Building a Sunroom Using Recycled Materials homesteading, homestead.

In the summer of 2016, a neighbor lady invited me and my daughter over to see the greenhouse that she had built with her husband.  The greenhouse started out as a wooden frame and then they added heavy-duty plastic and patio glass doors for exterior walls.  She explained how fun it was to frame in glass doors as she’d find them being discarded or very cheap at places like our local ReStore.  ReStore is a Habitat for Humanity store that sells the surplus to the public.  There are ReStores in many states around the country.  When she’d find more doors, she’d simply replace the plastic with the glass patio doors.  It was fun seeing their greenhouse and thinking about having one some far off day.

That same summer, I was having issues with our very old back sliding glass door.  It needed replaced badly as the track didn’t even exist anymore, so you had to kind of lift the door and carry it to the left to get it to open instead of sliding it.  My daughter had a hard time even getting the door to open, so it had become a fire hazard for us. I went to our local ReStore to look for a replacement door.

Free Glass Doors

It just so happens that the day I went to look for the sliding glass door, ReStore was getting rid of surplus doors and windows for free.  What were the chances of that?  I picked out what I thought fit the measurements correctly of the sliding door I needed to replace and brought both glass door panels home.  Well, the trouble was they didn’t quite fit.  So, I laid the glass doors down against the back of our house.

With my neighbor’s help we installed a new patio door for our home instead, and then placed the old window door panels against the house with the other two that I got from ReStore.  I was getting quite a collection of patio windows.  Enough to make a small greenhouse even!  So that idea lingered in my head as the summer days were filled with other projects.

Then I got a call from another neighbor who was in the construction business and he asked if I had any use for a used aluminum door with a window.  He was working on a hail insurance claim for another neighbor and was replacing their back door along with other damaged house parts.  This door was like new but had very small almost unnoticeable hail dents.  Knowing I was always building stuff he thought I might want it.  It was just heading to the dump if I didn’t take it, so I drove over and brought it home.  The greenhouse idea was coming to fruition quickly.

Building a Sunroom Using Recycled MaterialsSelf-Doubt Was Winning

But other projects kept taking up my time.  And to tell you the truth I was intimidated by building it.  I wasn’t sure I could do it, and self-doubt was winning as the glass door panels stayed lined up against our house for the summer.  In talking to a local elderly man at our town mercantile that lives off-grid, I told him about the greenhouse idea. He mentioned that (with several unmentionable words inserted) nowadays they were making windows that didn’t let in the natural ultraviolet sun rays.  So, I might be building a greenhouse without the right kind of glass.

So, gaining this new information, I decided to conduct an experiment, by trying to grow radishes in containers behind each patio glass door.  I watered the seeds every day and sure enough, radishes grew quickly.  I had the proper kind of glass for growing vegetables.  Now, all I needed to do was gain the motivation to build it.

I had thought of all the various places to put the greenhouse.  I had it narrowed down to the backyard but couldn’t decide if it should go on the east side where it would get sun almost all day, or the south side where it would get sun the full day.  Then an idea hit me.  What if I built it right onto the southern side of the house so that we could have a sunroom all year round without having to go outside to get to the greenhouse?  We’d get way more daily use out of it that way.  The back sliding-glass door that was just replaced was on the sunny side of the house.  A perfect place for a sunroom.  But building on to the house was even more intimidating for me than building a separate structure.

What About the Summer Heat?

And what about that summer heat beating down on that glass?  Would it make our house even hotter in the summers?  I’ve never been a fan of air conditioning and we don’t have it nor want it, But I also didn’t want to heat up our house unnecessarily in the summer.  We can get triple digits temperatures for weeks at a time as it was in the summers.

So, self-doubt was winning, as summer changed to fall.  Those big and heavy glass patio doors just stayed put where they were.  I started to plan on moving them to the garage for the winter, as the first frost happened.  It wouldn’t be long before Wyoming would be covered in a blanket of snow and the ground frozen solid until spring.

My daughter started urging me to build it.  She encouraged me by saying that she knew I could do it. But, the patio doors stayed put against the house.  Then one day, I mentioned to her that maybe we could just build window boxes instead and grow vegetable in those year-round.  I remember her response as being something like, “Ok, but it won’t be very much fun to sit under window boxes instead of a sunroom.”  True enough.  But still, self-doubt was winning.

Let There Be Light

This may sound silly, but I remember exactly what mile I was on, as I ran on our treadmill on a windy, cold fall day when the scripture, “Let There Be Light” came to me out of nowhere.  Ok, that was all the extra push I needed.  I got off the treadmill and told my daughter about my revelation and that I’m going to build this sunroom for us, starting the next day.

