined above are based in a mindset of continuous improvement. Whether viewed as a formal strategy or an informal way of thinking, it must be a foundational part of any Lean business. A commonly used model of continuous improvement is the PDCA model, which stands for Plan, Do, Check, Act. This model encourages teams to perform incremental tests and document learnings throughout a process in order to be constantly improving and building quality in.

Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping helps teams to visualize the steps of a process so that the steps can be evaluated and improved over time. This practice is commonly used to improve any process where there are repeatable steps and multiple handoffs. Through analyzing the steps and handoffs, inefficiencies are identified and improved upon.

Metrics and KPI’s

There are several metrics that can be used to measure quality and efficiency of a Lean business, such as lead time, throughput and cycle time. These metrics are meant to be shared real-time with all employees and stakeholders so that key performance indicators are visible at all time. This level of transparency helps to encourage shared responsibility of process improvement and customer value.

Ideas For A Lean-To Greenhouse – Lean-To Greenhouse Plants And Design

For gardeners who want to extend their growing season, especially those living in the northern part of the country, a greenhouse can be the answer to their problems. This small glass building gives you the ability to control the environment, allowing you to grow plants that might otherwise take months to begin sprouting. Of all the types of greenhouse you can build, a lean-to style can be the best use of your space.

What is a lean-to greenhouse? Also known as a wall greenhouse, a lean-to greenhouse design takes advantage of an existing building, usually the house, by using it as one of the walls in its construction. Usually built on the east or south side of a house, a lean-to greenhouse extends out from a building, trapping in a small bit of perfect growing environment, despite the weather outside.

Lean-To Greenhouse Plants and Design

You can build your own lean-to greenhouse very frugally using found or

salvaged materials, or spend more money to purchase a ready-made kit. The sizes vary, depending on your gardening needs, and can extend the entire length of the house.

Consider your planting needs when coming up with ideas for a wall greenhouse. Starting dozens of tomatoes, peppers and squash early in the season every year might call for a southern exposure to capture as much light as possible, but if you’re going to use the space to grow and develop strains of orchids, a northern exposure is what you’ll be looking for. Consider how much planting room you have outdoors when you plan the amount of floor space you need.

Ideas for a Lean-To Greenhouse

Lean-to greenhouse plants don’t all have to be those destined for the garden later in the year. Many greenhouses are home to plants that will never leave their perfect environment. Consider using a portion of the greenhouse for seating, just to enjoy the constant tropical ambiance.

Make the roof of the greenhouse at least 10 feet tall. This will give a nice airy feeling to the space, as well as allowing you to grow larger plants such as orange and palm trees.

Don’t fall into the temptation of making the entire roof of glass. All plants need protection sometime, and a solid roof with occasional panes of glass or skylight bubbles give enough sunlight without burning out the plants in the summer and freezing them in the winter.

Check with the local building department before you begin construction on a lean-to greenhouse. There may be different rules, depending on whether you have a concrete or cement floor, and depending on the size of the construction. Pull any permits needed before you begin to build.


A greenhouse is a fantastic addition to any garden and allows you to widen the types of plants that you can grow in your garden. Depending on your size and budget, you can choose from traditional wooden structures to smaller urban greenhouse frames and even cold frames. And when you have chosen the right greenhouse, make sure you get the correct storage solutions for your plants and gardening equipment from our range of greenhouse accessories.

Many of us dream of having summer houses in our gardens, the perfect spot for sun downers, reading the paper, or watching the little ones explore outside. The products we stock allows you to pick out your favourite features so it fits into your garden perfectly. Will you opt for a traditional shape, a canopy to provide additional shade, a wooden decked area?

If you need more of a storage solution, check out our range of garden sheds – the perfect place to keep your lawnmower, pressure washer and other gardening tools safe and dry. If all you need is somewhere to put your hand tools, a smaller garden storage box will do the trick. Larger items will require a walk-in structure. It’s not just the standard garden shed we stock, how about a maintenance free galvanised steel structure? Alternatively, achieve the traditional rustic wooden effect without the required treatments with panels made of resin.

Those with dreams of entertaining or a writing nook will love our range of log cabins. These high-quality structures are the place to harbour anything from a calming retreat to a garden office.

