How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse

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How to build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

When it comes to gardening in colder climates, a greenhouse is almost a must have. It extends the growing season and gives the plants a lot more heat. With a greenhouse, we can actually pick ripe tomatoes here and grow some plants that we would not be able to without one. A greenhouse can also be a great place to hang out on those cool spring days and summer nights. When we started to look out for one to build, our expectations were very high. In a northern garden we have to deal with frost, nasty winds and hail, and also loads of snow in the winter. Our days in spring and fall don’t have much direct sunlight so we need to catch every sunbeam we can. Plus, we live in town and the greenhouse in our small back yard needed to be somehow catchy. In our research we came across the GeoDome greenhouse:

Very unique, lightweight structure
Stable in wind and under snow
Optimal light absorption
Has the most growing ground space
A unique hang-out place
An eye catcher

The GeoDome greenhouse seemed to be just what we were looking for. Since there is no foundation and this structure can be portable or temporary, we did not need any permits and would be able to take it with us if we would move. So it’s all good! But … How to build a GeoDome greenhouse?

What materials to use? What plan to go by? What tools needed? How to do the cutting? How to assemble the GeoDome? How to cover the GeoDome?

We looked at dozens of how-to instructions and even bought a pricy e-Book (with very little value). But all together it helped us build the GeoDome we have and love. Thanks to my dear husband, who did all the researching and building.

Here we share our GeoDome building experience for anyone who wants to build a GeoDome

Geo-Dome

Materials to use

-Wood. We used untreated spruce lumber, and stained it before assembling. You could also use Douglas Fir which is more durable.
- Screws, about a pound
- Covering. We used greenhouse plastic that was given to us from a commercial greenhouse. Plastic from a commercial greenhouse can be easily reused on a dome, since there is not so much pressure on it, and it can last another 3-5 years. You can also cover the dome with shrink foil, polycarbonate, or bubble Solawrap™ foil.
- Automatic window openers and hinges for the door and the windows.

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

GeoDome Greenhouse plans

Acidome is one of the best Geodome calculators we were able to find on the internet. Although it’s in Russian it can be translated using Google Translate at the top of the page. The Geodesic frequency for a Dome can be 2V, 3V, 4V. A smaller dome can have a lower frequency; for our 18′ dome we chose the 3V frequency. Anything bigger then 18′ should be 4V. Keep also in mind that whatever the width of dome is, it will be half that in height. For example, our 18′ dome is 9′ high plus the 1′ pony wall.

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

The challenge with a 3V Dome is that the red struts at the bottom of the dome as shown above are 2.777% longer then all other red struts. Most plans on the internet do not do this little adjustment and end up with an uneven bottom. Sure, it is possible to level the foundation, but much easier to adjust the length of the 10 red struts on the bottom, always in between the pentagons. Why did we go with 3V even though it is the more complicated version? We had a spot for an 18′ dome. To have that size in 2V would make the triangles too big and too small with 4V. If you want to avoid the problem of leveling in a 3V dome and have the space, go with a bigger size in 4V frequency! Once we had the plan, we printed it out in color so it was helpful on the job site.

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

Tools needed

- measuring tape
- square
- pencil
- safety glasses
- hearing protection
- drill
- radial arm saw or dual bevel miter saw
- level

Cutting the struts

First we had to cut the 2x6s to 2″ wide struts. Your lumber store might be willing to do this for you. Ideally, a radial arm saw is preferred because it can make very precise cuts, even compound cuts for each strut. We used a miter saw with the stops removed and it also did a good job – precision is key with timber struts. And because precision is important to us we went with the metric system. Here’s the link for our dome size: Acidome.ru How to use the Acidome.ru calculator?

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

  1. Alphabetic index of the struts
  2. Number of struts of this type
  3. The numeric designation size vertex to which this edge rests on this end
  4. The value of a flat angle to the plane of the outer edge
  5. The value of the dihedral angle between the outer plane of the edge and the plane of the cut

Here’s a graphic of the end of a strut in 3D.

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

Finished struts:

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

Assemble the GeoDome Greenhouse

First we built a 1 foot high pony wall. With a pony wall you will gain some height, especially for a small dome it can be very important. Some users make a pony wall up to 3 feet high.

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

Now we started assembling the dome. It’s a bit like playing Lego on a bigger scale, following the plan. The struts are all joined using a miter joint and are held in place by screws as indicated on the graphic below. We recommend to pre-drill all the holes so the wood does not split.

