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POLYTUNNELS COMPARED IN THE UK


Selecting the correct polytunnel for yourself can be a hit and miss affair. One reason for this is that there appears to be a huge range of different manufacturers and options all at very different prices

This article gathers data about all the main manufacturers of polytunnels in the UK and compares the prices and products they offer. In the polytunnel world there is some truth in the saying "you get what you pay for" but at the same time you can end up paying far too much for an inferior product. Use our comparisons below to easily work your way through the polytunnel maze.

 
The detailed polytunnel comparisons below were last updated in January 2021.

Before the comparison however, it's probably best to consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of polytunnels compared to a greenhouse. The two definitely have advantages and disadvantages which we explain in some detail - click here to go to our comparison page.

We recommend that you buy a polytunnel which has a door at each end. This allows ventilation through the entire length, easy access for insects to pollinate plants and will keep temperatures down in warm weather. A single door will do the job nearly as well but will require more frequent opening and closing.

The comparison below includes an "average price check" which can be used for comparison purposes. It is based on the price of a basic polytunnel with the following "must have" specifications:

1. 8ft wide by 10ft long (approx. 2.4m by 3m)
2. 1 sliding aluminium door
3. Second hinged door or adjustable ventilation screen
4. Aluminium base rail
5. Base plates or better ground fixing system

Postage costs, where given are to the UK mainland. The prices we quote have been updated for 2021 but please verify them for yourself when making a purchase.

Wherever possible we also mention the spacing between hoops, a five foot spacing will give good strength, a higher spacing will reduce the strength.

Inclusion of a base rail is not absolutely necessary but it saves digging a large trench all round the base of the greenhouse to bury and secure the plastic cover in - a significant amount of hard work.

We have read the terms and conditions of many of the suppliers listed below in an attempt to find out what guarantees are offered with their products and to our non-legal minds we were initially surprised to find that in general the guarantees relating to the basic structure (base tubes, hoops etc.) simply cover faults found on delivery. There appears to be no guarantee that the structures will last for a given number of years.

We pondered this lack of guarantee and came to the conclusion that extreme weather conditions are capable of damaging even the strongest structure (from a polytunnel to a greenhouse or even a house) and in effect no guarantee is sensibly possible. Some manufacturers provide a limited guarantee on the polythene covering but detailed investigation revealed it to be a very limited guarantee in terms of what it covered.

Our advice as far as guarantees are concerned is to assume there is no meaningful guarantee. With this in mind it's absolutely essential to consider carefully the reputation of the manufacturer because this is your key to buying a strong product.

Where we easily can determine technical specifications which we believe are relevant we mention them. One of the companies has produced a technical specification comparison which gives some insight into the materials used in the construction of 3 brands of polytunnel. This is an interesting and readable document which can be found here. It is produced by a reputable company and it's readily available to the public.

EASY TO BUILD POLYTUNNEL


One frequently hidden aspect of polytunnels is how easy they are to construct. Every manufacturer is different and every person who buys a polytunnel has a different range of diy skills.

To avoid disappointment we suggest you allow two days to erect your polytunnel and they should be reasonably dry and wind free ones.

Some parts of the construction will be made considerably easier if two people are available although much of the work can be done by one person. If your diy skills are of concern then we can recommend the new easy build polytunnels recently released by Northern Polytunnels. More details of the easy build system can be found in our news item which can be found here.

Ordering a polytunnel can be slightly complicated because of the different materials, number of supports, sizes etc. For this reason we have included a quick note concerning how easy the website is to use and navigate. This is a purely personal view, your views may differ.

We strongly suggest that you view the videos (where available) showing how each of the polytunnels is constructed before you buy. This will give you a basis for comparison - the complexity of construction methods varies greatly. If the manufacturer has not produced a video then you need to consider why not. To assist we list below links to the videos by manufacturer:

  • Ebay and Similar - no videos from the manufacturers found
     
  • Ferryman Polytunnels - no videos from the manufacturers found
     
  • First Tunnels - click here for one of their multi-part videos
     
  • Haygrove - no videos from the manufacturers found
     
  • Highland Polytunnels - no videos from the manufacturers found
     
  • Northern Polytunnels - click here for their video which appears at the end of the page.
     
