Build a snow fort: You’ll be the coolest kid on the block

Ask anyone who has handled enough snow, whether it was building a fort or shoveling the driveway, and they will tell you the powdery substance is deceptively heavy. A simple snowman can create aches and pains that last for days.

Now imagine moving 57,180 pounds of snow. As it turns out, this is how much snow it would take to build a real-life house. To help you understand how much snow this is, we’ve figured it is the equivalent of 5,718 shovelfuls of snow. (We assumed 10 pounds per shovelful.)

As the Movoto Real Estate team has done in the past, we again combined two of our favorite things to tackle an over-the-top question. This time we picked housing and the winter season and asked, How much snow would it take to build a snow fort the size of a typical American house?

It turns out answering this question was more complicated than we first thought. How do you measure snow? If you’re Movoto, you measure snow two ways–in pounds (which we just mentioned) and in snow blocks.

So, how many snow blocks does it take? Well, if you are using the Snow Block Maker, it would take about 11,990 blocks.

If you’re interested in learning the specifics of our estimations, grab some hot chocolate and continue on. If not, go ahead and play with our snow calculator. We don’t mind.

Old Man Winter Construction

To build our ivory abode, we needed to know several things:

  • The size of our house
  • How many snow “blocks” it takes to build a house
  • The weight and density of snow

Once we knew these three things, our team was able to come up with the estimated amount of snow. We’ll tackle each obstacle separately.

Not a Unique Snowflake

Our snow house is 2,500 square feet, about the size of a typical American home, if not slightly larger. This is the same size house we’ve used in the past for similar stories. Why break what isn’t broken?

In hindsight, it was a good thing we were able to rely on our old standard, because figuring out the weight and density of snow was more difficult than we imagined.

Before we stumbled into that mess, we needed to know how many snow blocks it would take to build our house.

How Many Blocks

While our idea to build a life-size snow house is humorous, we know that most people are more likely to build something smaller. With this in mind, we wanted to use something that was easily available to DIYers.

Enter the Snow Block Mold. At less than $8, this toolbox-esque mold can be picked up on Amazon and shipped to your house in a matter of days. It’s perfect for helping your tikes build a snow fort.

Using the dimensions of the Snow Block Mold, we were able to calculate how many snow blocks would fit into each side of our house and across the roof.

Knowing the number of snow blocks, however, didn’t tell us how many pounds of snow were needed to construct our house. Still, it set us on the right path. From here we needed to figure out snow’s weight and density.

It was about as difficult as you can imagine.

It’s Beautiful, and Heavy

Believe it or not, building a home out of snow actually requires snow. Not just any snow, but a solid type of snow. This, however, isn’t the easiest way to describe the type of “fluffy white stuff” needed to construct anything of a substantial size.

After researching, we found firn would be among the best snow to use. Firn is rounded, well-bounded snow that is older than one year and has a high density.

To be clear, building with fresh snow would be like building a house with stiff cotton.The density of new snow is somewhere between 5 and 14 percent when temperatures are between 14 and 32 degrees. On the other hand, firn has a density of 55 percent. So while the fresh snow outside is great to look at, it’s not snow-home worthy -- at least not right away.

(We know that not everyone out there is going to live in an area with firn snow. Don’t worry about it. For smaller structures, just pack the heck out of whatever snow you have and let it sit for awhile. The goal is to have snow you could walk across without leaving footprints.)

Once we knew what type of snow to use, we needed to how much snow weighs.

How Much Does Snow Weigh?

Who knows? There are many variables that dictate the weight of snow. This why we were very specific on the type of snow we decided to use in order to construct our house. As we’ve previously mentioned, firn snow has a density of about 55 percent.

We estimated firn has a density of just under 0.02 pounds per cubic inch. We then calculated how many cubic inches were in each of our snow blocks.

This meant each of our blocks weighed 4.7 pounds. After this, it was easy enough to multiply the number of snow blocks needed to build our house by each block’s weight.

This gave us 11,990 blocks, which turns out to be 57,180 pounds of snow -- that’s how much it would take to build a real life snow house.

So if you’re interested in some back-breaking labor, pull the family outside and get cracking.


David Cross is a writer for Movoto and former journalist. The Movoto blog is a service of Movoto Real Estate.

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