I have always wanted an endless pool... It's been a dream of mine for a long time, but I knew we couldn't afford one, and even if we could, there's a lot of other things more important than spending money on one, since they cost $10,000 and up..
Somehow I found out about the Fitmax iPool, which is an exercise/therapy pool that costs a fraction of the endless pools... I got really excited about the idea of buying one of those pools and having a body of water to exercise and swim in... But where to put it?
Living in Northern Michigan, I knew it'd be really hard to keep it warm, and clean, if it was sitting outside.. We had already had an above ground pool for a couple of years that proved to be too chilly to swim in most of the time and it was next to impossible to keep pine needles out of it, since we're surrounded by jack pine trees...
I put my little thinking cap on and came up with the idea of building a sun room that would house the iPool... I spent weeks looking at diy plans and kits to build your own sunroom.. I found lots of info on the Rion Lean-to Greenhouse Sunroom, and I was really intrigued..
The reviews I found on their products were glowing and they were advertised as a "snap" to put together..I contacted the company, Backyard Living Source, and asked them all kinds of questions, and got all the right answers..
After a lot of consideration, and I mean a LOT of consideration, we decided to go with Rion.. After all, they're warranted for 7 years and they have a picture of a greenhouse with men standing on top of it on one of their websites, not to mention bookoo pictures of them covered with snow a foot deep... And the fact that they're a snap to put together, and priced better than aluminum framed sunrooms, made the choice seem like the smartest one we could make.. They claim the frame is stronger and longer enduring than aluminum frames, and with a 7 year warranty, surly it would be expected to last at least 7 years and beyond..
First, we built a very strong and secure deck to hold it. We dug 42" footers to make sure we were well below the frost line and added more footers than necessary to make sure it could hold the weight of the pool..
We were very careful to insure we were using the correct height given by the Rion company to insure this would work with the sun room.. Rion lists the height of their sun rooms as being 7'11".. We followed their measurement guideline to the letter.. That was mistake #1...
This is how the Rion greenhouses and sunrooms arrive at your home by UPS..
Each section comes in it's own box. We had purchased a 20' sun room as well as a 10' one, to be used as a greenhouse. Silly, silly us...
Each box contains the windows panels and frame pieces, which are all apart. There are a zillion pieces, each with a part number molded into the part. The problem with this is that the part number is very hard to read, since it's the same color as the rest of the part. You have to go through each box and sort the parts into piles before you begin to make sure you have all the correct parts and/or to make sure none of them are damaged.. This isn't easy since many, many of the parts look just alike, but are just slightly different in size..
We did have quite a few broken parts, but since we had purchased two different kits, we were able to swap out parts.. I contacted the Rion company, and to their credit, they did ship out the replacement parts very quickly.
Once you have all the parts sorted (this took us an entire day), you start putting the frame together. Unfortunately, the manual isn't as good as it could be and we had to figure out quite a bit as we went... The bottom part of the sunroom was relatively easy to put together..Once you have the frame pieces together, the windows just slide in pretty easily.. This however, was the only easy part of the sunroom.
When we started adding the sides, we realized the sunroom is actually 8', not 7'11" like the manual and the Rion website stated.. This created a problem because we had built the roof line at 7'11".. We had to readjust the roof line, which wasn't an easy task. Thank goodness we hadn't built the wall extensions yet.
I contacted them telling them it was actually 8' tall, not 7'11" and it had created a bit of a problem for us.. I've noticed on many of their websites, they have changed the height to 8', although some of them still list it as being 7'11"... If you decide to buy one of these, just know that they are 8' tall..
The manual tells you to build the roof frame on the ground, not too far from the structure, and then lift it into place... That was mistake #2..
We followed the directions and then tried to lift it.. Bahahahahahhah.. What a joke.. The only way you would be able to lift a 20' roof is to have someone holding each section.. Each section is 2' wide, so you would need 10 people to lift this size.. We live up North away from family and all our neighbors are senior citizens (like us).. We didn't have 8 additional available people to lift this thing up..
No matter how we tried, lifting it meant parts popped apart..We gave up on that idea after a couple of hours and took it apart and reassembled it one section at a time, connecting it to the bottom frame as we went...
The parts are suppose to be a snap to put together with no tools required.. It's true you don't need any conventional tools, but you do have to use this little wooded tool the include with a small Allen wrench sticking out the end.. You use that to insert there little plastic connectors where each part meets.. The tool in itself is very uncomfortable to hold and use.. The tool is cut at a slant on the other end, which is suppose to assist you in inserting rubber tubing around each window.. As you use it to insert the plastic connectors, the slanted part is stabbing the palm of your hand.. When you use it for the rubber tubing, the Allen wrench stabs your palm.. Let's just say, it's a stupid tool.