  • Premier Polytunnels - click here for their video
     
  • Robinsons Polytunnels - click here for one of their mulit-part videos (probably out of date, produced in 2009)

The companies below are listed in alphabetic sequence.

CITADEL POLYTUNNELS


This company is no longer trading. See here for more details.

E-BAY AND SIMILAR


Click here for their website
There are many websites selling cheap polytunnels which range in price from £50 to £150. In some gardening circles these are known as "blowaways". The reason for the name is not complicated; in high winds the covers and sometimes the entire structures blow away.

In other cases the cheap metal tubing collapses, snaps or twists out of shape. When damage of this type occurs to a polytunnel, invariably the majority of plants inside are damaged beyond repair.

One major disadvantage of cheap blowaway polytunnels which is often not taken into account is the speed at which their covers degrade. Cheap covers degrade very fast, after two years they may only transmit 45% of available sunlight. This significantly affects the health of plants in these polytunnels.

The advantage of these cheap polytunnels is their low price. If you simply haven't the money to spare they may be your only option. As far as economics go they are cheap in the short term but expensive and time-consuming in the long term.

When you buy one of these expect them to last between one and two years. We have seen one which was blown down and totally destroyed within a month of it being bought, on the other hand some may last three years or so. The plastic covering will last two years at the most.

So it's a matter of paying your money and taking your choice. Over a five year period the overall cost of a "blowaway" will be about equivalent to a more expensive professionally constructed polytunnel. You will of course have to dispose of the cheaper one and buy / construct a new cheap one during that time frame. Anything past five years and the more expensive polytunnels win hands down.

FERRYMAN POLYTUNNELS


Click here for their website
Average price check is £592 with free delivery to mainland UK. This includes one door and one roll up plus anchor plates and timber base rail. Hoops are at 5ft / 1.5m intervals with a rather small diameter of 25mm. We couldn't find any mention of the thickness of the foundation tubes so we assume them to be the acceptable minimum of 1.5mm.

This is a family run business which started in the 1980s and the polytunnels are made in the UK. Door height is 6ft / 1.8m and the hoops are a commendable 2 pieces only. I did phone them to clarify a few points and was put through to their answer phone. However my request for a call back came through in a few minutes.

The product investigated was their Classic range.

We selected the following extras to bring the specification to our price comparison baseline:

  • Sliding door (£40)
     
  • Anchor plates (£26)
     
  • Base rail, timber (not so long lasting as aluminium) because aluminium not an option (£72)

The website has very little information on erecting their polytunnels, this can only be found in the instructions when the product is bought which is not a particularly good sign. There are no help videos.

FIRST TUNNELS


Click here for their website
Average price check is £727 with free delivery to mainland UK. At the time of our investigation they had a discount offer which reduced the price to £618. It is not clear if the the discounted price is a permanent discount (rather pointless if that is the case) or if it is time limited.

You need to pay careful attention to their discounts because, as they say on their site, the more you spend the more you save. Adding another £30 of goods to the order would give another 5% discount. We found the pricing to be complicated.

We selected the following extras to bring the specification to our price comparison baseline:

  • Sliding door (£70)
     
  • Anchor plates (£28)
     
  • Base rail, aluminium (£133)

Doors are 1.83m (6ft) high, the polythene covering is imported from Southern Spain, the diameter of the hoops is slightly below average at 25.4mm / 1in (thickness is not specified).

The construction manual is available on the website and they have videos on YouTube (split into multiple parts) to see the construction. The model we choose included the aluminium base rails. Construction is a two person operation from beginning to end and requires lots of nailing the polythene between wooden batons.

HAYGROVE


Click here for their website
Haygrove are in a different price range compared to the companies included in this review. Their prices are also in a different class.

If you are one of those people who really don't care about price (you will only find out the price if you phone them) then by all means investigate this company's products.

We can't really say if that price is warranted because we have no experience of the materials and construction methods they use. What is clear however is that the covering is strong as are the hoops and base. The information about the polytunnel materials is scant making strength comparison very difficult.

HIGHLAND POLYTUNNELS


Click here for their website
Highland Polytunnels have been trading for over 13 years and appear not to be involved with the manufacture of their polytunnels. They only sell larger polytunnels. We strongly suspect that they source their polytunnels from Northern Polytunnels. Our advice would be to bypass the middle man and go straight to Northern Polytunnels.

