A few years ago I published 2 articles about my plydomes in BackHome magazine. A young family in Montpelier, about 12 miles from here, recognized me as the fellow who painted the sign for their cafe on Elm St. Brett and Melynda had been to our home before, but the published article seemed to give my designs added credibility. For years they had been doing their homework, investigating homebuilding methods and all the systems involved. I was honored that they picked a plydome as the most economical design they could find. They told me they were looking for land in the Rutland area, and asked me if I would commit to building a plydome with their help if they purchased land. Cynthia and I discussed this and I agreed. Months later, in the spring, Melynda and Brett had bought 24 acres in Wells, VT, 105 miles from here, and set up an elaborate campsite under a 50ft.x20ft. plastic tarp. This was May of 2004, right before I began work on my new aluminum roof.

We settled on a 33 ft. diameter 2/3 sphere with 2 floors. With 23 feet of height there was ample room. I drove to the site, marked out the 10 points on the ground with string and line level, tape measures and plumb bob, and we: Brett, Melynda, Jesse, Kyle and Sean dug the holes for the wooden posts in the gravelly ground and set the 6x6 treated posts. When it wasn't raining, work continued in my absence. Brett took over the construction of a sturdy base made of rough-sawn hemlock from their land. Having three sons was a help I am sure, since long hemlock 2x8's, still soaking wet from the sawmill, are heavy. Weeks after we set the posts I returned to start the dome and was inspired by the rock solid base we were to mount the dome on.

The dome is a 4v Triacon with the base triangles altered to provide the simple 10 sided base. The base is slightly smaller than the widest point of the dome, and has a visually pleasing inward curve. This is a completely triangulated plydome, the first I have made.

The weather was hot, and there was no shade. I camped with them while we worked. The assembly of the plywood , 2x4 struts, hubs and metal vertex panels took seven long days. I had to make the most of my time there, so I would start at dawn and stop when it was too dark to see properly. Everyone helped. Melynda worked all day, often cutting metal with snips, and also cooked excellent meals three times a day at the campsite. This was the key to how fast the dome went together. Back in Montpelier, old customers were missing her cooking in the Cafe, but it lived on at the dome raising.

There must have been some stimulation at the spectacle of the dome. After dark we were all tired, but the boys and I stayed up late playing chess. I love the game, but I will never get over how young teenagers can develop into better players than I am after 40 years of playing. I was severely challenged.

After the shell was together, I disappeared again and they installed windows and doors and the second floor. Brett had experience building a house and is a licensed electrician. Melynda learned some carpentry that summer, and did most of the work on the second floor, as well as the insulation and interior. It was remarkable to me how thorough their homework had been. They got low prices on windows and doors and canvas, and in every way seemed to find ways to make their home at minimum expense.

In the Fall we put the roof on. To my surprise they had decided to cover the entire dome with aluminum, all the way to the base. This took seven normal 8 hr. days, with the boys cutting the shingles,and me doing most of the shingling. Placing the shingles was just too confusing for anyone else to do, and most of the work was off the ground. Each shingle has a specific location based on the geodesic pattern, which is hard to see in a plydome. The windows were flashed with the same aluminum.

The work had to be carefully done because there was no tarpaper underneath. As soon as the dome would shed water, they moved into the upstairs to get off the ground after five months of camping during a rainy summer. The relief was palpable; so was the weariness. I wonder if I was able to beat Jesse several games because he was worn down by the camping.

Right away the dome was pounded by high winds and driving rain, and I called to find out how the roof was working. No leaks. And Brett reported that he never heard a creak in the dome. They installed a pellet stove and insulated with Reflectix. I was unable to persuade them to cut a hole in the top of their dome for ventilation and access, but they seem happy with the results. This is a relief to me, because I live 105 miles away and it is difficult to fix things. In one summer I covered 2 homes with an experimental roof. That is a little reckless, but I got away with it. They have since added a few other structures.



Sphere CottageHome Triacon Small Dome 24' Plydome Triacon 42' Plydome Chrysalis Big Top Geodesic Tent Research Dome 18 Research Dome 18 Sphere Cottage Foil Dome Home Small Dome 24' Plydome Small Dome 42' Plydome Chrysalis Small Dome Geodesic Tent Research Dome 18 Research Dome 18 Foil Dome Sphere Cottage Home

Created: February 2, 2001
Last Revised: March 6, 2006
Steve Miller, 2001