Greenhouse Roll up Sides - Benefits, Hardware, Installation

Roll-up sides have quickly become the lowest cost way to ventilate greenhouses, high tunnels and hoop houses. 

While most growers would like roll-up sides for their structures, the hardware components associated with roll-ups can often be frustrating. Hopefully this post can help make roll-up side installation simpler. 

In this post, we cover the hardware required to easily install roll-up sides, as well as the order of operations required to start and complete the installation of roll-up sides on a greenhouse, high tunnel or hoop house. 

The Benefits of Roll-up Sides 

The main benefit of roll-up sides is that they allow for structure ventilation without electricity being a requirement. Because electricity isn't a requirement for a fully functioning roll-up side any size farming operation can implement the hardware into their growing structures. 

Whether a backyard farmer, or a commercial hemp production facility, roll-up sides should be considered for your structure.

In addition to being relatively affordable, they are very simple to use once they have been installed. This is only true if they have been installed correctly, but we cover installation a little bit further in this post.  

Basic Hardware Required to Install Greenhouse Roll-up Sides

The materials required to create roll-up sides on a greenhouse, high tunnel, or hoop house are all pretty much the same. Regardless or how simple or advanced your growing structure is the steps for assembling your roll-up side will follow a very similar order of operations. 

Every roll-up side is comprised of the following hardware components:

  1. Hip Rail
  2. Greenhouse Plastic
  3. Roll Bar:
  4. Snap Clamps:
  5. Handle or Gear Box:
  6. Anti-Billow Hardware
  7. Baseboard

Below is a description of each of the above hardware components, along with a picture that shows what these components look like. 

1. Hip Rail

Runs the full length of a structure at hip or chest level, attaching to every bow it touches through its length. Greenhouse roll-up sides will roll down from the hip rail.Double Spring Wire Channel Hip Rail for Roll up Sides

Hip rails can be comprised of lumber or aluminum. If installing a lumber hip rail Spring Wire channel will need to be attached to it. 

If your hip rail is lumber: Single Channel Spring Wire

If you want an all metal hip rail (recommended): Double Channel Spring Wire

If installing a double channel hip rail no lumber is required. Instead the double channel hip rail provides the required strength and rigidity while also  acting as a plastic attachment method. 

2. Greenhouse Plastic

Various types of plastic can be used for the roll-up sides, but most commonly the roll-up sides are installed from a single top cover piece that is purchased so it is long enough to cover the roll-up sides as well. 

Greenhouse Plastic for greenhouse roll up sides

There is not a single type of plastic that works best for a roll-up side. Instead there are a variety of options with varying levels of durability, light transmission, and expected life. 

Related: Best Greenhouse Plastic - Comparing Through First Hand Experience

Since roll-up sides are closer to ground level there is more potential for damage to occur to the plastic. This may occur when trying to manage weeds surrounding your greenhouse or high tunnel. Or perhaps someone accidentally scrapped the side with a shovel. Because a hip rail is used with roll-up sides you will be able to replace the sides without replacing the top cover. Just something to keep in mind. 

3. Roll Bar

The roll-up side requires a roll bar to function. The roll bar is comprised of 1.315" (1 3/8") galvanized steel tubing. Roll bar can be sourced at most big box hardware stores. Roll bar needs to be installed so it extends slightly past both ends of your structure. 

Roll bar for roll up side

Attaching roll bars together should be done with pan head screws. Pan head screws have a lower profile than standard hex head self tapping screws. Because they have a lower profile pan head screws will cause less pressure to be placed on greenhouse plastic during the operation of the roll-up sides. 

4. Snap Clamps

There are multiple ways to attach greenhouse plastic to a roll bar. Snap clamps are compatible with 1.315" roll bar (mentioned above) and for that reason they are the most cost effective option for attaching greenhouse plastic. 

Snap clamps for roll up sides

Snap clamps are pushed over top the greenhouse plastic and onto the roll bar. While there are various sizes of snap clamps available, the most widely used are those that fit over top 1.315" OD (1 3/8" top rail) tubing. Click here to check the pricing of snap clamp attachment hardware. 

