Putting new plastic on the hoophouse (again)
Our hoophouse has been up since 2003, and in these 20 years has had several replacements of the big roof plastic. We’ve replaced the end wall plastic less often, as it isn’t inflated and a few holes don’t matter. It’s true that old dirty plastic doesn’t let as much light in, but we are firmly on the side of not replacing end wall plastic and roof plastic in the same year.
I wrote Replacing Hoophouse Plastic in September 2017. Six years later, here we are again. This year we needed to replace all the baseboards, too, as the 2″ thick cedar had rotted, and for a few months a section of wigglewire channel holding the plastic had completely detached from the baseboard. We considered whether to buy cedar, metal baseboards or plastic lumber baseboards. I wrote about the pros and cons of each in May (2023). We ultimately decided to go with the “Hat Channel” metal baseboards from Tunnel Vision Hoops. We wanted something long-lasting at a fair price. We have a small concern about the metal baseboards lacking thermal insulation, compared to lumber, or even plastic lumber, but on balance it seemed like our best bet. No regrets, and Tunnel Vision Hoops were really helpful.
We removed the old plastic in the middle of September, after we had planted one bed with early crops. We continued bed prep and planting in the fresh air until October 11, when we got the new plastic on.
One bonus is that we got several inches of rain one day and decided it was enough that we didn’t need to do our twice-yearly salt wash-down. (Tweaking the Salt Wash-down Dates) and Preparing your Hoophouse for Fall and Winter.
It took us a long time to remove all the rotted baseboards. We started out undoing as many bolts as possible, but then a helpful colleague showed up with a power reciprocal saw and cut through all the remaining ones. We also had to remove all the crumbling old duct tape we had bandaged the metal connectors and bolt heads with. Just in time, one of the crew suggested we buy Gorilla tape instead. We were pretty unhappy about all the silver dandruff of micro-plastics from the duct tape landing on our soil. Gorilla tape is thicker, stickier, less flexible, and most importantly lasts a lot longer. We saw we had used a little of it last time, in 2017, and it was still good. We had also used some pewter-grey exterior duct tape in 2017, and it was still good too. No idea where we bought that.
We had a hope to be ready for the new plastic on October 6, but we had to deal with our slightly nervous inexperience installing metal baseboards. By this point in the year, we had to watch the forecast not only for days without rain, but also one with calm winds (below 5 mph) and we had hit a breezy spell. Our average first frost is October 15 or so, and the nights started to get chilly. Juggling all these factors, we did really well and got the plastic on during the one day that week without winds above 5 mph. We also kept up with all the October bed prep and planting, which is intense. Yay, team!
I won’t repeat what I’ve said before (click the links). If you are launching on a similar recovering, study our step-by-step instructions. If not, simply enjoy the photos.
Another new idea this year was to take a 25 x 100′ silage tarp that was handy, and spread it out along the south side of the hoophouse to unroll the new plastic on. Another is to lift the roll of new plastic by inserting hoe handles in the cardboard tube, lift, and have someone walk out the free end. Much easier than pushing the roll along the ground!
We really like to have 6-8 people, who we hand pick and invite. I have found out the hard way that being open to all volunteers leads to things going wrong. We also think 5 ropes is the minimum for this length of hoophouse. We plan to have 7 next time. We value having a spotter inside the hoophouse to push up on any jammed tennis balls, and a spotter on the south side (outside), who can see progress with the outer layer going up and call to individuals to pull more or pause, so that the plastic goes up evenly.
We had some trouble with the outer layer snagging, and speculated that it might be because our frame does not have a ridge pole, just two high purlins. The tennis ball lingered in the saggy bit of plastic too much. I also think we could practice smoother knots, to reduce the chance of snags.
We ordered 48′ x 100′ Tufflite IV and Tufflite IR and PolyPatch tape for our 30′ x 96′ gothic-shaped tunnel from Nolts Greenhouse Supplies in PA. We use the wigglewire and aluminum channels (also called Polylock), which are reusable over and over.
- Tall stepladder and 2 pairs of shorter stepladders
- For a 30′ x 96′ tunnel, at least 8 rolls of high quality Gorilla tape. Stinginess doesn’t pay.
- Tools for each person: pliers, soup spoon, flat-bladed screwdriver, scissors.
- Utility knives to trim the plastic when it’s on right. Bolt cutters (for the wigglewire)
- Tennis balls and ropes to pull the edge of the plastic over the top. At least 5 sets for a 96′ house. Use ropes long enough to go over to the other side – say 5′ longer than the width of your plastic.
- A sock and a plastic water bottle (to attach to the throwing end of the rope)
- Polypatch tape and scissors. Accidents will happen. Try to be gracious and forgiving!