Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve, little work this coming week

Well, it's Christmas eve today and we don't expect a lot of work to be done on the house until after the first of the year. 

Last week we did get the septic tank installed and on Friday they were running the irrigation lines, so hopefully that is done. It appears as if the structure of the pool is done, save the final plaster coat. The pumps and filters and such are not in yet, but there is plenty of time to do that. The slab has been mostly leveled by the use of some type of self-leveling compound. It goes on almost in a watery state and then hardens to almost a concrete material. They had applied the third coat last week, and may still need one move. The slab was definitely out of smooth and level!

One issue has come up with us having gotten a lot of  rain the last few weeks. It seems that the windows leak. Our contractor has been talking to Monolithic Domes about the problem and they think they have a solution, but it involves pulling the windows out and fully reseating them. I don't know when that will occur, but I assume soon.

We were supposed to have a front door and a garage door by this time, but those aren't in yet. Not a big deal, but something else that is running behind schedule.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Leveling of the floor

This week there are a few milestone being planned. First the foundation is going to have the undulations which were in it from a poorly poured slab leveled with self-leveling floor compound. This will allow them to lay the floor when it is time.

Second the garage door and front door should be installed this week. This will allow us to secure the property against the elements. The rain storm that went through last night poured a LOT of water in the house. Much of that was through the front door opening, but many of the downstairs windows leak. The contractor is going to have those pulled out and resealed.

I did not get a chance to go out there today and look in the pool to see how much water accumulated, but I am sure it was significant. The coping and the flagstone should all be on by now, if not right now then this week. Once that is done, the pool guy will be in a holding pattern until the house gets further along.

We looked at the cabinet elevations this evening and marked up those to the contractor. He will return them to the cabinet maker for revision and then we'll get an updated copy early next week for what should be final approval. Then they should actually be installed in early January.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Slow but Steady Progress

It's been two weeks since my last post and I feel a bit guilty about that, but the daily incremental progress seems very slow during this phase. They are working on taping and floating all the drywall in both buildings, finishing the corners that will be exposed, putting the window and door frames in place, doing the wall segments on the second floor window dormers, and making progress on the pool.

I suspect that by the end of the week the regular walls will be mostly done, including the second floor windows. The pool plumbing is mostly already done (the pipes have to be connected to the pumps and filters still, but everything is connected to the pool side of things). A lot of the rock work around the pool is done and we've identified the supplied for the propane and determined the basic location for the outdoor kitchen and the fire pit. I hope to see the propane tank and plumbing for that go in before Christmas.

Next week we may get started with putting the rock on the outside of the domes. The rock supplier came by and talked and we showed him what we were looking for, so he is currently producing the rocks for the house. These are not real rock, but cast concrete-like rocks. The estimate is 3 weeks to rock the entire outside of the domes (all three buildings).

I talked to the contractor about the driveway, sidewalks, front porch, steps, and patio and we reached some basic idea of what we are looking for, but these need to be drawn out and fully approved. Also the fence for the backyard needs to be placed. This will be seriously influenced by the location of the septic system sprinkler heads. Basically the fence cannot cut through the spray field, so it either goes in front of them keeping all the spray out of the back yard, behind them putting all the spray inside the backyard, or goes down the middle and we put two 180 degree spray heads back to back adjacent to the fence. It makes it a discrete problem of location versus a continuous one.

We have picked out the stain for the front door and they are working on the door jam to install it and then put a temporary door in place to make the house weather tight. I'm a bit surprised they have not seen this as more of a priority, since a big rain storm that blows a lot of rain in through that opening could ruin a bunch of the drywall, but that is the contractors call.

We are getting back with the decorator this week to talk more about the colors, flooring, and lights. We also have to look at kitchen layouts and library and game room cabinets, plus general closet layouts as well. The contractor would like to get these done fairly soon, so he can plan and schedule for them.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sheetrock almost 100% done

It's been a while since I have posted here. This is due to many factors not related to the house. Just remember that everyone has episodes that consume a lot of time that can't be controlled.

The sheetrock is completely up in the main house (well 99+%) and mostly done in the other dome.  All the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC is done for the time being. The pool has been dug out and there bar laid. Things seem to be getting back to a regular schedule,just way behind the initial proposal.  The revised move in date is over two months later than initial estimates.  I suppose that is not to bad in the grand scheme of things, but it is annoying. We had hoped to be in for Christmas but it is looking more like spring break now.

Tomorrow is supposed to bring the spraying of the pool in concrete ( gunnite actually).  This will make it look more like a pool and less like we have a big gopher problem :-) .

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Inspections going well

I don't have a new picture to include with this post, because not a whole lot has visually changed. There are a lot more wires strung throughout the house and things look a bit tidier. There are three main panels installed with, again, a lot of wires running to them. One more panel has to be installed, but the inspectors approved it today without the panel in place. The main things that have happened (or are about to happen) are:
  • Plumbing and HVAC inspections are approved
  • We have found a supplier for the propane tank and will be getting that installed soon
  • After a bit of worry, we have determined that the Jacuzzi we wanted will indeed fit in the space we had reserved for it in the bathroom, but only by putting it at an angle. I actually think it will make a nice effect that way.
  • The design of the water feature is almost done. We just need to size the pumps and give it final approval.
  • The dormers will get their wrapping tomorrow!!!!
  • We will be meeting on Friday to sign paperwork for the pool

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kids will be Kids

Kids, Kids will be Kids
Went to the dome site a few days ago and the workers were soaking some boards to make them more bendable. Our kids saw the water in the ditch with the boards floating in it and had to stop and play for a while. If you look closely, there is a 4x4 sitting as a balance beam across the ditch in the background. We did not put that there, but our daughter certainly used it.

Things are starting to happen more quickly now. It seems that some of the sub-contractors were a bit baffled about how to handle a round dome and when they actually got onsite they stopped, looked around, and said "It's round?!?!?". Given this, they had to take more time to figure out how they were going to deal with a round house and this took longer than expected. Anyway, the rough electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and fire suppression are almost done. We are hoping for a final inspection of these early next week (Tuesday is the day the General Contractor is aiming at). Once we have this inspection they can begin to put drywall up and make it start looking more like a real house and less like a construction site.

Monolithic Domes should be down this week to install the wraps around the dormer and weld them onto the vinyl shell that was the original airform. Once this is done the front door will be installed and we will be fully weathered in. At that point we should be able to get a revised timeline, but the move in date will probably be pushed at least to the third week of December if not early January:(

We did get a sample (~10 square feet) of the rock exterior we hope to use. Looking at it we want to see another sample as well. This one is a bit too neutral and blah, so we're hoping Calaveris may look a bit better. It has a bit more color based on the pictures online.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dome open house

OpenHouse, Our table at the 2012 Domes tour
Today we opened our dome house to the public as part of the Monolithic Domes home tour. In addition to several of our friends we had a few interesting visitors. One was a local realtor who was watching TV last night (HGTV I think) and they did a special where they went to Italy Texas and looked at many of the domes there and included an interview with David South. He saw this and went to the web site and found our dome on the dome tour. My wife took he and his wife through our dome and they seemed very interested.

We also had a couple drive in from Georgetown Texas to look. They are seriously considering building one up in New York and maybe another here in the Austin area. A second couple drove up from Conroe with their two children. He has been interested in domes for about 10 years, but they have been unsure. I think that after seeing our home, they (as a couple and kids) think highly of domes and will probably seriously consider one in the next few (maybe 5-10) years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Monolithic Dome Home Tour

Monolithic Domes is having their annual dome tour this coming weekend and our dome, under construction, will be available for the tour. The link to the tour page is:

I'm not sure who will be available to talk to any visitors about the home, but we are at least on the list and next year we'll be living there and have a lot of data and pictures of the process to show off.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Air Conditioners In

Living Room AC
All the various air handling units have been installed in the house as of now. That is three units in the main dome and one in the pool house. Most of the duct work is in place and the return air plenums are in place. Now all we need are the condensers outside and we'll have air conditioning.

Front Door
However, before getting the air conditioning turned on, it would be nice to have a front door on the dome (otherwise it just seems sort of pointless). While we don't actually have the front doors yet, the framing work for the front doors is in place and it looks nice.

