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Off grid tiny geodesic project

 
Posts: 33
Location: Inland Northwest/Eastern Washington
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Hi all,

I purchased a property that is completely wooded and about half way back has a 20' diameter geodesic dome shell.  The dome was built in the early 90's and looks great considering the location and conditions it's experienced for 25ish years north of Sandpoint, ID.

Some tiny signs of water leaking but mostly dry and not even a cobweb or much evidence of any critters entering. It's been all but abandoned for at least several years as the property owner lived across the country.

Plan is to make it 4 season livable and will be mostly off grid. I say mostly as I will likely use propane for cooking. Will take a lot of creativity but I think it's going to be a fun project.


It has a Sandpoint well inside, I could see water in it. I was aware this is definitely high water table area, they brought in loads of gravel to get the dome higher because of that. Yet to be seen how wet the property is, should be interesting as the spring thaw happens over the next few weeks.

The dome lies about 450 feet from front property line and about 300 feet from a very small clearing that I'm hoping will allow for a small solar set up. I'll likely have to raise the panels a fair bit off of the ground to maximize sun exposure given the surrounding tree cover.


The biggest considerations are going to be insulating and recovering. Currently has asphalt shingles that have done an amazing job thus far although they would not be my choice going forward but we may just go over them vs tearing it all off and potentially creating new problems.

I hiked in last week braving 3' of snow (no small feat as I'm only 5'3" :D ) to take some measurements and I've attached some pictures.


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Carrie Nicole
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Some additional pictures...

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Front door, faces south
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The sandpoint well
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The clearing with abandoned travel trailer that collapsed
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Pathway heading south from the dome toward the clearing and front of property. Was basically a driveway before, just need to cut back some brush and small trees that have come up to open it back up again
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Same tree cover as in picture in original post, facing east and taken in middle of autumn
 
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This is awesome what you've started doing, Carrie! Please keep us posted on your journey!
 
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Awesome find Carrie. Yes it will take a bit of work to button that dome up nice and tight, but once you do it will be amazing!

Some suggestions, I will assume low knowledge not because I think you have lack of knowledge, but because if I assume you know most things I might miss telling you something you didn't know and needed to hear. Easier to apologize for repeating info you know, than to fail to tell you info you needed to hear.

Something to consider for gas independence, methane digesters. Most of the world uses them, only in the US are they not household knowledge. You can produce enough methane through decomposition to fuel a stove, plus some lighting, or heating. I would suggest you look around for info on it. They aren't that hard to build, lots of youtube videos about that. Sadly the only US company to have a premade one did not last, US market just couldn't understand it.

While everyone loves living surrounded by trees, I would highly suggest cutting back the trees around your house. For a fire break, worry about falling branches and entire trees (especial what looks like a lot of aspen which tend to shed and fall often), and simple sunlight getting through to you and solar panels.

I would try to keep the solar panels low, since in the winter you will need to remove the snow from them. If you lift them, make sure you figure out a way to remove snow.

If you can I would suggest addition of wind generator. The combo tend to compliment eachother well.When the sun isn't shining the wind tends to, and vice versa.

The shingles, Yeah tough call, I personally would bite the bullet and make replacement a priority. Mainly because hiding under them might be the cause for future leaking and mold. Removal means you can get ahead of future problems. I would also suggest some sort of metal roof, for fire protection. Of course this might not be so easy or financially practical. But worth suggesting.

So you didn't mention how much land the property is. It is set back a decent ways from the road, which is nice. Do you have enough to garden, provide firewood, and other fun stuff?
 
Carrie Nicole
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Thanks for all of the great suggestions and things to think about Devin!

The land is 7.5 acres, about 350 running E/W and 950 or so running N/S.  It is completed wooded save for the tiny spot the dome sits on and the very small clearing at the front of the property. I am opening up the clearing a bit more, mostly small trees that have grown up over the past 10-15 years since the previous owner stopped really visiting. We will do some selective removal around the dome for safety issues but won't be opening it up too much. Plan is to build 1-2 more tiny cabins on the property.  I doubt I'd ever need to cut trees for firewood, there's enough fallen/dead stand to fuel a tiny wood stove for years to come!

I'll be having a forester come out this summer to survey the land and get more information about the trees, tree age, etc and to submit my timber designation to reduce my property taxes.  My stepdad walked the property with me and has been there a few times prior over the years and knew some of the history with tree age, remnants of a fire from the 20's, etc. It's been fun and eye opening learning about this tiny slice of the planet.

The plan is definitely to do metal shingles, while it may be more expensive and will be quite difficult (but I think any material on a dome is going to be hard!) it seems the most prudent choice. We'll lift some of the existing shingles in areas where we've seen tiny signs of water entry and see what's going on under there but just seeing all the nails coming through I feel like removing them all is going to make the dome swiss cheese! We'll see how we go, I'll for sure be updating this thread along the way.

I'm not so patiently waiting for the oodles of snow to melt off, another challenge of being east facing and having so much tree cover. But I am excited to learn how to live with the land and the seasons vs fight it or try to change or control it.
 
Carrie Nicole
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Here's an aerial of the property. The clearing is in that dark spot in the SW corner and the dome lies smack dab in the middle of the property. Trying to find a better aerial...
 
Carrie Nicole
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Here's a better aerial from a few years ago where the light was such that it's easier to see the clearing and you can almost spot the dome in there...it's just a dot that's slightly a different color than the surrounding trees :)
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Devin Lavign
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Carrie Nicole wrote:The land is 7.5 acres, about 350 running E/W and 950 or so running N/S.  It is completed wooded save for the tiny spot the dome sits on and the very small clearing at the front of the property. I am opening up the clearing a bit more, mostly small trees that have grown up over the past 10-15 years since the previous owner stopped really visiting. We will do some selective removal around the dome for safety issues but won't be opening it up too much. Plan is to build 1-2 more tiny cabins on the property.  I doubt I'd ever need to cut trees for firewood, there's enough fallen/dead stand to fuel a tiny wood stove for years to come!



Awesome, a decent size to sustainably harvest the dead wood. Great. Plus enough room to have garden space and still leave most of the property alone to be wild.

Really sounds like a great find Carrie, I am happy for you to have gotten such a great place. I can only imagine the how excited you are to have the snow melt and get to see the place as well as get to work making it yours. I know I was chomping on the bit to get back to may place after wintering over at my brother's the 1st yr. Heck I am getting antsy to get back after this month long vacation. I have been away so long and want to be there to watch the water flow from the spring melt.
 
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