What's it like living in a geodesic dome?

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geo-homeMy husband and I are looking to move out of our apartment and purchase our first home.

We've been looking for a while and our favorite house happens to be a 1977 Geodesic Dome.

It's awesome, well-maintained, and less expensive than other homes in the area we are looking.

Are there any Dome Dwellers among the Homies that can offer us the possible pros and cons of moving into a geodesic dome?

Oz

From this geodesic home tour, we already know that one of the issues is that it's hard to figure out where to put the furniture.

And we've talked about what it's like living in a yurt/dome… but we haven't gotten into the nitty gritty of what geodesic home-living is like.

Any dome dwellers wanna give us some insight? Leave your comment below!

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  1. Is this house in NJ? I used to pass by it all the time and thought it looked like the COOLEST.HOUSE.EVAR. Congrats on purchasing your first home!

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  2. My husband and I just purchased our first home, which isn't a dome but has put us in conversation with many new home-owners–or home-moaners, since conversations are all about what we're fixing. One friend confided that we have nothing compared to her parents, who own a geodesic dome and have to get everything custom made. The one pictured above looks more like a regular house but with a dome roof — if the whole house is a dome, you need triangular windows for instance…

    I'd recommend considering what extra costs you might run into with a very unique home, and whether they're worth it to you. Look for free quotes from local contractors on the things that will be tricky on a dome – roof replacement, for instance.

    8 agree
  3. Heating cost. Domes have naturally high ceilings. So you lose a lot of heat to the giant empty space above your head. This comes from frigid Northwoods Also cooling. Domes do not have regular windows. The windows I know are a mix of a hexagon shaped glass block style that don't open ( but feel really safe for break ins) or very small triangular windows that are at the floor level. We burned something cooking and it was impossible to clear the smoke. And related to that….. Custom blinds only.

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    • Did you live in a dome? I only ask because on a dome tour I went on, (and the science of domes) they seemed to hold the heat pretty well. 🙂

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    • It's true about the high ceilings collecting the heat. We put in a drop ceiling and it worked out very well. No problems being warm. Last winter it was 8 deg outside and 85 in the dome.

    • Actually, the central area where heat will accumulate, allows you to recycle that heat. I am in the process of framing the rooms inside my dome. That framing will include two hollow posts. One will go from basement ceiling to dome ceiling, the other to first floor ceiling to dome ceiling. Duel direction fans will allow me to draw the heat from the top of the dome to either floor – or to draw the heat from the floors and send it to the top of the dome. A cupola at the top of my dome has 5 windows to allow me to vent the heat outside. As far as windows, all of mine are those sold at any home improvement store.

      I do have 6 places around the upper part of my dome to put in egress skylight windows. Although these skylights are special order, they still are standard rectangle shape and can be opened (hence egress). I have not decided yet if I will put those windows in – they can easily be added later.

      The only custom order I made to build my dome house is a double exterior door which I wanted 5'5" wide and for both door to open.

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      • Hi guys

        Main problems with living in dome is good insulation and stopping leaks. Don't buy second hand! Always buy new and make sure use plenty of tyvek on exterior. Other problem (especially with second hand) is warping. Once wood coverings begin to warp it's hellish to stop leaks! Main problems is always leaking and it never seems to end. I finally decided to sell up becuase I grew tired of the never ending battles stopping leaks. Air circulates but so does smoke, bad smells, etc. Monolithic might be better but geo domes can be a real pain in the a*se.

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  4. The one thing to be careful of, that you may not have considered, is that if you are considering getting a mortgage to buy this home you will need to be careful. Domes/Yurts/Octoganal houses, etc. are what are known as "unique" properties. Often it can be very difficult to find a lender to lend on such properties becuase the appraiser cannot find any similar (hence, the "unique property" part of it) homes and therefore cannot appraise the home against its comparables. Without an appraisal, without a value, you can't get a loan. So before you get your heart set on it, check with the owner and see what they did for financing, or check around and see if there are other similar homes that have sold recently. It seems like an awesome house, but unfortunately it can be hard to find financing for the really awesome houses. This isn't any help about living in one, but it's something a lot of people don't know. I hope this helps!

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    • Surprisingly, there are a number of these in my area, so in the central mountains of New Mexico, less of an issue! But still an extremely valuable point!

