Dome Home Construction Cost Guide

This estimating guide has been prepared by Natural Spaces Domes, Inc. for the would-be dome builder, as an effort to give some help in figuring the rough costs one could expect to pay for a finished dome, built on an existing prepared lot. Many of the inquiries we receive have to do with various degrees of owner-participation in the actual construction and with various levels of finished quality. We have prepared the following to help address these variables. It must be stressed that these figures are only rough guidelines; actual costs will vary with numerous other factors. To obtain a total, multiply the gross building square feet on all floors by the figures below – which the calculator box does automatically.

Quality Level Licensed Contractor Owner Contractor Owner Finished Owner Built
$100–135/Sq Ft
$80–100/Sq Ft
$70–85/Sq Ft
$60–75/Sq Ft
$115–150/Sq Ft
$90–120/Sq Ft
$80–100/Sq Ft
$70–85/Sq Ft
$135–175/Sq Ft
$110–150/Sq Ft
$95–125/Sq Ft
$85–110/Sq Ft

The terms and categories used above are defined below.

The cost range shown above relates to 3 main factors:

1.) Lower Levels/Basements: If you are building a lower level or basement and it will be competely open and unfinished, you can use the lower cost figure shown in the cost range. This is assuming you have entered the total gross square feet for the lower level/basement. Realize unfinished lower floors may be cheaper space, but they still have to be insulated, totally waterproofed, are part of the heating and cooling space, need lighting and outlets, and are part of the air to air HRV/ERV exchanger.

2.) Kitchens : Kitchens are the biggest variable in terms of costs related to cabinets, countertops, and appliances. A kitchen stove could be $500 or it could be $15,000. Countertops could be laminate and cost $1000 or they could be slate or taconite and cost $20,000 – for the same kitchen.

3.) Bathrooms : The same type of comments mentioned above for kitchens apply to bathroom. Their finishes and fixtures cost varies wildly.

Definition of Builder

LICENSED CONTRACTOR built homes are the customary built-from-plans dwelling in which the owner formally contracts with the builder to deliver a specified home for a specified price. The owner does not become involved in the building process except for making decisions on the allowances and options of the contract. The owner purchases the home “turn-key” – that is completely finished.

OWNER-CONTRACTOR built homes are by-and-large the same as those built by a licensed contractor, except that the owner himself does his own financial planning, materials purchasing, scheduling, arranging for subcontractors, and dealing with building departments concerning codes, fees and permits. Similar to many licensed contractors, the owner-contractor does no actual labor himself. Barring serious mistakes and setbacks, the owner-contractor might expect to save 10-20% off the total cost of the home.

OWNER-FINISHED homes are owner-contracted homes in which the owner becomes directly involved in the construction labor. Often, this owner subcontracts the more difficult aspects of the construction, and does the rest himself. The savings on such a home might be as high as 20-30%, though the project becomes a full time occupation and requires a great deal of skill and patience.

OWNER-BUILT homes offer the greatest amount of savings, but requires the greatest degree of skill, time and risk. The owner-builder does all of the work, except for specialized sub-contractors/finish tradesmen. Only the person with significant building experience should consider this approach to home-building. Many lending institutions are not willing to risk loans to owner builders without a higher dollar investment by the owner or by providing a loan for less than 50% of the value. Some lenders will require the owner-builder to hire a professional project manager or work under a licensed contractor. Owner builders can expect to save 30% to 50%.

Definition of Quality Level

‘LEVEL A’ dome is a standard, medium-quality house comparable to custom tract houses built everywhere, consisting of all component parts and minimal custom crafting. Typically, this dome sits on a single-level slab or perimeter wall foundation, has a basic staircase leading to open loft upper floor area with cathedral ceilings. It may have textured plywood siding, is insulated to R-44, includes standard sized double-pane windows with low “E” coating and is roofed with 30-year shingles. The dome interior triangles are spruce wood. The interior walls are sheet rock, floors are covered in carpet and linoleum, cabinetry is prefabricated, plumbing and electrical fixtures are medium quality, and interior doors and trim are embossed or prefinished wood. Kitchen is small and there may be a total of 1 to 1 1/2 bathrooms.

‘LEVEL B’ dome is a semi-custom, medium to high quality home constructed with component parts and some custom modifications and individual design options. Typically, this dome sits on a slab or perimeter wall foundation and may have extensions with cathedral ceilings and a custom staircase leading to a bedroom/bath second floor level. Additional and larger skylights cast natural light on wood accents. Roofing is higher grade asphalt shingles 40-year and siding is beveled or channel cedar; a moderate sized cedar or treated deck may be found off a sliding glass door. 18″ walls are insulated above code to R-55 and windows are double insulated thermopane with low “E” coating, some in custom shapes. The dome interior triangles are spruce wood with a custom finish. Interior finishings may include feature lighting fixtures, wood and tile floor coverings, energy efficient fireplace, and quality plumbing fixtures. Interior doors and trim are of natural-grain hardwood. The kitchen is larger and bathrooms total 1 1/2 to 2.

‘LEVEL C’ dome is a custom, individually designed home with fewer prefabricated components, craftsman quality finishing work and special order fixtures. Often, this dome sits on a stepped-slab or perimeter wall foundation with split-level entry. Larger,custom-designed extensions with several sliding glass doorways and trapezoidal fixed-glass windows are common; exterior decks are spacious and may be multi-leveled. Roofing is typically of heavier grade 50 year material and siding is of channel or tongue & groove cedar. Windows may be triple-insulated thermopane, with low “E” coating, gas-filled and custom shaped glass; insulation is R-55 or R-66. A custom metal or wooden staircase leads to an expansive loft (often a Master Suite) with several skylights; the dome interior triangles may be spruce, cedar or other quality wood, walls are finished sheet rock with wood paneling and custom textured accents. Interior doors and trim may be of oak; floors are stained/sealed concrete, hardwood and tile. Cabinetry is custom-made; special plumbing and lighting fixtures are common, and special-function appliances may be included. The kitchen is much larger, bathrooms are larger, more custom in design and total 2 to 3.

These cost estimates are rough estimates only. In order to define the costs on your particular dome we need you to send or fax us the sketch of your proposed dome plan. We will send you a drawing cost estimate and a work authorization form. Sign and send that back along with a deposit of $250. We will do preliminary floor plans for you and from that we will be able to do an 11-page cost analysis worksheet we call our MacDome Budget (see below). This MacDome budget will cost you $250 – $400 depending on the size and complexity of your dome and will give you a complete estimate of your entire project. Write or call for a blank copy of our MacDome Budget

MacDome Budget

Natural Spaces Domes can provide a complete itemized cost estimate of your entire project. It is an 11 page worksheet with over 475 itemized lines utilizing our Macintosh computer and an Excel spreadsheet. We estimate both materials and labor (separate) for everything and then show you square footage cost estimates. Prices for material and labor will vary depending on location and can be easily accommodated.

       MacDome Budget costs depend on complexity of the project: $450 – $900

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