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!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Inexpensive Yurt Flooring Solution

In keeping with the minimal philosophy of living in a yurt, the ideal design will employ a minimum of materials, be as “green” as possible and will be both sustainable and durable.
In our yurt, we have chosen a very inexpensive, basic design and material for our flooring. There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, cost is a factor in the decision as to the type of flooring to use. We opted for materials with a cost of less than $0.45 per square foot, plus $0.10 per square foot for finishes.
Secondly, we wanted to ensure that the frequent traffic directly from outdoors to indoors did not track in excess dirt. Carpeting would have trapped that dirt.
Thirdly, the location of the yurt in a wooded area would have attracted insects such as ants. By constructing flooring with a hard surface, we eliminated nesting sites for those insects.
Fourthly, we wanted a floor that would remain cool in the summer and able to adapt to winter conditions. With the hard surface, we were able to lay down area carpets that we already owned in strategic locations, while keeping bare floor at entrances and frequently used work areas, such as the kitchen areas and washroom.
Lastly, we wanted to minimize weight of the flooring, since we built the yurt on pads and posts, rasther than embedding pillars into the ground.
To accomplish all four goals, we used ¾ inch oriented strand board as sub floor material, with 1/8 inch good one side plywood laid at a ninety degree angles to the subfloor as the main floor. The plywood was screwed to the underlay using three quarter inch wood screws with threads the full length of the screw. The use of full-length threads is essential, so that the screws can be countersunk into the thin plywood.
Lastly, we used a clear varnish to coat the surface of the flooring, making sure to pay special attention to the high traffic areas.
Since installing this flooring, we have found that it works remarkably well, and shows a sheen and grain similar to good-quality hardwood or laminate flooring, at one quarter of the cost.
However, some problems have arisen. On occasion, we stored 20 pound propane tanks on the floor, and, with changing temperatures, the tanks attracted condensation. This condensation accumulated in a ring on the floor. To remove it, we lightly scoured the area with a Javex and water mix, with modest success. The only other problem has been a slight separation, due to the thinness of the material, in spots where insufficient screws were used.
This flooring has answered all five of our criteria for the design, and is recommended for anyone contemplating an inexpensive flooring alternative, whether in a yurt or cabin.

Yurt Perimeter Drainage Solves Humidity Problems

Perimeter drainage
Spring has proven to be a real test for our yurt. To close out the late fall and early winter, we experienced exceptionally unusual rainfall and early snowfall. Because we have built our yurt on the slope of a hill, the deck on which the yurt rests is at ground level at the rear, and fifty-four inches off the ground in the front. This permits good air flow, but demanded that we hoard the perimeter to block cold air infiltration. Unfortunately, the hoarding also trapped humidity, and we experienced numerous condensation issues throughout November and the first week of December.
The interior of the yurt is lined with foil-backed bubble insulation, with all joints taped. This makes for a very air-tight unit, but any moisture inside is trapped, as well. Cooking, showering and even everyday living contributes to the high humidity. We experimented with a number of options to reduce this wet air, with limited success.
The major problem was that, because it was winter, we needed to seal and insulate our rooftop vent. This creates a dome where the heat rises and remains somewhat trapped at the apex. Although the yurt is quite warm and well insulated, there are many partial thermal bridges, at the headers, the window framing and even at the roof ring and rafters. As soon as we reduced interior temperature, the cooler outside air would condense humidity on the foil, which would accrue and run down the walls or drip from points of the roof.
Using a fan at the peak of the dome ameliorated the problem, to a degree. Similarly, by adding insulation between the tarp and the exterior wall framing, we were able to reduce the temperature differential. Lastly, we reduced our interior temperature by a couple of degrees and maintained that temperature day and night.
The major problem that remained was the moisture in the soil under the yurt. This spring, moisture levels have been exacerbated by heavy rainfall and a slow thaw that releases the moisture in the ice slowly.
This week, we believe we resolved that issue. By trenching around the perimeter of the yurt profile to a depth of six inches and six inches wide, we have created a mini-drainage ditch. This U-shaped trench catches the rainfall as it falls from the walls, and directs it along the perimeter of the yurt, then away. There is no opportunity for the water to pool under the yurt and contribute to the humidity issue.
Although it is early in the experiment, it seems to be working. We have experienced no condensation issues in the first three days. Yesterday, the spring rains hit again, but there is no water under the yurt, and our humidity inside the yurt is no higher than the outside.
As we move through each of the initial seasons in our yurt, we have discovered new challenges and issues that would be uncommon in conventional housing. However, in spite of the spate of concerns, both of us are thrilled with this innovative living accommodation and its two overwhelming benefits: a miniscule cost (with no mortgage to pay) and its roomy in-touch-with-nature atmosphere.