5. Handle or Gear Box

Every roll-up side needs a way to operate. This component allows the roll bar to go up and down. Simple shorter greenhouses, high tunnels, and hoop houses use handles. Longer structures use gear boxes to make cranking the tunnel up easier. Below are the best roll-up side operators for greenhouses:.

Budget Roll-up Handle: Simple Roll-Up Side Handles

Easiest to Use Economy Roll-up Handle: Universal Joint Handles

Gear Box with Manual Crank Handle: Gear Crank Package 

Gear crank for greenhouse roll up sides

Automated roll-up side systems are also available for roll-up sides. For additional information on these please send an email to info@tunnelvisionhoops.com

6. Anti-Billow Hardware

Once you attach a roll bar to your greenhouse plastic you have to stop the wind from blowing the side around. This isn't just important for you roll-up side, it is also important because a side that blows around can ultimately end up damaging the structure in heavy winds. 

Anti-billow hardware is comprised of rope, and fittings that the rope can attach to to keep the roll bar in place. Structures with lumber baseboards use eye bolts. For those with metal baseboards and channel the options below work great. 

Hardware for Metal Baseboards (example below): EZ Snap Hook

anti billow hardware for greenhouse roll up sides

Hardware for Hip Rail (example below): Wire Clips

anti billow hardware for greenhouse roll up sides

Rope (example below): 1/4" diameter rope

anti billow rope for greenhouse roll up sides

7. Baseboards

This component is not technically required to install a roll-up side, however, if you do not have a baseboard your roll-up side will be forced to rest directly on the ground. This is not ideal for issue free operation, and would also make temperature regulation difficult. 

Metal baseboards for high tunnels

Lumber baseboards are a common feature on greenhouses, high tunnels, and hoop houses. That said, there are benefits to metal baseboards. Namely, metal baseboards don't rot. 

Related: Baseboard Options for Organic Farmers with Greenhouses 

Additionally, metal baseboards are less risky to use for organic farmers since treated lumber can not make contact with soil if being certified organic is the plan. More information on steel baseboards can be found here: Hat Channel

Installing Roll-up Sides on a Greenhouse

The order of operations for installing roll-up sides on a greenhouse is pretty simple. 

Here is the rough order of operations for assembling roll-up sides:

  1. Assemble a Roll Bar comprised of 1.315" OD tube
  2. Put a Handle or Operator on your Roll Bar
  3. Install Greenhouse Plastic
  4. Attach Greenhouse Plastic to your Roll Bar
  5. Test the Operation of the Roll Bar
  6. Make Adjustments if Necessary
  7. Permanently Attach Greenhouse Plastic to Roll Bar
  8. Install Anti-Billow Hardware

To get a better feel for the order of operations outlined above please watch the video below. This video shows the installation of roll-up sides on a 92 ft. long high tunnel from the start all the way through completion. 

Hopefully the video above provides the help you needed to figure out how to install roll-up sides on your structure. 

Adding Roll-up Sides to an Existing Structure

While it is easiest to install roll-up sides during the initial construction of a greenhouse structure it is possible to add roll-up sides to a structure that doesn't currently have them. 

Upgrading existing structures to include a roll-up side ventilation system isn't overly difficult, but may require new side plastic if re-using that plastic is not possible. 

The same materials and order of operations apply whether installing roll-up sides on an existing structure or planning for their installation on the first day of your greenhouse build 

Roll-up Sides are Important

Unless you are constructing a greenhouse, high tunnel, or hoop house that will have thermostatically controlled fans and intake shutters natural passive ventilation will be a must. Sure, you could go without it, but there is no doubt your plants will suffer greatly without some form of air movement to help regulate temperature and relative humidity. 

While many structures do not have roll-up sides those structures are outfitted with fans that help move air and regulate the interior environment. Without these components roll-up sides are the best way to control the interior environment affordably.