The single best build we have on our little homestead was our hoop house. A hoop house is like a greenhouse but goes up cheaper and quicker than a traditional greenhouse. My hoop house is used mainly to start plants from seed, but I also have a small 300 gallon aquaponics system in mine and grow herbs through most of the winter.
Building a hoop house will cost about $70.00 every 4 feet of length. This could be more or less depending on the plastic and size of the hoops you use. You can purchase the bent hoops or make them at home. It’s easier to make them at home and much cheaper since there won’t be any shipping involved.
I bought my hoop house bender from an online source. This can be any source: they work about the same. Choose the diameter hoop bender your need. If you get a 12’ bender, it will be 12’ wide and 12’ high. Just figure out your needs.
Please keep in mind that the higher the hoops, the more heat you will need, if you heat it. The lower the roof, the easier it will be to heat. You also have to take into account how much you plan to grow and how you plan to heat.
If you want to use a double barrel stove kit to heat the hoop house, get the 24’. Any smaller and it will get so hot it can melt your plastic. Smaller heaters are better for smaller hoop houses.
The Amish always put the hoop house at a slight angle. Then they put the heater on the low end. This is an easy way to get the heat to travel to the cold end without a fan.
So, you have your bender and now you need the pipe. I use a 1-3/8 in x 10 ft. 6 in. 17-Gauge Galvanized Top Rail that you can get from a hardware store. The cost is about $12.00 each. The hoop bender will tell you how many you need for the size you bought. You’ll also get directions on the proper way to bend them. I suggest mounting the pipe bender on the side of a shed or garage. It makes it easier to keep your bends straight and not end up looking like the swirls on a candy cane.
You will also need 3 sets of purlins: they are the pieces that run across the top and sides to help stabilize the hoop house. They will be the length of the hoop house.
The hoops can be spaced out in 4’ intervals or less. I always space mine at 4’ and I live in Pennsylvania. The snow just slides off the top of the hoops, but I did use heat when I had a 24’ wide hoop house and that helped. It will pile on the sides. I have had 4’ piles on my sides without any issues. You may want to shovel the snow off the sides if you think it may pile high. I don’t think these hoop houses could handle a top load of snow.
To mount the hoops in the ground I use some more of the Top Rail pipe. Both ends of the pipe are different. One end is male and the other is female. I just buy extra pipe and cut them in half to make (2) 5’ sections: one with a male end and one with the female end. Each set of hoops will need one set of the pipe you cut in half.
Square up the area using string and a string level. Take the first pair of ground pipe and drive them in on the front corners of the hoop house plot with a post pounder taking care not to damage the tops. Drive them in 4’ deep and then alternate down the line from female to male ends. Just make sure that all ground pipes alternate across and down the length.
Once your hoops are bent, use one sheet metal screw to connect each section. I would pre-drill then use self-tapping sheet metal screws. I never had luck just using the self-tapping screws without pre-drilling. The tips usually snap off. Don’t use more than one screw at any joint: every hole is another weak spot.
Once you have the hoops bent, have a friend help you mount them to the ground posts. Just pick a hoop up from each end and place them on the furthest set of ground posts and work your way up. Now it’s time to connect them all together by using the purlins. Each intersection will need (2) 4” hose clamps. Have someone help with keeping it level while you put on the hose clamps just criss cross each intersection with 2 hose clamps.
At this point you have something that looks like a hoop house. You can finish it in an array of ways but I’ll tell you how I do it. I find that using wiggle wire to connect the plastic to the hoops works best. You will place wiggle wire track over the front and back hoop. The track will bend easily, so follow the bend of the hoop, pre-drill and screw. Now screw the wiggle wire track to the side purlins. The bottom section will allow you to roll up the sides when it’s hot.
The front and back of the hoop house will need to be finished any way you want. You can frame out doors on both ends or just one end with wood. I use one door because it saves a lot of money, and I never needed a back door.
Once you framed a doorway in, start connecting the greenhouse plastic working from the top center then each side. Wherever you staple, there is a possibility the staple will pull through. You can use any strip of plastic or some of the greenhouse plastic wrapped in a tube to staple the plastic to any wood. Using a strip of plastic keep the staples from pulling out. Once the front and back are done, put the top plastic on. Again, work the center top down with the wiggle wire.
The sides of the hoop house plastic will be able to flap open. I use sandbags to hold the plastic down then just tie the sides up with some rope when it’s hot.
Now you have your hoop house up, and it’s time to get growing. It will take a while to get things set just right, so don’t put anything major in until you’ve had it for a while. Also, don’t hang anything on the hoops: they will shake in the wind and toss things around.