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My Greenhouse Build Project

Posted By Steven Pro 10/25/2006 9:13:48 AM
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Steven Pro
 Posted 10/25/2006 9:13:48 AM
 

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I figured it was about time to bring you all up to speed concerning my greenhouse coral propagation farm.  I have mention it in other threads and in a couple of my presentations to cliubs and such, but I am at the point where I can start to document my progress.

I hope that readers will learn some of the lessons that I learned during construction.  Even though I thought I had prepped myself well, I had been in Anthony's greenhouse more times than I could count, have visited Dick Perrin's Tropicorium several times, and even checked out Morgan Lidster's Inland Aquatics a few times, not to mention thoroughly researching greenhouse construction, I still ran into things I had never considered and been made away of.

We broke ground on the greenhouse in mid-July.  My initial hopes were to get everything running by MACNA XVIII in Houston in September.  That would have been about a two month build time.  Well, those hopes were dashed, but not early on.  In the beginning, progress was quick and that kept my hopes high.




Steven Pro, yeah that is my real name.
2/2/2007 8:47:31 AM by Steven Pro
Steven Pro
 Posted 10/25/2006 9:30:44 AM
 

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I have been working in the ornamental fish industry full-time for over a decade now.  And, I have always dreamed about building a coral propagation greenhouse since the first day I stepped foot into Anthony Calfo's greenhouse.  The impetus for doing it now was that almost two years ago a natural gas exploration company approached us about the family farm and last summer they drilled an oil and gas well.  While that well produces a substantial amount of natural gas and actually even a little bit of oil and sends a nice monthly check, the big thing for me is that it produces free natural gas for use for the greenhouse.  I cannot emphasize this enough, this is a tremendous cost savings!  (Is there a smiley for cha-ching? Tongue )  Additionally, the rest of the utilities in my area are quite reasonable.  Electric is just under $0.07 per kilowatt-hour, water is dirt cheap, and there is no sewage.  So, my overall utility costs are going to be very low.


Steven Pro, yeah that is my real name.
Puffer Queen
 Posted 10/25/2006 10:45:52 AM
 

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Steve,

Congrats and best of luck on your new adventure!

Look forward to seeing pics of the progress and of course seeing it first hand.

Best of luck!


Kelly
Steven Pro
 Posted 10/26/2006 7:45:27 AM
 

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The excavation went very well and it was quite cheap.  It only cost me a tray of brownies.  Wink  This will be a recurring theme of my greenhouse build log.  It is not so much what you know, but who you know and what they can do for you.  A family friend owns an excavation company.  He needed to dispose of a bunch of shale he removed from another job.  So, he graded the area for my project and added the shale to bring the back end up some.  In thanks for the excavation, my wife baked him brownies.

On top of that, I did have to buy 40 tons of #2 limestone to finish it off.  I borrowed a bobcat from another family friend to help spread the gravel.  That cost me some Starbucks.  All this rock should work great for drainage and become a tremendous heat sink when it is sunny out.




Steven Pro, yeah that is my real name.
10/26/2006 8:05:36 AM by Steven Pro
Steven Pro
 Posted 10/29/2006 4:12:07 AM
 

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I decided upon an Atlas greenhouse.  When I was comparing the various brands, they all seemed to be shades of gray.  All of the models rated for snow and wind loads used the same gothic arch design, 4' spacing of the bows, diameter and gauge of galvanized steel pipe, corner bracing, etc.  The big difference was the Atlas came in the size I wanted, 24' by 48'.  This was the maximum I could fit in the area on the property.  And I must say, the sales rep was very helpful in planning for my particular ventilation/cooling and heating concerns.  But, he made numerous other errors such that I am unsure I would recommend Atlas to others.

First of all, their instructions were barely helpful.  They sort of got you close, but you had to figure out a lot by yourself.

My Father-In-Law trying to decipher part of the instructions.

The also left out numerous components in my package.  The first thing I noticed was there was not enough of the so-called wire lock base to go.  This is a C-track piece of channel that along with this wiggle wire stuff holds the poly covering on the greenhouse.  When I started attaching the track, I quickly realized I was 8 pieces short of these 10' sections.  I called them.  They apologized and recalculated what I required and sent me 8 more pieces.  About a week later, when installing the exhaust fan, I realized I need more track to go around that to make a good seal and had to call them yet again to order more track.  And, then about a week after that, I discovered they never sent me any thermostats to control the shutters, fans, or furnace.

