Category Archives: Dome




Assembling the solar panels



Fall 2013 harvest


The ‘monster’ inverter and completed battery box in the back extension.

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A working sink!


Working on trim on the ceiling



Sara working on staining cabinets & drawers


We haven’t made it to the dome as much since Neil bought a restaurant


Neil trying to get a better cell signal (it didn’t help)


Sara tending to garlic (from the front extension roof)


A view from above – within about a month of the picture above.  You can see the rows of garlic on the right.  We can tell the time from the garlic rows and the ladder we left leaning against the front extension.


Despite not making it to the dome much in the summer we ended up with a decent amount of garlic that grew mostly on its own.

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Preparing dinner


Completed kitchen trim


Floors & a toilet

Neil preparing the back extension floor for linoleum.


Sara spreading adhesive for the cork flooring in our bedroom.


Bedroom cork floor


Picture break after setting up the solar panel pole after some digging and rebar installation before a concrete pour.


Neil’s bedroom cork floor


Sara painting the front steps


Tile installation in the front entry & stove area


The septic drain field…

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… and the now buried septic tanks – and pump electrical components (our sandy soil requires using a pump)

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We tiled and side a small porch by the front door – we still have to tile the rest of the front porch.

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Inside completed tile

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The ‘Kitchen Queen’ – our fire stove/oven

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Nachos – our first dome stove cooked meal!

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A bed!  WAY more comfortable than a (slowly deflating) air mattress!


Thanksgiving dinner in/on the Kitchen Queen.  The Brussels sprouts were the best I’ve ever had – picked earlier in the day from our garden at home in Kirkland.


And we can finally make use of the septic system – we have a (partially) working toilet.  (no running water quite yet…)


It’s starting to look like a real house!

We finally have some news-worthy updates to the dome blog. For the past 6 months or so we’ve been working on the inside structure, wiring, and plumbing, none of which makes for very interesting pictures (oh look, it’s the same wall, but this time there is a wire stapled to it!) The latest news is that the siding has been installed! It looks great and they even did some parts we were not expecting – like the fascia on the back extension and the inside of the front porch.


We are also getting close to having another inspection – this time for the interior structure, rough electrical and plumbing, and mechanical systems. We should have that scheduled in early November. After that, we can put up the rest of the insulation and vapor barrier. We’ll need another inspection before we can put drywall over it though. Hopefully the snow will hold off long enough to finish that up, because once it snows there is no hope in getting up our driveway with a vehicle.


At our current rate of progress, we should have a final occupancy permit by summer of 2011. The additional “big things” to finish include drywall, the septic field and tanks, the electric well pump, the solar power system, the shower and fireplace tile/brickwork, and the wood flooring.

Echo, echo, echo…

Well, we are finally putting up paneling – something we expected to do a couple of month ago until we found out about the additional fire proofing foil paper that was needed. On the bright side, seeing the dome covered in what is essentially tinfoil is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It looks like the set of a cheap 70’s science fiction movie. Though it was easy to light up at night with a single bulb. There isn’t much to describe about the process – we stapled up the FSK (Foil-Scrim-Kraft) paper and taped all the seams just like we did with the vapor barrier. The FSK paper also acts as a vapor barrier. Had we known ahead of time that we needed it we could have skipped the 6-mil plastic that we put up before it. The FSK paper does tear easily so it’s probably better to have the plastic barrier as well.

While the FSK paper was being put up, Mike spent most of his time carrying interior triangle panels around. Each panel needed one coat of stain and two coats of fire retardant. That means each panel was moved at least 9 times – from the dome (where they are stored) to the staining “station” (the side of the back extension), to the drying racks (a couple of tarps on the ground), and back to the dome once they were dried. Times 3.

With all that work finished, we are finally seeing some nice results. The last two visits we put up a little over half of the interior panels (we would have gotten more done, but our generator conked out on us over the labor day weekend and cut our visit short.) The acoustics in the dome are slowly changing as we get the panels installed. We have a radio playing while we work – in one part of the dome the sound appears to come from your right, in another your left, and in some places it’s balanced and you can’t tell the source. It will probably take another two visits to install the remainder of the panels.

