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!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Manitoba Winter in Our Yurt

It’s only November 23, and we’ve seen Mother Nature at her worst!
When we decided to build our yurt in the bush lands of Manitoba, we were thrilled to be able to “commune with nature.” So far, it’s been a pretty one-sided conversation!
Throughout the spring and early summer, record rainfalls prevented us from building our road – 2/3 mile winding through thick woodlands and meadow. The autumn saw another deluge, with over 100 mm of rainfall in one week.
A wonderfully warm October lulled us into complacency: we’d be able to stay in the yurt until at least December 1, even with only a bush trail on which to drive our Prius to our home.
The beginning of November, Mother Nature began to flex her muscle. Wind gusts of over 100 kph (60-65 mph) hit, but the yurt stood, unflinching. Just to be on the safe side, we purchased tire chains for the car, and stocked up on three 20-pound tanks of propane for the yurt.
Then, a cold snap – Minus 18C (0F) – forewarned us of things to come. On November 18, 20 centimetres of snow (8 inches), followed by 60-70 kph winds (40 mph) drove us out of the yurt for a couple of days. The first night back, the thermometer hit -20C, and another 7 cm of snow. For two days, we shovelled a roadway 950 yards long, and were able to drive in.
Ha! We beat Mother Nature! Not bad for a 59-year-old and his 51-year-old wife.
What fools we were. Sunday night, the wind chill hit -22C, with a new low of -24 during the early part of the next day. Today, we received another 2-4 cm. of snow. That’s not bad, compared to what is coming tomorrow. Fifteen centimetres is predicted, with high winds and cold temperatures to follow. Next week, another snow storm is on the way.
This area receives an average of 110-120cm from November 1 to the following April 30 in a typical year. We will have received 45 cm. by November 24, with a possibility of 60 centimetres by November 30. It’s time to pack it in.
The yurt, though, can certainly handle the winter. A full snow load of 30 centimetres hasn’t caused the roof to even flinch. Inside the yurt, we didn’t feel the slightest breeze when the sixty-five mph winds hit. At -24C, the yurt remained so warm that we had to turn off our main heat, relying on a 13,500 BTU propane furnace for our only heat.
A couple have problems have emerged, though.
Because of the lighter insulation in the domed roof, and the fact that the heat rises and pools there when we turn off the fans, we have experienced a lot of condensation falling from the foil-backed bubble insulation that lines the inside of the roof.
Around the inside perimeter of the yurt, where walls meet the floor, moisture and some frost have accumulated. We resolved this by placing one-inch rigid foam insulation under the outer tarpaulin layer, extending it 6 inches below the wall. This provides a wind barrier, as well as insulation.
And, our composting toilet system isn’t letting the waste fall readily into the accumulator. That problem, we discovered, was caused because we used too little water to wash the solids through. We’ll take care of that next spring, when we return.
For now, Mother Nature wins. I’m not ready for weekly battles with a shovel against a foot of snow, so we’ll start our yurt experience again, when the weather permits.