Standing Rule: Click on the photos for larger views.

 

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

In Which the Dome Geeks Help Their Parents Build a Dome

This is not directly related to our own dome, but rather my (the Geek's) parents' dome. They bought a property last year, about 15 minutes from our own property. It is 3.75 acres, and they are building a 30' diameter dome home with 2 extensions. On the weekend of July 8-9 2006, they had a "dome raising" event, and we were there to help. My parents are acting as their own general contractors, but they wanted to do the dome shell themselves.

A dome raising event is simply a two or three day event where the dome owners invite friends, relatives, and anyone on their mailing lists to come and help build the main dome shell. You get as many people together as you can, work as many hours as you think you need to (or can handle), and get as much of the dome completed as you can. I don't know if Natural Spaces (the dome-home company that my parents, and my "wif" and I, are working with) came up with the idea, but they send out a mass-email to their entire mailing list as well, for any customer who is about to build their dome. It's a great way to build a sense of community among dome owners and potential dome owners, and a great way for the builders to get their dome shell put together as quickly as possible, without feeling like they might have bitten off more than they could chew. I can't wait until we get to have our own dome raising weekend!

So as I was saying, they had a dome raising event, and we were there. In fact, I took Friday afternoon off from work, so I could drive out to their property, and help unload the semi-trailer with all of the parts for their dome kit. The kit for my parents included: all the pre-cut struts with the hub-connector sleeves attached to each end; all the hubs we would need; all the 1/2" bolts for connecting struts to the hubs; all the 1/2" plywood triangles we would need to completely sheath the exterior of the dome; all the tongue-in-groove pine or spruce or cedar triangles we would need to cover the interior of the dome; and a toolkit with various tools we would need to put the dome together. Actually, they did not ship the pine tongue-in-groove panels yet, since it will be a while before my parents are ready to install them. And also, my parents bought 4 custom triangle skylights, which were on the semi. We had to unload all of that. With the driver's help, plus a carpenter that my parents had hired to help build the dome, we unloaded the trailer in about 90 minutes. After that, we took a brief look at the parts (and a short break -- it was HOT out there!).

Since it was only mid-afternoon and I really didn't feel like driving an hour back home in Friday rush-hour traffic, we decided to get started working right away. By the end of the afternoon, we had the riser wall built and one set of triangle struts in place. At that point it was about 4:00 PM, and we agreed to call it quits for the day. The riser wall is a short wall (4' high in my parents' case; in our dome it will be about 2' high) built on the floor, and it acts as the base for the dome shell itself. The top "sill-plate" of the riser wall is actually made of the flat bottoms for the bottom-row triangles, with hubs embedded and ready to go.

Saturday morning, we arrived about 8:45 AM. My parents had been there since about 7, along with one of my uncles and the carpenter, and they had already got started putting the second triangle up. In fact, they were struggling to get the struts properly lined up at the peak of the triangle, and so when I showed up I was able to help them get things properly aligned and the bolts hammered home into the hub.

I should mention, that the wif and I attended a dome building school last year, put on by Natural Spaces. It's a weekend seminar, in which they teach you all about how to build the dome shell. It is very hands-on, so we were able to build part of a dome shell, including the triangle strut "framing", exterior sheathing, some roofing, installing a custom triangle skylight, installing some insulation, and finally installing the interior tongue-in-groove paneling. It was a lot of fun, and we learned a LOT. Of course, since it's been over a year since we took the class, we had also forgotten quite a bit, and had to re-learn a few things the hard way. There was more than one time where, after realizing we'd made a mistake, I would suddenly remember what we had been taught, and say, "Oh yeah, I just remembered what they said about this -- we have to do it THIS was, not THAT way."

So anyway, while I am somewhat handy with tools and framing, I was also there to show them all how to build the dome framework and exterior sheathing "right" -- even if it meant doing it wrong the first time, in order to remember the right way to do it. For the most part, though, we did things right the first time, and only had to undo a few hubs/struts that had gotten mis-aligned.

By about 6 PM Saturday, we had the entire dome framework completed, and had installed 2 or 3 exterior triangle plywood panels, just to see what they looked like. During that day, we had several additional people show up. Most of them jumped right in to help, a few just came to observe (which was fine -- it was an open invitation to come and watch OR to help). One guy, a trucker from the east coast, happened to be in the region and decided to come out and help. He was there all day both Saturday and Sunday, and was definitely one of our key team members. Also of note was the carpenter on Saturday, my uncle on Saturday and Sunday, and my cousin on Sunday. It actually got to the point a couple of times, where I was feeling kind of useless -- the other guys had got the basics down from me showing them, and were "going to town" building the dome while I was being something of a gopher on the ground. Eventually though, I was able to jump in and start working more directly on the building process, which was definitely more fun. Besides, we had a lot of helpful ladies on the ground who were more than happy to fetch struts, triangles, tools, brace ladders, and generally help in any way that we needed.

Several of us got sunburned pretty good on Saturday, myself and my wif included. The day had started out cloudy and threatening rain, and so we forgot to put on any sun block. By mid-afternoon we were both bright red on our faces, shoulders, and other exposed areas. Definitely time for sun block, even if it was somewhat too late -- at least we could prevent any worse damage being done.

Sunday we started at 9 AM, and worked until about 6 PM. We finished mounting all the exterior triangles in that time, worked hard in the hot sun (but remembered our sun block this time!), and had a great feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day. My parents' dome shell was complete, and ready for the next stage in construction, the extensions. The carpenter is going to do that part himself, so our work on this project is basically complete -- unless my parents call and ask for help installing flooring, or electrical, or some other item that they plan to do themselves.