How To Build a (Semi) Solid Wall Yurt

The handbook, "How To Build A Yurt (solid wall design) is now available at or at www.robertflee.books.php. To purchase this handbook from Amazon or Smashwords, visit or and search for the title under the author's name, Robert F. Lee. The semi-rigid walled yurt described in this booklet can be constructed in less than 40 hours and assembled or disassembled on site in under three hours, by one person!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yurt Design Considerations

To design my yurt and decide whether to purchase a ready-made kit or build from scratch, I first have to decide on the appropriate size. Do I build a yurt the same size as a normal house, do I build the same size as a typical apartment, or do I build a yurt sized like a tent?
Because my wife and I will be the only people living in this Mongolian tent, we decided to scale our unit like that of an apartment, rather than a house. For a one-bedroom apartment, average sizes run from 460 sq. Ft. To 600 sq. Ft., while a typical house will be at least double that size for a 1- or 2-bederoom residence.
But there are other considerations in making the decision on size. In a house or apartment, hallway space takes up about 5-10% of a typical home. In a yurt, there are no hallways. In an average house, as much as 15% of the space is consumed by unusable corners, clear space around entranceways and stairways. Again, there are no corners, no stairs and minimal need for entranceways, since the yurt will have a “great room” design. So, if you want the equivalent of a 2-bedroom apartment for space, reduce your yurt size by 25%. That brings a 2-bedroom unit down to around 600 sq. Ft.
Because yurts have no interior support walls, and a framework considerably lighter than a conventional house, clear spans need to be considered. Most North American yurt suppliers offer maximum sizes up to 30-32 feet in diameter. This size, it appears, is the maximum area to ensure solid structural design.
We have decided on a 28 foot diameter (605 sq ft) structure, since we anticipate little need for a large second bedroom, and we wish to enjoy maximum space for many indoor activities during the cold winter months.
There are a half-dozen quality yurt suppliers in Canada and the USA, with \Colorado Yurts and Yurtco being , in our view, the premier suppliers. On a 30-foot unit, prices begin at $7,800, with costs rising to more than $18,000 once additional features such as extra insulation, domes, roof supports, long-life fabric, upgraded windows, etc. are added in.
While this is significantly less than the cost of a new home of a comparable size ($32,000 -80,000), it is a price that can be significantly reduced if you construct your own yurt. In fact, the design which we settled upon can be constructed for well under $6,000!
In the next blog, I will discuss the preliminary factors you need to consider before choosing a design or location, including zoning & building codes, water supply, location, terrain and intended use.