Big oak
Now for some sad news. This tree is the BIG oak tree out behind the house. This limb is the limb where Veronica's tree house was scheduled to be built. Something happened to it and the whole limb split off. That limb is almost a big as my waist (and I have a big waist). Maybe it was a lightning strike, maybe it was a construction accident, maybe it was the drought catching up with the tree, we don't know. The Arborist is gong out this weekend to take care of the tree, trim off the limb as best be done, and then doctor the wound to the tree. I hope this problem is not systemic to the whole tree. It would be a shame to lose the whole tree.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Start of Air Conditioning

AC_Arch, Air Conditoning
This week saw the workers start to run the air conditioning duct work through the first floor. The interior units are coming in soon and then the framers will make the closets around them. This is the last of the real framing that needs to be done. you can also see, in the above picture, the archway from the Foyer into the Kitchen.

First Pool Image, Pool
We have also been talking to the pool guy in town and seeing about putting in a pool. This is the first design he sent us, so this is far from the final design, but I wanted to put this image out there to float the idea of a pool.

Garage_Door, Garage Door framed
Finally we see a better picture of the garage with its two single garage doors framed in place. I presume that soon the exterior person door will be installed in the rectangle you can see through the garage doors.

Finally the monolithic dome people were onsite today to measure the dormers so they can fabricate the covers which will be fused to the existing airform to ensure a water tight seal before the rock exterior is applied. I have no time scale on this, but it should happen fairly soon, maybe a few weeks or so.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Our Contractor

Brian German, Our general Contractor
I thought I'd spend a little bit of time and band width talking about the importance of a good general contractor who shares your vision and understands what you want. It seems like such a long time ago that we were talking with various general contractors around our area. Most of them were fairly neutral and business like about he plans and how to approach them. Only two of the contractors we spoke to actually seemed interested in the job in the sense of it being more than just a job, but being a project they could work with. It's that quality you feel sometimes when your talking with someone who really doesn't care what you are talking about but is being polite and listening with half an ear, compared to someone who is really interested in what you are saying and will make comments back that are relevant and thought provoking.

Of the two, only Brian seemed excited about the prospect of working on the house. The other seemed interested in it, but kept pointing out the difficult aspects and seemed to feel that these made the project less interesting, while Brian thought these make it more interesting. So when we sat down at the end of the process, we really had only one reasonable choice to go with, Brian German. He has a website at Brian German Custom Homes.

I will admit that we have had a few concerns about getting in touch with him at times, but these have been when he was trying to finish up another project and he likes to personally devote the time necessary to each client. What we had going on, while important, was not really urgent (many of us over estimate how important/urgent OUR problems are when compared to other peoples problems/needs). So far (I'd guess we are just over half way thought the process) we've been very happy with Brian and he has worked with us and provided feedback that seems like good sound advice along the way.

I just want to make sure that those of you that are contemplating a project like this (or even a conventional house) realize how important it is to choose the right general contractor or that you really understand what you will have to do if you choose to do the general contracting for yourself. I really can't help with the later, since we are using a GC, but make sure you look into what is required before you go it on your own. For me, I like to know I have to make one phone call if something is not going the way I think it should be.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lots of Stuff to Talk About

I met our contractor, Brian German, at the house today and we talked about many things, both large and small concerning the house. The biggest, and main reason we met then was to talk to the pool subcontractor about the possibility of putting a pool in the back yard for play and exercise. We spend about 30 minutes looking at the site and talking about features and concepts. The plan is for him to get back to us early next week with a concept and we'll iterate from there. All things being reasonable, it is no big deal to have it done by the time the house is done.

We also spoke about the water feature inteh entryway and discussed concepts and pumps for that. The pool guy, Shawn, and Brian are going to continue that discussion and put together a plan.

Secondly, we talked about the conversion of the attic storage into being a living room. The biggest complication is that the air conditioner units are being placed in that space. The solution is to place a closet around those units and still have the room as a living room. The problem this causes is the fire suppression system. The longest distance a sprinkler head can spray is about 18 feet. Unfortunately the distance from the closet to the far edge of the wall is about 22 feet. Brian is going to talk to the fire suppression people and see if there is another option or concept we can use. If not, then we'll have about 4 feet of pipe mounted to the ceiling and just hanging around in the living room.

Hopefully by now the doors are all (other than the main front door) hung and the house is weathered in save the front entryway. Looking around with the doors and windows in place really gives you a better feel for the size and shape of the rooms. Especially upstairs with the dormers.

Work on the interior of the auxiliary house (also called the guest house, the pool house, the workshop, and probably several other names) has begun and the walls and windows are in. There are a few details that need to be adjusted, but in general it looks nice. While the original dome looked very small and I wondered how we were going to make a livable space out of it, I now see clearly and sort of like the coziness of the house.

We met with the decorator, Mia, today as well (lots of meetings) and selected the floors and some of the counter tops. Next week we'll select the other counter tops and maybe make some progress on the cabinets. In general I think the selection process went well.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Second Floor Windows Installed

No pictures yet, but the windows on the second floor are installed. At least all but the large picture window over the Foyer. Having the windows in place certainly helps make the rooms feel more well defined. The dormers give more headroom extending to the windows, so it also makes the rooms feel larger.

The rough plumbing is in place, mostly. It is strange looking to me, since it used flexible tubing, not rigid pvc pipe. The tubing is color coded with the hot being red and the cold being white/clear. It looks to me like they made one mistake and put a red segment on a cold water run, but I have to ask the contractor about that. I also noticed they studs in the walls had small metal plates attached to them adjacent to the locations of the pipes/tubes. This is to prevent someone from driving a nail into the stud right above a pipe and causing a real problem. Sort of a nice system.

We have also decided that the upstairs attic is not going to be storage, but is going to be our "formal" living room. We have to deal with the air conditioners being in the back of the room, since that was originally planned to be uninhabited space. It does make a difference in the fire suppression system, so we need to get that system redone.

We also met with the decorator on Friday and are making headway on the flooring. Once we get that decided, we need to work on the cabinets and countertops. Things are really starting to happen that we need to be involved with on a weekly basis. We are at about "T minus 13 weeks" until move-in.

Friday, September 7, 2012

We have Windows, at least the frames for them

Front with Dormers, Front exterior with Dormers
We now have the exterior structure of the windows on the front (and some on the back) for the second floor windows. They are sort of like dormers but with an arched roof to keep with the dome theme. The exterior will eventually be covered with the same rock that is going on the exterior of the house, sort of medium sized flagstones. (I'll get a picture of them when we have the final product selected, probably another week or so). In my opinion this really gives me a better visual feel for what the house will eventually look like, rather than just having those holes in the exterior. here is a close up of one of the dormers.
Front Dormer, Detail of Dormer

Monday, September 3, 2012

More Work Today, we sort of have second floor windows

Went by the house for a quick look and noticed the framers have begun to frame out the dormers on the front windows. I did not get a picture today, but will try to snap one in the next few days. I think it really give a better image of how the final house will look.

I do however have one picture to show from yesterday. I love the way this corner looks. This view is from the foyer looking up toward the second floor, but there is a similar corner in the library. It just looks so smooth and organic.
From the Foyer, Nice saddleback corner

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Old Video of the inflation

I don't think I ever actually posted this video of the inflation. In theory this should have an embedded video in the post.

Meet with Decorator

I'm going to start talking about our meeting with the decorator first, then show some unrelated pictures later. Friday afternoon we talked with the interior decorator, Mia, our General Contractor works with at the new house and showed her around. I feel sort of bad because she'd ask things like "Are you all more into this style or that" and we'd just look at her or each other with the "What styles are those" looks. Anyway, by the end of the meeting I think we sort of imparted some idea to her of what we were interested in.

One nice thing about meeting with her Friday afternoon is I think our contractor told the workers to sort of clean up and make it nicer (as much as is possible for an active construction site) for us to look around. As such, I took a bunch of pictures. I'm not going to use all of them today, but here are a few.

First of all is the staircase.
Stairway, Main Dome Stairs

Next is the Dining Room window as seen from outside the house.
Dining Room Window, Exterior view Dining Window

Finally, a proud (and slightly scared) little girl looking out her soon to be bedroom window.
Veronica, Veronica in her room

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Walls on the second floor

Attic_Arch, Looking out from the attic storage
We went to the house this afternoon and were pleasantly surprised to find walls on the second floor, well at least the studs for walls. They are almost finished with them, hopefully tomorrow they will finish the walls. Then they will work on the stairs and the split level subfloor for the kids room.

