Picture of Build a Cold Frame Using Old Windows
I replaced most of my basement windows with more energy efficient units last summer. Considering the old windows were over 50 years old, they were still in great condition - I couldn't bear to throw them away. So they languished in my basement until this spring, when I found a good use of them.

My mother in law is an avid gardener, and on several occasions complained about rodents, woodland creatures and even her own dog eating or otherwise destroying her plants. The growing season in Canada is also relatively short compared to more southern countries, limiting what you can grow every year.

The solution? A cold frame! Basically a greenhouse with an open bottom, it can protect your plants from the elements and from animals. Because it acts like a greenhouse, you can start plants earlier in the year and keep them growing later into the year than normal.

It's easy to build one in a weekend using common tools and materials.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials
You'll only need basic tools to build a cold frame. Since the cold frame will be pretty large, it's best to build it outside or in a garage, or you may not get it out the door...


A hand-held drill (cordless or corded)
A miter saw (powered is better, but you could do it with a hand saw and miter box)
A jig saw, circular saw or table saw (really, anything that can cut large sheets of plywood)
A screw driver
A Tape Measure
A marking implement of some sort
A paint brush


Two, Three or Four windows, with at least one dimension in common
Some 2x2s (as required)
Some 2x3s (as required)
Some 2x4s (as required)
Some inexpensive 1/8" or 1/4" plywood
Exterior wood screws (deck screws)
Exterior wood-sealing paint
Some galvanized or brass hinges (may not be necessary if the hinges on the windows are still good)
Some big, sturdy exterior-grade handles
A tube of latex sealant
A common heating vent (optional)

I was fortunate enough to have a lot of the materials just lying around already. Some were left behind by the previous owners of the house, other pieces were left from tearing apart my basement. Use reused materials were you can!
Sigh, I am slapping my forehead. . I had one of these when I lived in Texas. I just lost a bunch of plants to a spring snowstorm here in Colorado. .. if I had remembered I wouldn't have lost my heirlooms! Thanks for well-written instructions! Will send photos...
marcward864 years ago
New weekend project!

Here in arkansas we have plenty of summer sun, but i'll use one of these to start some nifty heirloom seeds. In march temps sometimes drop below freezing, so it will protect the little guys until we're safely past last frost date.
jeff-o (author)  marcward864 years ago
Sounds good! Make sure you take lots of photos!
dgallimore4 years ago
What do you do about water collecting at the bottom of the glass when it rains?
Nice 'ible
Thanks, Duncan
jeff-o (author)  dgallimore4 years ago
Caulking around the edges helps, along with the angle of the windows. But in general (at least with these windows) not enough water collects to pose a big problem.
foobear5 years ago
one million percent awesome!

I learned something.  Thanks!
jeff-o (author)  foobear5 years ago
Wow, that's a lot of percents!  ;)
InvaderDig5 years ago
Love it! I built something similar to this for my compost bin. Great job!
NachoMahma5 years ago
.  Great job.
jeff-o (author)  NachoMahma5 years ago
ChrysN5 years ago
Looks great! I like the way the windows open to the side.
jeff-o (author)  ChrysN5 years ago
Thanks.  Yeah, side-opening windows seems to work pretty well.