NORTHERN POLYTUNNELS


Click here for their website
Average price check is £783 with free delivery to mainland UK (from their Easy Build range). This includes one aluminium sliding door, one door frame with adjustable ventilation screen, 5ft hoop spacing, screw anchors and aluminium base rail. Northern Polytunnels have been manufacturing polytunnels since 1969.

These polytunnels are renowned for strength withstanding all that even northern and Scottish winds can throw at them.  So we took a closer look to see if there was a reason for this. The construction of Northern Polytunnels is a quality level above the competition for a couple of reasons which we highlight below:

  • DIAMETER OF HOOPS
    Many polytunnel retailers don't specify the diameter of the hoops they use to support the covering and the reason may be that it's not particularly impressive. After all the diameter of the hoops is a key indication of their strength. Where the diameter is specified it's normally 25mm to 28mm which should be sufficient in many conditions. Northern Polytunnels specify the diameter of their hoops to be 32mm diameter and with a 1.2mm wall thickness. Thicker and wider than most of the competition and that contributes greatly to their strength.
     
  • ALUMINIUM / METAL CONSTRUCTION
    There are no wooden parts to this polytunnel making it almost maintenance free.
     
  • FOUNDATION TUBES
    The thickness of Northern Polytunnel foundation tubes is 3.5mm, almost all other manufacturers have a thickness of 1.5mm. This is a key indicator of the strength of your polytunnel.

  • HOOP CONSTRUCTION
    The fewer the joints in a polytunnel hoop the better. Northern Polytunnels have their hoops constructed in two parts, some other manufacturers have three parts (sometimes more) to their hoops. In the case of hoops, two parts is stronger than three or more parts!
     
  • EXPERIENCE
    Northern Polytunnels' experience in the polytunnel business dates back to 1969, the longest in the business.
     
  • EASY TO BUILD
    As far a we are aware, these polytunnels are the easiest to build, by a long way. Ease of construction has been built into the design alongside strength. The primary factors which make this polytunnel easier to construct are:
    • The screw fix anchoring system to the ground. This involves no digging, takes a couple minutes only per anchor and is the strongest system of them all by a very large factor.
    • The method of securing the polythene to the frame. This is by far the quickest and simplest, it avoids hammering nails through the polythene so if you initially get it wrong, it is simplicity itself to readjust and no damage has been done.
    • No wooden batons are required to secure the polythene to the frame. This makes construction quicker and easier. It also means that there is no wood involved requiring annual maintenance.

The website is well constructed and clutter free with a good ordering system. Instruction manuals, which are clear, concise, accurate and easy to understand, are available for download online. They also have have a video showing the entire construction of one of their polytunnels from beginning to end. Surprisingly, no other polytunnel manufacturer (as far as we know) does this.

Others certainly have videos on the subject but they are broken up into separate sections so there is no overall view of the entire process. Possibly this is because other manufacturers don't really want to show the complexity of their whole process from beginning to end.

In 2015 Northern Polytunnels introduced their easy-to-build range of polytunnels which still retain their renowned strength. Click here if you want to learn more about this, the video shows one of their polytunnels being built and it's impressively quick and easy.

In 2018 the easy to build range of polytunnels includes steel which has a lifetime guarantee against corrosion. See their page here for more information. As far as we are aware, this is a unique guarantee.

PREMIER POLYTUNNELS


Click here for their website
Average price check is £615 with free delivery in mainland UK. This includes one sliding door and one fixed door, an anchor plate kit and an aluminium base plate kit. Hoop spacing is 5ft. Their polythene covers have a four year guarantee against UV degradation. The company has been operating for over 30 years.

The door is 1.8m (6ft) high, the polythene covering is 600-guage (we could not find a mention of where it is manufactured), the diameter of the hoops is about average at 28mm (thickness is not specified).

The website is professional, clear, concise and makes ordering easy. There is lots of documentation to help with constructing and repairs. They also offer a Construction helpline.

ROBINSON POLYTUNNELS


Click here for their website
Average price check is £456 with free delivery to mainland UK, significantly less than the comparable competition. Polythene covers have a five year UV degradation guarantee. Details of how long the company has been operating for are not stated on the website.

Robinson Polytunnels (not connected to Robinsons Greenhouses) is run by Stuart Robinson who previously worked for Northern Polytunnels (see above) for 13 years.

