Dome home

The Katner’s dome home in Illinois that was recently remodeled and restored to its glory. (Ben & Ari Katner)


Illinois dome home remodeled mostly by hand

When Ben Katner and his wife Ari bought their Illinois Monolithic Dome home in 2010, they knew it wasn’t completely up to their standards. Now eight years later, they are remodeling to make the home as they would like it.

The home was built in 2005 by a builder who attended a Monolithic dome builder workshop. This individual had difficulty obtaining financing for their project and it was lost to the bank. The home was finished in a hurry, that the builder “kind of slapped some things together, literally,” Katner said. Ben and Ari bought the home from someone who was flipping it.

Their journey to buying the home also led to difficulties securing financing for the home. They were eventually able to get it through a local credit union. As for their reasons for buying the home? “We kind of bought it for the property,” Ben said. The family has horses and wanted room for their animals. “We’ve always been interested in alternative housing,” Ben recalled, however they were not aware of Monolithic Domes at the time.

As for the remodel and repairs needed at the time of purchase, “when we bought it we knew we wanted to remodel it,” said Ben. After five years of living in the home, they knew it was time and realized they could get more from the space. There were some things they wanted and other things about the house they were tired of. Plans were drawn up in the winter of 2015 and the remodel got off and running.

The family bought a 38’ travel trailer in March 2016 to live in while the home was remodeled. It was parked by the garage and they used the garage as the living room. The family lived in that arrangement from March 1st until December 1st of 2016.

To get started, Ben said that “basically in March I started dismantling the house” until it was down to the dome structure. One thing he worked on was the shotcrete, which according to him was not finished very well. He spent two months resurfacing the dome, which is a 50’ diameter oblate elipse, by hand and used 220 bags of 90-minute setting compound and 80 buckets of joint compound.

He also ground the floors and reframed the window jams, which he did by hand. “I pretty much did everything myself except for electrical, plumbing, and HVAC,” Ben said. He also built curved cabinets for some of the rooms. All of this has been done with 90 hour weeks. “It was a big project,” Ben stated.

The family moved into Ben’s parents’ house for the winter, and then were able to move back into the house in April 2017. Now, he’s just working on non-essential finishing touches. “We’re still struggling with the HVAC," he said, which is he is now redoing himself. The windows are bringing in water, which he is currently working on fixing. “It’s still an uphill battle but we’re committed to it,” he stated.

During the first five years the family lived in the home, they heated the home with a forced air furnace, even though the dome was equipped with radiant tubes in the slab. During the remodel, they installed a high-efficiency propane condensate boiler to heat both the radiant floors and domestic water.

All the ceilings were framed at 7’6”, rather than 8’, and used 2” x 6” joists, rather than 2” x 8”, in the upstairs floors. This created more storage space around the perimeter and the feeling of a full second story even though the dome is only about 16’ tall.

According to what they know, this home is the first Monolithic Dome home built in Illinois. It has 1,900 square feet as well as a loft, with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The property has 3.3 acres, which is plenty of room for the family’s horses.

Two key design changes that Ben stated made a huge difference were moving all the bedroom closets away from the dome and into an interior framed wall, creating a standard closet shape. The other was moving the staircase into the center of the dome, giving adequate headroom at the top of the stairs.

Overall, Ben and his family are pleased with the home and how the remodel is turning out. “We were able to get everything in here and make it all work together,” he reported. “We’ve had a really good response to the design.”

Kitchen before remodel

The kitchen in the home before the remodel. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Original shotcrete

The original shotcrete finish of the dome, which Ben Katner fixed during the remodel. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Reframing

Starting out the reframing during the remodel. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Framing upstairs

The upstairs during framing. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Dome

The structure of the home when it was dismantled down to the dome during the remodel. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Curved cabinets

Some of the curved cabinets in the great room built by Ben Katner. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Office nook

The great room in the home, with the office nook off the kitchen. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Great room

The great room in the home. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Kitchen and bar

The kitchen and bar in the home. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Kitchen sink

The kitchen sink. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Kitchen

A close-up view of the kitchen and bar (Ben & Ari Katner)

Kitchen

More of the kitchen. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Laundry room

The laundry room of the home. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Hallway

A hallway in the home. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Bathroom

The main bathroom in the home. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Master bathroom

The master bathroom of the home. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Master bedroom

The master bedroom. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Shower

The shower in the master bathroom. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Pet bath

A bath for pets. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Stairwell

The stairwell in the home. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Bedroom

The upstairs bedroom. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Upstairs landing

The upstairs landing area with the window. (Ben & Ari Katner)

Upstairs

A view of the stairwell from the upstairs. (Ben & Ari Katner)