Making an Igloo Using Re-purposed 5-Gallon Pickle Buckets

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Pickle Buckets Make Great Snow Cylinders for Support, Gentle Tilt

This week Groundz made an igloo at our home office. Groundz founder, Gregory Jackson is actually using it this week as his sustainable office, made of snow a renewable material. And since the igloo is near the home WiFi, the igloo is a WiFi hotspot.

We use 5-gallon pickle buckets to recycle organic waste and packaging for our finished compost topsoil blend. We wanted to create something different and inspire our customers with children to use our 5-gallon pickle buckets for other purposes, like molding snow into perfect snow cylinder blocks to make an igloo and children have fun.

Picking your Igloo Site.Build your igloo in the backyard, out of sight from the public as your igloo may be destroyed by others as others seem to like to knock things down built of snow.

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How-To Make an Igloo.After a heavy snow site a level area and carve out the igloo’s footprint with a shovel, making a typical igloo-shaped outline. The circle of your igloo should be no larger than 12 feet in diameter (including the 1-foot thick wall, roughly the diameter of our re-purposed pickle buckets from Melt Bar and Grilled).

Do not shovel your igloo’s construction area yet, the naturally fallen snow provides a very nice level starting foundation. Only the area outside your igloo will be shoveled out.

The Groundz igloo used 24 bucket molds of snow to make the first layer of blocks, as level as possible. The 24 blocks also include 3 blocks on each side of your igloo’s entrance. Even if the snow is rather powdery make sure you pack the snow very well into your bucket leveling the snow so the whole bucket is filled, any unpacked snow inside your bucket may weaken the block, if it’s not filled all the way, then bucket blocks will be of varying height making it impossible for the second row to have a stable surface. Overlap blocks between 3-4 inches toward the inner part of your igloo. Stagger the second row of block over the first layer’s “seem” crack between bottom row of blocks, if not then as you build to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th layers it’s possible that the vertical column of snow blocks will fall.

Beginning at the 3rd layer slight overhanging the 2nd, again 3-4 inches work well. (We will return to the front entrance, crawl space of the igloo).

Always start from the back of the igloo so you can lean blocks against other blocks, blocks will pivot and rotate into place. You always want to rest a block at the 3rd level above against another block so you can close the igloo. You will proceed to the 4th and 5th rows the same way: Overlap blocks inward by about 3-4 inches with a slight tilt inward.

Don’t worry about blocks falling and breaking at first, Groundz probably lost 10-15 blocks from falling and over-exaggerating the gentle tilt inward.

Gentle Tilt.From a 90 degree angle (block is perfectly level). Between rows 3-5 you will need to create the wall of the igloo, or the “gentle tilt” by visualizing the blocks at about an 80 degree angle (or the alignment of the block would be pointing at “11 o’clock” position).

Once you complete the 5th row of the main portion, add a 2nd row for the entrance, 3 blocks lengthwise by 2 blocks tall. For the 2nd row of the front entrance crawl space, you may tilt the blocks inward by about 70 degrees (or imagining the alignment of the block to be pointing at “10 o’clock” position).

As you move row by row, you will also notice spaces in between the blocks that form “ledges” from the top of the former row next to the back corner of the next row. Pack snow downward, not directly onto block – it’s too easy for you to accidentally knock your blocks down. Add/packing snow in between spaces is not necessarily for making the igloo warmer, but more importantly the packing of snow in between blocks adhere to the block next to it – blocks become one with the whole structure eventually.

Begin scoping out areas of your yard to find preferably circular “snow discs” for your roof. Groundz took a saw and cut out “snow planks” following the edge of a clean snowblower border between 2-3 feet lengthwise by 7” wide, added water for the snow to absorb and let set overnight.

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However, your best bet for finding snow suitable for the roof will be snow that is wind swept at a corner of your snow shoveling border. For example, at the corner where you’re the apron of your driveway meets with your sidewalk you will notice the snow is piled higher and thicker there. Other sites include a front walkway with your driveway, or in between houses. You will need two people to move such pieces because the snow integrity will hold, but is likely to crack if you attempt to move it by yourself.

The Next Day.As the structure hardens over night, you will also be amazed to note that the igloo has “caved in” like a warp toward itself. The movement was caused by gravity pulling on your gentle tilt.

With a saw (not a shovel) chisel your planks you made the day before, but be warned. There’s a great chance these snowy planks will break leaving you disappointed. Repeatedly this was the case for the Groundz igloo: Pieces kept breaking, but save the good ones, as you’ll never know how a piece will fit into your overall roof.

Better yet take a shovel and make yourself a snow disc about 18-22 inches in diameter, you may be able to go to 24-30 inches if you have a friend or family member help you lift and move disc into place. Set roof snow disc atop the igloo, gently setting on top of the blocks. Cover the rest with usable snow planks or chisel out another smaller snow disc accordingly until your roof is complete. You may leave sections of roof open for skylights or pack snow, but wait another day before packing snow to close and connect roof pieces together, as falling pieces are likely.

In our next How-to we will share with you how to make a snowman using snow cyclinders made from snow packed in 5-gallon buckets.
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