Hiring Contractors | AiDomes

This article contains Construction Cost Estimate Blank Form

Bob applying final layer of concrete in the seams.

Fiber concrete being applied in the seams between the prefabricated panels of a 22′ dome.

The following blank form is provided for you to fill out as you determine your material and labor costs for your dome kit assembly and finishing. Because labor costs and materials cost vary in the USA, Ai cannot estimate your costs. However the web site link below can be used to estimate finishing costs for your area.

Free Web Site To Calculate Finishing Costs For Your Area

To view information on a free web site where you can look up finishing costs for a conventional home in your state and area, click on Calculating Square Footage Costs. This article also includes  a Construction Cost Estimate Report from building-cost  for a 1200 sq.ft. home in Melbourne, Florida.

If you build an American Ingenuity dome using one of our stock plans, click on Plans & Kit Sale Prices to view regular and sale pricing on the building plans and the kit  w’ building options pricing or each stock plan.

The American Ingenuity dome kits can be assembled by owner builders.  If you choose to use the Kit Assembly Consultant to supervise the assembly of your dome kit, click on Kit Consultant/Specialist for approximately labor costs to assemble the dome shell kit. The rest of the categories are generally the same costs whether it is a dome or a conventional house. To learn about Kit Assembly & see pictures, view Assembly and Construction Overview.

The finished costs on American Ingenuity concrete domes depends so much on where you live and what labor costs are for your area. You can ask at your local hardware store or ask a local contractor what the finished price per square foot is running for a conventional house in the neighborhood you plan to build in. That is what it will cost to finish the domes (if you do no labor yourselves), because everything in the interior is the same whether it is a conventional box house or a round house: foundation, plumbing, electrical, second floor joists, framing, lighting fixtures, bath room fixtures, kitchen appliances, flooring, kitchen cabinets, windows and doors, etc. To learn more click on Finished Cost.

To View three charts listing pricing for items purchased from Ai
for three dome kits Ai recently shipped, click on Pricing Charts

Is the American Ingenuity (Ai) steel reinforced concrete geodesic dome kit  less expensive than the materials cost for the exterior walls and roof of a conventional house or wood dome or log cabin or monolithic concrete dome?   Yes.   American Ingenuity’s dome shell kit price (not the finished home cost) is about one third to one half less in cost than what the materials cost for the exterior walls and roof of a wood dome, gunited concrete dome or conventional house (exterior walls, roof trusses, plywood, tar paper, shingles, 3 1/2″ thick insulation, siding, soffits, gutters, drywall for exterior walls & the ceiling, etc.).

Ai thinks the only big bargain you will receive is its dome building kit, which costs about one third to one half less than other building kits or materials to build the exterior walls and roof of a conventional house, wooden dome or sprayed concrete dome. And with the American Ingenuity Dome you end up with more….super-energy efficiency, super-strength, noncombustible concrete exterior and  low exterior maintenance home.

To view floor plan layouts for each of American Ingenuity’s ten dome kit sizes, click on Stock Plans.   On each plan is a to-scale ruler. When you print out the plan, cut out the ruler and use it to measure length and width of rooms and compare those room dimensions to the rooms you currently live in. You know whether you want your kitchen, living room or bedroom to be larger or smaller than your current house or apartment.  This will help you figure out what size dome will fit your needs. The scale is 1/10″ equals one foot.

No question is too small,  please call our office at 321-639-8777.  Monday – Friday 9-5 eastern time. 

To view info about financing, please click on  Financing Booklet.

Domes are measured by feet in diameter. Refer to Specifications to see possible square footages by floor.

  • A 15′ and 18′ Tiny Kits are one bedroom one bath size.
  • A 22′ can be a one car garage or a one bedroom/one bath home.
  • A 27′ or 30′ can be a two car garage or a one bedroom/one bath home.
  • A 34′ is a two bedroom, two bath. (The 34′ was a little too small so Ai designed a 36′ dome.
  • A 36′ is a two bedroom, two bath.
  • A 40′ is a three bedroom, two bath.
  • A 45′ is a four bedroom, three bath.
  • A 48′ can be a four or five bedroom home with three to four baths.

