Geodesic domes are strong, geometric structures made up of a wood or metal frame and a covering. They come in all sizes, and can be built by professionals or nonprofessionals. Depending on its covering, a dome can withstand different amounts of weathering and be permanent or mobile. Dome coverings vary greatly.
Canvas is a heavy woven cloth made out of acrylic or cotton. It is naturally waterproof because it is so tightly woven that when wet, its fibers expand enough to impede the flow of water. However, when making it into a dome covering, you should use an extra layer of waterproofing. In the most advanced canvas dome coverings, the canvas is sewn to fit the dome perfectly, and clear plastic might be integrated for doors and windows. You can even form a chimney out of canvas.
Made of silk or nylon, the already dome-shaped parachute is an attractive dome covering solution. It isn’t particularly sturdy or weatherproof, though, and is likely to catch the wind in an undesirable manner.
A tarp is a large sheet of woven or thin plastic. It is a do-it-yourself, temporary solution for covering small domes. Throw a large tarp over the dome, and either stake it out using the grommets sometimes built into the tarp or weigh it down on the edges around the dome with rocks or heavy objects.
PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a strong, versatile plastic that can be made into large sheets. When used as a dome covering, many triangles of PVC sheet are cut to fit the size of the dome’s many triangular sides. You then stitch the pieces together in the shape of the dome or weld the triangles together with more PVC. The latter method is more watertight. Additionally, an inner PVC liner can be shaped for aesthetic purposes or to contain a layer of insulation.
Tyvek is an inexpensive, relatively weatherproof sheet of densely packed polyethylene fibers. It is sold in rolls. It can be turned into a fitted dome covering, like the PVC, or a loose covering, like the plain tarp.
Expanded polyurethane is an expanding foam spray-on insulation. However, it dries so hard that it can become a suitable permanent dome covering. To install it, first place some kind of cloth covering over the frame of dome. Then cover the cloth with metal mesh. The mesh will provide a structure for the polyurethane foam to cling to, much like rebar in a concrete structure. Finally, once the polyurethane is dry, it should be treated or painted to protect it from the elements.
It is possible to use triangular plastic or metal pieces cut to be just larger than the dome’s triangles to create a waterproof shingling on the outside of the dome.
Netting comes in a variety of textures and can be used to cover a dome that doesn’t need to be waterproof. Throw the netting over the frame, and tie it down to the frame’s beams. Use a small weave to keep out mosquitoes or a large weave if you are housing animals such as chickens.
Living walls take netting one step further. Once you have large-weave netting in place, you can start growing vines and wandering shrubs around the outside edges of the dome. Try a mix of different plants, including flowering plants, for an exciting effect. If they don’t cling to the netting on their own, you can help them along with a bit of twine. Don’t forget to water your living wall if you live in a dry place.
Concrete is a much-used solution for a permanent geodesic dome covering. If you first cover the dome frame with wood, you can then use a spray-on concrete. You can also build the dome out of prefabricated concrete triangles reinforced with steel, cementing between the seams. Concrete is strong and a good insulator. It is also weather and insect proof.
Conventional Siding and Roofing
There is conventional siding and roofing for a dome, which is usually used on wood-frame geodesic domes. However, it is difficult to install traditional roofing on a dome yourself because of its odd angles.