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Building The Kids An Igloo

About a week before Christmas we received quite a big dumping of snow here on the East Coast.  We live near the ocean and it’s fairly unusual to get more than a foot of snow in one storm.   But last week we had close to a foot and a half of great packing snow hit the ground in less than 12 hours, and so we set out on Sunday afternoon to build an igloo in the front yard.

Mrs TR had the good sense to stay inside the house during this one, so the boys, the Princess, our good friend Heather, and I took care of the snow construction.

It took about 4 hours total, but mostly because of missteps and the learning curve involved in building an igloo for the first time.

Lesson #1: Those little kids toy snow block makers are useless.

Igloo Snow Block Maker

Bad Igloo Maker

No matter how we tried, we could not pack the snow hard enough into those traditional cheap plastic snow block makers to make a decent snow brick.   Instead, we used storage buckets like these to make large blocks, which turned out to be the perfect solution.  We had to pack them down quite a bit to make solid block forms, as without enough pressure, they would tend to fall apart.  The top layer of snow was too powdery, but the lower three quarters were great slightly wet packable snow.  Once we learned these tricks, the igloo building really took off.  Of course, another thing we discovered was that translucent white buckets are not all that easy to find in a snow storm, but since we had three of them, we could generally find at least one at any given point.

Lesson #2: Make a circle

IMG_7691Looking back on it now, I’m a bit shocked that the igloo stayed up as long as it did in this form.  But we learned at about the three hour mark that once you start building inward to close off your igloo, the blocks are going to fall unless they have other blocks to support them.  We started out thinking we would leave a hole for the door, but then as the igloo climbed higher, it became far more difficult to keep the pieces up and to close off the hole.  We tore off the doorway section and started building it completely closed with me inside it.

Lesson #3: Build someone inside the igloo, then dig out

Do not attempt to get in or out of the igloo or build a doorway until the igloo is complete.  One person stays inside to place the blocks, the other makes the blocks.

Knowing what we know now, I think next time we could build a better igloo than this one in about two hours.  Having a third adult would certainly have sped up the process.  It was helpful to have Mrs TR inside the house to dry off the kids and provide them with critical hot chocolate breaks, thus allowing Heather and I to work with more efficiency.

Below is a selection of images from the igloo building process, as well as a video we took from the inside after the igloo was completed.  Enjoy!

For more information on building your own igloo, I’d strongly suggest reading this first

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13 comments… add one

  • jrr December 30, 2009, 8:19 am

    I’ve done one kind of like this before, and I used a different approach for the door – I put a large cardboard box in its place, building on top of it, and then removed it afterward. I also learned that it helps to build the tunnel entrance from the start, instead of tacking it on afterward.

  • KinKStar December 30, 2009, 5:17 pm

    You are a cool Dad for doing this for your children! What an experience and it’s not so bad looking either! Good Job!

  • Stephani December 30, 2009, 9:06 pm

    This makes the snow seem almost fun. As long as you have to have it you may as well enjoy it! Very cool.

  • Tony January 3, 2010, 1:15 am

    I did this a few times when I was younger, and learned all sorts of crazy things, like using 2-3 large plastic bags inflated and tied off for internal “insurance” during construction. if you want a tunnel entrance, build it first, and if you want a snow cave that will hold adults and you have the snow, start by piling it up, build the cave on the mound, then dig out the center for extra hight while keeping it stable…
    Now that I am a stay at home dad I cant wait till my girls are old enough to be able to enjoy this sort of thing… building and another excuse for warm drinks are the only good that come out of having snow!

  • john January 3, 2010, 9:11 am

    pay attention to not bury your kids in snow if it’s about to thaw..

  • Remo January 3, 2010, 11:09 am

    Of course, we only let them play in it while supervised. The bricks look heavy but were surprisingly light and tended to split into 5-10 pieces when dropped. Imagine getting hit by a soft snowball, just a really big one. Before we figured out to build each level in a full circle one of the walls fell in on top of the kids inside and they had a great time climbing out screaming “AVALANCHE!”

    It lasted about 5 days before it rained, started to sag and finally collapsed into a sad pile of snow in the space of about 4 hours. We knew it was coming and it was fun to watch in a way.

  • Jim Loose January 3, 2010, 7:28 pm

    The technique used by igloo builders, to always build on a stable structure, is to lay the blocks in a stepped inclined spiral. Since the spiral is stepped and inclined each block, as it is placed on the spiral, is held in place by the previous block that forms the step. This technique overcomes the tendency for the blocks to fall to the centre. One person can easily build on the spirial by standing inside the structure. The technique is simple yet elegant. A credit to an ancient building tradition.

  • qwertinsky January 3, 2010, 7:31 pm

    For extra strength you heed to start a fire inside. Let is begin to melt the interior then put it out. This will make a nice strong layer of ice on the inside.

  • eef January 4, 2010, 9:17 pm

    A common technique to keep from making your walls too thin when digging from the inside is to insert sticks from the outside whose length is the desired wall thickness. You dig from the inside until you reach the stick ends and then stop.

  • Elizabeth Kaylene January 6, 2010, 3:29 pm

    Very cool! I never made an igloo as a kid and hate snow, but this is still really cool.

  • Chelsea:D December 1, 2010, 4:18 am

    This looks really cool!
    Thanks for the idea, I am well doing this when I get home<3

  • thoughtchallenge January 27, 2011, 6:41 pm

    I built an igloo when I was about 12. We had about a foot of snow followed by a nice mist, which made a crust on the top of the snow. I cut rectangles out of the snow and scooped them up with the snow shovel. Carefully each row was overlapped towards the center, until it was finally the sides were finally close enough to cover the top. Your method seems better, I’ll have to try this sometime. My method required just the right conditions and was very frustrating as the blocks would sometimes disintegrate. Definitely would recommend building the door way first, using some kind of cardboard box or other removable material. Also, a light mist late at night over the entire structure, provided that its cold enough to freeze over.

  • Clarissa December 2, 2011, 8:50 pm

    My family has a different approach to igloos. WEegot all of my uncles (the tallest ones), and they worked for hours to roll a smowball as tall and wide as them. (I have seven very strong unces. So, to make this kind of igloo, you’re either going to need a sumo wrestler or about six or seven full-grown men) They all spent hours rolling out the ball. THE only reason they stopped is because it bacame too heavy for them ot roll. Then the fun began. Us kids got sticks and made small indedtations in the ball to show where we wanted things like hte door ot be. iN the end, we ended up with a huge igloo tyhat could fit six nine year olds in it, fit with chaire dug out of the sides and a slide out the back. Sure, it took a lot of extra work, but it’s one you can make without any blocks or anything like that.

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