The parts however, do not "snap" together easily.. They are incredibly hard to fit together and require brute strength.. Once you get the frame up, you have to insert the windows, which are suppose to glide easily in the little grooves on the side of the plastic frames.. As we found out, the windows do not glide along the plastic easily. In fact, pounding the ends of the windows with the palm of your hands will move it about 1/8" each pound.. Each window took an hour or more to get in place.. You then have to add this long plastic part to the top of each frame piece, which is intended to keep the window in place.. That part is a nightmare to snap down.. Most of them pop out of the groove after you get half of it in place, meaning you have to start all over.. there are also chambers at the top and bottom of each window that the windows need to stick in.. It's not hard to get the windows into the top chamber, but you have to slightly bend the window to get it in the bottom chamber.. Not an easy thing to do.. More times than not, this caused the window to completely pop out of the grooves, so we'd have to start all over again...
The directions say over and over again that soaking the pieces in soapy water will ease putting them together.. We had those parts soaking for hours, and then for days.. It didn't aid in putting them together in the least.
Days later, when you finally have the thing together, you have to take this skinny rubber tubing and stick it between the windows and the frame all around the bottom and side pieces.. They also suggest you soak this before using to ease the application. Again.. soaked it...didn't help a bit..
Once done you realize there are little gaps where each window ends. They give you little dark gray foamy inserts to stick in these holes.. They look ugly and won't stay put very long.. As soon as the temperature changes from day to night, they expand or shrink, depending on the temps, and pop out of place.. We ended up sealing every hole with silicone (as per a customer service rep at Rion)...
Each sunroom comes with a vented roof window.. We soon discovered ours leaked like the titantic... I sealed it with silicone but it never did stop leaking.. I contacted them about it, and they did send me a new window.. However, after getting it I realized how impossible it would be to replace it, as it was in the middle of the sunroom.. There would be no way to insert the long plastic pieces that keep the window in place. You have to add those after inserting each window by standing on a ladder in the unfinished window spot next to it.. Another option is to slide that long piece into place from ground level using a mallet.. I used that method on the smaller lean-to we put up.. It worked but was actually more difficult and the piece usually popped out of place half way up the part, so I'd have to pull it back down and start again.. There just simply is no easy way to put these things together.
We finally did finish the sunroom, working morning to night.. It took us almost 2 weeks to complete the sunroom, including inserting all the tubing (that took days). We then finished off the wall extensions with tongue and groove boards (we also insulated them) and sealed off every spot we could find where air could get in..
Now that it was built, we could finally put up the exercise pool.. The pole in the middle was for extra strength.. We wanted to make this as strong as possible.. the foam boards were put down for added insulation for the pool and also to make the floor of it more comfortable.
We added the iPool and filled it..
Then put chairs and plants in the space left so we had a nice little sunroom along with the pool area..
I loved it.. I really, really did.... We were so proud of what we'd built and so pleased with the way it looked..
Then winter came, and after the first snowfall, one of the windows popped though, landing a pile of snow in the empty pool..
Okay, we accepted that and appreciated them sending us a new panel, even though we couldn't fix it till spring because of the snow..
I had also talked to her about the door and the fact that there is no way to seal it properly, so rain and snow got in.. We had sealed it off with a piece of insulation board for the winter, but needed a better solution.. She sent us a box of rubber tubing and some rubber stripping stuff to see if that helped.. It didn't, but I appreciate that she tried to help.. The problem was not with her, it's with a door that was engineered stupidly!
Other than the one panel popping through, the sunroom did hold up nicely through the winter.. Although, we did need to go out and clean it off every time it snowed...
Once it thawed and the snow around the sun room had melted, we got the new panel in and everything seemed good again.. I filled my pool in March and was exercising in it when it was snowing outside.. It was chilly in there, but because the pool had a heater, it was very enjoyable..
The next summer, we noticed more and more leaks and realized how hot the house was in the middle of summer because there wasn't really much ventilation to the sunroom.. On top of that, the door had to be left open to get air, but there is no way to attach a screen. Because the door frame is plastic, you can't attach a screen door to it.. I tried attaching one of those instant screen thingies they show on tv, the ones that attach with velcro, but the sticky stuff on the back of the velcro just melted from the heat and slid off, taking the screen with it..I tried sewing a seam on the top of the screen (like a curtain panel) and using a tension curtain rod, but it kept sliding down the plastic door frame. We ended up propping a sliding door screen in front of it, which was very inconvenient, but if we left it open, we had a room, and pool, full of bugs...
Once fall arrived, we were worried that more windows could possibly pop out, so we decided to cover the sun room with a huge clear solar blanket.. It was expensive, and a bear to get up there, but it did seem to protect the windows, stopped the constant leaking and helped insulate it.. It also created a surface where snow just slid off of it..
The next summer, we weren't sure what to do. Should we take the blanket off and put up with constant leaks? We ended up leaving the blanket there and put a greenhouse tarp on the top to create shade..We tried a number of things to stop the vented window from leaking, but nothing worked.. Leaving it covered with the blanket was the only thing that finally stopped the leak..