We also had a couple of truck loads of dirt delivered to our future garden site. I think there was some miscommunication as to the size of the garden so we are getting a couple more truck loads dropped of this week to make it bigger. It will be about 1500 sq feet when complete. Sara ran some PH tests on the soil and found it to be very basic – 9.2 or so. We will need to pick up some sulfur (sulphur?) to try and drop it to 6.5. On our last trip I colonized the dirt with a pound of mycorrhizal fungi. That is the fungi that forms bonds with the roots of plants and help to gather additional nutrients and protect the roots from disease. All soil contain these fungi species, but freshly “manufactured” bulk dirt tend to have low levels since the composting process kills most of them off. Once the fungi takes hold and the sulfur helps the soil PH we’ll plant some clover as a winter cover crop. With any luck we can plant some vegetables come spring (after we build a fence.)

This week the trench to the well should be filled in as well. We can then trim the water proofing on the foundation to the correct height and call in the siding company (hopefully they can get to it before the winter rain/snow hits, otherwise it will have to wait until next spring.)

We will be placing a order for all the wood we’ll need for the interior walls/loft soon. We already have the walls and doors marked in Sharpie on the floor. We will start building those as soon as we finish with the interior panels.


We struck water!

We didn’t go to the dome this weekend, but here is the update for the last one. We packed up and left Thursday night so we would be ready for the insulation/vapor barrier inspection on Friday. We had about an hour or two worth of work to do before the inspector came. Since he could come any time on Friday (and they start work at 7 AM) we finished it up late on Thursday. He ended up getting there a little after noon on Friday, and while we passed the insulation/vapor barrier, we found out that our wood paneling isn’t thick enough for fire code (which requires 3/4 of an inch. The paneling is only 1/2″.) The easiest way of remedying this is to staple up some fireproof “paper” over the vapor barrier. That is going to take another two trips to install.


On Saturday we installed a hand pump on our well. We had to feed the pipe assembly down by hand as we installed each nine foot piece of piping and sucker rod. While it’s only 150 feet to the water level we installed 220 feet worth of pipe. That way we don’t have to add any pipe in the future if the water level changes or we use a lot of water at one time (the well only produces 4 gallons per minute.) The depth of the well is 350′ so we will probably install the electric pump even lower then the manual one. The pump seems to work great. We probably get about 1 cup of water per pump stroke. It takes about 20 or so pumps to get it started since it drains about 4-5 feet worth of water from the pipe to prevent freezing. We didn’t get to drink any of it yet – we had to pour bleach down the well to kill any organisms we introduced with the pipe assembly. We’ll find out next weekend how it tastes.


The rest of Saturday and Sunday Mike and Sara worked on cutting and stacking firewood. They made a dent in the big pile of logs next to the garden area but it will take many more days of work to chop them up completely. I worked on creating some in-wall shelving in what will be the back of Mike and Sara’s closet. Behind their closet is about a food of dead space formed when we framed in part of the arch opening that sticks out into the back room. It was harder then it normally would be since I had to frame in some room for insulation since we will be leaving the back room unheated.


The fire proof paper didn’t arrive in time for us to visit the dome this weekend, but I got a call today from Arrow Lumber saying it arrived, so we’ll be there next weekend.

Where are the updates?!?!

People have asked why there have been no new pictures and text posted in awhile. The answer is not that we haven’t been working, but that the work is tedious and not very “showy”. The insulation triangles have to be carefully fitted and fluffed out to leave no gaps where air could infiltrate. The vapor barrier over the insulation needs every seam and hole taped. The seams for the vapor barrier aren’t nice straight edges either. When you put square sheets of plastic on the rounded shell you have excess that needs to be folded over. Those folds then need to be taped as if they were seams to prevent moist air from sneaking behind the folds into the insulation. It’s hard to describe so I’ll try to dig up some pictures. The end result is the last couple of months of posts and pictures would be very repetitive.


The good news is that we are almost done with it! It should just take one more weekend to put vapor barrier on the skylights. We will then be returning to the more “sexy” carpentry work and the posts and pictures will pick up as we have something worthwhile to show.


We do have some progress to show: a new back wall! The remaining vapor barrier work is a one-man job so Mike and Sara built the back wall this previous visit. Even though it’s an inside wall we built it with 2x8s to fit extra insulation since the back room will not be heated.


This coming memorial day weekend Mike and Sara will start laying down an additional layer of 1/2″ plywood over the existing 3/4″ subfloor. This will make the floors nice and stiff for tiling later. It will also help with the problem of pictures rattling on the walls when someone jumps on the floor that so many new houses seem to have with their lightweight building methods/materials. While they are doing that I’ll be finishing up the vapor barrier.

