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Greenhouse Do-It-Yourself

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

This blog is a shiny happy place where we come to learn about birds, trees, flowers, droppings, clammy cuphea, busted box turtles, futile attempts at growing obscure wildflowers and batkeeping, among other things. This post is a bit of a departure.

Warning: Uncharacteristically Acid Sarcasm is Employed in This Post.

So this is going to be a greenhouse. Really. Looks like Rion Prestige Greenhouse Co. has got some 'splainin' to do. Science Chimp, stumped, for the first of dozens of times in the process.

My beloved Garden Pod was destroyed in the derecho of June 29, 2012. Bill and I put it together from a kit about 10 years ago. The kit  had eight big pieces of superduper double thermopane plastic, an aluminum frame, some hexagonal plastic spacers, and a lid. I remember Bill and me putting it together in a few hours. Perhaps I gloss over it, but I don't remember it being a big deal, or cause for contemplation of suicide.

I shopped long and hard for a replacement, and finally settled on the Rion Prestige 8 x 8 greenhouse as the most bang for the buck.

It came in three big heavy boxes, with several hundred small parts, which seemed to breed within their boxes. Make that several thousand small parts.

Some assembly required. The saleswoman on the phone told me that two people could put it together "on a good Saturday."  One, perhaps, that happened to be June 21, the longest day of the year.  And one when maybe five other people, each of whom had engineering degrees from MIT and giant toolbelts, stopped by to help and brought two friends to make runs to town for different lag bolts. And when you had floodlights rigged up so you could work past midnight.  I'm guessing that was the kind of "good Saturday" she was referring to. Ours was a good Saturday, but it was not that good.

I decided to sort all the parts into piles so we could quickly grab a B-10 when we needed a B-10. They did not arrive thus sorted.  I so proud of me. You can see the footprint of my dearly departed Pod on the cement pad where I'm standing. Sigh. It wasn't big, but what joy it brought. And did I mention that it went together so quickly?

While I was sorting, Bill worked on the bottom frame.

Chet Baker was supervising. It was a beautiful day. The very last one we had before Hurricane Sandy bore down on us, in fact. 

The Prestige greenhouse is made in Israel. Where, apparently, they have no use for words in their instructions. Everything is diagrams, arrows, and outrageous slings of misfortune. I quickly grew to hate, then loathe, the construction manual. Which isn't a manual at all. Just a bunch of drawings. And if you fail to pick up on the nuances of the tiny projections on the little pieces and which way they're pointing, you're going to have to do it all over. Which you fail to notice, and then have to do all over.

The manual says nothing at all about anchoring the base in concrete. It doesn't tell you what tools or hardware you'll need; it doesn't tell you that you will have to make three different trips to two different hardware stores to try to find concrete bolts that will fit through the eensy-weensy holes in the base. And the reason it doesn't tell you this is because if you do it wrong and something breaks or someone gets hurt or it blows over, they don't want to have told you what to use and have you bring a lawsuit against them because it didn't work. So they leave you twisting in the wind. All the while telling you no tools are required for assembly. Well. I am in danger of putting this whole flipping post in red italics just for sardonic emphasis. 

No tools, except every damn drill in the house which failed to penetrate the concrete, and then our friend Dave's huge concrete drill. And a socket wrench for which he had to specially machine a thinned down ratchet head that would fit into the eensy weensy holes in the base so he could tighten the nuts down. Nope, no tools at all. Just your fingers.

Which, by the way, resemble raw hamburger by the end of the day even though you wore gloves the whole time.

It's not that I'm work-averse. No, Bill and I work like mules most every day, all day long. C'mon. We have 80 acres in the country. But there's something about paying that much for a greenhouse and then having to put every blessed piece of it together yourself for hours and hours on end that augurs "postponement of pleasure" down to entirely new depths. By now we've figured out that there's no way we're going to get that base drilled into the concrete without expert outside help. Clouds are gathering, and we've just heard that a Really Big Storm is headed up the East Coast, thence to jag inland. Oh. What timing. And here we are without the faintest idea how we're going to get this base anchored. Which it's going to need to be, if we're going to get this thing constructed before bad weather sets in.

I know. These photos taken at half-hour intervals don't look all that different.

That's because Bill and I are building the roof off to one side. 

When we look at the directions and anticipate that every single pane of plastic in the greenhouse is going to have to be hand-weatherstripped with a tiny sharp painful-to-hold L-shaped "tool" which pokes the rubber weatherstrip deep into the green frame, we almost kill ourselves. Instead, we just start poking the weatherstrip into the grooves with the tiny painful tool. Hey. I thought they said no tools were required.

By the time the evening shadows are growing long, we've admitted to ourselves that there is no way that, even if we could get it constructed in a day, we'd leave this partially completed structure out for Hurricane Sandy to play with. Time to box up the 500 or so remaining unassembled parts and haul them to the garage.  So ends Day One. A good Saturday, ten man-hours down the road (well, five man-hours and five chimp-hours). 

