How I Picked and Built the Best Doors For My Vertical Hydroponics Farm

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Come on baby light my fire, this article is all about The Doors. I walk you through some different door options and why I went with barn doors for my vertical hydroponics farm and how much it cost. Here’s what’s inside:

  • Why barn doors?
  • How I installed the doors
  • How much everything cost
  • Lessons learned

the hardest part of my vertical hydroponic grow room to insulate barn doors

If you want to skip right to the bottom, I’ll show you how much everything cost for this whole section of the project. 

Why Barn Doors?

One nice option about plugging a farm into a garage is that you already have loading and unloading infrastructure setup for you. This particular garage opens right onto a 2 car pad that will give me plenty of space to load a bike trailer for deliveries (more on that in a future post).

But because of how much I wanted to insulate the structure (to save on heating/cooling), I knew I wouldn’t be able to use the pre-existing garage doors since I would be building a whole new sub-structure.

img_3157

This is an earlier progress picture, but shows how the room is situated compared to the original garage doors

So, that led me to a choice of what kind of doors to get. I knew I wanted my opening to be 4 ft wide so that I could get any feasibly large load (full rafts or something) in and out easily.

My first thought was french doors. There are easy-to-install premade versions that are fully insulated and they have a nice finished look to them. I nixed them for one simple reason: no matter how they would have been oriented, I would have lost grow space. If the doors opened inwards, they would have hit the shelves or necessitated narrower ones. If they opened outside, they would have hit the existing garage door if the structure was the length I wanted (16ft). They were also significantly (about $200 with what I was comparing too) more expensive than what I went with.

After trying to find sliding doors that would work (could not), I landed on barn doors. As you can see in the picture, they aren’t quite the urban/rural chique found in design magazines, though they easily could be. I went with pre-fab hollow core doors because they were ready off the shelf at Lowes and because they were only $25 each. Combined with the cost of the track and mounting hardware ($139 at Tractor Supply Co.) and the insulation, the doors ran about $175.

And, I’m keeping my eye out now for reclaimed wood to use for future iterations as I won’t have such a strict timeline.

How I Installed The Doors

To insulate the doors, I cut my foam insulation down to size and left an overhanging piece on the left side door and a matching indent on the right side. This way, when the doors are closed, there won’t be a draft coming in the middle.

door-sketch

I attached a furring strip to the ground because, with the added insulation, the track guides that came with the hardware kit were too narrow to guide the doors and I needed something to push the doors closer to the wall and keep them standing at a 90 degree angle to the floor.

insulating doors - cemented furring strip

The cement adhesive drying

Finally, I ran a rubber garage door seal across the bottom (serving the same function as a weatherproofing strip) and outside edges of the doors to make the seal a little tighter.

weatherproofing strip for hydroponics in a garage

I actually ended up using a staple gun as the nails in this picture did not hold

Even with all of that, I could tell there were gaps for air to move in and out. At first I figured that this was going to wreck the overall quality of insulation for the farm. But then I took a step back and considered the situation a little more. Instead of freaking out and trying to get this seal tighter (which is difficult with random barn doors anyways), I can actually adapt to the “environment” (thinking about permaculture) and instead set my ventilation up in such a way that I’ll actually be able to use these leaks as my fresh air intake.

In other words, I’ll be able to pull air in through the doors and push it out at the other end of the room (check out this post on how to ventilate a hydroponics grow room for more info). Of course, I might need even more air coming in, and I’ll monitor airflow closely as I reach a final decision on that.

My feeling right now is that this was a happy accident that will definitely help me out in the future.

Pricing

Item Vendor Expense
Barn Door Hardware x2 Doors Tractor Supply Co 98
Barn Door Track Tractor Supply Co 41
Furring Strip And Cement Adhesive Home Depot 6
Hollow Core Doors Lowes 50
Insulation Lowes 9
Garage Door Seal Lowes 14
Total 218

What I Would Think About If I Did It Again

I think to make these posts as valuable as possible, I’ll need to include this section with almost every single piece I write about my project. This is where the lessons are learned, and together with the budget, will probably do the most to inform your own decisions.

So, let’s just list it out:

  • Consider sliding doors more. Humidity control in a highly insulated space is difficult. Essentially, since all the walls are going to be warmer than the outside air during cool periods, water (humidity) will look to condensate on the coldest surfaces in the room. Thinking about how morning dew forms, this is likely going to be my plants if I’m not controlling humidity enough. Moisture on the plants is a recipe for disaster (mold etc.) and something you generally want to avoid. By using sliding doors, the cold, glass surface would replace the plants.
  • Shop around for different options. Since pulling the trigger and getting the doors I have up, I’ve seen cheaper options for both pre-fab sliding and french doors. With a total cost on my doors over $200, spending just $100 or so more for a better product might be the right choice.
  • Build the doors myself. In the best of all possible worlds, I would have built these doors out of reclaimed materials. As it was, I was time strapped (and still am – I’m not yet growing in the farm yet and that’s extremely frustrating). I didn’t want to spend the time finding the materials or crafting the doors. However, with this option, I could have had heavier, better insulated, and nicer looking doors for a fraction of the environmental footprint and a lower cost.

Conclusion

No regrets, just lessons learned and progress made. The name of the game is to keep pushing and iterate for the better at future sites. Want to stay up to date on the real nitty gritty of starting your own vertical farm? Make sure you’re signed up for our newsletter, and let me know what you think in the comments below. Suggestions, critiques? I’ll take it all.

3 thoughts on “How I Picked and Built the Best Doors For My Vertical Hydroponics Farm

  1. Pingback: Garage to Grow House #2 | The Urban Vertical Farming Project

  2. Pingback: How much does a vertical farm cost? Maybe my farm can help you guess | The Urban Vertical Farming Project

  3. Pingback: The Surprising Passive Thermal Mass | The Urban Vertical Farming Project

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