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Make a cold frame
from your scrap pile

By Ray Kreuziger

Countryside Staff

If you are anything like me, keeping used or leftover building materials is a must. You never know what you may need to build, or what sort of simple repair may be needed around the homestead.

From this junk pile to the functioning cold frame shown below!
From this junk pile to the functioning cold frame shown below!

After one of our staff members mentioned a need for a cold frame, I began to look at our COUNTRYSIDE lumber pile, which consisted of bits and pieces leftover from our recent move move and remodeling, as well as two old storm windows all but rotting in a staff member’s barn.

This is what I came up with: A cold frame constructed of 1x10s, two storm windows, some hardware, paint and recycled bricks. The hardware and paint were purchased for under $50.

After some research, I found white was the preferred color for the interior of the cold frame because it allows the sunlight to reflect on the plants the best. I placed the angle of the windows at 45º by using a speed square as a guide for straighter cuts.

I added a removable shelf on the inside back wall. For safety reasons, two metal bars are used to secure the windows open while working inside (not shown), otherwise they have a tendency to flop back, which might break the window. (Although you could always be creative and come up with some sort of door stop.)

Cold frame built with used storm windows and bricks and boards from an old bookshelf.  White paint and hardware was less than $50.
Cold frame built with used storm windows and bricks and boards from an old bookshelf. White paint and hardware was less than $50.

The completed unit was then transported to a staff member’s house and placed up tight against the exterior wall on the south side of the house. This position reduces unwanted north wind and the house will also radiate some warmth to the cold frame. The frame was set on top of the old bricks to help produce additional thermal mass.

Some cuts or dimensions may have to be changed for your boards. I used left-over used lumber that did vary in width.

Let’s start with the materials needed to duplicate the cold frame I made:

  • 2 – 28″ x 54-1/2″ used storm windows
  • 2 pull handles, 4″ with screws
  • 4 – T-hinges, 3″ with screws
  • 2 perforated straps 1/4″ x 1″ x 4′ 5/16″ holes
  • 1 pound 1-1/4″ galvanized deck screws
  • 4 – 5/16″ x 2-1/2″ carriage bolts
  • 4 – 5/16″ flat washers
  • 4 – 5/16″ wing nuts
  • 8 – 1-1/2″ brad nails
  • 1/2 gallon white exterior paint
  • 1 – 1″ x 4″ x 6′ #2 pine board
  • 2 – 1″ x 10″ x 7′ #2 pine boards
  • 4 – 1″ x 10″ x 8′ #2 pine boards
  • 1 – 1″ x 10″ x 9′ #2 pine board
  • 4 – 1″ x 10″ x 10′ #2 pine boards
  • 34 – 4″ x 8″ red bricks
Parts Diagram
Parts Diagram

Once you have gathered up these materials, make the following cut list:

Qty.: Size; Description:

  • 5 – 1″ x 10″ x 56″, Back, outside boards
  • 1 – 1″ x 10″ x 56″, Top shelf
  • 1 – 1″ x 10″ x 56″, Front board
  • 4 – 1″ x 10″ x 44-1/4″, Inside supports
  • 2 – 1″ x 10″ x 58″ Inside upper supports
  • 1 – 1″ x 10″ x 54-1/2″, Inside shelf
  • 2 – 1″ x 10″ x (19″ longside of 45º), Side boards
  • 2 – 1″ x 10″ x (28″ longside of 45º), Side boards
  • 2 – 1″ x 10″ x (37″ longside of 45º), Side boards
  • 2 – 1″ x 10″ x (46″ longside of 45º), Side boards
  • 2 – 1″ x 10″ x 46″, Side boards
  • 2 – 1″ x 4″ x 9″, Inside shelf support
  • 1 – 1″ x 4″ x 3-1/2″, Used to support center at inside front
  • 1 – 1″ x 4″ x (50-1/4″ longside of 45º), Window center support

The amount of leftover material will be minimized by following this layout when cutting your boards:

Diagram 2-A - Sideview
Diagram 2-A – Sideview

  1. From the four 1″ x 10″ x 10′ boards, cut seven 1″ x 10″ x 56″ and one 1″ x 10″ x 54-1/2″ boards.
  2. From two 1″ x 10″ x 8′ boards, cut four 1″ x 10″ x 44-1/4″ boards.
  3. From the remaining two 1″ x 10″ x 8′ boards, cut two 1″ x 10″ x 46″ and two 1″ x 10″ x 46″ longside of 45º. See Diagram 1-A.
  4. From the 1″ x 10″ x 9′ board, cut two 1″ x 10″ x 58″ boards. See Diagram 1-B.
  5. From the two 1″ x 10″ x 7′ boards, cut two 1″ x 10″ x 19″, two 1″ x 10″ x 28″ and two 1″ x 10″ x 37″ boards. See Diagram 1-C.
  6. Take one of the 1″ x 10″ x 56″ boards for the top shelf and cut a 45º angle on one side. (See Diagram 1-D) Don’t discard the cut-off, it will be needed as a 45º filler on the top of the front board. (See Diagram 2-A “filler.”)
  7. From the 1″ x 10″ x 6′ cut one 1″ x 4″ x 3-1/2″ and one 1″ x 4″ x 9″ board. See Diagram 1-E for the 1″ x 10″ x 54-1/2″ 45º cuts.

Now you are ready to lay out and start assembling your cold frame.

  1. Lay out all of your pieces.
  2. Starting with the back wall, tightly lay all the pieces together, making sure they’re square. Then place two of the 44-1/4″ inside supports flush with the bottom, left and right sides. Now screw together the complete back wall.
  3. Now the left and right sides. Lay out the same way with one 44-1/4″ for each side and one upper side support per side. Place the 44-1/4″ inside support on first, the bottom should be flush. The back side of the inside support should be set 44-1/2″ from the front, allowing 1-1/2″ difference from the back so that the back will fit inside the sides. Now screw together. Note that you may have to cut the corner off on upper 45º side. Now set the upper support in place, making sure to be flush with 45º angle and tight against inside support, then screw together. Do both sides the same way. See Diagram 2-A.
  4. Assemble back and sides with sides to outside and back to the inside.
  5. You can now screw front board in place, making sure bottoms are flush with sides and the sides are to the outside.
  6. Now take the leftover filler from the top shelf and place on top front board, securing it with the Brad nails.
  7. Place the inner shelf supports about 1/3 of the way down on the inside back of the left and right sides, then place the 54-1/2″ inner shelf in place.
  8. Now center the window center support in the middle of the opening and screw in place. Use the 1″ x 4″ x 3-1/2″ support to hold the window center support in the front inside for extra support.
  9. Evenly place two hinges on each window, then place one window on the frame. Allow to overlap on top and bottom with outside edge flush. Then screw hinges in place. Repeat the same with the opposite window, being sure to align the windows with each other. Now put pull handles on.
  10. To mount the removable safety brackets (perforated straps), lift windows one at a time to a straight up position. Place the straps through the handle and parallel with middle glass support. Mark and drill through the side of frame making two 5/16″ holes 8″ apart using a 5/16″ drill bit. Place the four carriage bolts from the inside of the frame to the outside. When working in the frame, use these straps to secure the window by slipping through the window handle and using flat washers and wing nuts to hold the straps and windows in place.
  11. You can now paint the interior frame.
  12. While waiting for the paint to dry, level the area in which you want to place your cold frame. Place the bricks so that the frame will be centered on the bricks all the way around.

Set the cold frame in place and you are ready to put it to use.

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