A Few Tips for Building Domes for Survival Shelter

Some of my most read posts here are about building domes. My YouTube video called “Survival Shelter—Inexpensive Geodesic Domes” continues to prompt comments and questions.

That video grew out of a post entitled “Domes from Karl.” It contains the text used to make the video. It may help you to see the info laid out in writing. You can also view the video itself there. Plus, there are a couple of links below the post you may want to check out.

To answer a question I’m asked most often, I don’t have a set of plans for building a dome. That’s because much depends on what you’re planning to use a dome for, and that will determine the size and configuration you need. You’d likely be unhappy if I offered you a “one size fits all” plan.

However, some general concepts should get you started. For example, here’s a tip about construction. If you cut a 10 foot length of PVC in thirds, you can multiply that length by 0.884 for the length of the shorter pieces you’ll need.

Click here for a geodesic dome calculator. There you’ll find the means to calculate for 1V through 6V domes. Type in overall dimensions and it gives the struts you’ll need. You can even start with the strut lengths and it calculates the other way.

If you’re looking for a thorough reference book, get Geodesic Math and How to Use It, by Hugh Kenner.

Also, you can manage construction more easily if you color code your short and long struts near the ends with colored tape or paint.

For further research, click here for an overview of geodesic domes.

For something a little different, Illustrated Dome Building: Step-by-step Complete Plans, by Gene Hopster, describes building a hexadome.

If you’re serious about sheltering in a dome instead of buying a second home or cabin, a company called Turtle Tuff Shelters offers a ready-made geodesic dome package, including optional accessories, such as a wood burning stove. The dome can reportedly withstand winds up to 150 miles per hour.

A good, sturdy structure is a ferrocement dome. David Nash of the Shepherd School engaged in a project to build one. Read more about that here.

Author: John Wesley Smith

John Wesley Smith writes and podcasts from his home in Central Missouri. His goal is to help preppers as he continues along his own preparedness journey.

4 thoughts on “A Few Tips for Building Domes for Survival Shelter”

  1. I am curious, Karl never supplied any info on the 4″ hubs and the distance between the holes. Is there any info on this or is it implied that one must just figured it out based off the radius of the dome being built?

    1. Thanks for your interest in such specifics. Here’s info that’s been forwarded to me on this.

      “I drill one hole through the strut about 3/4″ from the end. This leaves enough of the strut for strength. The second hole is drilled about an inch from the first hole. This leaves room for the nails to be inserted and to clear the hub.. It seems very loose and floppy as you are putting it together, especially the first rows. But as the dome takes shape each hub tightens up. The leeway helps the parts to move around as you form the spherical shape. This looseness also enables the bottom to conform to uneven or sloping ground.

      I neglected to say that one nail goes through the part of the strut inside the hub, the other nail is inserted in the holes outside the hub. This holds the hub in place, but still allows freedom of movement.”

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