Towards the end of April 2011 we took delivery of a 12′ x 8′ Extra Tall Evesham Polycarbonate Greenhouse from Waltons. WE researched the pros and cons of polycarbonate versus glass, and eventually plumped for polycarbonate. Big mistake! But the biggest mistake was to buy from Waltons – perhaps one of the worst decisions I have ever made.
As soon as myself and a friend began to assemble the greenhouse suspicions began to grow that it was not fit for purpose – and those suspicions have been confirmed by subsequent experience. As we assembled the greenhouse, we were shocked by the poor quality of both the materials and the design. Both the polycarbonate panels and the aluminium spars seemed flimsy relative to the large panel areas. This proved to be the case when, only a few weeks later, a moderate wind (it was June) blew out three panels. This was not due to any fault in assembly, but rather due to the poor design – the polycarbonate panels are so large, and the retaining grooves in which they are seated so shallow, that in a moderate wind the panels flex and can pop out.
I re-inserted the panels (which meant hammering out the gutters on either side) and covered the greenhouse in chicken wire so that panels would not blow off the allotment if they blew out again.
In September a gale resulted in more panels blowing out. This time I replaced them, and sealed them with waterproof aluminium tape, inside and out. The same thing happened again in November – and this time I sealed every panel with waterproof aluminium tape, inside and out. Each time the gutters had to be hammered out in order to reseat the panels – and by now the aluminium was proving too soft to stand up to repeated (careful) hammering, and the ends of the gutters were buckling with this wear and tear.
These two events revealed another design flaw – on both occasions the sliding doors blew off. The reason for this is that wind can easily force its way into the gap between the door and the end panels, pushing the doors outwards. There is no latch to hold the doors together (the magnets are a joke) and another weakness is the top track for the door – the aluminium simply buckles under the pressure of the wind, so releasing the doors from the frame. Since then, the doors have been secured by a complicated arrangement of octopus clips and wooden beams.
The gales at the beginning of the year found every weakness in the structure – this time the doors blew out, letting the force of the wind into the greenhouse and resulting in panels at either end of the building blowing out. These panels appear to be impossible to properly replace without deconstructing the entire greenhouse.
Waltons are now the laughing stock of our allotment society – no-one there is likely in a million years to buy one of these greenhouses! But I paid £500 for something which is clearly not fit for purpose. I wrote to the company to complain, but their contemptous response was an extract from a standard letter issued by their Managing Director with no attempt to respond to the specific circumstances detailed in my original email.
Walton’s response boiled down to the idea that the greenhouse had been subjected to ‘extreme weather conditions not normally experienced in the UK’. This is laughable. Our allotment is located in central Liverpool, not the Outer Hebrides. As I explained, the first damage occurred in the early summer, and that and each succeeding episode has involved winds of moderate severity that are characteristic of the season – not exceptional.
Our advice would be – don’t buy a greenhouse from Walton’s. They’re not fit for purpose – you might as well erect a wendy house.