      1 agrees
  5. I hope if you do end up getting a dome (i would be jealous), you will do an update when you move in (i would love to see a "things we didn't expect!" type thing. Am i asking too much?)
    🙂
    We keep saying how we'd love to buy land and build a yurt as a cottage, so, i image it would be similar. No advice unfortunately, but lots of curiosity!

    16 agree
  6. Built one with my folks that they still live in and love. They have radiant heat and long walls/ riser walls so they don't have any of the problems mentioned regarding heat and windows.
    With a good floor plan, they can be great homes. Is it occupied? Can you visualize the flow of daily life?

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    • "Can you vizualize the flow of daily life?" THIS. a question to ask of many aspects of life… 🙂 mind a little blown.

      11 agree
  7. I don't have any suggestions for dome living other than … OMG I AM SO JEALOUS I WANT TO LIVE IN AN AWESOME DOME HOUSE NOW!!!

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  8. Are there any dome dweller among the homies… = are there any domies surely?

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  9. The tour we took of the Timberline domes in Minnesota was mind blowing. I can't wait to build one – my parents lived in one until my older sister was born. (then it was so run down (college kids built with scrap!) they tore it down)

    The only issue they spoke of was finding cabinetry and furniture to fit, but depending on how you build, this can be remedied as well.

  10. Hi there! Congratulations on the decision to move into a geodesic dome! As revolutionary and efficient as they are, they do come with their own host of maintenance issues, and I would suggest floating any questions by the Geodesic Help Google Group, which is chock-full of experts on geodesics and domes.

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  11. I grew up in a dome in CT. I agree with some of the other comments- open floor plan means I knew what the family was up to. Leaks were an issue. Repairs too. But I love love love that house. It required dedication to upkeep it. The feeling of the place is magical!

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  12. I haven't lived in a dome so I don't know much, but I did vacation in my aunt's dome for a while! I was a kid, so my thought is silly – domes will make sound travel strangely, so expect a "whisper spot", where sound is amplified. Practically, I can imagine it'd be a problem if you put a noisy appliance there.

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  13. I do not live in a dome home YET, but have been interested in dome design for quite some time. You can see my recalculated Fly's Eye Dome (a supersize version of Bucky Fullers last dome design!) see facebook page: Fly's Eye Dome (R. Buckminster Fuller's Continuum). Or, visit it at Longhouse Reserve, East Hampton, NY. GoogleEarth search to see it

  14. I have never lived in a geodesic dome, but I bought a normal house from a couple that used the proceeds to build the geodesic dome of (i think) *his* dreams, this was about 15 years ago, and the couple got divorced and the dome was abandoned. It sat unoccupied and leaking for a long time, but was recently bought to house a night club I think. I'm not really sure if the leaking started before the divorce and abandonment, or not, but that might be something you should ask other people about, as dome houses have far more seams that conventional houses…..

  15. I live in a geodesic dome! My parents built it in 1974 and now I live in it with my partner and our friend. It's pretty big as domes go – two bedrooms, two bathrooms, open kitchen/dining room, and big living area downstairs and one great big room upstairs. My fella and I sleep upstairs and there's another living area and office area up there too.

    First of all, I LOVE MY DOME! And so does pretty much everyone in the world, because it is completely rad.

    However, there are some aspects of dome living that might not be for everyone.

    1. Total 70s o-rama: It's hard to get away from the very dated vibe of the house. The angles, the odd shaped spaces, the groovy built-in features, the knotty pine and shag carpet (okay, I did get rid of the shag carpet). Its' a scene, man. No matter how hard you try, every room begs for macrame and a papasan chair in the corner.
    2. Not all open spaces are a good idea. I'll be blunt here: my boyfriend and I sleep in a bedroom with no walls. Like at all. So, privacy issues and stuff. I feel bad for our roommate sometimes.
    3. How do you arrange your normal-house furniture in a weird shaped house? Bed? Couch? Hmmm. It's fun! And a puzzle. A puzzle that constantly needs to be re-solved. Get ready.
    4. The original Buckminster Fuller dome was very heat efficient, but a lot of domes (including mine) have been subsequently divided up into rooms because see issue #2. That tends to throw the whole flowing energy thing into the toilet, and spaces are hard to heat. Our giant room upstairs is easy because we have a great wood-stove, but downstairs is always freezing.
    5. Zany engineering can make a house harder to work on. I'm no carpenter, but all homeowners need to be relatively handy (or rich, I guess) and having an unusual home might make DIY projects more intimidating. Lucky for me, my dad, who built the place, lives nearby, so I can go to him and say "This bizarre triangle shaped leaky dormer is your doing!" but not many people have the mastermind on hand like I do.