Lean to greenhouse plans

This step by step woodworking project is about lean to greenhouse plans. Building a greenhouse attached to your house is a convenient way to store your plants during the winter, or to grow fresh vegetables all the time. After making sure your project complies with the local building codes, you should get all the tools required and buy the materials for the job (miter saw, drill machinery and screwdriver).

Check if the lumber is in a good condition and the slats are perfectly straight, before buying them from the local diy store. Make sure you pre-drill pilot holes in the lumber before inserting the wood screws, to prevent the wood from splitting. Align all the components at both ends, plumb them if necessary and insert the wood screws into place. Work with good judgement and attention, as to get a professional result.

Projects made from these plans

  • Materials
  • Tools
  • Time

  • A – 2 pieces of 2×4 lumber 200”, 12 pieces of 2×4 lumber 60” SMALL WALL
  • B – 2 pieces of 2×4 lumber 200” – top end cut at 30º, 12 piece of 2×4 lumber 99 1/4” TALL WALL
  • C – 12 pieces of 2×4 lumber 87” long – one end cut at 30º, the other end cut at 60º RAFTERS
  • D – 2 pieces of 2×4 93” – cut at 30º, 2 piece of 74 1/4” – cut at 30º, 2 pieces of 27 1/2” FRONT AND BACK
  • D – 3 pieces of 2×4 lumber 24”, 2 pieces of 2×4 lumber 64 1/4, 4 pieces of 10 1/4” FRONT AND BACK
  • E – 2 pieces of 2×4 – 69 1/2”, 2 pieces of 2×4 – 24 1/2”, 1 pieces of 2×4 – 17 1/2” DOOR
  • F – 2 pieces of 2×2 lumber, 2 pieces of 2×2 lumber VENT
  • 4 pieces of 2×4 lumber – 20′
  • 32 pieces of 2×4 lumber – 8′
  • 12 pieces of 2×4 lumber – 10′
  • 1 piece of 2×2 lumber – 8′
  • 2 hinges, 1 latch
  • vent opener
  • 500 pieces of 2 1/2″ screws
  • greenhouse film

One weekend

Attached greenhouse plans

Attached greenhouse plans

Building a small greenhouse, attached to your house is a straight-forward job, if you plan everything from the very beginning. Nevertheless, even it is an appealing idea, we do not recommend you to attach the greenhouse to a timber-built house, as it might damage it over time.

Top Tip: Make sure you study the local building codes, before designing the greenhouse. Buy quality materials, checking if the lumber is perfectly straight and in a good condition.

Small wall plans

First, you need to build the small wall of the greenhouse. In order to get the job done accurately, you need install the 2×4 studs between the bottom and the top plates. Drill pilot holes trough the plates before inserting the 3” screws.

Top Tip: Use a carpentry square to make sure the corners of the walls are right-angled. Fit the 2×4 filing blocks between the wooden studs, in order to enhance the rigidity of the structure.

Tall wall plans

The next step of the project is to build the tall side wall of the lean to greenhouse, using the same techniques described above. As you can see in the image, you should cut the top of the studs at 30º, in order to get a proper slope for the roof.

Make sure the suds are perfectly equal otherwise the greenhouse won’t have a symmetrical look. Fit the top plate on top of the studs and secure them into place with screws. Install 2×4 blockings between the studs, to increase the rigidity of the frame.

Installing the rafters

Afterwards, you need to build the wooden rafters and to fit them into place, making sure they are equally spaced. As you should easily notice in the plans, you have to cut one end of the rafters at 30º and the other end at 60º.

Top Tip: In order to give support to the light construction, you need to cut several blockings and to secure them between the rafters with 3” screws, as in the image.

Front wall plans

Continue the project by building the front and the back faces of the greenhouse, using the free plans. Make sure you leave enough room for a door. In addition, you should reinforce the whole structure with a brace, as to get the job done as a professional.

Drill pilot holes trough the components and lock them into place with 3” galvanized screws. Using regular screws is a mistake, as they will rust quickly.

Installing the door

Building a door for the attached greenhouse is a straight forward job, if use the right plans and tools. Build the frame from 2×4 lumber and secure the components together with 3” screws. Use a carpentry square to make sure the corners are right-angled.

Top Tip: Place the door inside the opening and lock it into place with several hinges. Check if the door is plumb, using a spirit level.