Calculating Finished Cost

Please compare apples to apples when trying to calculate finished cost of an American Ingenuity dome.  A conventional house would need walls greater than 2×10 with exterior reinforced with rebar and super thick concrete and still not come close to the advantages of an American Ingenuity dome.  The Ai dome should cost about the same price per square foot to build as a conventional house but you receive more….greater energy efficiency, greater strength, noncombustible concrete exterior.  To view Ai dome advantages, click on Advantage Summary.

When you factor in the storm resistance and energy efficiency, a traditional home would need to have 11″ of insulation requiring over 10″ thick insulated walls (this is with our standard 7″ EPS R-28 value insulation) as well as additional roof strapping, rebar and concrete against storms, and still not be equal to one our structure’s insulation and strength. So please compare apples to apples! Our kit comes with all the interior shell 1/2″ gypsum drywall installed, all the R28 insulation installed and 80% of the finished roof….and no wood to interrupt the insulation to rot, burn or be eaten by termites.  No shingles to blow off in high winds. Exterior concrete is primed and painted.

Comparing Apples to Apples When Researching Types of Housing

Material cost is only half of the equation, labor costs often eat up a large chunk of a construction budget. American Ingenuity’s panelized system has proven to save our clients labor time, as well as a reduction in material waste and material costs. That is why when comparing geodesic companies, conventional construction, etc. it is important to compare apples to apples, not just kit cost. The process of stacking the American Ingenuity prefab panels, overlapping/locking the steel mesh of adjacent panels and filling the seams with special fiber concrete, produces the structural components of the home, the finished concrete surface, installs all the insulation and all the dome shell 1/2″ drywall. No need for material and labor costs to install exterior framing, plywood, tar paper, shingles or interior shell insulation and shell drywall.

Ai is committed to providing you with the best design, energy efficiency, and durability with our panelized system for geodesic concrete homes for an affordable price.

Q: What are the American Ingenuity triangular and rectangular shaped panels made from?

A: Center core of 7″ rigid, nontoxic Expanded Polystyrene R-28 Insulation (not Styrofoam), exterior is three quarter inch (¾”)  fiber concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh with interior of 1/2″ Georgia-Pacific DensArmor Plus High-Performance gypsum drywall (which is moisture resistant, mold resistant gypsum and noncombustible). The steel mesh extends out all sides of the prefab panels. When two panels are set side by side, the steel mesh overlaps the mesh of the adjacent panel and is locked with “C” rings. Special fiber concrete is mixed on site and hand troweled in the seam areas in two applications — bonding agent is applied between the two layers. The seam areas average 2″ thick concrete.

Ai wants the concrete that is mixed on site to have the same properties as the concrete we manufacture and apply to your prefab panels. As a result we ship the same  fibers, liquid admixtures and bonding agent with your kit and supply a concrete mix recipe in the building plans and in the Assembly Manual.

When you compare other companies dome kits, please consider the following items:

Q: Does the companies kit have a finished exterior, or do you need to finish with a vapor barrier and either shingles, siding or stucco?
A: Ai’s dome’s exterior is 3/4″ fiber concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh. Only the seams (about 3” deep by 5” wide) between the panels & the entryways & dormers are concreted on site. You do not concrete over the entire shell. After kit assembly the concrete gets primed and painted.

Q: Is the framing of the exterior walls wood or is the exterior of the kit wood, that eventually rots, or termites can eat, or can potentially burn?
A: Ai’s dome prefab panels contain no wood in them making the panels fire resistant. Our domes have survived forest fires. There is no wood in the dome exterior to rot or be eaten by termites. There is no roof or shingles to burn and no roofing to blow off in high winds.