It was never an issue of them charging me for stuff and not sending it.  They simply seemed to have forgotten I needed these items.  For a professional greenhouse manufacturer, I found this strange.  And, it was very annoying to have to stop what I was doing because they hadn't sent me something.

I must say though, that the stucture is very sturdy, all the pieces fit together well, and there were plenty of nuts, bolts, screws, and other little pieces for the assembly.  They just annoyed me.


Steven Pro, yeah that is my real name.
Puffer Queen
 Posted 10/29/2006 5:05:32 AM
 

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Don't keep us in suspense....can we see picture of the greenhouseSmile?

Thanks for sharing.


Kelly
Steven Pro
 Posted 10/29/2006 9:35:52 AM
 

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I am getting there.  That is half the fun anyway, the journey and suspense.  I need to take another image anyhow.  I will be out there working today.  I will snap a few photos and give you a sneak peek picture probably on Monday.


Steven Pro, yeah that is my real name.
Steven Pro
 Posted 11/1/2006 4:40:55 AM
 

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The next step in my greenhouse construction was installing the anchor posts.  Some greenhouses simply have short sections of poles that you beat into the ground with a sledge hammer, but this brand uses a pole with an anchor bolt.  You are to drop these poles into the ground in holes and then pour some concrete around them.  This makes for a much sturdier unit, but much more difficult installation.

I went to the tool rental store looking for a power auger.  I explained that I needed to drill a hole 12" in diameter and 30" deep.  They showed me a rather large two man unit.  Imagine a giant lawn mower engine attached to a large X brace that two people are supposed to carry around by the X brace as they lower and raise it to form the holes.  That looked like some sort of torture to me.  Perhaps it was the look in my face as the prospect of using this machine that the salesperson inquired how many holes I needed.  I replied that I needed 34.  He shook his head and said, "You don't want this.  You will die trying to drill that many holes with this thing."  He them showed me the pneumatic power auger (Insert Tim the Toolman noise).  This was even larger and came with its own trailer to drag the beast home.  He then showed me how to operate it.  Push this button to go down and this button to go up.  I was thinking, I can play Nintendo, I can do this.  Plus, this machine was only $20 more per day than the torture device.  Sign me up for this apparently easy to operate auger.

Have you ever used a front tine rototiller?  Do you know how it has a tendency to rather run around the garden than actually dig into the ground?  You have to hold the rototiller back to get it to dig in.  Well, this pneumatic auger was much the same.  It would have preferred to screw itself into the ground and become a permanent lawn ornament than to actually drill the ground.  So, you have to push down on the unit to get it to bite the ground and then once it does, you have to pull up and hold it back as it drills.  The big difference between this auger and the rototiller is, the auger was huge and came with a giant motor that beat the heck out of me.

Notice that flip-flops were probably not the right choice of shoe for me.

All kidding aside, while using that machine was very, very hard work, it made an impossible job possible.  The two-man, X brace unit would have hurt people.  And, digging 34 of those holes by hand with shovels would have taken about 34 years approximately.

But eventually, all the holes got dug.




Steven Pro, yeah that is my real name.
Steven Pro
 Posted 11/1/2006 4:51:43 AM
 

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Next, I had to place and secure all the anchor poles.  I was able to borrow a transit along with pulling strings to get these all level and perfectly square.

I mentioned before that at the bottom of each hole, I was to pour some concrete.  The problem was, this didn't call for that much concrete.  Anything less than 10 cubic yards is kind of a waste to get delivered, so I bought bags of concrete, fifty 80 lbs. bags.  While they loaded it on the truck at the store with a fork lift, I had to unload the bags by hand once I got home.  Do the math, 50 bags at 80 pounds a piece is 4,000 pounds or 2 tons.

I stacked it all real nice on a spare pallet I had, but each bag was off loaded by me.  Between the concrete and the previous hole digging experience, my chiropractor and I got to see a lot of each other.


Steven Pro, yeah that is my real name.
Puffer Queen
 Posted 11/1/2006 5:44:39 AM
 

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Wow Steve  - great pics/documentation.

Just think - you don't have the added expense of a gym membership that many incur to stay in shape!

Looking forward to seeing the progression of your greenhouse.


Kelly

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