How to Cover a Geodesic Dome

Written by eli laurens
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How to Cover a Geodesic Dome
(Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

A geodesic dome can be covered with a variety of materials, and the final choice depends greatly on the material used to make the dome structure. Wood domes will naturally require shingles or another covering that can attach easily to wood. Metal domes work best when covered with concrete or a thin, weatherproof epoxy. The permanence and intended use of the dome also play a role.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Dome framework (wood or metal)
  • Shingles
  • Tar Paper
  • Roofing nails
  • Mortar cement
  • Plywood
  • Hammer
  • Trowel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Brushes
  • Fine wire mesh

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Attach a triangular section of plywood to each section of the two-by-four dome framework with nails or wood screws. The load-bearing characteristics of a wood dome are different than those of metal, as the weight is spread equally along the chord (the straight section of each triangle); a metal dome bears the weight on the vertex of each chord, not the chord itself. Measure, cut and affix each section of plywood individually, as even the most mathematically perfect dome will settle.

  2. 2

    Apply tar paper and shingles to the dome with small roofing nails, starting from the bottom and working upward to layer the shingles. The top of the dome will be a custom-cut "topper" of flashing to secure the shingles to the apex of the multisided rooftop.

  3. 3

    Cover the interior with insulation and a layer of thin-wall sheet rock. The interior of the wooden dome can be built like most traditional homes, with a wooden substructure to attach contemporary materials to.

  1. 1

    Wrap the dome with several layers of fine wire mesh, attaching it to the metal chords with wrapped steel wire or permanent clamps. Avoid covering triangles or sections where doors and windows will be. Solid wire mesh can also be shaped, to some extent, for overhangs and door frames. If the outer covering is not going to be concrete, skip to Step 3.

  2. 2

    Mix water with one bag of mortar-quality cement, which contains less aggregate and will provide a smoother finished surface. Spread the cement over the dome's mesh covering, around the bottom of the dome first. Work your way up, laying the cement as thick as 4 inches, if necessary. Allow the bottom layers to cure for several hours before adding another layer above. This prevents the concrete from "melting" down the sides of the dome as it cures. Shape the concrete around the door openings and windows by packing it into the wire mesh by hand. Once the entire dome is covered, allow the concrete to cure for an additional 72 hours.

  3. 3

    Brush on a thick layer of resin or epoxy over the wire mesh. Apply several coats, allowing for air drying in between. Many space-age materials will dry in as little as an hour, but some may take a week to fully cure. With metal domes, it is important to make the outer covering as hard and thick as possible, so put down many layers.

  4. 4

    Cover the inside of the dome with sprayed insulation. Attach wire mesh to the metal substructure with steel wire, much the same as the outside, except inside you have the added difficulties of gravity and hardened concrete. With mesh in place, interiors can vary from plain wood panelling to the same concrete or resin used on the outside. Interior walls and floors can also be fabricated in a manner similar to the dome's covering, or made with standard wood.

Tips and warnings

  • Concrete domes outlast wood domes and do not have the same high maintenance costs.

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