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

We assembled the top off the dome separately and installed it as one piece. It was a bit heavy and challenging.

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

Covering the GeoDome Greehouse

Covering a dome can be tricky because of the shape. Cutting the plastic for 3 facets in a row worked the best. Acidome also calculates nicely the size of the facets, which is especially important for more valuable coverings. With our free plastic cover we simply laid the struts on the plastic and cut the 2-3 facets approximately. Any overlaps we trimmed with a utility knife.

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

First we stapled the plastic to the struts and then used the 1 cm planks to hold it in place which also pointed out the structure of the GeoDome even more. We like it :). You can also see in the picture how sturdy the structure is! Read more about covering the GeoDome Greenhouse.

Door and Windows

We built the door right into a pentagon, as you see in the picture it has two vertical struts as door posts. We really like it that way. It does not interrupt the shape of the dome, which is perfect especially in winter with all the snow that just slides off the dome. It also allows us access to the dome even with snow still on the ground, and in the summer it gives us an additional opening at the bottom even if we have to close the door because of severe weather which is a bonus, too.

How to Build a GeoDome Greenhouse - Northern Homestead

Our dome has two windows, both with Automatic Greenhouse Window Opener. However, if not using a cooling system, two windows are not enough. We built the door and the windows from the same struts as the structure and covered them with plastic.

Read more about the GeoDome Greenhouse here.

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow! This looks amazing! We aren’t very handy around our house, unfortunately, but I still dream of putting together some kind of greenhouse someday. I never thought of making a dome-shaped structure for one!

  2. Anonymous says

    You know, I can not thank you enough for sharing this information. This is literally a gift to me; since you posted this on the exact same day as my birth day! I believe I know of the “pricey” e-book you mentioned and my gut had told me to wait and keep looking for the info. I needed to make this “bio-dome”. Again, thank you. I would like to share this with others if you do not mind.

  3. says

    hi i cant figure out how to use the acidome web site i got all my lengths for my struts all ready cut but i need to find what degree angles i cut them at. and i cant seem to see it on acidome? please help i have been researching the internet for two weeks and i keep finding different answers and on your pictures i cant see what the numbers where.

    • Jakob says

      Hi Felicia, please have a close look @ the forth section of the post, particularly below the graphic ‘How to use the Acidome.ru calculator’. This graphic shows an example of strut on Acidome.ru. The various numbers on the pic have an explanation below it. What you need to pay attention to are the #4 and #5:
      4. The value of a flat angle to the plane of the outer edge.
      5. The value of the dihedral angle between the outer plane of the edge and the plane of the cut.

      The key word is ‘the dihedral angle’. Maybe this link to a sample pic will be helpful to see what it means: ” target=”_blank”>scale_strutangle In that graphic are shown dihedral angles between the planes with one common edge.

    • says

      It totally depends what you cover it with. A single layer of greenhouse plastic poly keeps it 4 degrees warmer at night than the outside temperature. You also can cover the dome with double layer plastic poly filled with air or double walled polycarbonate panels which would increase the protection.

  4. Debbie says

    Just amazing…! Thanks so much for sharing your geo- greenhouse with us!
    It looks right at home in your backyard homestead… BTW…How fare north are you?
    Deb

    • says

      It totally depends where you are. Plus some herbs (like oregano, or thyme) survive even our Canadian winters, they do not need a greenhouse but would be green all winter long if you had one.

  5. says

    Thank you for sharing these instructions. I’ve moved from southern California, to the Great Northwest, and honestly, the only thing I miss are the citrus and avocado trees. They would never survive a harsh winter here. I do miss having potted dwarf citrus trees year round on the patio. My hope is to build a greenhouse that will help (1 each) dwarf orange, grapefruit, lemon and a avocado trees happily survive & thrive, to bring homegrown organic fruits from garden, to kitchen.

  6. Dahlia Corella says

    What I would like to know is if this project could work with the stacks of pallets that I have? I have a huge collection of pallets just waiting for me to “release” the wood.

    • says

      As long as the quality of the lumber is good enough, the origin of it does not matter. Just make sure the struts don’t have cracks or fractures.

  7. says

    Beautiful dome, I really like the way you have jointed the struts direct rather than use connectors. I have not made a 4v dome yet and may well use your plans for one. I hope you don’t mind but I have put a picture of it up at my ‘make a greenhouse’ website – with a link back to you of course.