Q:What maintenance is needed for the dome exterior?
A: The entire exterior of the Ai dome shell is covered with a continuous layer of concrete so there is nothing to rot, rust, shrink, warp, or be eaten by termites. Without shingles, gutters, or exterior trim to maintain. It only requires an occasional pressuring washing and painting.

Q: Does the kit contain insulation? What type, and what is the overall R-Value for energy efficiency?
A: Ai’s kit’s riser and triangle panels come with 7″ thick Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) insulation already installed producing an overall R-Value of 28. An option is available for 9″ insulation R-36 value. In addition, our exterior triangle and riser panels have no wood ribs interrupting the insulation resulting in continuous insulation. (Other companies suggest the use of spray foam insulation which is expensive to install, often covers wiring and piping making repairs difficult).

Q: Does the insulation recommended for the shell contain HBCD, TCPP, CFCs and formaldehyde?
A: The EPS insulation that Ai contains none of the above items. It is not Styrofoam. The EPS that Ai utilizes has a flame retardant added to it, therefore the EPS is noncombustible and is protected by the 1/2″ DensArmor drywall which is also non-combustible and provides the Code required 15 minute thermal barrier. EPS when exposed to flame does not produce toxic gases such as Cyanide.

Q: How is the interior of the dome shell finished? Do you have to buy, cut, nail or glue drywall that you have purchased to the interior of the dome shell? Or do you need to spray foam insulation over the entire shell? (Very labor intensive and expensive)
A: Ai’s kits triangle and riser panels come with ½” thick DensArmor (by Georgia Pacific), fiberglass mat on both sides with gypsum that is moisture resistant and mold resistant. During kit assembly rain will not harm the drywall. The drywall is adhered to the EPS with wallboard adhesive. There is no cutting and adhering of the drywall needed for the shell interior. There is no need to spray foam insulation, saving you labor costs, and less product waste. When the kit shell is assembled tape the joints and finish like traditional wallboard. (To blend the seam areas to the drywall, apply joint compound in a skip trowel effect.)

Q: Do their kits come with standard vertical riser panels before the triangle panels slope inward?
A: Ai’s kits come standard with 4′ tall prefab riser panels. This allows for first floor vertical space (8′ headroom on first floor) before the dome panels start to slope in giving you more useable headroom on the second floor. We also offer an option to increase the riser panel height giving you up to 10′ of headroom on the first floor (dependent upon dome diameter size).

Q: Do they offer in house building plan design? Are the plans fully executable, and permit worthy? Do they use a knowledgeable licensed engineer, for design calculations and engineer seal if needed? Can they produce an Energy Report if needed? Is an Assembly Manual provided?
A: Ai’s cad designer works to create a home layout that is unique, whether using existing floor plans or one that is designed to your specifications. Our plans are in full detail (13- 17 sheets), fully executable, and permit worthy. We work with engineers who are knowledgeable about geodesic structures to do specialized load bearing designs and seal our plans (if needed). Ai can provide energy reports if required for permit. Our assembly manual covers in detail the construction process of the dome (the manual is available to view once a kit deposit and order is made.)

Q: Finally, does the other companies back up their product against high winds Tornadoes and Hurricanes?
A: American Ingenuity offers a limited warranty up to a 225 mile an hour hurricane winds, or an F4 tornado, see details on our website.

I hope that when finished comparing our concrete dome home kit against other housing types, you will see that our product is superior, and more cost effective. We look forward to speaking with you, and working with you to provide you a home kit that is safe, secure and energy efficient.



Dome Size 30′ 34′ 40′ 45′ 48′
Material Labor Material Labor Material Labor Material Labor Material Labor
  • Dome Kit w/ Options
  • Dome Kit Assembly
  • Concrete Slab/Foundation
  • Windows: qty. – cost
  • Exterior doors: qty. – cost
  • Insulation: already installed
  • Rough plumbing
  • Rough electrical
  • AC/Heat & Ducting
  • Interior Faming/Joists
  • Stairway
  • Drywall & finish for interior walls
  • Shell Interior finish**
  • Dome Shell Wall Board: already installed
  • Interior doors, trim, finish
  • Painting: int. & ext.
  • Cabinets & vanities
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Electrical fixtures
  • Carpet & flooring
  • Kitchen appliances
Total Material & LaborCost per sq. ft.

