Many people are hard pressed to pay full price for a prefabricated building. These often cost several thousand dollars. A small chicken coop can cost several hundred, just to provide very minimal housing for a few birds. A good green house is also quite expensive. Instead of shelling out a bunch of money or, worse, going into debt, my solution is to do it yourself! This set of instructions requires no particular wood working, plumbing, or construction experience. A little common sense, simple tools, and materials allows for all of these structures on a shoe string budget. It is even possible, for those who are good at scrounging, to find most of the materials for free. Some materials are best new, but the plastic sheeting in question isn’t that expensive.
- Four, paired boards of desired dimensions (You want at least 2x4s; though you can work with thinner boards, it will be less durable. You want the board height to be enough for fasteners and attaching mesh. Railroad ties are heavy and resist rotting, which is great for any application not requiring mobility.)
- PVC pipe (Get at least three lengths of flexible pipe that is long enough to form a “U” shape with the board dimensions. These need to be somewhat more than twice your height, as they will be bent in half. Larger diameter pipes may need a heat gun or careful use of a hot fire to bend. You may possibly need a half “U” for roof center-line to add strength Possible half U for roof center-line to add strength. I’ve actually made semi-successful hoop houses without the PVC supports; however, though they held up for a few months, wind or snow caused partial collapse, and supports had to be rigged to save the structure. It is much better to design the PVC supports into the structure to start with.)
- Zip ties
- Plastic sheeting, tin, or semitransparent plastic roof panels (Plastic roof panels will last longer, but you need a heat gun to bend these without shattering them. Plastic sheeting may disintegrate after a year or so, requiring clean up and repair at that time. Consider this when choosing materials. Some sheeting is rated for sun exposure, and some is quickly degraded. Also, when purchasing this material, get a thicker grade for durability; the thin stuff usually doesn’t last a year.)
- Fencing wire (This is optional but recommended for strength or if using for animals.)
- Two fasteners per pipe (You need two per pipe, except the center-line only needs one. Or you can use flexible metal to bend into fasteners for pipe. If manufacturing your own fasteners, you need a drill or another method of creating holes for screws.)
- Eight to twelve large screws (Use screws large enough to bind the pieces of wood.)
- Two to four smaller screws per pipe (These are for binding fasteners to the board on each side.)
- Pack of eagle claw fasteners (These are staples that you hammer.)
- Basic tools (These include a hammer, wire cutters, screwdriver, and a pipe cutter or hacksaw.)
- Time and help (About 2-10 hours and, preferably, a work buddy.)
- Additional, recommended item: Rebar with bent top or a plant stake. This is used as an anchor to keep the structure from being torn away by high winds. This is especially important if the boards used are light weight. It is a very disappointing sight to see your newly wrought creation tumbling down the hill into the neighbor’s pond, leaving whatever it was to protect completely vulnerable. It’s even worse to have to scramble to cover those things up with something make shift until a better solution is had. Anchoring the structure is highly recommended.
Sources for used/recycled items: Check with anyone who has redone their water pipes and search the side of the road, construction sites, junk yards, craigslist, freecycle, and more. When I did my projects, I got all my PVC and mesh free. I bought the plastic, even though I found some free, because it was sun rotten. Plastic sheeting usually lasts a few years, if new; just plan on replacing this eventually. When sheeting disintegrates, it is very hard to clean up, as the plastic becomes tiny, fragile pieces. Panels can last decades, but they cost significantly more and are more difficult to shape. Buy a few more than you think you need because you may damage some. Alternatively, if you don’t need sun penetration for your application, tin is flexible, durable, and not terribly expensive. Someone who has had recent roof repair or an old metal building torn down may have some lying around. The purpose of your project, your budget, and the availability of scrounged material will dictate your roofing material.
Screw boards together into the shape of a square or rectangle. Normally, you want to make sure there are two or more screws per attachment– one high and one low. Test for strength before proceeding. This is your foundation, and it must hold up. It can’t pop apart under the pressure of the pipes.