We took a trip to town to our local hardware store and bought 7 treated posts, some 2 X 4s, long screws plastic clear ridged type of material for the roof and the ridge pieces that go with that type of roofing.

I choose to make a pole type structure since I had success with that kind of building at the barn.   With the 90 plus mile an hour winds we can get on that side of the house, a pole structure seemed like it would be harder to blow away.

I dug and set the treated 4 x 4 posts three feet down.  Then I choose to use the existing small deck as our floor, as it seemed sturdy enough.  The panels would be supported by being screwed into the posts anyways and not putting additional weight on the decking.  First, though I added old hardwood from a barn in the area that was torn down as our new sunroom floor.  I made sure to also attach the sunroom to studs on the house for added strength.

The Sunroom is Built in Less than Two Days’ Time

The sunroom went up in 1 ½ days’ time with me as the sole builder.  I simply framed in the posts by screwing the glass panels into the posts.  I left a spot for the aluminum windowed door.  Rafters went up next and then the clear roofing.  The result was something I must say I was very proud of.  It felt so good to step out of our house on a cold night, into the sunroom, and look up and see the stars through the clear roof and patio glass doors.

Building a Sunroom Using Recycled Materials

That winter, we grew vegetables in it year-round.  On really cold nights, I’d keep the sliding glass door open to our house a couple of inches and let the wood heat from our wood stove heat that room too.  It never got under freezing out there, even on sub-zero nights.  All the plants made it through the Wyoming winter in our sunroom.

Vitamin D Therapy

My favorite thing about this room though was not the vegetables that we grew and ate from it.  It was the warmth of the sun on my skin on winter days.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that during the day even with our house door shut, the sunroom would often get up to over 80 degrees on below-freezing days.  I put a cot out there, with a fleece blanket and pillows and would take rest time out there in the sun.  At night my daughter and I would go out there and watch shooting stars go by.

Building a Sunroom Using Recycled Materials for a warm place to hang out in the winter

This became our favorite and most used room in the house.  Our livestock guardian dogs loved the room too because on windy and frosty winter days they’d choose to lay down and guard from the sunroom.  They knew how to open the sunroom door both for going out and coming in.  This saved me from letting dogs in and out all day, as our livestock guardian dogs have the run of the farm and the house.

It’s been over a year now, with no wind or weather damage to that sunroom despite severe weather including hail and high winds.  Our very old house roof of t-lock shingles even blew off this winter during high winds.  I replaced the full house roof myself this past summer. But the sunroom is still going strong.

Sunroom Helps to Regulate House Temperature All Year Round

One of the most surprising benefits of the sunroom is that it not only helped to heat our home in the winter, it actually kept our house cooler in the summers.  Because the direct sun rays were no longer beating down onto our southern glass doors directly into the house, that space of sunroom helped to keep our whole home much cooler in the summer.

Another benefit is that when the rain and snowmelt come off our house roof, it no longer puddles up outside our back door.  I made the sunroom roof to angle off to the east instead of angling right out the door.  There is not more jumping over puddles because the sunroom reroutes the water as it comes off our house roof.

Building a Sunroom Using Recycled Materials to grow tomatoes

This past summer we were eating sunroom grown tomatoes in May and kept eating them right through the fall.  I used 5-gallon buckets for my plant holders and a few bigger buckets too.  I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage.  Next year I plan on using bigger buckets because our tomatoes grew so high they touched the ceiling but became root bound quickly.

This past spring, I changed out the doors on the north side with patio doors that slide.  This gives us more ventilation for the plants.  The beauty of this kind of sunroom is that you can change it up if you need to without much effort.

Don’t Over Think It

I encourage anyone who has a goal but is afraid to go for it, to stop thinking and get doing.  If it’s on your mind and you can’t let the idea go, then that’s the best sign that you need to follow through with your dream.  I’m glad my daughter made me laugh when she said it wouldn’t be much fun sitting under window boxes instead of a sunroom.  And I’m thankful for that “Let There Be Light” scripture that came to me at just the right time when I was about to throw in the towel on the whole plan.  I painted the words “Let There Be Light” on our greenhouse just so I never forget that moment of inspiration.

I hope this encouraged you to go for your next goal.  Don’t let self-doubt kill your joy.  Usually, the things that are hardest I’ve found have the biggest rewards awaiting.

Building a Sunroom Using Recycled Materials




  1. This is a wonderful read! Very encouraging and reminds us we can do anything we put our minds to. I also enjoyed the photos throughout the article.

  2. You are such an inspiration! What an accomplishment that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor with delicious home grown vegetables, but also the sun and the stars.

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