    I realize I am coming to this post pretty late, and maybe you already have your dome. In which case, enjoy! Even with all the wackiness it's still the best house ever!

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    • Hi! Do you have any pictures you can share or email me of the layout and interior furniture/ walls/ kitchen of you home? I'm very interested.

      Thank you

  16. Love my Dome..all homes have issues .
    We have owned ours for 30 years .
    Feel free to contact me if you would like a little more insight as well as photos. Barbara

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    • Hi Branson, I will send you a few photo's. A few years back our home was on Dome homes for sale. NY. That is a great location to check out the pictures.
      Barbara

      1 agrees
  17. We have lived in a some for over 25 years. Ours is all electric and the MOST we have ever paid is $173. We do have a back up wood stove in case electric goes out in winter. We find it easy to hear and cool….use ceiling fans to circulate. Only problem is furniture placing which can be done with creativity and picture hangings. We have 4 ft riser walls. We love it!!
    Haven't had a problem with insurance or appraisers. We live in NW ARkansas.

    1 agrees
  18. Okay, I know this comment comes WAY after-the-fact, but I would like to add my 2 cents as a dome dweller for the past 5 years for anyone who comes upon this while searching for information on domes. First off, let me say that I love, love, love living in my dome. It has a homey cave-like feel while also being open, light-filled, and airy. So far, we have had no problems with leaks, but our roof seems to be put on in an overlapping pattern that works well. Guests love our home and we love to show off its unique architecture. There are a few special things to consider with domes. One is the sound. It is best not to put items such as televisions are radios directly agains the rounded outer dome walls. All of the sound magically travels to the other side of the dome and you will barely hear it even if you are standing a foot in front of it. Meanwhile, if you are standing against the wall directly oposite, the sound will be deafening. Since our dome is divided into rooms, we have flat walls to place such items against. Furniture arrangement can be a hastle, but after a few years, we have an arrangement that works for us. (Sofa is in the center of the room and an antique church pew backs against so that it doesn't just appear to be stuck int he mmiddle of the room.) It is expensive to heat with central heating and air since the heat just rises to the top of the dome where it is not needed. We installed a cast iron stove. For some reason, the radiant heat of the stove tends to warm the entire house, downstairs included. The upstairs bedrooms can get a little too toasty, however. We cut about half of the wood ourselves and purchase the other half and this usually comes out cheaper than heating with central (all electric) heat. (We often leave just the fan of the cental system running to distribute the heat from the wood stove.) We did find financing for our dome, which needed a lot of work and was being sold for cheap; however, we had to put 20% down. About a year ago, we did try to sell it since my husband will eventually have to move for his job as a Methodist minister and found out that it cannot be financed for any more than what we paid for it, which is a problem considering how much money we have put into repairs and remodeling. We plan to turn it into a rental when the time comes. This would be a big problem if we did not live in a college town with a high demand for rental properties. Lending value for a conventional mortgage is calculated by looking at 3 other homes of the same construction within 50 miles that have sold in the past 6 months. As you can imagine, that makes finding a lender almost impossible. That is the main thing to keep in mind when purchasing a dome, but, other than that, they are wonderfull to live in!

    2 agree
  19. I have lived in my dome for 25 years. The dome was my husband's idea – he was already purchasing it when I met him. We had difficulties with the roofing system. Otherwise it has been wonderful. Open, bright, spacious… As has been stated, the acoustics and floor plans limit privacy. We have no children, so it worked for us. We use high mounted ceiling fans to manage the heat in the winter, and we have a wood stove which we use constantly. Our base walls are 5 feet high with 5 extensions. Most important to me is that our site is spectacular. Best of luck to you.