Top window plans

In order to ventilate the lean to greenhouse properly, you need to install several windows, placed between the rafters. In order to get the job done quickly, build the frame of the windows from 2×2 lumber and lock them into place with hinges.

Top Tip: Moreover, you can automate the process, by installing an opener, that will lift the vent if the temperature exceeds a certain level. Make sure the vent opens properly, before continuing the project.

Lean to greenhouse

Install the polyethylene foil on the studs and secure it into place fit fitting 1×2 wooden strips to the frame.

Lean to greenhouse plans

Last but not least, you should take care of the finishing touches. Therefore, fill the head of the screws with a good filler and let it dry out for at least several hours. Afterwards, sand the surface with 120-grit sandpaper, along the wood grain and vacuum the residues.

This article was about small greenhouse plans. If you want to see more plans for your garden, we recommend you to check out the rest of our step by step projects.

By Dorothy Ainsworth

Issue #154 • July/August, 2015

Just thinking about a greenhouse can stimulate the senses. In our minds’ eyes, we can see the filtered light shimmering down on rows of greenery, feel the moist warm air, smell the rich soil, and even taste a juicy tomato.

A greenhouse is a protected and controlled environment that costs only a few hundred dollars if you build it yourself. Your first ripe tomato will cost $800, but it’s worth it — your greenhouse will allow 365 days of gardening a year. Summer and fall plants will yield for an extra season, and new seeds can gain a head start for spring planting. Frost, snow, rain, and wind can’t touch your precious plants and flowers, or you. You’ll get your initial investment back within a year, and then it earns its keep forever after.

Doctors say that time spent gardening in a greenhouse is a great way to relieve everyday tension and stress — and you can do it standing up, which saves your back. They also say diffused light helps to alleviate SAD (seasonal affective disorder) by lifting your spirits and warming your heart. My son, Eric, calls it “the greenhouse effect” — it’s real and it’s palpable.


Eric’s house with half of its basement above ground created a tall wall facing south with nothing on it but two windows up high. It has been begging for a greenhouse since 2012 when we finished it. (See the “Building Eric’s House” series printed in Backwoods Home Magazine between 2009-2012.)

Pier foundation with pressure-treated stringers

Protective wall against house and stained 2×6 floor completed

Rafters and 1×3-inch boards for attaching translucent panels

Dorothy fastens translucent panels to the sides of the greenhouse.

The fan, thermostat, and kill-switch are wired in, with flexible conduit running over to a light fixture.

This is the inside view of the greenhouse.

Overview of greenhouse

Last summer, Eric grew cherry tomatoes in pots along the base of the wall. They got fried by the sun, beaten by wind, and the soil dried out too fast each day, but they miraculously produced in spite of it all. To make their life a little easier this year, we decided that an 8×12-foot attached lean-to type greenhouse was the answer to those harsh conditions on the hill, and we began building it in March after the winter storms subsided.

It wasn’t a tough project. Just about anybody who can use basic tools and knows a little about stud-frame construction would have no problem building it.

The foundation and floor

First off, I dug the pier holes deeper on the highest side of the slope and shallower on the low side. The house had been backfilled with decomposed granite so the digging was easy. Then I set 16 piers evenly spaced (4 on the long side 3 feet apart and 4 on the short side 2 feet apart) and screwed short posts into their brackets on the low side. I connected the posts in each row with a 12-foot PT (pressure-treated) 2×6, and leveled it before attaching it. The four 12-foot parallel rows were also leveled with each other. To finish off the rectangular layout, I connected the ends of the rows with 2×6 PT rim joists.

Note: Before attaching anything, I trimmed 3 inches off the four 12-footers to compensate for the addition of rim joists on the ends, so the floor would end up exactly 12-feet long. If the floor is 3 inches too long, it throws everything off and wastes standard-sized materials. It always pays to think a couple of steps ahead when building with dimensional lumber.

Now there were four 12-foot stringers (joists) two feet apart to fasten the deck boards across. I used (26) 8-foot 2×6 green Douglas fir (DF)boards for the flooring. Once they dry and shrink, there’ll be 3/8-inch gaps between them to let water and stray dirt fall through as we work and irrigate inside the greenhouse.