The doors are 1.8m (6ft) high and they only offer the option of hinged doors not sliding doors. We could not find the thickness of the polythene from their website. The diameter of the hoops and the other tubing is 25.4mm with a thickness of 1.5mm. Sliding doors are not available, only hinged doors.

The hoops are in three parts rather than the stronger two part hoops. To their credit, Robinsons admit that this is primarily aimed at making them easy to transport and not to increase the strength of the overall structure.

What does concern us is that the only option for base rails is a timber one. Indeed, timber is used as a construction material more often than average with Robinsons polytunnels. Bearing in mind the price of their polytunnels however, this may be a quality sacrifice which is worth making.

The website is clear and easy to navigate, the ordering process is good. Instruction manuals are available for download online and there is a series of videos to help with construction although the website no longer links to them and we assume they are out of date.

Construction of the Robinsons polytunnels would appear to be a rather complicated process, they quote two full days with two people required at all stages. They require nailing the plastic through wooden batons on several occasions. But then again, this is the case with many of the comparably priced opposition.

TWO WESTS AND ELLIOTT


Click here for their website
Two Wests and Elliott don't design or manufacture their own polytunnels they simply use models provided by other manufacturers and resell them. Their website is very short on any technical information so we have not included details in this comparison.

Looking at the polytunnels they sell we can clearly identify several of them as being made by other manufacturers and the Two Wests and Elliott prices are often higher than than those of the manufacturer.

SUMMARY OF POLYTUNNEL RETAILERS


First, all the above information has been researched with the intentions of informing our readers, if you are intending to buy a polytunnel then please check out the information to ensure it is correct and up to date.

As far as retailers are concerned, if you wish your company to be included above at no cost then please contact us. If your company appears above and you believe any information is incorrect or missing then please contact us and we will correct it / include it.

We have spent many hours researching the above information and have accumulated a knowledge database far more extensive that the summaries above. With this in mind we recommend the following two top retailers:

NORTHERN POLYTUNNELS
For very little extra you seem to be getting a polytunnel which is better constructed than others. It will be able to withstand the extremes of British weather where others may fail. Let's face it the strong winds of 2013, 2014 and spring 2015 have tested many polytunnel owners to the limit.

With a Northern Polytunnels you will be paying an average price for an above average structure - well worth the money. Its history, dating back to 1969, is very reassuring as is its use of state of art computer assisted design methods.

Finally, and very important for those lacking advanced DIY skills, these are by far the easiest polytunnels to assemble. The video they produce (see above in this article) clearly demonstrates this.

ROBINSON POLYTUNNELS
For the price you have a lot of polytunnel. Although nowhere near as good as the best it is sold at a significantly lower price.

They are relatively new to the business and maybe that has some advantages. For those unable to pay for the best, Robinson offer a good product that is unlikely to disappoint.

AVOID THESE IF POSSIBLE
The cheaper types of polytunnels do not provide good light levels for your plants, ventilation standards are low and they are potentially "blowaways". However, if money is short they may be your only alternative.

Avoid retailers who advertise excessively and have gimmicky websites. Money spent on over the top advertising is less money able to be spent on producing a quality product.

WHAT CAN YOU GROW IN A POLYTUNNEL


What you choose to grow in a polytunnel depends on many factors including:
  • Your own personal preferences - vegetables, herbs, flowers for cutting, plants too tender to grow in the open, exotic plants, the list goes on and on.
     
  • How much heat can be provided. Is your polytunnel without additional heat, offering basic frost protection or year round heating.
     
  • Water supply may be a limiting factor. In the heat of a polytunnel many plants will require copious watering, this can be very time consuming especially if the plants are in pots.
     
  • Height of the polytunnel may also be a limiting factor for obvious reasons

Many plants and vegetables can be grown in a polytunnel but some simply do better when grown outside in the UK climate. Examples include currants, raspberries, lettuce at some times of the year, broad beans, leeks, onions and many others which appreciate and flourish better when they are exposed to cool of the British weather.

We can't discuss the many options in detail here but we have researched a few links (with accompanying short comments) which may well inspire you:

  • Daily Telegraph - this article is comprehensive but it is rather specialist and often assumes a supply of electricity and almost limitless supplies of water.
     



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