  20. I have lived in a dome for the last 13 years. My husband and I bought it from the couple who built it. It is just 20 years old. We have loved living here- we have no knee wall, 2 bedrooms and bath downstairs and a loft, bedroom, large bath and storage on the upper half-level. One great room with the loft open to it – upper bed and bath enclosed. We have paid very close attention to roof maintenance; we have it cleaned and inspected yearly. One triangle had to be replaced last year – it was 850. dollars to do that one area. The rest of the roof is holding up OK. When its time to replace it we will use top quality materials and figure its one big outlay every 25-30 years. Love having no gutters, and painting touchups on the limited siding are easy. We have had no leakage problems; but have tried to be vigilant about maintaining a interior humidity lower than 55% – a challenge here in wet western Oregon.
    Love the space – it heats and cools super well! Its warm, cozy and comfortable. We use a woodstove lots of the year. Second the sound traveling thing – don't know that I would want to have raised my kids in this house; though they love it too. We have gotten used to the sound traveling oddities, don't even notice them anymore, but it was weird at first!
    We did not have trouble getting our initial loan, but when we tried to refinance were turned down. I think you would have to find the right mortgage company.

    • Hello! I'm interested in the layout and design of your dome home. Would you be willing to share exterior and interior pictures of the design and layout? I'm a general contractor in Colorado and am exploring 3D printing of dome shaped homes

      Thank you in advance.

  21. I am also joining the conversation late but thought I'd share my experience. I purchased a 5000 square foot geodesic dome in the Pacific Northwest just about two years ago and have been renovating it ever since. It is such a quirky, fun, magical house, and I am so excited to be moving in a few months (fingers crossed). That said I wouldn't wish the pain of this renovation on anyone! Since there are no right angles, carpenters must make custom cuts and that translates to more time and money for all of the finished work.

    I replaced the roof and siding which was also substantially more expensive than a rectangular box shaped home, again due to the complexity of the design. The actual dome frame may be an inexpensive way to build but any savings there will be completely voided by the high cost of everything else. Luckily I did not need to replace the drywall on the dome lid, but it did need to be repaired at quite a high cost. I can imagine having the dome lid drywalled would be very expensive if you were starting from scratch. Contractors charge for their time, and that ceiling is far more labor intensive that a one plane rectangular ceiling. I put in a heat pump and new windows and skylights, so I'm hoping it'll be energy efficient. I'm going to be broke as a joke by the time its done so it better be 🙂

    If you have the skills to do a lot of the work yourself then you may be able to renovate without breaking the bank, but a word of warning for those lured by the promise of "inexpensive" construction. You WILL pay professionals far more for a dome than a traditional house when it comes to 99% of projects.

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  22. Most of the issues with domes can be overcome by using a good design, and the right contractors. I suggest checking out this company for the dome, http://www.naturalspacesdomes.com/ they have the best construction by far, better air movement and superior roofing instructions. Finding the local contractor can be an issue and expect to pay more for some of the interior finish. All in all it will be about the same as conventional housing of the same size and quality. No free ride here folks and they can remain on the market for a long time when time to sell. However, there is no standard house with the feel of security and serenity you get in a dome.

  23. I've been looking at geo domes for more than a few years now, and I fond the claims of "more seams that can leak" to be a strawman — a conventional roof has multiple panels, as well. It's all in HOW they're put together, and the people at Timberline (no, I don't shill for them) answered that issue with their custom cuts for lumber.

    The advantages for heating/cooling are pretty much proven; since the dome CAN be had as a shell, it can be designed to eliminate most of this 'custom furniture/fixtures' claim, also. Restrict you odd angles to things like closets, etc., then you have more usable and 'maintainable' space.

    It's not called a 'unique property' for nothing; stepping outside the box (literally) requires forethought and preparation — you can't just say, "OH, that's a pretty house! I want!" and have things work themselves out. Many of the issues described in the article come from poor forethought.

  24. I love the idea! Domes are SOO strong….! 🙂 The original design of geodesic domes uses a lot of triangles, which are the strongest shapes out there. I think that's its biggest advantage over other shapes + you get a colossal sense of space, as domes do without internal supports. An idea that will appeal to independent people and free souls! I really like the way some people use domes as glamping accommodations, like for business, where they add luxury touches and rent out cozy apartments. They even do this in freezing Lapland http://fdomes.com/harriniva-hotels-we-do-not-have-enough-domes/ Seems like a dream job for me… Ever thought about starting a campsite or glampsite made of domes?

    1 agrees

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