I love he look of the arch leading into the side domes that you see in the picture. If you look closely you can also see the arch across the top of the central dome. From the living room below you will be able to see all three of these arches. I think it will make for a very exciting and organic look.

We are also starting to now look forward to our meeting with the interior designer this Friday to discuss the decor and such. She asked what our general style is, and we just sort of stopped and looked at each other, so she has her work cut out for her.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

No Pictures this time

After I put those 4 pictures last post I felt as if I really didn't need more photo's. The appearance has not changed that much in the past 48 hours. What has happened is the subfloor has almost been finished. There are a few small areas right at the edges that they have to be very creative in cutting the plywood to match the dome shape that have not been done. The plywood they use for the second floor is 1 1/8" thick plywood. I did not realize they made plywood that thick. It comes pre-cut with tongue and groove sides for keeping it level and smooth.

We do have an appointment with an interior decorator who works with our contractor to began to discuss the decor and color schemes. One thing we have been surprised when looking around the house is that it does not really feel like it is that much bigger than our current house, even though it is over twice the square footage. I'm sure that is an illusion of the incomplete structure and all the building stuff sitting around. Anyway, we are considering repurposing some of the rooms based on our current perceptions and are really looking forward to working with someone who can tell us that our fears are unfounded, or give us useful advice about how to repurpose the rooms. Our appointment is not until next Friday, so I'll post about that next weekend.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Chaos, Wall supports while installing the second floor
The general chaos of the various cross braces while installing the trusses and sub-floor for the second floor.

Window thru trusses
Looking up through the trusses and seeing out one of the second floor windows. This picture seems to me to give a perspective of the house and is a pretty picture, despite it being rather simple.

Truss and subfloor
Here you can see the support trusses and some of the sub-floor.

End Supports
I was curious about how they were going to put trusses across the very end of the dome. Well, they don't. They put 2x12's perpendicular to the trusses and notch them out to sit flush with the tops of the trusses. A nice system, but somehow I wonder a bit at the strength of the 1x12 once it is notched this deeply?

Trusses are mostly installed

Went out last night and they had all but 9 of the trusses installed (about 100 total). The only are missing was a small part that they ran out of time on at one end (consisting of about 2 trusses) and the area over the pantry where the shape of the house makes the trusses form a triangular pattern. These should be installed this morning. I also noticed the plywood for the subfloor had been delivered and the materials to begin constructing the stairs. Things continue to happen, and this is two days in a row!

We also got an official proposed timeline from the contractor yesterday. He is estimating that we will be able to take occupancy the week of December 10-17. A bit later than he or I had hoped, but still not too bad.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We have a second floor, sort of...

Trusses_in_place, One dome with second floor
The support trusses have been delivered and the framers began installing them today. Right now they are about 1/3 of the way finished. I hope (famous last words) that by the end of the week we will be able to walk around on the second floor. It really does help give a better perspective on room sizes when you can walk into a room and see all 4 walls, the floor, and the ceiling.

We also completed the application for septic tank service on the property today, so in the sort of near future they can begin to install the septic tank. Once that is installed in the ground, we can actually begin some basic landscaping to give a better feel what the entire place will look like once it is complete. I figure this may still be a month away, but at least I feel like there is some progress being made.

I decided to add one more picture for the engineering geek types out there who want to see how the trusses actually tie into the dome. Looking below you can see that they sit on the top of the wall frames, but also have a portion which hangs over the support beam which is attached to the walls for support. I doubt they are strong enough to support the entire weight on teh ring, but it will certainly support the portions where the truss hangs across a room and the far edge is supported only by the beam.
Truss_Connection, How the Trusses tie in to the walls

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Setting up for the second floor

Ring Beam Support, Support for the second floor
The support beam for the second floor has now been installed all around the main dome. They still have to go back and add all the support bolts and anchor it to the concrete walls, but there are at least 2 supporting each segment of the beam now. Hopefully by the end of the week the support trusses will be in and the subfloor can start to be installed.

Again this seems to be a game of hurry up and wait. For a few days there will be no visible progress, then apparently overnight something miraculous will happen.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Final Dome Walk through next week

We are in the process of setting up a final walk through of the domes with Monolithic and the General Contractor for next week. By that time the main dome will have all the first floor walls in place and the ceiling and subfloor for the second level as well. At that time we can get someone with an x-ray (or other non-destructive testing apparatus) to come in and test spots around the domes for compliance to thickness requirements. (What we will do it they don't make it is an entirely different question). Apparently there is no one local who does this, so we will be bringing in a person from Houston to do the testing.

They will be testing either 10, 15, or 20 locations depending on what we ask for (and how much we want to pay). We'll get a report back showing the full cross section of the area under the test location. It should show the outer membrane (the airform), the polyurethane foam, the shotcrete, and, if present at the location, the rebar.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Walls, Wall Studs in Main Dome
We have Walls!!! Yesterday the framers started putting up the walls and once they get started it goes quickly. The previous day, however, they spent most of the day figuring out how to measure where the walls go in a round house. I was not there, but apparently it was somewhat humorous. They had to measure off the dome centers and figure out where all the walls went. By the end of this week the walls should be finished on the first floor and they will do the ceiling and second floor next week.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Monolithic is done

I went by the job site this evening to see what was going on and was happy to find that Monolithic has moved all the equipment offsite and they are now done with the construction of the domes. I expect to complete a walk through with them later this week or early next week, but that is a minor thing.

At the same time I was hoping to see the progress the framers had made in constructing the first floor walls, or at least marking out where the walls go, but I saw no sign that they had done much of anything. I know the general contractor had to fall back to his second team of framers since the first choice was still tied up on another job, but with this being hump day and nothing having been done I wonder if he is planning on going back to number one starting next week. I need to give him a call tomorrow and talk about it.

Another tip for those of you that are doing this or thinking about doing it. If you get a general contractor, pester him to death about everything that bothers you. That is his job, so answer your concerns. If you are going to hire the sub-contractors yourself, you will have to deal with more of the frustrations yourself.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Waiting on Inspection

I think I may have used this subject line before, but it seems like we do a lot of waiting on inspections. The rebar is finished in the Auxiliary dome and they are ready to spray concrete on it. However, the rebar and electrical conduit has be pass inspection before they are allowed to bury it in concrete. This is actually a good thing as it protects us.

We also got word that the framers will definitely start on Monday of next week, so going into August, we should start to see interior progress. By the end of August we should even have doors and windows on all three structures.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Panorama, The three domes
I got a panorama of the three structures together and thought I'd show it off. Not a whole lot of new work occurred today. The electrical conduit in the auxiliary dome is closer to finished, but from the outside nothing changed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Framer scheduled to start work next week

This morning I went by the new house to see what was happening and found the general contractor on site. We talked about the process for a while and I found out a few more details about the process. The framer he will be using is currently working on finishing another job. He should be finished this week, so next week he'll be working on our house. It should take about 2 weeks to get all the first floor walls and the second floor subfloor in place. At that time they will work on getting the windows in and the doors in place so that the place will be 100% weathered in. That should take another week or two.

So by mid-August we should have all three domes fully weathered in and the interior work, and the exterior rock covering, should all proceed concurrently then. I asked him about getting the house in the Parade of Homes in October and he is very skeptical about having it close enough by then. He was guessing 80% or so at that point. Maybe enough to show off the house, maybe not. I asked about a move in by mid November, he said probably not, but that he was putting together a timeline now that Monolithic was about finished and he could really be in charge of the process.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Adding Rebar to the Auxiliary Dome

Why is it that progress on a new house does not seem to proceed linearly? Things seem to be happening by leaps and bounds now, while just last week they seemed to stagnate.

Today they finished the foam and started adding the rebar to the third dome on our land. They hope to finish the rebar tomorrow and then let the electrical and plumbing come in next week and get all that finished, along with the necessary inspections. Then toward the end of the week they can work on the final concrete. That means that they might be finished with all the dome work by the 24th or 25th! Certainly by the end of the month.