Entry Wall

After being lazy and taking off TWO weekends (Oct 26th and Nov 9th) out of the past twenty some, we built the front entry wall. There isn’t too much to say: it’s a wall, it’s made from 2x8s, it has a hole for a door, and it was complicated to cut all of the needed angles. Next we can put in the doors and lock the place up when we leave!


We had purchased a bunch of corrugated flexible pipe for the drain tile around the perimeter. Some of it was perforated (for drainage around the house) and half was solid (to carry the water away from the house to a drainage pit.) We noticed the piece of pipe sticking out of the ground to the left of the entry wasn’t perforated. I’m crossing my fingers that it is just a small extension piece to T into the solid pipe for the drainage, but I have a sinking feeling that our contractor may have buried a long length of solid pipe along the perimeter that will need to be dug back up. Luckily none of the soil has been backfilled, just gravel so far.

Passed Framing Inspection!

So we passed our first framing inspection on Monday. I say ‘first’ since we will need another framing inspection when the interior walls are up.


We initially failed the framing inspection a few weeks earlier. Our shear schedule (the nailing pattern in the plywood) didn’t match what was called for in the engineering drawings for high wind/seismic areas. I only looked at our floor plans, not the generic engineering drawings. We weren’t the only ones who missed it though – the foundation wall pieces needed additional nailing as well to match the specs. In addition we added additional blocking in the foundation where the two pieces of plywood meet, put additional strapping over the plywood to anchor the dome to it’s foundation, and added A35 clips to every 2×4 “mini” stud in the riser wall. I doubt we needed to do the A35 clips as the plywood extends past the studs and into the rim joists. We had already argued and gotten waived on needing additional tie plates between the plywood since we meet on the rim joist so I wasn’t going to push that too. On the plus side, the dome should be able to take any winds or earthquake that mother nature throws at it now.


We also got to see our roof 95% completed this last weekend! Allan had a patch of it done the previous weekend which gave us a little taste, but we left on Monday a few hours before he finished. We’ll get some more aerial shots this coming weekend from the manlift (40 foot height.) Allan did a great job on it and it looks beautiful.


This coming weekend we’ll be putting the waterproofing on the foundation and laying the drainage tubing all around. If we finish, Jim Ashe will head out there to backfill with pea gravel and dirt. Then we’ll just have to wait for the siding to be installed to be completely weatherproof!

Won’t quit my day job

So I guess I wouldn’t be able to make it as a professional blogger if I can’t even manage one post a week.


These last two weeks we’ve concentrated on the front extension. The front extension is made of arches that fit to the dome extension opening and kind of makes the dome look like an igloo. The front of the front extension is open to the elements, making it a large porch. Eventually we’ll screen off the front to keep the bugs out, but for now it’s open. There are four skylights in a “stripe” to allow in extra light since the opening faces north. The front extension was originally designed to be at the same floor level as the rest of the dome. The foundation walls were made to a four foot height instead of six feet like the rest of the dome so less material would need to be excavated from the front. However, do to how the dome is positioned and the natural slope of the ground, the front ground level ended up being at the same level as the rest of the dome. That led us to two choices – either add two feet of soil and pack it down so the extension would sit at the correct height or have the the porch sit two feet lower then the dome. The second choice (which is what we opted for) also had the advantage of breaking the front steps into two sections – a set to get up to the porch, then a couple of steps to get into the house.


The weekend of Aug 23rd we built the 4′ foundation and subfloor, assembled and raised the extension arches, and started on the sheathing. We also met with a vinyl siding installer to measure and estimate a premium quality siding product. It’s going to end up costing double what we could if we installed it ourselves, but it will save us several weekends of work and the rainy season is fast approaching 🙂


The weekend of Aug 30th we added an overhang to the extension to keep the rain off the subfloor, finished the sheathing, and cut and framed the skylights. While that was going on, Sara finished up the rest of the bracketing and framing clips in the crawlspace and mike cut a bunch of plywood to size to close in the crawlspace. We won’t install the plywood until the roof is on so that the crawlspace can dry out from any rains (this weekend Mike vacuumed 55 gallons of water from the crawlspace.)


Next weekend we will finish cutting and framing the last skylight as well as framing and sheathing the three egress windows. While looking through the permits I found out that the back extension needs an attic access door per code, even though there is maybe 100 cubic feet of “attic” space there. We should be able to fit that in next weekend too. If all of that gets completed, we can call in the framing inspector. Assuming he finds no big issues we can start scheduling the roofing and work on the backfill.