** Finishing seams with joint compound and tape and painting a textured paint (paint with sand or vermiculite mixed in it) onto the dome shell wallboard. Or apply joint compound in a skip trowel fashion over the drywall to blend seam areas to the drywall.

These categories do not include costs of land, engineering and permit fees, Florida impact fees, building plans, site preparation, utilities such as water, septic/sewer, electric, etc.

How do you Assure That The Contractor
Pays For The Supplies And Pays The SubContractors?

You need to know about Lien Releases and Mechanics Lien.

Per the book The Complete Idiots Guide to Building Your Own Home.  “What’s a Mechanics Lien? You’re building a house, not a car. So, why should you care about a mechanics lien? Anyone who helps you build your house, investing time and/or money, is considered a mechanic by law. And a lien is a piece of paper that offers your property as security until payment for services is made.

For example, the plumber comes out and puts in all the plumbing and fixtures in your beautiful new house, but you run out of money and can’t pay him. If the plumber was smart, he had you sign a mechanics lien before starting work. He can sue you for the money and force the house (with his plumbing) to be sold to pay him off.

If the lender is smart (and she is), draws may not be paid to the plumber until the bill is submitted along with a lien release. The plumber gets the check and simultaneously releases any rights to sue for the house.

A mechanics lien is a little better than a typical lien (at least for the mechanic) because it says, “Hey, I participated in the construction of this house and should get priority in payment over other types of creditors.” So, who are all these mechanics? You, the lender, the general contractor (if any), subcontractors, suppliers, and —everyone’s favorite—the IRS.

If you sign a mechanics lien, make sure you understand what it’s saying and who gets priority. And make sure, when the work is done, that the contractor signs a lien waiver when the check is disbursed.

Code Red: Your contractor gets the check for the plumber, but doesn’t pay him, so the plumber files a mechanics lien on your house. Ouch! Make sure your contracts cover this potential problem. Alternatively, have the lender or an escrow officer pay the bills and draws to make sure it’s all legal.”

For more information on liens click on: http://www.saroff.com/examples/businessdebt/lien-release.htm

 The following covers Choosing a Contractor to assemble the prefabricated dome kit.
Starting Second Row of Panel Assembly

Starting Second Row of Panel Assembly- 45′ Dome

Due to requests for assistance in locating a local builder to assemble the concrete dome building kit and finish the dome, American Ingenuity (Ai) has added a new service.   Ai offers assistance with finding a contractor in continental USA, for a fee of $100 Ai will contact builders in the area you are considering building.   Once we have 3-4 potential builders/contractors, we will email their contact information.   When Building Plans are purchased, Ai will credit the $100.00 back to you.  We also have an email we send each perspective builder which says they can call us with questions.  The email contains important info about the Aidome building kit and how an independent kit assembly consultant can be hired to supervise the builder’s workers to get the prefabricated panels installed for the exterior dome shell with one layer of concrete in the seams between the panels.  Then the consultant can leave and the builder’s subs (plumbers, electricians, framers, cabinet installers, painters, etc.) finish the interior and prime and paint the exterior concrete.  In the email is a link for the builder to view a sample set of building plans.  For international builder assistance, please call for pricing.

Over 40% of our clients are owner builders and assemble their own concrete shell themselves. The Prefab Kit panels come marked with numbers and letters to match the Assembly Manual that goes with the building kit. The building plans also have a nomenclature sheet showing all panels with all panels numbered and lettered.  If you do not have the time or do not want to assemble the dome shell kit, Ai knows of an independent specialist that will supervise your workers or your contractor’s workers and assemble the shell. By using a shell sub, this will greatly take the heat off your contractor to estimate the shell assembly  costs as he has not assembled one of our kits before. To learn more about this service click on Kit Assembly Consultant.