It is no longer a greenhouse. It is now a Groanhouse. 

Next: Dave "Tools" Wesel to the Rescue.


Complaining you may be, but I still had to chuckle. Nothing is as hard to do as an easy do-it-yourself, no-tools-needed project. You ought to send a copy of your posts to that company!

I feel for you. We had a similar experience last summer when we purchased a shed. It took five people over twelve hours to build. It was a nightmare. Seriously, a shed has four metal walls and a roof, how many pieces could possibly be involved? THOUSANDS. That thing better last for twenty years because I'll never talk my husband into purchasing another one!


Posted by Anonymous November 6, 2012 at 5:10 AM

I feel overwhelmed just looking at the photos..

Posted by Anonymous November 6, 2012 at 7:45 AM

Ouch. And Ouch again.

It's going to be a thing of beauty. Eventually.

Had a slightly less horrible experience with a small greenhouse assembly last year, but it was still horrible. The whole plastic mess lasted one winter, then died a miserable death. I hope you have better luck, and that once it's up it will endure all the elements and be a loved thing of beauty!

After 45 years of marriage, two children and three grandchildren, I finally learned not to purchase anything that has instructions with the dreaded phrase: "Some assembly required."! I feel for you. But just think how wonderful the flowers and produce will be after so much effort! -Wally

See, there was logic in the madness. If you had been able to construct it easily, the hurricane would have won...

Oh dear, oh dear. This really looks and sounds like torture. I'd have suggested anchoring the base to the concrete with a gunpowder activated nailgun, but given the "suicidal" remark, guess that's not a good idea. I hope the rest goes smoothly and you and the flora enjoy it for many years.

Love your sense of humor even thru this and the use of the red type. I hate how stupid picture directions can make me feel.

Hopefully when you're all done you'll be able to grow lots of wonderful things for many years to make up for this.

Classic!!! (...although I'm still imagining in my mind what Dave Barry might've done with this).

What a nightmare! Sorry but I too got a pretty good chuckle -- especially about the similar photos taken 30 minutes apart. Long before IKEA came into being, I purchased a TV stand that came with the helpful instructions, "Put Part A Part B". No helpful verbs. Into? On top of? Next to? I made a big pitcher of margaritas and seem to remember that helping morale quite a bit. Good luck!

Here's your silver lining: you got 10 hours free of political guano. Skinned knuckles seems like a small price to pay for a day free from even a smidgen of, "I'm (insert pol's name here), and I approve this message." And I say this with no real knowledge of how deep it truly gets in the mother of all swing states. Here in MA, where the whole world knows how we'll vote, it's been bad enough. Only upside in my zip code is the robo-calls urging me to the polls from Matt Damon.

I have my fingers crossed that you can only be writing this stuff from the safety of the other side, that land beyond the current blog post dateline, where things have settled out to something resembling victory on the greenhouse front.

Here's to future blog posts of glorious greenhouse blooms in mid-February, when we really, really need them.

Posted by KH Macomber November 6, 2012 at 7:03 PM

I feel better about my just wing it/build it out of your head as you go projects now. I expect them to be a pain in the asterisk and they rarely disappoint.

Hmm. I've been thinking I really, really want one of those greenhouses. I'll be watching and reading closely.

Hodge I am still in the thick of it. In medeas res. no resolution yet, waiting for some parts to be shipped. Dreading building the sliding doors and assembling the automatic venting window. Bold enough to blog as I go. Writing from Texas. On hold for now. And yes. It wasn't as bad as the four calls daily from Mitt and Ann. May they recede into obscurity for good.

I would've given up and returned the thing when I saw all the boxes and parts. You're a brave woman!

well…..i would like to thank you for posting this…..but unfortunately i came across it AFTER the 6 boxes showed up and i spent Sunday…yes DAY oh and Saturday …..and still not done working on this. I do have to add one thing that the RION manufacturer did…that you may have missed….and they did this really GOOD… put the stickers on every piece….With GLUE that has to be the best glue in the world…..they will not come off! enjoyed your post and can't wait to finish this beast….how's it holding up?

Posted by Scott P March 2, 2015 at 6:51 PM

Well, Scott, I'd recommend your typing "Rion Prestige Greenhouse" or "Groanhouse" into the search box on the upper left corner of my blog home page. And you'll get the story in installments. As to how it's holding up, a windstorm removed three panes in Nov. 2014 and I was reduced to TAPING every pane with eight rolls of Gorilla Clear Repair Tape. Yes. The only good thing about that is that it doesn't show from a distance. I wish you luck. I hope you're smarter than we were, and don't put things together backerds and upside down and have to take them apart and do it over. GOOD LUCK. I mean it.

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