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!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Assembling the Yurt Walls

There is the easy way to build a yurt: seek out a quality supplier of yurt kits, select your options &size, and then make your purchase. There is a more difficult way to build a yurt: tour the yurt demonstrations of a variety of suppliers and build based on those model units. Then there is the road less travelled: design & build your own. This is the option my wife and I have chosen.
Conventional, commercial yurt walls are constructed using lattice wrapped with pvc tarpaulin material. A thin aircraft cable is interlaced in the top openings of the latticework, and tightened using a turnbuckle. This structure holds the walls inward in a circle, while the weight of the rafters resting on the cable pushes the walls outward. Stasis, strength and stability thus are achieved.
Our wall structure begins with a 2*3 framework installed around the inside perimeter of a 24” by 84” piece of 7/16” thick oriented strand board. Since our yurt is twenty-eight feet in diameter, with a circumference of approximately eighty-eight feet, 44 sections are needed. Each section meets the next at an eight degree angle, requiring that one of the two vertical 2” by 3” studs is cut with an eight degree taper.
To lay out the bottom plate, forty-four 2-foot lengths of 2 by 3 are cut in a slight “vee” shape, at an eight degree angle, as well. Each wall segment will meet the next at the point of the “vee,” with a one-foot extension extending into the adjacent section base. By fastening the wall to these bottom plate segments, a solid circular frame is created.
As each section is placed standing adjoining the next, a top plate, identical to the bottom plate segment, is secured along the top 2” by 3” horizontal piece of the wall.
After making sure that all wall segments are vertically plumb, metal joining plates are fastened to join the segments at the top and bottom of each wall segment.
Next, windows and the main door are framed in place, in the same manner as a conventional wall and door or window buck are installed.
For our yurt, we purchased the 7’6” high by 94’ long tarpaulin from a New Brunswick supplier. The fabric intentionally was ordered longer than the actual circumference of the yurt, to allow for gathering and darts around the doors and windows.
Prior to installing the tarpaulin around the perimeter, window and door edges are caulked and sealed. Along the bottom of the wall segments, a strip of Velcro is fastened. The tarpaulin will extend one inch below the bottom of the wall, so that water will run off and away from the floor. After wrapping the tarp around the yurt walls and temporarily holding it in place, six 15-foot long ratchet tie-downs are connected and tightened along the upper perimeter of the walls, permanently fixing the wall tarp into place.
Walls are now complete.
The next article will describe how to construct the roof rafters and install the assembly onto the yurt.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Weather Wrecks Yurt Plans

Designing, constructing and living in my yurt was supposed to free me from more mundane housing concerns, cut costs, and make life more simple. Ha!
Since beginning construction on my own yurt design, I have been slapped with an important lesson: Nature rules. In our region – a normally dry, stable area in western Canada, late spring should be an ideal time to build. But record rainfall has flooded three of four western provinces, and, in our case, washed out access roads, and so severely restricted access that I have been forced to bring building supplies strapped to my back! We, fortunately, have had two days when we were able to work a supply truck across a neighbouring farm field. So, construction, severely delayed, still has moved forward.
Today, we are working on erecting the wall shells, with the roof rafters scheduled for tomorrow. Today, we will be working in thunderstorms, while tomorrow we will be working in humid, sticky heat.
Throughout this preliminary period, I have picked a total of 396 wood ticks off my legs, arms, back, scalp, etc. It is a record of which I am perversely proud! But, with the tick count cropping, the flood waters receding and the humidity & heat rising, a new nemesis has crashed the party: mosquitoes.
In the mid 1990s, Pioneer Quest tracked a year in the lives of 2 modern pioneer couples, who were required to build a cabin, break the land, and live precisely as pioneers in the area did in the 1800s. Those couples were inundated with natural disasters that year: excessive rainfall, exceptional summer heat, wicked mosquitoes and high snowfall & cold temperatures in the winter. It looks like we are on track to enjoy that same wonderful blast of nature. So must for minimalism!
Later this week, I will be providing details on the yurt design we have chosen, and the source of supplies. As construction progresses, I will provide photos and details, so that you can follow in our footsteps. Bring an umbrella and lots of mosquito repellent!