Using three to five good laborers and depending upon the size dome and type of hoisting mechanism utilized, shell assembly (kit with two entryways and four dormers) can take from 9-16 days. Once you decide on your floor plan, the number of entryways and dormers will be known allowing the use of the info on the consultant page to estimate kit assembly time.To view pictures of the kit assembly, click on Dome Kit Assembly and Construction Overview.  You or your contractor hire conventional subcontractors to do the normal jobs like forming and pouring the slab, plumbing, electrical, framing, etc.


A few years ago prior to knowing of a consultant who would supervise the shell assembly, some of our dome owners had to hire contractors or individuals that had never assembled an Ai dome kit. As a result the contractor had to overcharge the dome owner because they did not know what problems they would run in to. Many times they would charge as much as the cost of the building kit for the labor cost to assemble the kit.

The Kit Assembly Specialist works directly for you as an independent subcontractor and can provide you with references for previous Ai domes built.  Using this consultant will assure that your panels are assembled in the correct location and in a timely fashion.


If you are interested in utilizing the Specialist, call our office at 321-639-8777 Monday through Friday 9-5 eastern time. 
Please visit your local library to read books that cover building your own home. A helpful web site is rsmeans.com They sell construction manuals, construction estimating CD’s, etc.


The methods used for lifting the panels include:


Man lifts or small cranes that can lift 400 – 500 lbs; 25 ft up and 25 ft out, Highlifts (all terrain scissors forklifts often used by roofers).


Monthly rentals on transverse lifts also called Boom Lifts, Horizontal Boom Fork Lifts, Roofing Lifts, Shooters are available from National Rental Chains like US Rentals, Hertz Equipment Rentals, United Rentals, etc. The companies can be found in the telephone book.  To learn more click on Hoisting Mechanisms.


Choosing a Contractor or Sub-Contractor

Making a choice: 

Due to requests for assistance in locating a local builder to assemble the concrete dome building kit and finish the dome, American Ingenuity (Ai) has added a new service.  See first paragraph on this page for the info about this service.  

There are many considerations when selecting the contracting firm to build your new dome home. To help you make this important choice, find out all you can about contractors in your area. Contact your local Home Builder’s Association and your local Building Department and ask if they have a list of local builders which can be emailed.  When calling the builder, first thing ask if the firm is used to working with concrete and then ask if they are interested in working outside the box by assembling a dome building kit consisting of prefabricated concrete panels.  If they have time give them our web site address so they can see what a finished dome looks like.  Explain that an independent consultant can be hired to supervise their workers for the shell assembly and that Ai can send them an email that contains info about the dome building kit, a link to a sample set of building plans and that Ai can be called to answer questions.


The more you know, good or bad, the better prepared you will be for a project of this scale and complexity.


If you are building your dome yourself as an Owner-Builder, you will be operating as the contractor and accepting all those responsibilities. This will include making the choice of all the subcontractors who will be working on your dome, such as the electrician, carpenter, and plumber.


If you are building with a construction loan, your lender may require a written contract between you and a licensed contractor, binding both of you until the completion of the job.


Just like people, there are contractors of every type out there – honest and dishonest, good and not so good. If you take the time to be selective you can find one of the great.


While each contractor is reviewing your plans to arrive at an estimate for his work, you will be able to evaluate his nature and characteristics.  Or the builder can be paid cost plus


With a good and trustworthy contractor, building your home can be one of your most exciting and rewarding accomplishments.


What to look for:

  1. Search the experience of the contractor and talk to previous customers.

  2. Visit his job sites.

  3. A Contractor who:

o Shows an interest in doing something unique.

o Has a positive attitude.

o Is a creative thinker – he looks for solutions rather than complaining about problems.

o Exhibits professionalism in his business.

o Is organized in his work.

o Displays neatness on his job sites.

o Has a good credit history.

