Geodesic Dome Home

I’m looking to buy a house, and I came across an ad for a Geodesic Dome Home almost in my price range. I have many questions, and I don’t know where to go for answers. It looks like it’s in a lovely woodsy quiet area, with an enormous detached shop for Mr. singular’s work. It’s 1660 sq ft, and the pictures of the interior are gorgeous, but few. We’re both artists, but pretty physically busted up, so we’re not able to take on a “fixer-upper”. It was built in 1986, and looks gorgeous.

But what is it like to actually live in one? How do you arrange and store your stuff? Are there problems unique to a house of this shape? I guess what I want to know is: Are there any Doper Domers out there?

Go see it. What is the build-quality? While “Built by Hippies” give a property a certain panache, in a home you want solid construction.

Heating is a problem. Lots of dome top sucks up heat and a/c. Ask to see the bills.

Next, we come to the round exterior walls. It is simple, it is hard to put stuff next to round walls that slope inward. It is remarkable how much that impacts dome-dwellers.

Then we have to ask, will it appreciate in value as would a box house? You want to bet on it?

Look at it, cluck like a chicken, make a lowball offer.

You may have difficulty getting people to work on it. For instance, at 20+ years, you may be nearing the end of the life of the roofing materials (and remember, it’s all roof). A roofing contractor is not going to be happy about doing your job at anything less than a premium price, and he is unlikely to give you a guarantee.

I stumbled a cross a geodesic dome home near a previous job, and was so intrigued that I went over to talk to the owner. My worry about the house was that, with so many joints, and with neophyte construction (he built it himself), there was a real possibility of leaks at all those corners. He said that he never had any problems with leaks. The house looked very neat and trim from the outside, and sturdy. I didn’t get invited in, so I can’t speak about the interior arrangements.

Check out the Domes and other DOMiciles on this website. As someone who has designed many rooms, homes, and dwellings of the artistic and frequently DOME-like variety I can say there are many pros to living in a geodesic dome. They are quite efficient if you have the proper HVAC system and above all they are cool to look at. For two artists it’s a no-brainer if it has been maintained and kept up. You’ll see on the website several very cool dwellings and if you look close you may even see a Hobbit Hole :wink:

Make sure all of the 1660 square feet is usable. A hemisphere covering 1660 square feet is 46 feet across, but because of the curve of the dome the outer portion is difficult to use efficiently. If you lose the use of a 2 foot annulus around the outside wall your usable area drops to 1385 square feet, a 16.5% loss.

There are firms you can hire to spray on an insulating, waterproof roof, in your choice of colors. That would gird two bills with one foam.

One thing to keep in mind is acoustics.

Many years ago, my circle of friends had access to a rental property near Mt. Sunapee in Middle NH. It was a dome, of moderate quality construction. It was a fun place to rent with some friends for the weekend.

However… if one is sitting on the exact opposite side as another person, one can hear EVERYTHING that person does, just like they had a microphone and amplifier set up on that person. You hear them chew, you hear them clip their nails, you hear them fart. :eek:

It is amazing sound quality to listen to a guitarist, however. :smiley:

As the entire first floor (or near to it, and a loft as well) were all “open space,” they did a lot of decorating to ‘divide areas’ and had very little against the wall, unless it was in a built in set of shelves.

The place had heating issues, but as it was more a camp than a home, this probably isn’t relevent.

I bow to your punning mastery.

A friend of mine’s father spent much of his life building domes for B.Fuller,mostly continental U.S. but also offshore.
There’s one on his mom’s property,but not used for domicile;it’s a workshop.About 40 years old now (I’m guessing),they haven’t done any maintenance,it’s under trees,so lots of decaying organic matter covers it.
I’d say it’s in pretty good shape.Most houses around here have basements,it’s on a slab.
If you ask specific questions,I’ll present them to him,though I’m sure the one you’re looking at might be completely dissimilar in materials.

I think this is more suited for IMHO than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

As a real estate appraiser, just let me ask you to consider resale value.

You might, as an artist, like the idea. It probably costs much less per square foot than a traditional frame house.

But if/when you try to sell it, there’s a good chance you’ll be in for a rude awakening.

How many days has it been on market? Over 200 or so, you might can totally lowball them and get a fair price. But don’t try to compare the square footage to a traditional house valuewise.

I’ve seen one case where the geodesic home added zero value to a nice lot. Might have even detracted from it, as the new owner immediately razed it.

I have a friend who has lived in one for over 25 years now. She is quite happy with it.

Proper maintenance is important (just as in any house). She hasn’t had a problem finding people willing to do work on the house – more often had the problem of having to be careful about checking the qualifications of workers – many claim more skills than they actually have. IMO, she pays too much, but she is very fussy and tends to go for top-quality companies.

She says being able to use the space is only a problem if you are locked into thinking of a box house. For example, she puts her chair and reading lamp on the outside near the curved wall, and her tall, straight-backed bookshelves on the inside, forming the ‘walls’ of her library. Even hanging pictures on the curved walls works fine, she says – you need to attach them differently than on flat walls, and they hang more open rather than back against the walls. That’s only a problem if you are convinced it ‘looks wrong’.

