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I Forge Iron

Non permanent shop idea

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I was talking to a buddy about wanting a new shop. He suggested a high tunnel greenhouse. In our county they are considered "mobile" because the foundation is just a pipe pounded into the ground for each rib to slide into, then bolted together. Pros: The price seems reasonable for the size you get, 2 people can build it in a day and best of all, no permits. Cons: plastic roof/walls, if I add a cement floor then it becomes a permanent structure so I will be stuck with a dirt floor, and no shade. Before decide to jump in and invest in one for a shop, I would like some feedback as to whether or not this seems like a viable option. Concerns, encouragement and devil's advocates are welcome so I can see all sides.

Here's a screenshot of what I'm looking at. Many sizes are available, from 12'x20' to 30'x60'


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Am I remembering correctly, you burn charcoal? Fireflies and a penetration for the stack will be concerns. I'm thinking a good side draft with a bit of a hood and a roof jack with a wider than normal separation should handle it reasonably well. NOTHING is going to prevent plastic from getting holes melted in it without making some sort of shield and it'd need to be wide enough to catch fliers. 

What's working with a fire in a greenhouse going to be like in a sunny S. Cal. summer?

Frosty The Lucky.

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2 hours ago, Frosty said:

Am I remembering correctly, you burn charcoal?

You are remembering semi correct. I was burning charcoal, but I switched to gas, though I don't think I mentioned it as it was when I wasn't online for a while.

I've done a bit more research since posting. Thanks to the California green rush, there are quite a few of these in the area I can check out, some with woodstoves in them. One guy even offered me his for a few hundred $$, I'd just need to get a new covering and take it down/haul it myself. I told him I needed to think on it. He told me as long as I get back to him by May it will be there.

For the stove pipe, they just went straight up, with the flashing(?) that would normally go through the roof of a house sandwiched on the plastic. Besides 2 inches around the pipe, none of the plastic has melted, and that just made the flashing and plastic one unit.

When checking the legal codes that allow the high tunnels, I found that I can cover the frame with any non-solid covering and still not have a problem, so it doesn't have to be clear plastic, it can be shade cloth or tarps or panda plastic (black on one side, white on the other). Unfortunately I can't use the tin roofing like I was musing over, which I have a huge pile of to pull from. Also electricity isn't allowed to be wired in, that would make the structure "permanent".

I also looked into the price of the plastic that covers the frame, it looks like it is about half the cost of the whole kit, but barring any trees falling on it, some of the ones I checked out still had the original cover after 8 years, and the plastic was still soft and pliable. Snow load is another thing I need to keep in mind, some of the people I talked to had their first greenhouses smashed from snow, but they admitted to spreading the legs to 5 ft between them instead of 4ft like the plans stated so they could get more room.

Luckily I'm in the mountains of Nor Cal, so we only get 1-2 weeks of 100°+F in the summer.

I still may go with a cargo container instead. Roughly the same price. Smaller, but less flammable and nothing needs replacing on a regular basis

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I hadn't thought of that part yet. A lock would be a nice feature to have. Another con that came to me as I was headed to bed was condensation. It will be warmer inside the greenhouse than outside, so moisture in the air will condence on the inside of the plastic, and drip constantly in unanticipatable places. It seems like the con list keeps getting bigger with the greenhouse. I think I'll end up going with the storage container, but I may still get the greenhouse the neighbor is selling cheap and add part of it as an extension to a cargo container and cover it in tarps for shade, leaving the end open for ventilation. If nothing else I can use it for it's intended purpose and grow our tomatoes in it. Or break it up and make a few large pig barns for overwintering.

Thank you everyone for your input so far. I won't be decided until I have enough saved, so if there is anything else that hasn't come up yet, please bring it up.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well today I got a call from my friend who I might have bought the greenhouse frame from. He said I could have it for free if I wanted it. Then he sent me this picture. I guess the snow took out more than just our kennels.


Not much left to use as a shop, but I may be able to salvage a few ribs, or I could sell it for scrap to put towards a storage container, or I could make a lot of wind chimes. I'm not sure I want to use it as a shop anymore though. My friend was down the hill from us and only got 1.5 ft of snow

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Shabumi, Besides spark flight and ventilation, there is another problem you also mentioned, namely that of condensation not only from the roof but also on the surfaces of all metal parts that do not heat up quickly to the same room temperature. Had to temporarily exchange my old shop for two overseas containers in the past. After a few months, this turned out to be not a good idea because all the equipment and machines started to rust HEAVY through the condensation. Even in my current studio, I still have condensation in special weather conditions despite of 4in insulation of my roof and 6in insulation of the walls-_-.

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