The leveling of the slab is also continuing apace. There are a few more patches that have been cut out. I am personally hopeful that they will finish cutting on the slab tomorrow and then start patching it back. I think that they will bring in a slab grinder once all the dust settles and by the middle of next week we'll have a level slab and the contractor can begin working on the inside and hanging the windows and doors to make the place weathered in.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Leveling the Slab

Leveling Slab, Patch cut to level main slab
The process of leveling the slab has commenced. The trick is to identify the areas that are too tall and bring a concrete saw in and slice cuts in the slab that are about an inch deep. The concrete is then chipped out around these cuts and the resulting hole is back filled to make it level with the main floor. As of yesterday evening there were 4 such areas, each about 3' x 6' or so in area that had been cut out to level. This would have been SOOOOOOO much easier if it were done right the first time. sigh.

The other thing we have been dealing with the last few days are strong storms blowing through the area. The ground around the domes is very soft (I sank to my ankles several times walking around to take the pictures). It also causes a concern for the newly inflated airform since it is important that we do not get a power outage until there is a concrete support layer on the inside of the dome. If the power dies, the foam polyurethane will not support the weight of the dome and it will collapse, requiring the foam to be scrapped off and a new layer put back when the dome is re-inflated. So far that has not been a problem. It almost was with the garage. The workers inflated the dome before they went home and came back in the morning to spray the foam. The power had died (due to a broken overhead power line). All it meant was that they could not start until the power was restored (early afternoon).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Main Shell is Officially Done, Almost

I spoke with the general contractor last night and we talked about the progress on the house. The main dome shell is done and he has started working on leveling the slab prior to beginning construction. The only issue is there is one spot that looks a bit rough to me up on what would be the second floor. He's going to check it out this morning and see. Other than that the score is one down two to go.

The auxiliary dome is now inflated, so you can see the shape of all three domes. The plan is to finish the domes this week. Spraying polyurethane on the auxiliary dome today, setting rebar on Wednesday, and spraying the concrete on Thursday and Friday. I bet it will stick out onto Monday, but it is a good goal and has potential.

This afternoon we are going to go with the contractor and look at stuff like lighting, flooring, appliances, etc. and try to get a bit more figured out.

All in all it feels like we are back on track and making progress. I don't have a revised move in date yet, but I'll add that as soon as we figure something out. Now that the general contractor has access to the main dome to work that schedule should be forthcoming.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Catching up

It feels like it has been forever since I wrote anything here, but we have been out of town on vacation and it was rather difficult to actually see any progress while out of town. The good news is, however, that there was progress made.

The main dome shell is now effectively finished. The smooth finish coat has been applied everywhere and it looks like there is 4" of concrete in all places (or more). There are a few places (like under the windows) where the section that was intended to be vertical is noticeably bowed out due to the inflation pressure so it resembles something like a 5/8 dome (but not as extreme). The consequence of this will manifest itself as the general contractor, who was expecting to anchor a 2x4 to the wall and go, has to figure out how to attach the walls to this curve. Also the wall outlets look a bit strange under the windows. The floor has been swept clean and all the debris from the spraying has been cleaned out. The next step is to work to level the slab from the ripples that were present during the initial pouring. Note to future builders, make sure the foundation is poured well initially. Going back and leveling it after the fact is tedious, time consuming, and expensive.

The garage looks to be finished. The airlock is now cut off and the inside appears to be completely covered. I think there are a few spots of cover up they still need to do, but all in all it's done.

The auxiliary dome has the airform stretched in place and the airlock and fan sitting next to it. They still have to apply the metal bands that actually attach the airform to the slab, but that can easily be done in a day and then inflate it. My guess is that they will get it ready to inflate today and leave for the weekend and come back first thing Monday and inflate it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thickness of the Concrete Dome

We have come to an interesting point in the construction of the dome. Monolithic should be through (I have not checked this afternoon, but they estimate they should be through) spraying the concrete on the inside of the house. Now how do the inspectors determine if the dome is built within specification? Measuring the thickness of the concrete is a non-trivial exercise. Not only that, but the plans Monolithic submitted to us do not exactly call out the required thickness of concrete at all points on the shell.

I have no answer to this issue at the moment, but as we figure more out I'll post again and let everyone know what the outcome is. One thing which could have been done before any concrete was sprayed to help at least measure the thickness of the shell would be to add a few of the rebar hangers to the dome at semi-random points and simply allow them to stay there unbend and use them to measure the buildup of the concrete. Doesn't help at the moment, but in teh future this method could be used.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Removing the Airlock on the Main House

Airlock_Removed, Main Dome Airlock Removed
This evening I went out and was surprised to find the main house's airlock cut away from the airform. The inside of the domes had about another 1/2-3/4" of shotcrete sprayed on it. The rebar is almost entirely covered now, only showing at the very top of the domes. Many of the electrical boxes around the walls are completely embedded, or very close now. It is starting to look like a real dome home on the inside. My guess is they will finish covering the rebar tomorrow, need to put one more coat on Thursday and do touch ups on Friday.

The garage also had another 3/4" or so of shotcrete sprayed on it and the fan was turned off there as well. At this rate they will finish spraying it on friday as well, then all that is remaining is the auxiliary dome. Progress really is being made. My estimate is they sprayed 12-15 yards of concrete today.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Concrete work has resumed

It looks like they sprayed maybe 8 yards of concrete on the inside of one lobe of the main house and on the garage. That last part I did not expect. There is about an inch of concrete sprayed on the inside of the garage now (on top of the 1/2" they put down prior to tying on the rebar). The rest of the concrete was sprayed on the inside of the master bedroom lobe of the main dome.

It looks like they are praying about 8 yards of concrete a day. Which is fine, but it will take about 11 yards of concrete to put half an inch on all surfaces of the main dome. It seems like it would be more efficient to spray the entire dome with a little bit of concrete rather than spraying about 1/3 of it with some and then moving to the garage. I'm sure there is a reason for doing it this way, but it perplexes me. Using this current methodology I have no idea when to predict that the domes will be ready.

One other thing is that the auxiliary dome airform is back, and presumably fixed. Since the fan is not currently running for the main house, I expect them to set up the other airform soon and get it inflated and start on the insulation for that one. Maybe the goal is to have all three of them completed at about the same time? We'll see.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Progress has slowed once again

Monolithic was apparently not onsite Thursday nor Friday, probably they went back to their office to get the auxiliary dome airform, but I am speculating on that. The main dome fan is still off and I bet the temperature inside the dome is close to 110°F and the humidity has got to be 100% (literally, there is condensation dripping from some of the window forms). Hopefully Monday we will get back into production mode.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Garage has electrical

I went out this morning to look at the progress and was a bit surprised to find the fan/blower for the main dome not running, but the one for the garage was running. When I stepped in the main dome it felt like a sauna in there, but almost all the rebar was covered and it looked like the lower sections might even be completely finished. I think they are still a bit shy of complete, but it is close. My guess is that today they will finish the lower section 100% and get the upper section to the point the lower one is now, and then Friday morning they will complete the main dome.

The garage now has electrical conduit in place for a light switch, overhead lights, a garage door opener, and plugs around the walls. It is interesting looking at the path the conduit takes to get to all the boxes. I'd hate to have to remember that path when I was stringing wires after the concrete work in done.

We have not yet seen the repaired/modified auxiliary dome airform yet, I guess they dropped it off last weekend and will pick it up this weekend. We'll see.

We also got the plans (and the approval of the city for the plans) for the fire suppression system to be installed. Coupled with that we got out first water bill from the city and there is a $24 charge for the fire suppression system water meter every month, even though we do not use it (other than a brief test every few months) hopefully ever. We're going to have a discussion with the city about that one of these days soon. I doubt it will help, but you never know.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Main Dome Shell Almost Complete

We went out to look at the progress today and Monolithic has sprayed at least an inch of shotcrete everywhere on the main dome and in some places they seem to have all 4-5 inches sprayed. The higher up you go the less has been sprayed. I asked them about finishing tomorrow and they told me they would certainly have the rebar all covered tomorrow, but might need more time to get it 100% finished.

