Hayden couple tries dome life

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— Driving down one of Routt County's country roads near Hayden, what looks like a gray bomb shelter rises out of the earth.

On closer inspection, though, the shelter is really a home in the making.

Long-time locals Ed and Kathy Hockin are building a so-called earth dome home which is made out of cement and encased partially in dirt. In many cases, earth homes are built into a hillside.

"The kids have insinuated we have lost our ever-loving minds," Kathy Hockin said.

The Hockins have been waiting 20 years to build their retirement home, ever since seeing a domed home presentation.

Now that all their children are out of the home, the Hockins thought it was time."They're cool in the summer and really warm in the winter," Kathy said. "The heating bill will be zilch."

Cost and environmental concerns are the main reason earth homes are built said Chris Brown, whose construction company has built 45 domed homes in Colorado and the West. "My house in Craig cost $300 to heat all winter and my house is bigger than this one," Wilson said as he began laying plumbing pipe for the Hockins' home. Brown's home in Craig is 1,700 square feet. The Hockin's home will be 1,400 square feet.

The Hockins' home will be one of only two known cement earth homes in Routt County. One is located in Oak Creek.

Unlike many dome homes, the Hockins' home will have two sides that are opened up with doors and windows. Most dome homes have only one side open to the outside light.

In the Hockins' case, their home is facing southeast, on a hill overlooking their ranch and a pond. She plans to plant flowers and vegetation on top of the dirt-covered roof. The outside of her home that isn't covered with dirt will be stuccoed and painted.

Inside, double french doors will allow in plenty of light in her guest room, living room and bedroom. The walls will be sheet rocked and painted while the dome ceilings will be textured and painted. They'll even have skylights

"I'm surprised more people haven't done it here," Kathy said.

Not a surprise when you talk to Realtors who have tried to re-sell dome homes.

Jim Ross, a 30-year broker in western Colorado, has shown dome homes "over and over."

"I never sold one," Ross said from his Craig office. Moffat County has at least 15 dome homes.

"In most of the responses, (my clients) say it's too far outside the norm of an acceptable house. The architectural style is just not desirable to them."

Ross believes that a person building an earth home won't do well in reselling. "If you actually plan on recouping your investment, you won't with a dome home," Ross said. "I don't think they're a good deal anywhere."

Wilson said it's not the re-sale value people are looking at when they build a dome home.

He said almost all the people having earth homes built are living in them for their practicality and low costs.

With virtually no maintenance and savings in heating and cooling, he said homeowners recoup their investment over the years. Brown claims he can build a finished cement home in the Steamboat area for $80 to $90 a square foot. Average stick-built homes are being built for anywhere from $100 to $300 a square foot in Steamboat.

"These are 1,000-year houses," Brown said about the earth domed homes.

"They'll last and last and last with low maintenance."

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