By now, our pretty sunroom wasn't so pretty looking anymore and we weren't enjoying it like we had in the beginning.. We could sit out there in the spring or the fall, but it was too hot to use in the summer, other than to use the pool, and too cold in the winter.. We also had to keep the door to the house shut in the summer to keep the hot air out..
It was nice in the spring because it would get warm in there.. We could open the door to the house and get free heat.. Same in the fall, but for the little bit of time this was beneficial, it really wasn't a big bonus..
Fast forward to 2014.. The sun room is now 3 1/2 years old.. We've had a bitter cold winter, the coldest my husband and I can remember in our lives.. One night in January, we heard, what sounded like, a small earthquake... It was pitch black out that night and we couldn't really see what had happened looking out the windows.. It was also well below zero, so we weren't about to go out in the middle of the night and wade through snow to find out..
In the morning, this is what we found..
It appears the frame broke on one, or both, ends and the rest of it just imploded..
You can see here that one of the bracket pieces just snapped.. That piece should be 3 times as long..
Rion states that these sun rooms can hold a snow load up to 1100 lbs.. We have had a lot of snow this year, but with the solar blanket in place, much of it slid off... We really wonder if the frame became really brittle because of the freezing cold temps.. We don't know why else it would just shatter like it did.. There were small, broken pieces all over inside the sunroom..
I contacted Rion right after it happened, asking what their 7 year warranty covers.. In fact, I have asked them that question 3 times now.. No one will tell me.. I just keep being told the situation is being handed over to the manager, and then to Palram Applications who actually manufacture them.. No one from that company has been in contact with me. It has now been over 6 weeks and they have done nothing but give me the run around..
We do not want another Rion greenhouse/sunroom kit.. But we would like to be compensated for a product that has a 7 year warranty, but only lasted half that time frame.. We also want to warn other people about what can happen with these Rion kits.. We wish we had seen an honest review before we purchased ours...
Would I recommend Rion products? No way, no how.. Putting them together is anything but easy, they have problems with leaking and windows that pop out, and now this.. They very obviously are not built to withstand a harsh winter..
As for their glowing reviews...I have tried leaving honest reviews on their sites since we put this thing up, giving both cons and pros to their product.. I gave it 3 stars and marked that I would not recommend them to others.. But they will not print my review.. I have tried multiple times to leave a review, mostly now as a game to see if they will print a mostly negative review or not.. They won't!! No wonder they have glowing reviews.. They ignore the ones people are leaving pointing out problems with these products...
In the last couple of years, after a lot of digging, I did find other forums with reviews on the Rion products.. The problems we've had are very, very common among Rion owners. Most state they would never buy another Rion product again..
As I mentioned, we foolishly bought two of these.. The other one is a 10' lean-to we use as a green house.. There are no wall extensions. It butts up to the house, under the eves... We did not build a foundation for it, but rather dug a trench and put 4x4's in it, then attached the sunroom to the 4x4's.. We've had problems with that one, too.. The windows leak and the top looks sunken.. One of the windows popped through last winter and we've never been able to get it to stay in properly. We have a pole propped up to keep it from popping through..
We'll be taking that one down this summer and using the windows in a greenhouse we intend to build with a wooden frame..
It really is too bad these greenhouses aren't what they say they are.. Maybe they would be great in warmer climate, but then again, maybe the heat would do them in... And now that I think about it, even if it didn't break down, there's still the problem with the constant leaking, gaps between windows and the door that doesn't seal properly...
Ours is now gone.. We had a builder come tear it down and rebuild with an enclosed porch.. They did an awesome job and even took all the sun room debris away.. Other than the smaller lean-to we will be taking down this summer, our once beautiful sun room is just a bad memory...
If you are buying one, or have bought one, I hope you have better luck than we have... I give the Rion company 5 stars for customer service (up until now when they're giving me the runaround), but as far as this snap together greenhouse/sunroom goes... 0 out of 5 stars... Not worth the hassle...
UPDATE: It's now been over 6 months. We purchased this sunroom from Backyard Living Source, through their website. They kept passing the buck where the warranty is concerened, and finally told us they'd sent our claim on to Palram Industries in Israel..
We were a bit shocked, since we didn't realize we had purchased this thing from a company in Israel, let alone Palram Industries.. Nothing on the boxes or the product itself had the name of Palram on it.
That company has just ignored us.. The other day I found their website and sent a message through their website stating we have waited over 6 months for them to cover the warranty.
I received an email today simply stating our problem is not covered under the manufacturers warranty. Backyard living source say they aren't responsible because Palram Industries must cover damages like this.
Palram also sent me an email copy of their so called warranty. It completely and totally protects them from absolutely ANY damage done to these products.. It completely and totally removes any product protection for the company.
In other words, this company does not stand behind their product and if you look for Palram Industries, they are now advertising a lot of greenhouse's under that name..
If I were you, I'd look for an American company that will stand behind their product..