I hate this hurry up and wait feeling I have about it. It always seems like it will be "tomorrow" when things wrap up.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wall Rebar covered, First layer of Shotcrete in main dome
Friday afternoon the electrical contractor finished placing all the conduit and boxes and the inspector signed off on it early enough to allow Monolithic to spray part of a first coat of shotcrete on the walls of the main dome. They will be back on Monday to finished the main dome while the electrical contractor works on the garage. At this rate our general contractor should be able to get inside the main dome not next week, but the one after that (June 25ish) and start work on the actual interior of the home!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rebar passed inspection

Well, the is good news and bad news. The good news is that the rebar on both the main house and the garage passed inspection yesterday. The bad news is that the electrical contractor is WAY behind based on his estimates. That work was supposed to be finished on Wednesday evening, it is now Friday morning and the work is still not done (again unless they worked into the wee hours).

I think that the problem with the electrical contractor is the unfamiliarity with domes in general and Monolithic domes in particular. Things just don't line up and not everything is so cookie cutter as it is in a traditional house. Properly locating a junction box, 20 feet off the slab, on a smooth spherical surface is a more difficult proposition than they expected. At least that is my opinion. If you're doing the work yourself be prepared for it to maybe be a bit more labor intensive than you expected and if someone is doing it for you realize they may well underestimate the time required. Hopefully they will get it done today and we can have the electrical inspection this afternoon and be ready on Monday to spray concrete.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Final Inspection for Rebar and Electrical today...I hope

The main dome should be (as of 4:00 yesterday they were working wildly) ready for the city to come perform the inspection of the rebar and electrical work. If it all passes, then tomorrow (Friday) they will start spraying the final coat of concrete. The plan is to put 2 inches on on Friday and finish the remaining 2 inches on Monday.

They had also completed spraying the initial coat of concrete on the garage dome and were hoping to get the rebar up in it and have it inspected at the same time. I really doubt that will happen, but you never know. If they worked late into the night to finish it could happen.

We did get some sort of bad news about the auxiliary dome though. The airform is about 10 inches to big for the slab. I don't know if the slab it too small or if the airform is to big, but they did not fit and it is much easier to reduce the size of the airform than it is to increase the size of the foundation. So they are taking the airform back to the factory and will reduce it and bring it back next week. It sets the dome work back a few days, but the project should not be behind since the workers can still work on the main dome and garage.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Electrical is going in

Electrical-Box, Electrical Box in the Utiltiy Room
Yesterday afternoon we had a big thunderstorm come through and I went out to the land to see how much water was flowing in the drainage ditch/creek along the front of our property. I was actually a bit disappointed. Driving out there I went across several places on the roads where the water was curb to curb and I splashed through 4-6 inches of water, especially in the low lying areas. When I got to our land, the ditch was only about half way up the 36" culvert under our driveway and was flowing a bit, but not quickly. I don't know if that area just did not get as much rain, or if it drains really well, but I was somewhat disappointed by what I saw.

I did, however, go and wade through the mud up to the house and took the above picture of one of the electrical boxes now mounted. They are screwing them into the concrete wall behind them to keep them in place. The concrete is about 1 inch thick at the moment and the boxes themselves are only about 2 inches thick, maybe 3. My concern is that I do not see how this will be flush with the front of the wall if the total wall thickness of concrete should be 8" thick. I would think that they would need about a 4 inch offset from the existing concrete surface, not a flush mount. I plan on asking the general contractor about that today.

I did have one surprise as I walked the grounds to the main house. The garage dome was inflated! I did not go into it, because the ground in front was really soggy, but I looked at it and it looks small, but so did the house from the outside. I'm hoping to go out and see the inside later today.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rebar Finished, Electrical started

Wall, Wall with rebar installed
The rebar is almost all done. Maybe it is all done, but there is one window that looks to me like they forgot to apply the rebar under the window. A general suggestion to any of you planning on dong a monolithic dome is to go out to the site and look at what is happening frequently. If something looks amiss, ask questions. Maybe all is as it should be and you simply don't understand, or maybe someone just forgot something. Our house had rebar support embedded in the slab across the locations of the back door. This was an oversight caused by reading a door as if it were a window, and it was easy to fix.

When I was out there Saturday, it looks as if the general contractor or maybe the electrical sub had walked around and placed a few junction boxes by just setting them on the rebar in a few location to figure out how they were going to mount them. I'm glad they are dealing with that, because I really don't know how I'd attached them to the structure. In a normal house they just screw to the studs, but we have no studs, and so they must be mounted and held in place with the conduit and it has to be attached to either the rebar of the slab at some point. It looks like it will be a tricky job to get the all placed right and at the right thickness from the back of the concrete wall. They have to basically sit out in space so that the front face of the box is exactly 7" away from the current location of the back of the wall, so that when they spray the remaining 7" of concrete it will match up with the new surface of the wall. The picture above shows a closeup of the wall section with the rebar. The rebar is currently about 1" from the back wall, so how do you add a box hanging out in space 6" in front of the rebar?

Local building codes specify that a section of wall may not be longer than 6' without an outlet, so we will have plenty of outlets around the outer walls, both upper and lower floor. If the first floor seemed to be tricky, think about what the second floor will be like, wiring these boxes to hang in space abut 12 feet off the slab. I bet it will take at least 3 days to set it all up next week, maybe 4. (btw, they're estimate is 2 days).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Main Dome Rebar Finished

Inside_Rebar, View of the rebar on the inside of the mian domes
Most of the day yesterday saw little to no activity onsite, so I am assuming the crews finished the rebar on the main dome. Later today I will be going out and checking the progress. The puts us about 3 days behind where I expected us to be now. I supposed that's not really too bad, but it still grates on the nerves a bit. I can tell I'm going to be a basket case by the time this is all done.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rebar Progress Slowly Being Made

I went out to the house yesterday and used my phone to take a few pictures I hoped to post with this, but apparently it was too dark and the phone could not find an autofocus, so unless you want to see a blurry mess, I'll wait and try again this afternoon to take the real camera out and get a few good pictures of the inside with rebar. Basically each dome looks sort of like a world globe with the latitude and longitude line on it, plus a lot of reinforcement around the doors and windows.

The sad part is that it is taking a LOT longer to get the rebar up than expected. I was there at 2:30 yesterday afternoon and they looked like they might have been barely half way through the applying of the rebar. That does not sound too bad until you realize that on Monday I guessed they were close to one third of the way through. Doing the Math, that means that in the course of about 6 or 7 hours of work they only gained about one sixth of the total work. At that rate they still need about 18 hours to finish the rebar. Maybe my estimates are off, and maybe something else came up that they had to deal with, but it seems extremely slow right now. Part of that is anticipation of it being done, but part of it is pure math.

We also posted our third payment (out of 5) yesterday, so we are 70% paid for the domes so far. The rest will follow in a few weeks I would guess.

Monday, June 4, 2012

We made it in the newspaper

Eagle article, June 3, 2012 article
If I find a link to the online story I'll share it here but in the mean time this is a low quality scan of the page. The general website for the paper is It's exciting to make it in the paper, I just wish they had done some type of interview or had more of a writeup.

The inside rebar on our main dome is continuing to be installed. Hopefully that will finish up tomorrow (Tuesday) and the electricians and plumbers will get in there after that. I know I have said the same thing in my last few posts, maybe it is wishful thinking. However, the new news is that the airforms for the garage and auxiliary dome were delivered this morning, and while the electricians and plumbers are working inside the main dome, the Monolithic crew will be working on the other buildings. The plan is for them to get back in the main dome late this week and start working on the final coat of concrete probably Monday of next week. They hope to be completely finished with the main dome on Wednesday of next week!!!!

Last Friday the general contractor and I sat down for about 2 hours and discussed the locations and type of the various light fixtures, plugs, switches, and such for the house. I had never really considered how permanent a decision it was to properly locate the electrical that will be in the outer walls. The normal interior walls are more flexible and if we decide to move a switch from this wall to that wall, it is only a pain, while in the outer wall, it is all but impossible after the dome is completed. So if you are designing a dome home, think about electrical (and plumbing) early on and be ready to answer exactly (to the nearest inch) you want those things on the inside of the dome (and the outside for that matter).