She’s never mentioned a sound-echo problem, but she lives alone (except for pest). And she has some artwork, including some fabric quilt pieces hanging in the overhead open space – that may dampen the sound echos.

She would certainly disagree with Paul on the heat issues. She claims her heat/air conditioning bills are much lower than a box house. She certainly quotes lower ones than my similar-sized house. Isn’t the natural ventilation one of the design features of a dome house? I don’t understand what Paul means about a dome sucking up heat at all – summer heat rises, and thus just is vented out the top of the dome. I know I’ve been using my A.C. for weeks when she mentions that she had to turn it on for the first time.

Resale value might be an issue. But as she’s in her 70’s and lived there for over 25 years, it will be an issue for her heirs, not her. If you’re planning to live there a short while and then ‘flip’ the house, you might want to pay more attention to this. But given the real estate market around here right now, that might be an issue for any house. Something unique like a dome house might just stand out among the hundreds of box houses on the market.

So she’s married?

For all I’ve read about dome homes, they are very energy efficient. They are also typically very useful in hurricane areas as shelters (google “dome of a home”)

Resale value. Let me tell you, if I could FIND a dome home for sale where I’m looking, I would snatch it up in a heartbeat.

As artists, you probably have different needs than most. If you don’t have children, you have different needs than most. The question is, will the interior of that home suit you? A bad layout is a bad layout, no matter the exterior dimensions of the home.

And as artists, I’d be pretty well shocked if you didn’t look at it as a giant canvas ripe for painting!

I missed the editing window. Is it a geodesic dome or monolithic dome? My information was more about the monolithics.

Also, about that lowball offer idea. Guess what? The folks that bought it probably knew it was a dome, knew that it had limited mass market appeal and expect for it to take a while to sell. If I had one and wanted to sell, I’d have prepared myself for a realistic wait. It would be insulting for someone to lowball me because they think I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.

I just found a website that lists dome homes nationwide. There is ONE for sale in my state. It’s also $600k. I don’t consider that “bargain hunting.”

My ex was obsessed with building a geoDome. That may be the reason I always put it in the “Not such a hot idea” column. However, if you Google it, you’ll see that not all domes are created equal. I’d give it a look.

I spent some time researching dome homes a year or two ago when I started thinking about building my new house. I’ll try and cover what I remember.

Auntbeast has it spot on. There are monolithic domes, and geodesic domes. They are similar, but significantly different.

Although you asked about geodesic, I’ll put in a bit about monolithic first.

Here is the website to the Monolithic Dome Institute. A company pretty much devoted to building or assisting in building monolithic domes. Basically you take a huge form, inflate it, then cover the inside of the balloon with concrete to hold the form. That is simplifying it a lot, but you get the idea. From what I can tell they are very energy efficient, and don’t require a huge amount of maintenance. At least no more than your average stick-built home. I liked the idea a lot, but as others have said, your usable space is less than what your square footage would indicate. The wife and I drove across the state during the annual “Open Dome” event to look at one. I was…under whelmed. One of the attractions of the monolithic dome is the fact that it can be less expensive because you can do a lot of the work yourself. However the “finish” is much more difficult if you’re not a professional.

As for geodesic domes, the most important fact to know is how was it built? There are several methods for constructing them. Ranging from Concrete panels to plywood. While you probably could build one from scratch, most are basically kits that home owners construct themselves. Here is a page that describes the construction of a geodesic dome that uses precast concrete forms. These are placed on a frame, then the edges of the panels are sealed with a concrete patching compound. This dome company uses wood struts and plywood sheathing to create a dome shape. This type of construction means that you’ll have a shingle roof, where the concrete construction doesn’t have a conventional “roof”. I’ve heard that the concrete can occasionally crack which can cause leaks. However it can be patched by you. Re-shingling the roof of a dome with a shingled roof would most likely require you to hire someone.

If I were looking at buying one, the questions I would ask are:

[li] What is the construction method used to build the dome?[/li][li] What material is it made out of?[/li][li] Did the owners build it themselves? (which is very common) Or hire a professional “dome building” company?[/li][li] How long ago was it built?[/li][li] What company was the “kit” bought from?[/li][li] If a professional dome construction company did the work, what is the name of that company?[/li][li] Do they have the original plans that came with the kit?[/li][/ul]

This should give you a good starting point to do some further research on that specific dome company, type, and builder. That will make your decision a tad easier.

Good Luck!

Thanks, everybody, for all the info and advice. We went and looked at the place Saturday, and while it was charming, there’s simply no way we could fit all our stuff in it. Hell, we couldn’t fit half our stuff in it. Also, it’s got a very steep driveway (even for traditionally steep Seattle), and a steeper backyard that our crippled-up asses just aren’t up to navigating on a regular basis. So as much as we’d love to live there, it ain’t gonna happen this time.

Papa Gargoyle built one and lived there for 25 years or so. He used 100% wood roofing at the time and it was built as more of a “hippie” dome without modern heating or insulation…being out in the mountains with the more severe environment, nature eventually won the battle (ceiling rotted, foundation shifted, tree limbs fell on it, etc).

It was very cool while it lasted though, interior space was excellent.