Test the size of the pipe by carefully bending it inside the wood frame, cutting it down if needed. Mark each anchoring place for the pipes. Two people are helpful for this as you are putting tension on the pipes and they could spring free, causing damage to people or items nearby. When sizing the PVC bends, make sure that there is enough room to stand under the inverted “U”. It is not comfortable to do tasks while stooped. For every 2.5 feet of length, it is recommended that you have a hoop for strength, especially if there is any snow load expected. (In addition, if snow load is expected, a center semi-hoop for added strength is advised. If high winds are common in your area, a tall plant-hanging stake or a long, bent rebar to anchor your hoop house is recommended. Hammer this into the ground, weaving it into the mesh and PVC.)
Mark the placement of the PVC. If using pre-sized fasteners, screw them in. If using recycled scrap metal, like tin, cut a strip of about a half inch wide. Bend this over the pipe allowing an inch on each side to fasten to the board. Pre-drill holes slightly smaller than your intended screws in diameter. Alternatively, a light tap on the tin with a hammer and nail should pierce it enough to make screwing easier. Screw one side of each fastener into the board, then double check if need be that the opposite marks are on target before attaching those. Thread the pipe into the fastener opening. If the PVC shows signs of stress, careful use of a heat gun will assist with bending. If you decide to reinforce the roof with a center semi-hoop, install that after all the other hoops and put it inside of them. Readjust as needed for aesthetics and function.
(Optional) Unroll wire. Two-inch fencing wire is great, as is ¼-inch mesh. Chicken wire will help, but it’s not very strong. With the aid of an assistant, run mesh over the hoops. Allow for mesh to reach the bottom of the board on both sides as well as snugly hugging the hoops. Again, if your structure is intended to protect animals, allow for extra overhang at the bottom. Clip the wire to size, leaving squares (not spikes) were possible for ease of attachment. Use eagle claws and a hammer to attach the wire to the wood. Take zip ties and attach the mesh to the hoops at regular intervals. Zip tie PVC hoops to center semi hoop, if this is installed. As mentioned previously, for added strength in high winds, weave a stake into the mesh and PVC, then hammer it into the ground in the center. Note: Depending on your hoop house size and wire roll size, you may need to overlap the mesh sections. If so, be sure to zip tie these every 12 inches or so for structural integrity. You don’t need to use wire for the ends, as they bear no weight, unless you need to protect animals.
The plastic roll is next. Loop this over the top of the mesh and PVC. Poke small holes at regular intervals and zip tie it to the pipe and mesh. Small holes don’t hurt the heat-holding capacity; they permit venting and allow some rain to reach plants. If the purpose is for animals, provide an area that is more drip free. A little caulk can fill in most holes, but leave a few for air exchange. Along the bottom edge, hammer eagle claws at regular intervals to attach wire to the wood frame. On the ends, keep summer venting and access in mind. In the summer, both ends should be open to reduce heat. In all seasons, one side should allow access to the interior. This can be done easily with flaps. Zip tie the top edges of the plastic to your wire/PVC and drape down to bottom. Cut to size, allowing two inches extra on bottom. For a semi-circle hoop house, ******link???***like this one, the side should have the plastic split into sort of pie shapes—two flaps. Both can be movable, or one can be secured. Using scrap PVC or other long things, wrap plastic around and zip tie. Add a bungee to hold the flap open or for a more secure closure. More secure closures are essential for use with animals.
- Bubble plastic. Rolls of this zip tied inside in the winter help raise temperature and insulate the Hoop house.
- There is also heated pipe tape or seedling heat tape that can be used to heat soil through winter, if you don’t mind electric usage.
- A grow light can be added to fool plants into more vigorous winter growth and add heat.
- The small amount of electricity can, in some cases, be supplied by solar panels, if your area is sun lit through the winter.
- Full, PVC-framed doors can be added for neater ease of access and summer ventilation.
- A black barrel full of compost or manure will act as a winter heat sink, and decomposition will increase the inside temperature as well.