Friday, June 1, 2012


Yesterday I did not make it out to the site, so I don't have anything to report about the progress they made there. Instead my wife and I (and the kids) spent several hours looking at the plans and cutting out little pieces of furniture from card stock. The goal was to figure out about where we wanted to put the various electrical outlets, cable connections, internet connections, etc. It got late so we did not quite finish, but today we need to decide which of these will be on the backup system and which will just go dead in the event of a power failure. We need to finish today, since on Monday the electrical contractor needs to start putting the conduit in for the stuff in the outer walls. The interior walls we still have a lot of time, but the outside walls we need to decide now.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Today was a cleanup day

I thought that today was a day to spray concrete, however they had to cleanup all the excess polyurethane and get the inside ready to spray the concrete. That is what happened to day, so tomorrow (Thursday) should be the day to spray concrete. Other than that I think the schedule is about as it was earlier this morning.

Finished with the spines

Yesterday the Monolithic crew finished installing the rebar hangers and spraying the rest of the foam. We now have 3+ inches of polyurethane on the inside of our dome. Using the table of R values provided by the Colorado Department of Energy one inch of polyurethane gives an R value of about 6.25, so we have almost R19 already in place, without even considering the outer covering or the concrete. Going inside the dome you can already feel some of the equalizing effect of the dome and the insulation.

The plan for today is to spray an inch or so of concrete on the inside so that the rebar cannot touch the polyurethane at any point. Once this sets they will begin to install the rebar, a process which will probably take most of the rest of the week. Next week is devoted to the plumbing and electrical work. By the end of the week we should be able to call the inspector out to check all the rebar, plumbing, and electrical. If it passes, then on next Friday, June 8th, they will spray the rest of the concrete. It will cure over that weekend and the dome should be finished on Monday the 11th of June.

The Monolithic team will then set their sights on the garage and the other dome and on finishing the main dome slab. Hopefully by mid-June the contractor will be able to start working on the main dome exterior windows and doors.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Almost ready to hang rebar

Inside_Porcupine, Hangers for Rebar on inside of dome
Friday the workers got the hangers mounted on one of the side domes. The picture to the left is a bit grainy but I think you can see the hangers extending a few inches (about 6" actually) beyond the white polyurethane. Onto those hangers the rebar will be mounted making longitude and latitude lines around the dome similar to the mesh you see in a traditional slab poured on the ground. I'm not exactly sure what they do at the north pole (i.e. the top of the dome), we'll see when they get that far. Which should be Thursday of next week.

Friday, May 25, 2012

It's snowing in our Dome

OK, it's not actually snow, but the blowing of the polyurethane foam sort of looks like snow. The entire floor is covered in this blowing white stuff. Yesterday they managed to get about half of the required 3" sprayed on the inside of the dome. Today they will be spraying another half inch, then placing the hangers to tie the rebar on. Once all these are set, they will be adding another inch of foam. The plan is for this to all be done today. Then Tuesday (Monday is a holiday) they will come back and spray an inch or so of concrete on the inside and then, once it hardens, start putting the rebar around that to reinforce the whole dome. So, hopefully by the end of next week we will have the entire 8" of concrete, with all plumbing and electrical, inside our dome and that phase will be done.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

About ready to foam the inside

Last night the crews finished all the framing (well as of 5:30 they were very close) and the plan is to actually spray the polyurethane this morning. They had to remake the second floor window frames since the vertical locations were off in the original plans, but that has been done and everything should be ready. They are going to have to redo the front door frame since we have changed the concept and no longer have the sidelights on the door that were part of the original design.

Apparently they spray about a 2" coat of the polyurethane on and then place the rear hangers on/in it, then they come back and spray another 1" of polyurethane on top of that to firmly anchor them in place. Anyway, by the time I get out there this evening to look, the inside should be all foamed and the hangers should be in place to tie off the rebar for the concrete.

Also, this afternoon I have a meeting with the fire suppression sub-contractor about that system. Since we are inside the city limits, but outside the area they have placed fire hydrants, we have to have an active fire suppression system in the house. This meant running two water lines from the supply main out front to the house, a 1" line for the house water, and a 2" line for the fire suppression system. Each with their own water meter. Anyway, this afternoon we're going to talk about the system, what it will look like visually, and where we want the various sprinkler heads in the house. This fire suppression system was one of the surprises we got when going through the city for all the permits.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Windows and Insulation

Last night I spoke with the head of the construction team from Monolithic at great length about the location of the windows on the second floor. He thought the location, as called out on the drawings, seemed a little funny and wanted to make sure this is what we wanted. It was not and he was right, there was something fishy about the drawings. I have a few guesses at where the issue came in, but anyway I talked to the general contractor and he agreed with us that it was incorrect and is going out this morning to talk with the crew and get the correct location for the windows on the second floor.

Once this is settled, they will remake a "template" for the second floor windows and be ready to spray the polyurethane on the inside of the dome. They have actually framed the entire first floor windows and doors (actually they also still need to frame the front door) and can precisely spray around these, but framing the second floor windows is a bit more difficult, so apparently they build this template out of 1x6's (or maybe 2x6's) and someone climbs the scaffolding and holds the template in the correct location for a window and someone else sprays the foam around it. Then they pull it out and go to the next window. They have done this enough times that I believe this is the most efficient way to do it, but it seems strange to me.

The other thing they did yesterday is to cover the slab with plastic (to catch any drips of the polyurethane) and also spray a contact adhesive to the inside of the dome to improve the bonding of the polyurethane to the airform. This makes the entire thing sticky on the inside.

Anyway, if all goes right today, by tonight we'll have an insulated dome with about 3" of polyurethane on it. I think this puts them on schedule to work with the concrete early next week. Once that's done and set we'll have a dome shell that can withstand F5 tornadoes or Cat 5 hurricanes! then comes the fun part of building the interior structure and letting Monolithic work on the garage and workshop domes. Hopefully by mid June all these will be done and that phase of construction will be done.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Starting a new Week

Scaffolding, Special scaffolding used on the inside of domes
I sort of got behind on posting last week. There was so much excitement building to getting the airform inflated that I sort of felt a letdown once it was up. So we went out and looked at the dome and went, it's up... Anyway, there have definitely been things happening out there.

They have built the scaffolding on the inside of hte domes to help them work up high. The picture shows it. What's cool about this is the way the wheels are set. Look closely and you'll notice that the wheels nearest the camera are facing like car wheels, ready to drive normally. The ones at the other end are facing 90° and thus parallel the outside edge of the dome and make it ready to spin inside the dome. I think it is a nifty way to set up scaffolding.

The other thing they began last week was the building of the window and door forms (called bucks, I think) to assist us in framing and mounting the windows. They have about half of the first floor windows done and all the doors. Monday they should be able to finish most of the rest, including the second story windows. This means that on Tuesday they should spray the polyurethane insulation. It will be a 3 inch thick coat all over the inside of the airform, other than where the windows and doors are. This will make it much darker inside.

Once it cures (overnight?) they will go back and install the rebar for the concrete and any electrical or plumbing that needs to be imbedded in the outside walls. Then comes the final 8 inch coat of concrete and the dome part is done and they move on to one of the other projects here on site. I think this should all happen this week, but it might lap over into Monday.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

And... They're up

Inflated, Main Dome Inflated
Well, the inflation went off with very little difficulty. Mike and Dave South drove down from The Monolithic Dome Institute to watch the inflation and we had maybe 6 other watchers, outside of family and workers, for the event. My wife flipped the switch to start the inflation about 12:15 and the fan kicked in immediately. The airform began to expand and within about 15 minutes it was full and the crew began securing the airlock to allow entry into the dome. By 1:00 we were walking around on the inside of the dome. The inside of the airform is really pretty with the light coming in through it. Too bad it will be covered entirely by insulation and concrete.

The next few days will be building the forms for the doors and windows and getting those installed. Then comes the insulation, the rebar, the electrical and plumbing, and then the concrete. This whole process should take about a week from this point, so by memorial day weekend we should have a solid concrete dome.

Things are on Schedule

I just went out to the site and talked to the crew chief. Things are on schedule for a noon inflation. The site is still muddy, but it has dried out from last night and it should not be too difficult to walk around and see what is happening in a few hours.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Slight delay in inflation

Weather, Inflation Day Weather Forecast
Well, the rains are not going to stop the inflation, but it has been moved back from 10:00am to noon. Above is the weather forecast for inflation day, May 15, 2012. I went by the site on the way home from work and it is VERY muddy there. The ariform was spread across the slab, but it had not been fastened down yet. I suppose they will either do that later this evening or first thing in the morning. In any case, we are still on track for an inflation tomorrow!

