How to Build a Dome Climber

Written by dustin pitan
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A dome climber is a structure every child loves when visiting the park. Whether to play tag on and through, to play underneath while other kids squeezed in and out of the holes around them, or to just relax up top while everyone else played beneath you, a dome climber is a hit with children. While the construction looks daunting, it actually is a simple structure to make. With a few simple steps you could create a dome that will entertain your children and, possibly, even yourself.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Drill
  • Saw (optional--needed if you have to cut the pipes to size)
  • Two wrenches (sizes will depend)
  • Four-way plastic pipe fittings (flat on one side, with connections going out at every 60 degrees after that--making four connections; the number of fittings depends on the size of the dome)
  • Five-way plastic pipe fittings (each connector on the fitting is 72 degrees apart from the next; the number of fittings depends on the size of the dome)
  • Six-way plastic pipe fittings (each connector on the fitting is 60 degrees apart from the next; the number of fittings depends on the size of the dome)
  • 24-inch long 1-2" inches thick PVC Pipe (the number depends on the size of the dome)
  • 21/2-inch bolts with nut and two washers (two bolts for each pipe)
  • Bolt covers (as many as you have bolts)

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Instructions

    Set up Project

  1. 1

    Build a design/blueprint of your dome climber on paper. Look online at various models for sale to see how yours should look. For this example, we will build an approximately 5-foot tall dome.

  2. 2

    Make a list of all of the materials you will need. There will be a lot of the materials, but don't let that sway you because it's an easy process. For a 5-foot high dome, you will need 60 pieces of 2-foot long PVC pipe (120 feet). You need 10 four-connection pipe fittings, six 5-connection pipe fittings, and 10 six-connection pipe fittings. You also need two bolts, two nuts and four washers for every pipe (120 matching nuts and bolts and 240 washers).

  3. 3

    Buy the materials needed for construction at your local hardware store, bring them back, and prepare for the fun part of putting them all together.

    Putting it together

  1. 1

    Fasten the bottom row. Do this by placing a four-way connector (flat side flush with the ground) down, and placing a 2-foot long PVC pipe in both end connections. On each of these PVC pipes, place another four-way connector on their free ends. Do this 10 times, so that you have 10 pieces of pipe and 10 connectors on the ground. They should be in a circular layout, but if not, simply bend the two free ends in on themselves and connect them. You should now have a circular base with a 20-foot circumference.

  2. 2

    Place two PVC pipes out of each of the open slots in each of the four-way fixtures on the ground. If done properly, you should have what looks like a bunch of triangles being formed sticking up from the bottom row. You are now ready to move onto the second row.

  3. 3

    Place a five-way connector on two of the PVC pipes sticking up from the ground. This will connect the triangle, making it sturdy. You have attached the first fixture on the second row.

  4. 4

    Place a 2-foot PVC pipe, parallel to the ground, between each of the connections on the second row. In each of the fixtures (be it the five-way or six-way connector), place the pipe in the connection that is directly adjacent to the already filled connections. That is, don't yet place this new PVC pipe so that it is pointing up. Keep it level with the ground as best as you can. You should have 10 more pipes encircling the dome at this time.

  5. 5

    Place 15 more PVC pipes in the remaining openings of the connectors on the second row. There should be two openings left in each of the six-way fixtures, and one left in each of the five-way fixtures. This should make more loose triangles, ready to be fitted.

  6. 6

    Place five six-way pipe fixtures around the third row. Each pipe fixture should be able to hold three of the pipes installed in the previous step, essentially completing and forming the previously mentioned triangle.

  7. 7

    Between each of the fittings on the third row (the five six-way connectors), place a 2-foot PVC pipe in the appropriate connection. Place the pipe in the connection that is directly adjacent to the already filled connections. That is, don't yet place this new PVC pipe so that it is pointing up. Keep it level with the ground as well as you can. You should have five more pipes encircling the dome at this time.

  8. 8

    Place five PVC pipes in the remaining openings of the fittings on the third row. They should all point toward one another, creating, and closing, the top of the dome.

  9. 9

    Place a five-way connection on the top of the dome, fitting all of the PVC pipe applied in the last step together. Once this is finished, you have built the basic structure of your dome. You only have to reinforce it.

    Reinforcing your dome

  1. 1

    Drill a hole in each end of the pipe, through the pipe and the fitting it is connected to. Use a drill-bit that is the same size as the bolts you purchased. Some people find it easier to take the dome apart before doing this step, but it isn't necessary, and it depends on your personal preference.

  2. 2

    Place a bolt with a washer through each of the holes you have drilled. After fitting them in the holes, place a washer and the nut on each end of the bolt and tighten. Make sure not to tighten too vigorously, as this may cause the PVC pipe to crack or weaken. Make it snug and secure. Also, make sure to place the head of the bold on the outside of the dome, and the nut on the inside.

  3. 3

    Complete the previous step for all the holes in all the PVC pipes around the dome. Make sure to secure every connection for safety's sake.

  4. 4

    Place a cover on each of the nuts so that the children don't get cut, and it also allows for making sure the nut doesn't come off.

  5. 5

    Try it out. This is important, so that you can see if there is any weak spots or cracking that takes place while weight is placed on the dome. If so, it might be unsafe for children. Rework your dome, refitting new pipes or new fittings where need be, if that is the case. And then enjoy!

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure you periodically (once every month or two) check the dome for durability and bolt tightness. Keep spare pieces of pipe and fittings in case one gets worn out.
  • Be alert for creaking or snapping sounds. Some PVC pipe can wear quickly, and you don't want it to collapse or crack.

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