- There are more complex compost heating systems that involve running copper pipes formed into a sort of radiator from the compost to the pots or raised beds, which can increase the circulation of the heat tremendously.
- You can use the PVC frame with some added holes and some smaller, fitted rubber tubing to irrigate, if you have a hose. Most easily, use a hose with holes on the upper part of the frame to send water through a frame, and some small holes fitted with tubing and drip holes for pots or beds. Make sure to cap the bottom of the hosed PVC to re-route water for irrigation. This irrigation method will require some extra plumbing tools.
This system can be used for a storage area (a friend has a decades old hoop shed with hard plastic panels using bigger diameter PVC), as a greenhouse, and for chicken coops.
Chickens. For chickens, add perches, feeders, water system, and lay box. Leave off the plastic on one side. Chickens can take a little cold in stride, as long as they have liquid water. It is kind to provide some heating and insulation in the roost area, but keep in mind that they release much of their droppings while on the roost, and the build up of ammonia in the air is not good for them. They need fresh air and good ventilation. They also require some sun exposure, so one side should be a secure shelter; the other should be an open area that is still protected from predators. Use tighter meshing and strengthen wire attachments to wood, so they won’t easily pull free in the jaws of a determined predator. Hard plastic panels, tin, or other secure materials on the sheltered roosting side are a must. Most preying on penned chickens occurs at night. Predator-proofing the roost area is very important. It is also advisable, when adapting for a hen house, to add some wide mesh to the floor, bury a section of screen or to keep it mobile, and have screen edges that extend six inches beyond the footprint of the house to discourage digging predators. You can make this very light weight so chickens can have fresh greens every few days. This application is called a chicken tractor. The birds will work hard to clear the greens from the ground, eat insects, and fertilize the area with their droppings. When you move them, let the ground rest for a while, as chicken droppings freshly applied to plants may burn them. Composted and aged, they are one excellent natural fertilizer.
Greenhouse. For greenhouse usage, you can add raised beds, potted plants, soil heaters, grow lights, or even set this up for aquaponics. Aquaponics is a topic unto itself, but in brief it is a closed loop system that uses fish waste to feed plants (instead of soil), and the plants clean the water for the fish. These systems range from simple gravity-fed set ups to complex systems with grow lights and water pumps. This can provide meat and veggies in one system!
Storage. The simplest application is storage. It is suggested that you use thicker PVC for this application and hard panels for durability. Hard panels forgo the need for wire altogether, as they provide structure and rain cover. Anchoring these into the ground securely can create a structure that will stand up to decades of use. Serious anchors, using cement, are certainly an option for structures that will last.
These are just the most obvious uses for such a structure. There are many other potential uses for this design. This can be a simple, flexible, and low cost way to meet your small structural building needs. Feel free to adapt this in any way that is needed.
In a recent article it was mentioned that the Poor Man’s James Bond issues 1-4 could be downloaded for free. However, I saw no link. When I did a google search I did indeed come up with some websites. However, when I started to download my Anti-Malware and Anti-Virus programs went crazy and set off every alarm possible. So??? Has anyone actually downloaded these books for free?? I would love to have them in PDF form and could probably keep a lot of information on a thumb drive. However, I can not spend days fixing the computer and rooting out crud. If you have a reliable, SAFE link to download this, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks – Walter
Hugh Responds: We didn’t include a link to a download because I was unaware of the existence of a link that did not violate the authors copyright. I only included a link to the book on Amazon. However, the question is answered by a Survival Blog Reader in the following letter:
o o o
This posting encouraged people to get the Poor Man’s James Bond Volumes 1 thru 4 as a free download pdf. ALL pdf versions of Kurt Saxon’s writings are illegal. The only authorized distributor of Mr. Saxon’s writings (that I know of) is one seller who has the DVD-ROM set of all of Kurt’s writings, available on eBay.
eBay seller: prciousisthelord
Thanks – C.Z.