What to look out for:

  1. A contractor who promises too much, too quick, for too little. A contractor who says, “Just trust me…..”
  2. A contractor who can’t supply you with names of previous satisfied customers, copies of insurance forms, a permanent business address, or occupational license numbers.
  3. If a contractor is a poor manager and about to go out of business, his credit with suppliers is one of the first places it will show up. Ask where he has credit accounts and call to see if he is in good standing with his suppliers.
  4. If someone gets injured on your property during construction, you will most likely be held responsible for all expenses unless your contractor has Workman’s Compensation Insurance. Check to be sure that he does.

Where to look:

  1. Contact your local Home Builders Association and your local building department for a list of local builders – see above. 
  2. Scan through the yellow pages and their ads, making lots of calls. Approach friends, family, business contacts, and people you work with for recommendations.
  3. Question the building materials suppliers, eg. concrete delivery companies know of reliable subs for foundations.
  4. Inquire of your building official if he has any suggestions.
  5. Check with your Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau.
  6. Contact local chapters of trade organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders. 

By reviewing as many prospects as you can over the phone, and through a process of elimination, you will be able to narrow the list to a few contractors to review your plans for a quote.

Agreeing on payment:

Because of the uniqueness of this project compared to most projects a contractor has, it will be very difficult for him to determine the exact cost to build your dome. Any experienced contractor has, at one time or another, lost money by bidding a job too low. So if he is not confident of what his costs will be, he will tend to overbid. If he does underbid, once construction begins he will see he is losing money and will start to cut corners, do poor quality work, and try to get out of the job before completion.


He may wish to bid your project on a “cost-plus” contract, in which the contractor charges for the expense of his materials and labor plus a percentage for profit. This is detrimental to you because the more he spends, the more he makes. We recommend a modified “cost-plus” arrangement in which the contractor is paid for his cost plus a predetermined dollar amount for profit. To learn more about determining how to pay your Contractor click on Paying Contractor.

When to pay:

Financial institutions never pay a contractor until each particular phase of work is completed. If you have the responsibility, and not your mortgage company, to pay the contractor, do the same and only pay the contractor in prearranged installments called draws. For example: 10% or $xxx after the foundation is complete, 10% or $xxx after the shell is complete, etc. If he does not have enough capital or credit to see him through a phase of construction, he is not an established businessman.


Never pay ahead for work that has not been done yet. And always withhold final payment until the entire job is finished and you are happy with the results. That is the best insurance you have to make sure he will return and complete the project.


Make yourself familiar with the lien laws for your state. If your contractor or subcontractor does not pay for the materials used in your house, even if you have paid him for those materials, the supplier may be able to place a Mechanic’s Lien upon your property, requiring you to pay them also. To learn more click on Mechanic’s Lien.


  1. Be sure everything that is important to you and everything you expect is written into a contract.
  2. We recommend you have a detailed, written understanding of the contractor’s responsibilities, what he is to do, and the items that are to be included. This can be done in an informal manner and can simply be an itemized list of what the contractor agrees to do and when, what you agree to do and when, and how much he will be paid and when.
  3. Include a general statement that all work will be done in a professional manner.
  4. If you have the option, we recommend an agreement which will allow either party some opportunity to back out or renegotiate the remainder of the jobs to be completed. If your contractor really wants out of the job, it is in your best interest to let him go. If you are dissatisfied, this will also provide you with an escape clause. It is not uncommon to change contractors during construction of any home.
  5. To encourage the contractor to complete the project in a timely and cost effective manner, include rewards for finishing early and below the estimated cost.
  6. Include a provision to reduce his profits for significant overruns and delays.
  7. A contract that rewards the contractor for good and productive service is the objective.
  8. Be sure both of you sign and date the contract. Keep a signed copy for yourself in a safe place where it is accessible when you need to refer to it.