  8. Rick Hantz says

    My original 3 freq greenhouse was one more full level of triangles taller.
    I then went to a 2 freq 8′ radius half sphere, which is pretty efficient for a small greenhouse. All struts were made from 2×2 by 8 or 2x2x10 stock, with almost no wastage.
    I built a square, vertical doorframe for a 36′ wide aluminum storm door where a pent hub would normally be.
    Also, use white, water base stain –any oil base or dark stain eats plastic.

  9. Ivan says

    Hi, friends!
    how Cutting the struts radial arm sow ??? 55 degrees for example.. it is very accuracy !!
    Who already made it ?
    usually saw has a fixed angle 45 , 90 , 30

    • Jakob says

      Hi Ivan, radial arm saw can cut in various angles, at least mine does. Even though the dome as described in the post I cut with a dual bevel miter saw. Jakob.

    • Douglas says

      Kafir, GrowingSpaces, is one place to look for a kit for a geodesic dome greenhouse. We have a 26 footer from Growing Spaces with polycarbonate glazing as described by Mary below (#19), and it uses hub connectors rather than detailed angle cuts on the struts. Our dome is on a 2 foot kneewall so the center height is 15 feet. Right now it is snowing pretty hard, yet the glazing holds the heat well enough so that, even with the woodstove going, it still retains the snow. Another advantage of the polycarbonate glazing is that when I am in my 70s I won’t have to be up there replacing plastic film. I used aluminum strips to cover the junctions between panels so I won’t have to replace tape over the gap between glazing panels. Since I expect the dome to last a couple of decades, at least (it’s 6 years old now), I want the long term maintenance at a minimum.

  10. Mary says

    I have an 18 footer that was a kit from Growing Spaces in Colorado. It has 5 layer polycarbonate facets. It stays about 20 degrees warmer than outside. I am in zone 3 and I grow amazing tomatoes in it. In fact we just finished eating the last ones that we brought in the house to ripen. I will start new plants on March 1 to go out by the end of the month.

    • Douglas says

      Mary, do you have issues with mildew due to high moisture in your dome? Mildew has been the bane for us with tomatoes. On the other hand pepper plants and eggplant grow enormous plants that seem to gush fruits. We have greens growing now, with fresh plantings of peas and beans yesterday.

  11. Richard Wakefield says

    I have a geodome, bought from Growing Spaces. For it to be year round it must have an insulated foundation, down 4 ft. It also needs some kind of heater for cold winter nights. I use propane wall heater. With this cold winter it’s consuming a lot of fuel. During the day, as long as there is sun, it will heat itself between 20C and 30C in February. But this winter hasnt seen much sun at all so far.

    • Douglas says

      I have a dome from Growing Spaces as well, in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts and do not find that a 4 foot frost wall is necessary here. We have a woodstove to heat in the winter, but even when left unheated it did not get cold enough to kill the citrus trees. We have a perimeter bed which may help keep out the frost. This winter a lot of wood is being burned, but then there are the mustard greens and chard to consider… and the limes. The dome’s 2 foot kneewall is on a ring of pea-stone on the ground with no other foundation.

  12. Jim says

    Thanks for sharing your dome experience – I’m inspired!

    Can you advise on the tradeoff between 5/12 Sphere with pony wall and 7/12 sphere without?

    Also what about all the options on the dome design site? How to choose to simplify construction?

    Thanks

    Jim in South Carolina

    • Jakob says

      Glad to inspire you, Jim.
      Are you asking about the tradeoff on the height? I’m not sure if there is any tradeoff, it all depends on the height of the pony wall and the difference between 5/12 sphere or 7/12. It all comes down to the height you want your dome to have.
      Can you elaborate on the other questions?
      Jakob

      • Jim says

        Thanks for your reply Jakob.

        I am not clear on the complexity of construction between pony wall vs. 1/6 more dome. Your pony wall is 1 ft, but could be taller, matching the height of the 7/12 dome. Also the extra height will make construction more difficult. I’m building 1/10 scale models of the 5/12 and 7/12 domes to get an idea of the visual difference. If you can email me I’ll send you photos.

        Thanks

        Jim

        • Jakob says

          Are you going to have raised beds along the wall? If yes, then a pony wall would be already a part of the bed. If you are putting the plants into the ground and need more height then it would be easier to go with 7/12.

          You can send the pics to anna at northernhomestead.com

          Happy ‘GeoDoming’,

          Jakob

      • Jim says

        Hi Jacob,

        Can you explain the 82.8° angle that is not referenced in the first illustration in “Cutting the struts”?

