When Paul and Shirley Tinsley chose to build a Monolithic Dome home in Cudjoe Key, Florida, they had no idea that they were building a home that would withstand not one, but two hurricanes in six years: Hurricane Irma, in August of 2017, and Hurricane Ian, in September 2022.
“It’s nice to know this home can survive anything nature throws at it,” Paul said.
Hurricane Ian, the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history, caused more than 150 deaths and completely destroyed 5000 homes, severely damaging 30,000. Roads flooded, and trees fell.
More than 100 homes in the Key West area were impacted by the storm surge that hit Florida and the 125-mile-long island chain of the Keys. The neighbor’s house on one side of them had significant water damage and needed a roof replacement, while the house on the other side got flooded entirely in the storm surge. The Tinsley Dome Home stayed safe and dry. The Tinsleys had to do some cleanup work outdoors, but their dome home emerged unscathed by the flooding.
“Water and mud accumulated under the house, and we did have some fish and sea life in the pool,” Paul said. “We had to wait three weeks to get fresh water so we could drain it.”
The Tinsleys had already survived Hurricane Irma at the epicenter of the eye wall. That hurricane had far worse winds and caused more storm damage in the area compared to Hurricane Ian. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Hurricane Irma caused 84 deaths and $50 billion in damage in Florida.
“With Hurricane Irma, we had no problems at all,” Paul said. “It was watertight. Some water sprayed through the sides of the windows and doors when we got the 140 miles per hour wind.”
The Tinsley’s house had been complete for only a few weeks when that 2017 storm swept through the Keys. A nursery had delivered a pigeon plum tree the week before that hurricane hit, so they tied a rope around it, hoisted it onto the deck, and tugged it inside the house. Paul, Shirley, and the pigeon plum tree rode the storm out together in their brand-new Monolithic Dome home.
“It was a lot of work to build, but it will survive any hurricane,” Paul said.
Paul and Shirley have chosen a beautiful spot for their home, with a canal on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other side. Paul worked as a script supervisor and as a camera boat and marine coordinator on television and films, and Shirley is a pharmacist. They scoured the area for a perfect place—a rural spot with easy access to Key West—and ultimately chose to retire in Cudjoe Key.
“When we were looking for real estate here, we found that most of the affordable housing had problems with spalling,” Paul said. “Rebar rusts and expands, breaking the concrete around it. Houses had dry rot and termites, so I decided to find something new. This home has a polyurethane foam and an Airform that helps protect all the steel and concrete inside it.”
The Tinsleys designed their home on a 100-foot by 80-foot lot as two domes, 20 feet apart and connected by a central structure. A contractor built a concrete slab to conform to building codes, and a Monolithic Dome crew put the domes on 13-foot columns embedded in that slab. Paul had attended a Monolithic Dome building workshop, and he did all the interior work—plumbing, drywall, and framing—with somesolid local help and advice when needed.
“Whenever I had a question, I could call Gary Clark at Monolithic,” Paul said. “He always was really good help.”
Temperatures can get steamy in the 125-mile-long chain of the Florida Keys, and on a recent summer day, exterior temperatures soared to 94 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity. Inside the dome home, it was 79 degrees with 49 percent humidity, and the energy bills stayed efficient. After six years and two hurricanes in their Monolithic Dome home, the Tinsleys feel comfortable and safe.
“I’m very satisfied with what we’ve got,” Paul said. “It’s been a good home. It can survive a hurricane.”