Things setting up for inflation

Well, as of last night (Monday Night) the crew was just about ready to start attaching the airform to the slab. They still have to move everything that needs to be put inside the inflated dome onto the slab, so that once it is inflated they won't have to figure out how to carry all that stuff through an air lock. This includes all the lumber for the framing of the doors and windows, as well as the scaffolding necessary to work on the top of the dome once it is inflated.

Today the electrician will connect the power panel Monolithic brought to power the fans. and Monolithic will attach the airform to the slab. Probably this evening they will do a partial test inflation to make sure everything is good for the big moment Wednesday when everyone is watching, possibly even the media. The plan is to throw the switch at 10:00 am and watch the house spring to life. It should take about 20-30 minutes to fully inflate and then another half hour to 45 minutes to install the airlock. Once that is done we should be able to go inside and look around!

The only issue I see at the moment is that this morning we woke up to a nice gentle rain. This is supposed to keep up most of the day with "a few scattered thunderstorms". Tomorrow has a 20% chance chance of light rain, so I don't think that will impair the inflation, but it might dampen the spirit of the media (and maybe some of our friends) and make them wonder about going out in the rain just to watch a house being inflated. If so, that's fine, I just want the thing up and making progress towards being done.

I'm not going to take any pictures this evening of the test inflation (well, I might take them, but I won't post them), so it will be a fresh sight for everyone on Wednesday, but I will report back on the success (or failure, but I hope not) tonight in advance of the formal inflation Wednesday.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Construction on Hold this week

This week very little is happening at the job site. I know we are getting a security gate installed and some lighting and possibly cameras installed to reduce theft/vandalism.

Our general contractor also got out and looked at the poured slab and noticed that it was not entirely flat, but had peaks and valleys in it, not huge ones, but he said some up to one inch high. He and Monolithic talked about it and Monolithic is going to bring out a grinder and smooth out the ridges in the slabs next week. Don't know if that will be before or after inflating of the dome, but it should happen.

We did go out and look at appliances yesterday. Starting to make decisions about how and what we want to put inside the house once it is complete and we worked with a door company in designing our front door. We should get the preliminary drawings back early next week.

Right now the schedule looks like on Monday Monolithic will come out and do a bit of site work and prepare the slabs for the airforms. This includes setting up the basic scaffolding inside the domes that they will need. They will possible start to attach the actual air form on Monday, but it will probably be done at least mostly on Tuesday. They then have to attach the fans and airlock to the airform prior to inflating it. This means that Wednesday morning, May 16, somewhere between 9 am and 10 am the airform should be inflated!!! The first concept drawings/sketches I have on my computer date back to May of 2010, so this has been 2 years in the planning process. The first official drawings exchanged between us and Monolithic date to April 2011. Seeing it happen will be such an amazing thing, we are definitely excited about getting the domes up.

The next update will probably not be until Monday.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Still waiting on an inflation date

I think everything is in place for inflating the air form.  The slab is set, we got a new security gate installed today to help secure the property over night, the water is connected dire tly adjacent to the dome, and the electrical is set up.  There is even one of the fans used to inflzte the dome on site.  All we need now is a date scheduled by Monolithic.  I hope to get that date by tomorrow and we can publicize it widely.  It will probably be early next week if I were a betting man.  This week is the last week of the spring workshops at Monolithic, so most of their people are tied up with that.

Friday, May 4, 2012

All 3 slabs are poured

Finished Main Slab, The main slab has set and the rear to attached the dome is in place.As of this afternoon the slab work in done. The photo above shows the main slab with the rebar waiting to be attached to the dome when it is sprayed. The beginnings of the radial scaffolding can be seen in the foreground on the slab. This is used inside the dome once it is inflated to gain access to the whole thing. Apparently it can rotate within the dome.

You'd have to look very carefully, but the second slab can barely be seen in the background of the same photo (just to the right of the guy spraying water). It looks nice on the full resolution one here.

It looks like the airform will be fitted to the slab on Monday and if all goes right and the stars align properly, it should be inflated on Tuesday. I need to positively confirm that with Monolithic this weekend, but I think that is the plan.

I probably won't have much more to post this weekend, but you never know.

Main Slab is poured

Pouring of the Slab, Concrete pumping truck pours the main slabYesterday was a busy day on site. The Monolithic dome crew did a wonderful job of correcting the errors identified by the initial inspection and about noon yesterday the inspector came back out and approved the site to be poured. Once the engineer approved it, the city had to give it its blessing. They were scheduled to come out at 4:30 that afternoon, but our general contractor, Brian German, called and convinced them to come out earlier, so around 2:00 pm the final approval to pour was granted. By 3:30 concrete was flowing and the crew probably did not actually finish the working and floating of the slab until close to midnight.

Assuming all goes well from here it will probably be Tuesday for the inflating of the airform for the main dome. We should find out today what the schedule is and then we'll contact lots of people about it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tribulations this time

Rebar, Placing Rebar in the slabStarting with the good news, the electricity is now connect to the pole and can be used onsite. This makes everything easier, since they do not need generators to power saws and such.

Now for the tribulations. When the electrical and plumbing subcontractors set the pipe/conduit they each put one piece too close to the slab frame and those must be moved prior to the pouring of the slab. Of course this means that the plumbing has to be re-pressure tested and reinspected to make sure it is still safe. However, this should not actually delay the process, assuming the plumber got back out there this afternoon/evening to move it. They could then pressurize it overnight and be good to go first thing in the morning.

That is not the end of the tribulations though. The slab crew did not correctly read the plans for how to set up the rebar and where to put the beams for the foundation. When the inspector cam e out this afternoon they noticed irregularities and the rebar failed inspection. The crew was going to try working this afternoon, evening, night and maybe into the wee hours to get it fixed and ready to pass inspection first thing in the morning. If the succeed, then the main slab will be poured tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon, if not then it will be Friday at the earliest. Sigh.

If all goes well and they get the slab poured Thursday the actual airform should be inflated on Monday, if not then it will be later next week before things will be happening with the airform. All in all this is not that big a setback, but it is frustrating since we are this close to getting the dome inflated.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Rebar work

I did not make it out to the site today, but the plan called for the Monolithic dome people to be back and start cleaning up the site and laying the rebar. We did have some thieves come by over the weekend and stole a coil of wire from the site. Annoying, but not real damaging other than financial and making you a bit concerned about the future. The contractor is planning on installing a gate on the drive and maybe putting up a camera as well.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Initial Electrical is done

Electrical Slab, Running conduit for electrical in the slabThe electricians have finished setting up the in slab electrical and things should be all ready for them to come in on Monday and start finishing the preparations for the pouring of the slab. This involves cleaning up the ring beam footing, digging the main wall beams, and placing the rebar as needed.

The local utility company will be coming out next week to connect power to the temporary pole they set and we will then have power on-site. This has to happen before the airform can be inflated, so it will probably be next Friday or maybe even Saturday before we can inflate the airform and start building the dome shell proper. It seems so close and yet so far away at the same time. Once that goes up, the site view won't be changing much over time and my pictures will have to be interior pictures where things are actually happening.

Stay tuned and we'll have the actual inflation schedule posted in a few days (I hope).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Plumbing Passed Inspection

Pressure_Test, Pressure Valve on the plumbing linesIt's not easy to see, but there is a pressure valve on the top of the pipe in the above photo. This was an air pressure test to check the integrity of the plumbing. It passed the city inspection, so that phase is complete. Next the electricians come in and work on the wiring that needs to be in the slab. Hopefully this will be complete by the end of the week.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More Water Progress

Water_Meter, First connection to the water meter Today not a whole lot of visible progress occurred around the domes themselves, but we did get the water main connected to the meter and run about half way up to the house. I suspect that tomorrow they will finish connecting the piping up to the house and set a temporary hose bib to use in building the domes.

We did notice that they must have finished the guest house plumbing since they had put a pressure gauge on the system and pressurized it. That way they can check tomorrow and see if it lost pressure. If it did, there is a small leak somewhere in the system and they get to play hide and seek, otherwise they are good to go and can move on to the next phase.

