Eskimo Traditions: How To Plan And Build An Authentic Igloo Home

Building your own igloo can be a do it yourself project with a few instructions.

When building an igloo, carefully choose the site where it is to be located. The site chosen must have no potential of an avalanche and must have deep, compressed snow. The snow in the area should be stomped down using snowshoes or skis first, then use boots to stomp it again. After compacting the snow by stomping it, let it set up for about 30 minutes. While letting the snow set up, take a break. When the snow is very dry and fluffy, cutting good blocks will not be able easy to accomplish, to remedy this situation, simply shovel down to a firmer layer and follow with stomping and letting it set up.

After the snow has had time to set up, a circle for the igloo base must be marked. This marked circle is the guide for the first layer of blocks. This circle should not be made to large as it is easier to enlarge the inside by simply digging down and out instead of stacking blocks to correct the size of a dome that is too large.

Move away from the circle and dig a two-foot deep square pit, large enough to cut the bottom of blocks using a saw. Remove the first four blocks. These blocks should be cut six to eight inches wide and as long and deep as the length of the saw, about twenty inches. Place these blocks along the circle and lean in at about a fifteen-degree angle off vertical. Trim the edges of the blocks to fit tight against each other. Complete the circle using trimmed blocks. Trim the top of several blocks so they angle toward the ground allowing successive spiraling layers upwards.

Carefully overlap the remaining blocks so that they overlap two blocks below them, similar to bricks on a house. Increase the angle inwards while adding each layer. It is important to have good contact on two sides that touch already-laid blocks. Chink and caulk the gaps between the blocks carefully to create a stable foundation. An extra person or two are now needed to patch the holes and gaps on the outside of the igloo and to hand, blocks in that have been dug from the entryway.

If this igloo is to be slept in, then an entry and sleeping platform areas will have to be decided upon. These two areas are generally opposite of each other. To minimize the accumulation of drifting snow, the door should be placed crosswind or on the leeward side of the igloo. Cut down one layer for the interior and another layer or two for the entry and kitchen areas. The entry area will be a place to stand and is a cold air well. The sleeping area will be somewhat warmer. Use a fifteen-degree angle outward when cutting out the blocks along the inner wall. This angle provides for an increase in the interior of about one foot in width for every two feet that has been dug down.

An igloo, seven foot across at ground level, is large enough for a sleeping platform for three adults. Remember not to dig down so deep that you cannot touch the ceiling when building the dome. Place the final block in the roof while standing inside the igloo. Choose a block slightly larger than the hole in the roof that it will fill. Lift the block through the hole and gently lower it to fill the hole. Trim the sides at an angle to wedge it in like a plug. Equal pressure should be exerted everywhere the keystone block touches.

While you are inside the dome, somebody outside should poke a hole for the location of the entry trench. Now cut an inverted U-shape doorway in the lowest layers of the dome. After cutting the doorway, cut and dig out the rest of the door. The snow blocks removed from the door way should be used to build an arched roof over the entry tunnel. Cut an exit the shape and size of a sled and use the sled as a door.

Add a cooking area by cutting a platform alcove either on one side of the entry or igloo wall. Build a tall, cone-shaped chimney above the alcove to draw away stove fumes, heat and steam. If you are not going to add a kitchen and chimney, poke an air vent in the ceiling.

Finally, cut a sitting bench out opposite the kitchen. Carve out shelves and alcoves as needed in the deep snow below the wall level. Use chemical light sticks and candles to light up the inside. Be sure to keep the snow shovel inside so you can dig out in the morning after heavy snow.

© High Speed Ventures 2011