DIY Solexx Option: By the Roll, Panel, or Custom Cut
Attention Solexx DIY-ers:
There are a lot of reasons people prefer the DIY route. Perhaps you have your own design, are covering a patio, building a lean-to, patching an existing structure, creating your own hoop house tunnel, building cold frames, creating a windbreak, or many other reasons. For us, we wanted a structure that fit in a particular spot with a specific roof pitch that optimized the winter sun at our latitude (Washington State, 48 degrees N).
As with anything, you have options. Solexx material can be purchased by the foot, by the roll, or in panels. It comes in two thicknesses: 3.5mm and 5mm. Rolls, depending on thickness, come in 300- to 900-ft lengths. Widths range from 2′ to 6’5″. You can also get Solexx material cut to any length you want. Some people prefer to work with panels, which come in 3.5- or 4-ft widths by 8- and 12-ft lengths. It can all be a bit confusing, so I have tried to simplify it below.
Some Common Questions:
Aggh! All this Plastic! Is Solexx Material Recylable?
Yes!! Solexx panels are high density polyethylene and have the same recycle number ‘2’ as plastic milk jugs. Yay!
What are H-Channel and U-Trim used for?
The H-Channel is used to join the panels together on the long side (another option is to overlap the panels, which is what we did on ours). We recommend caulking the open flutes of the panels with clear silicone caulking to keep bugs and moisture out and maximize the insulation (yes! be sure to do this! Bugs are hard to get out after-the-fact and it’s much easier to caulk the edges BEFORE you screw it up there – especially on the bottom edges! Lesson learned!). U-Trim gives the 4’ ends of the panels a nice finished look. Note: Do not use H-channels on a roof, unless it is one continuous H-channel running from side-to-side. Do not use H-channel clips on a roof. That is a quote from the Solexx application page.
Do I Really Need All Those Accessories?
Short answer: No. We used metal roofing screws with rubber washers and caulking from our local hardware store, which worked just fine. H-channels and U-trims are optional (we did not use them on ours). But Solexx provides them to make it handy for the customer to get everything at once and be immediately ready to get going on the project.
Which Solexx Material to Get: 3.5mm or 5mm?
This is a valid question. Everything I read says that the 5 mm is excellent for very cold, mountain regions, with lots of snow. In our area (Washington State, Olympic Peninsula, near sea level), I was advised that 3.5 mm would be plenty strong. Last winter, we had record-level snowfall. We don’t often get snow, but when we do, it is wet and heavy. The greenhouse handled it with no problem at all. We brushed it off for the most part, but as soon as the sun came out, it slid right off. As it warmed up inside, the snow melted and ran off into my rain catchment barrel.
- Why 3.5? It’s a little easier to work with, it’s lighter, it lets in more light.
- Why go 5mm? It’s stiffer, perhaps better for roofs, has higher insulation value, and it’s still easy to work with.
The Solexx Technical Guide says this:
“While both provide superior insulation, Solexx 5mm has a higher R-value and lower U-value and is the product recommended for covering commercial greenhouses for the best heat retention on the market.”
What are R-Values and U-Values of Solexx Material?
R-value is the measurement of ‘insulating ability’ of the material. The higher the R-Value number the greater the insulation value. The 3.5mm has an R-value of 2.10; the 5mm has an R-value of 2.30.
The U-value is the measurement of ‘heat loss’ through the material. The lower the U-Value the less heat is escaping. The 3.5mm has a U-value of 0.48; the 5mm has a U-value of 0.43.
Both of which are still better ratings than 8mm triple-walled polycarbonate, double-pane storm windows, or 10-mm twin-walled polycarbonate, the closest contenders. Gotta love Solexx!
How Long Does it Take?
Well, that depends. But if you want a quick weekend project, go with a kit! Check them out! There are some cool designs to fit all kinds of needs and budgets. A big advantage to the kits, other than it’s all laid out for you and ready to assemble, is the composite framework. It’s a great feature.
More Tips & Info?
To find more tips on installing Solexx, see the Solexx Installation Guide. Also, check out the Solexx Installation page. Seriously, if we can do it, you can, too! First real greenhouse we’ve ever built and it has changed our lives! The next one is going to have more “outdoor living” space.
Also – mentioned above, refer to the Solexx Technical Guide for more information on insulation, energy savings, light transmission, quality, and diffusion, performance in wind and under snow, and many more reasons why Solexx material just makes good sense.
To order, please contact me:
Blythe Barbo, Authorized Solexx Distributor
3623 Woodcock Road
Sequim, WA 98382
ph. (360) 477-2786
email: blythe [at] barbolian [dot] com