Framing the structure

The south wall of the house is basically the back wall of the greenhouse, but I built an 8×12-foot frame using 2x4s at 2-foot centers and sheathed it with 7/16″ oriented strand board (OSB) to fasten to that wall so the board-and-batten siding on the house would remain unscathed in case we ever want to remove the greenhouse.

I sealed the outside of the wall with exterior paint and then raised it up and fastened it in place with 3-inch screws. Then I covered its front face with three more sheets of OSB and painted that too.

Using kiln-dried 2×4 studs at 2-foot centers, I framed the front wall, then the side walls, including a 30½-inch-wide door opening (with a 4×4 header) on one end of the structure. I found an unusual door at the local “Builder’s Bargain Center” for $89 and it was perfect for a greenhouse. The top half of the door has a dual window that can be opened by sliding the top down or the bottom up, and it was screened on the outside. I installed a threshold, then attached three hinges and a door knob set, and hung the door with a 3/16-inch gap all around which disappears against “stops” when closed.

I used seven 2″x6″x8′ rafters spaced two feet apart and deeply notched at both ends to keep the roof low and stable at a 15-degree pitch. Brackets hold them securely in place.

After attaching a grid of pre-stained 1×3-inch pine boards spaced 30 inches apart across the top of the rafters and 24 inches apart across the vertical framing, I covered the whole structure with eighteen 2×8-foot polycarbonate corrugated transparent panels from Home Depot. I screwed them to the furring strips with hundreds of 1-inch gasketed screws — one in each corrugation. I chose Palram’s Suntuf® panels because they block harmful UV rays, are lightweight, and are almost indestructible.

Because it’s a greenhouse and will be exposed inside and out to sun, heat, and moisture on a daily basis, it’s a good idea to stain all framing members as you are putting them up (before each step). It’s not only easy and practical to do in advance, but it looks pretty too. I used Superdeck® Waterborne red-cedar stain, which is resin-based but odorless and can be cleaned up with water. The product turned out to be so fantastic, I’ll never use stinky petroleum-based stains again!

The fan and thermostat

Instead of making vents on the roof (which might leak), I framed in two openings up high on each end of the structure and installed shutters above the door on the windward side and an exhaust fan on the lee side. The inlet-shutters can be manually opened on hot days to let the breeze flow through and the fan will whisk out hot air through its own flutter-shutters whenever it’s on. The screened window in the top half of the door is an additional vent.

I chose a fan 10 inches in diameter (with 1500 rpm) that moves 800 cubic feet per minute of air, which is the size of the greenhouse. I hard-wired it in so it’s connected to a switch inside the greenhouse and a breaker in the electrical panel nearby. (They do make fans with plug-in cords, so that’s an option.) I wired in an adjustable thermostat so the fan will go on when the temperature inside reaches 80° F.

From a nearby faucet, I ran a hose in through a drilled hole so water would always be handy. From a nearby electrical outlet, I ran a cord in through another drilled hole for a heater with its own built-in thermostat for winter. I also wired in a wall-mounted light fixture with an electrical outlet in it for convenience.

The workbenches

With the greenhouse nearly completed, it was time to build the workbenches inside. Rather than do more carpenter work building bulky table frames and legs, I decided to install heavy duty 20-inch L-brackets (to each stud) at 30 inches high and create a 22-inch wide workbench from four pre-stained DF 2x6s attached across the tops of the brackets. I ran the workbench in a U-shape around the inside of the room, and a second shelf 30 inches above the first on the high north wall.

I hung a thermometer inside, and another thermometer outside near the door, so the difference in temperatures could be readily monitored. It’s not the sunlight that can damage plants, but the heat build-up. You don’t want to cook your zucchini on the vine, so moving and exchanging the air is mandatory.

Summers can be scorchingly hot here in southern Oregon, so I will install a roll of shade cloth I can pull down over the top and front of the greenhouse on 100° F days.

Closing thoughts

Well, I’ve built it, and here they come — the plants and the bugs — all vying for an ideal place to live and flourish. The nice thing about plants is they give back so much. For all that nurturing, you get to witness the wonder of life — the sprouting, unfurling, growing, flowering, maturing, and producing — right before your eyes. And to top it all off, you get to nibble and graze on what you raise.

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