Practical Wood Working

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April 30, 2017

Building a dome greenhouse

I started this last summer (2016) but couldn't finish it before the winter rains set in. This collection of images shows some of the stages getting it up. Below are some of the details and as this summer progresses I'll continue on with the story.



dome-idea.jpg It all starts with an idea. Or actually, a model of an idea. I'm one of those people who has been interested in geo domes for a very long time and have built models and even some bird houses, but never anything of substantial size like... a greenhouse.

Until now.

I'm still not sure if a greenhouse is just an excuse to build a bigger model or is a gateway drug towards a house.

When I first started searching the internet there was precious little about geo dome construction. But times have changed and once I started rekindling the dome building flame I found some better information was available. One of my favorite sites is SimplyDifferently.org. I've worked out this stuff myself from time to time but I decided to not reinvent the wheel this time. And anyway, for math and/or dome geeks this site is a really good read. For all others maybe not so much.

dome-math.jpg
dome-test.jpg Domes. They seem like they should be so easy. Join a bunch of sticks together. But if it was really that easy we would all be living in a dome-topia. Once you get past the "it's just a bunch of triangles" phase you realize that joining all of those sticks together gets sticky. (Yes I really said that). One of the newer inovations that I saw when I started doing my research was joining struts together using cylinders. In my case, PVC pipe joined to the struts with pipe strap aka plumber's tape.

But really? Can it be that... cheap? Here is my first test.

dome-jig.jpg dome-struts.jpg
All of those struts ends need to be shaped to fit the circumfrance of the PVC pipe joints. Taking the end of my belt sander as the defacto radius I found the suitable sized pipe and made a jig to shape the strut ends with. In no time my greenhouse was on its way!
dome-stars.jpg dome-frame.jpg dome-skin.jpg
Soon my struts became stars, and the stars became a frame, and then the skin started going on. Each step of the way there were challenges and discoveries but Halleluah! it was starting to look like the real thing.

Building a regular greenhouse definately would be easier that making a dome, but after it is done there are some interesting performance issues where the dome really shines. It heats and lights much better than a box. Also, during this build we had some big windstorms and I was really impressed how well the dome shape handled wind even though the plastic was only stapled on. Everyone laughed about whether my dome would fly away but it handled it like a boss. Of course I had always read as such, but it was neat to actually experience it.

dome-door.jpg dome-window.jpg
More choices to make when I had to put in a door and a couple of windows. But it was becoming apparent that the one thing I really needed was height. My lovely dome might make a great tent but as a greenhouse there was really only a small amount of space in the middle that was useful.
dome-baseframes.jpg dome-base.jpg
A 10 sided base with its own door became the next necessity. And so it was done.
dome-lathe.jpg Before I depart from the first part of my dome making adventure I want to talk about the skin. Because it's kind of a big deal. I was going on the cheap for all of this and so decided to use visqueen. My plan was to glue all of the triangles together with HH-66 vinyl cement but little did I know that you CAN'T glue visqueen! With anything!

I still went ahead though and stapled the visqueen on with the idea that I would put lathe on afterwards. Visqueen is foggy so on the top star I used two clear plastic shower curtains. They glue up just fine but are a little flimsy. Anyway if all goes to plan I'll be replacing everything with something more substantial later on.

dome-winter.jpg
I'll have more on this as the project progesses. Until then,
Peace Out.

My Greenhouse Videos:
Making a dome Greenhouse
Installing a floor
Wire racking
Dome Entrance Retrofit
Windows and Roof Retrofit

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