Monday, April 23, 2012

We actually will have indoor plumbing!

First Plumbing, The first day of plumbing the new houseThe weekend was occupied with other things and I did not get a chance to post anything about the house. The Monolithic Dome people finished putting the frame around where the foundation will go on all three domes. They actually look so small when all you can see is the frame making a footprint for them. I know how much larger the rooms will seem, but now it looks too small.

Starting this week the general contractor, Brian German, has his subcontractors in laying the in slab plumbing and then later the electrical work. They should be able to get all that done this week and we'll hopefully get the slab poured next week.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Framing the Foundation

First Foundaton Frame, End of the first day of framing the foundation First Foundation Framing, Corner by Utility Room Today they worked on putting the frame around where the foundation will be. It is interesting to watch them laying the wood and then curving it to the correct shape and screwing it into the frame they have set in the ground. After they get the framing done they foundation guys will leave for a few days and let the plumbers and electricians in to do their stuff. Then the foundation people will return and clean out the beam footings and lay the rebar in place.

Also, the contractor finished taking out he dead trees today and getting those hauled off. We tried putting the wood on Craigslist, but only one person seemed to want it and they never came and got it. Sort of sad, but it had to go.

Day two of slab work complete

I don't have a photo for today, but I do have a nifty table to summarize the expected progress of building the slab. This is just an estimate and things may certainly shift by a few days depending on things like the weather and whatnot, but it is a fairly good estimate.

Break Ground, initial phase of digging the beams and building the frame
Plumbing and electrical in the slab
Complete frame, lay rebar, prepare to pour
Pour Slab
Inflate the Airform

We also got the inspection for the power pole and setup, so in the next few days the utility company will be connecting our power and then the contractor will run a 320 amp circuit from the utility pole up to the job site (about 200 feet). He will also be running water up to the job site in the near future, since the water meters were installed recently.

All in all things are really starting to happen. The next few weeks will be exciting as stuff visually begins to happen around the job site.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Breaking Ground

First Ground Breaking, Ring Beam ChannelToday was the ground breaking for our new home! Monolithic Domes came down and began digging the ring beam and working with the site. The plumbers will be working tomorrow and hopefully the construction phase of the foundation will complete early next week and then they can pour the concrete.

I don't know if I'll actually keep up with daily posts from here out, but I am going to try hard to give regular posts.

If all goes as planned, the airform will be inflated toward teh end of next week!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The house shell is manufactured

Flat Pattern Dome, Main domes laid out

Rolled  Main Dome, Main dome airform rolled up for transport
We took a trip up to Italy Texas today to look at the fabrication process of the dome airform (the balloon). The whole thing weighs about 1000 pounds and rolled up is about the size of a large dog house. That being said, it is finished. The rest of the fabrication should be done early next week and the whole job should be ready for shipment by the end of next week. It is amazing to thing that that roll of fabric is our house. It is sort of like a tent at the moment and anyone who has ever rolled up a tent and tried to get it back in the little bag they send with them understands the process the crew went through.

The only trouble is that Monolithic Domes is having a workshop next week, so none of the crews will be available until April 16th. They plan on sending an advanced crew down then to work with the basic foundation and digging out the beams on the 16th and 17th. Then the plumbers and electricians can have the rest of the week to lay the stuff they need which will be inside the foundation. Then the next week Monolithic will come back in force and finish what they need and pour the foundation by the end of the week.

If it goes as per that plan (which I hope it will) then the airform should be shipped here on April 30th and probably inflated on May 1st or 2nd! At this point in time all kinds of stuff will be happening on site and I hope I'll have more frequent blog entries.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fountation Plans being setup

Front_Elevation_Small, Artists drawing of the front of the house I think things are finally get started in earnest. In about 2 weeks Monolithic Domes will be coming down to start building the frame for the foundation. If that happens, then I hope the airform (the balloon) will be inflated somewhere during the first few weeks of May. I hope to visit them while they are making the actual airform and maybe get a few pictures for posterity.

The lot itself is really greening up now. The rains we have had and the beautiful weather make it look really nice. Except for the few trees that did not survive the drought last year. From the road it is very difficult to see the pad through the trees. Once there is a house there and when it is lit at night especially, I'm sure it will be visible, but we should still have a lot of privacy and sound insulation as well from road noises.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lots of stuff happening

I really have to get better about keeping this blog updated. I know this is probably the most common problem with starting blogs, but we now actually have a lot of stuff happening and I need to get it down as it happens, rather than waiting weeks to finally write a post.

About 6 weeks ago we selected Brian German as our general contractor and he began the process of clearing the land around the site for the home. We met with him on site and walked around tying surveyors tape to trees we want to keep and ones we wanted to get rid of. (two different colors) We identified the path for the driveway. From there Brian started the clearing process and brought in stuff to make a temporary driveway. The house is about 200 feet off the road, so we now have a temporary driveway leading about 200 feet into our land.

We also brought several loads of dirt in to build the pad which the house will sit on. I knew that the land had an incline to it when walking on it, but I did not realize that by the time we had the back of the pad about 6 inches above the original ground level, the front would be about 4 feet up. This is causing us to rethink a bit about the shape and size of the front porch, since there will have to be steps leaving up to the house. Nothing we can't deal with, but like most people we were thinking very 2 dimensionally and did not think about the effect of an elevation change in the design of the house.

We have also been working with Brian to make some of the choices for the inside of the house. We went to look at appliances for the kitchen, sadly all electric since it is a dome home and using gas is not recommended for dome homes due there being little air infiltration/leakage. From a heating/cooling perspective this is a good thing, but from a vapors/smells/humidity point of view this can cause problems.

We also went to Houston to look at some recycled glass kitchen counter tops material. It is called Icestone and is made from recycled glass and concrete mixed together and the poured in slabs and polished and sealed. It is a really beautiful product and very environmentally friendly, but a bit pricy. We're still discussing whether we want to use ti or not. If not, we'll probably go with a granite counter top. Next week we will be looking at flooring options and lighting fixtures as well.

We've also been working with Monolithic Domes and have the airform (the balloon which is inflated) being manufactured and we are working with them to get a time table on when they will be coming out to actually work on the project. As usual it is taking longer than we hoped, but hopefully within a month we'll be building the actual shell of the home.

We have also been working with the utilities and the water providers and have those services set to be installed within a week or so, once the final building permit is issued. It should not be a big deal to get the permit as we've worked with the city closely in the design and documentation phase, so I hope that is more of a formality. I'll tell you all when it actually happens.

One big thing we have decided on is to install a solar hot water heater and a small Photovoltaic system. The goal is to be able to run critical systems for 24 hours should we lose power for whatever reason and to supply for those systems in a clean and environmental manner. During the winter months (when we won't be using the air conditioner) we can almost go off grid completely, maybe even selling some power back to the utility company. This in essences makes the utility meter run backwards.

We have also decided that since we cannot have a gas stove inside the house, that we need a nice gas grill/cook center on the back patio.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Engineering calculations complete

Last week the design plans were check ed by the staff engineer for Monolithic Domes and all looked good. This means that the set of construction documents is now complete (we had to submit the official plat from the city) and on Monday we will be giving a final review to them on Monday.

With the plans finalized the fabrication of the air form (the balloon which will form the outer shell of the dome) can begin. The actual design of the shape (similar to design clothes, you have to figure out what shape pieces of flat fabric need to be cut so that when they are sewed together they form the correct 3D shape) is underway and that show take a week or two. During this time they order the vinyl fabric and can begin construction immediately upon completing the design. I hope to visit Monolithic during the actual fabrication of the airform and get a picture or two.

Another benefit of having the construction documents in hand is we can take them to the city and get the necessary building permits. The only thing we still have to do is determine the window style so we can do an energy calculation to satisfy the city on the dome's energy efficiency. We'll talk with our general contractor next week to get this done.

We also now have a driveway and electrical power (or will in the very near future). Next week I am gong to call and request water service which should be installed within 1-2 weeks.

If everything stays on schedule now we should see the dome go up somewhere around mid-March and by early to mid April the interior work should be able to begin. The estimate is 5-6 months to finish the interior, so we are now looking at a move in date of early October. That makes it about 15 months from initial stages of planning to move-in.