If you’ve ever wanted to live in a home which is as much a statement about your personality as it is somewhere to rest your head, then you might want to consider a dome house.
There are some very sound environmental reasons to do so too.
Our guide to dome houses will walk you through the types of dome housing, the benefits (and the drawbacks) of having a dome house, how to build one and the costs involved.
Come and check out this fun and charming way to live.
What Is A Dome House?
A dome house, rather as the name suggests, is a house that is made in the shape of a “dome” (that is a partial sphere or other rounded structure) that has some sort of “shell” beneath the frame to support the exterior.
Other than that, a dome house is just like any other kind of home and will have walls, ceilings, doors, windows, etc. and can be decorated, within reason, pretty much anyway that the owner wants to decorate them.
The Two Types Of Dome House
There are two main types of dome house that you can choose from and they are:
- Geodesic – these are made of triangles or other geometric shapes that are plugged together to make a shell. They were designed by the legendary architect, chemist and all-round polymath Buckminster Fuller. It’s easier to build traditional flat walls in a geodesic dome. However, there is a risk of the structure becoming weak at a joint point and this can lead to expensive repairs.
- Monolithic – not as pretty as they are typically made from a single shell of poured concrete, they are however super durable and won’t succumb to infestations or mold. They are very easy to furnish but the walls tend to remain curved by necessity.
What Are The Benefits Of Having A Dome House?
There are three solid benefits to buying or building a dome house:
- Energy efficiency. The design keeps heat and light trapped in neatly and you can find that compared to a similar sized home, you will save thousands in utility bills over a decade or two.
- They’re disaster resistant. Dome houses can withstand earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc. much better than ordinary housing and FEMA says that they are equivalent to a “safe room”
- They make a statement. There’s no getting around the fact that a dome house is a superb fashion statement, they’re striking to look at and really say something about their owners.
How Do You Build A Dome House?
The best way to do this is to buy a kit. There are plenty of companies out there that sell them, and Timberline is our preferred brand for geodesics.
If you want to go with a monolithic dome then DomeGaia (who make Aircrete too) can help there and they also offer workshops on how to get the building done.
However, the basic process is simple enough and most people can do this without any specialist help:
- Firstly, you need to pour the slabs that you will use to build it on
- Then you attach your air form/membrane to the foundation
- Then you inflate that air form
- You will then spray the form with polyurethane (unless you are prepared to pay for Aircrete – then you don’t need to do this bit)
- Then it’s time to install the rebar that you will use
- Then you add the pipes and wiring for plumbing, electricity, etc.
- Then you cover it concrete, several inches thick
- Then you plaster the concrete interior and if you want to, you can paint it
- Then get outside and add another 4 inches of concrete to the top
- When its dry, spray and paint it
How Much Will It Cost To Build A Dome House?
It depends, of course, on how big you want to make your dome and how much work that you’re going to put in yourself.
We’ve found construction companies that would be happy to build the shell (and the floor) for about $65 per square foot of the finished dome.
If you want them to make the inside livable then think $150 per square foot.
You could, on the other hand, do the building yourself and we think you could easily build a small dome home for less than $10,000.
On the other hand, if you want to go upmarket then it’s quite easy to find pre-built giant dome structures that hit the $1,000,000+ range!
What Are The Disadvantages Of A Dome House?
There are several minor disadvantages to dome housing:
- Echoes. Sound really echoes in these houses and it can feel hard to find privacy at times.
- Hanging stuff on walls. The walls are curved, paintings don’t hang naturally nor do shelves.
- Planning permission. The unusual nature of dome houses can make it hard to get permission to build one particularly in homeowner association territory.
- Spare parts are limited. This won’t matter until something goes wrong but when/if it does – it can be expensive to fix.
- Appraisals are hard to come by. Because they are unique, getting them valued can be hard too as the typical process involves comparing a home to another one sold in the last year.
Last Word on Dome Homes
As you can see there are some very good reasons to build a dome house and there’s no doubt that this is a very distinctive way to live.
However, there are some genuine downsides to dome living too and it’s important to take them into account before you decide to move forward with a dome house.
Many people who build dome houses opt for off-the-grid living too and you might want to check out our guide to off-the-grid living which tells you all you need to know about living free.
If that doesn’t appeal, you might also want to consider living underground which has some fairly substantial benefits over ordinary housing, see our guide to underground housing here for more information.