        Also, you say “A smaller dome can have a lower frequency; for our 18′ dome we chose the 3V frequency. Anything bigger then 18′ should be 4V.” Is that recommendation structural or to keep the triangles less than 4ft in case polycarb panels are used to cover?

        Thanks

        Jim

        • Jakob says

          Hi Jim,

          you can ignore the 82.8° angle as it will be the angle between the outer plane and the edge resulting from the both cuts.

          The recommendation for a certain frequency is only to keep the triangles small enough for the panels.

          Jakob

  13. says

    Hi! Greetings from Azores! I want to build a greenhouse just like yours! The problem here is the wind and I suppose this is the best shape, wouldn’t it be? Could you tell me if the dome calculator gives exact number of parts to use? Thank you!

  14. says

    This is very attractive. Has it stood up well against the wind and hail? Those are things we would have to deal with here in Oklahoma as well. Thank you for sharing this at the HomeAcre Hop; I hope you’ll join us again this Thursday.

  15. says

    Want one so bad I can TASTE IT! I know Eddie could build this! Must talk to him. I think we could do this by the end of the summer, no problem. Pinned it for him. Thanks!

  16. Niels says

    Anna, Jakob,

    Congrats with the amazing greenhouse. We were also thinking of building one and are going true the same process as you did: checking plans, tutorials etc.

    If I’m correct you used 5cmX5cm wood, right? Does that feel sturdy enough to you?

    The only thing i don’t get in the plans are the L 80 something ° angles. Could you explain that to me a bit clearer?

    Anyway, amazing greenhouse you have!

    Niels
    Belgium

    • Jakob says

      Niels,

      the size of the struts we used to build this dome is 5cmX5cm, correct, and it was more than sturdy enough for this dome.

      The angle of L 82.3° would be the angle between the hard face/panel in relation to the longitudinal cross section of the strut. You find those numbers again in the drawings of the panels. Those angles matter when you taper the top surface of the struts from the center line toward the outer edge.

      Thanks,
      Jakob

      • Niels says

        Jakob,

        Thanks for your fast reply. I decided to move on to cutting the struts. It’s working fine for the moment.
        I was wondering if you changed the angles on the 10 A struts that you elarged with 2,77 %. Did you cut the angles exactly the same and just made it longer? Did that work out wel during the assembly?

        Thanks

        Niels

    • says

      Just read the post careful, and follow the links. You should find everything to build one. Some comments are helpful too. Good Luck!

  17. Lonnie says

    1st off thanks for this info. I’ve been looking into this for some time now. My question is at what angle do you cut for the top pony wall? I cant seem to find it for sure anywhere. I am thinking of building that part with 2x4s 2ft high. I think I have all the struts figured out from the postings.

    • Jakob says

      It is 360/25/2=7.2 Total is always 360. We have 25 joints, and each joint has two struts joining. Hope this helps. Congrats on building a dome!

      • Lonnie says

        I thought it did have to be divided by the number of joints and degrees. It just helps when you get an ok on things like this. I cant wait to get started on this project. Im hoping to use solar to help heat it in the colder months. An old friend of mine made solar heaters some years back so I have an idea of how to put those together. The plan is to keep this as a stand alone off the grid project. Thanks for the help.

  18. Taylor says

    hey, great job, i was wondering how long the struts you used are or how you can read it on the acidome website?

  19. Oliver Hayward says

    Hello,

    I am trying to build one of these, with some modifications. I have a compound miter saw, but am completely clueless with how to cut the struts. I have been using acidome, but i do not understand how the numbers play into the way I am supposed to adjust the saw. Im sorry but any help would be greatly appreciated. I am trying to make a 2.75 radius 3V geodome (5/12) with 2×2′s, with a cone joint. (the beams are actually 1.5 in by 1.5 in.)

    • Jakob says

      Oliver, when I started to cut the struts I had similar feelings and few of the struts had to be cut twice. I would encourage you to start with some test cuts till you get the desired results. I’m not a woodworker by profession but I like to work with wood for a change from my IT work. Just don’t be afraid to start doing it!
      Jakob

  20. soledad ronco says

    Greetings from your western neighbours in Prince George!
    Just a quick question, when you say “automatic windows,” do you mean you have them rigged to a thermometer and can tell them what temperature to open and close at?! If so….what did you use for that? I’ve been looking for exactly that sort of thing. Also hoping to measure solar radiation too…

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