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, November 9, 2012

Yurt Tarp Deterioration

The concept of chucking conventional housing to live in a glorified Mongolian tent – a yurt – has romantic appeal for many, aesthetic appeal for others, and  eco-friendly appeal for even more.   Throw in those people that eschew modern conveniences in favour of survivalist strategies and we have millions of people across North America that may embrace living in a yurt.  But wait a minute!  Have we considered all the cons, as well as the pros?
I have devoted the last two years during which I have maintained this blog to exploring the good, the bad and the ugly of yurt living, based on my own experiences.  Having built a hybrid solid wall yurt in the backwoods of Manitoba, Canada, where the wind velocities often reach 100 kilometres per hour, temperatures drop to Minus 45 regularly (or climb to Plus 35C, 95F), and snowfall usurps five months of the year, I consider myself an authority on yurt living.  My wife and I have loved the experience, but, in truth, there are numerous drawbacks to such a lifestyle.
One of the most recent problems has been the breakdown of the UV-protected, water repellent tarpaulins that make up the skin of the structure.
Sunlight harms every fabric.  Commercial yurt makers brag of ten-year UV protection, but, most often, that is the myth rather than the reality.  Farmers who “tarp” their haystacks know that most treated tarpaulins begin to show significant wear within three years.  Five years is the norm for UV protection and its contingent water repellent qualities.
Yurt manufacturers recommend that pressure points on the tarpaulins be reduced, since the stretching and stress of the fabric breaks the protection down.  Doubling of the tarps at specific points does, indeed, extend the usable life of the covering, but does little to extend water resistance.
Our roof tarpaulin, after only four years, requires replacement.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, the tarp was not properly designed.  Because it was too loose in spots, wind caused segments to flutter and flap like an untethered sail.  Imagine using an old fashioned wash scrub board on which you rub the tarp for hours on end, and you will have the longer-term effect of this billowing.  Quickly, the fabric breaks down.  Second, snow load was allowed to remain on the roof, because of its low-slope (33 degrees) design.  Standing moisture caused deterioration of the moisture barrier.  Lastly, the tarp was shipped with creases in it.  These creases formed flaws in the continuity of the weather barrier and, here, threadbare fabric emerged within two years.
This year, we sprayed down much of the walls with water relent spray (the same as we use on shoes, etc.).  The roof tarp was treated with brush-on moisture repellent.  Those areas that were treated have held, resisting this summer’s rains.  But it is only a matter of a couple of years before we will be replacing the entire outer skin of our yurt.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Yurt Power, Heat & Water

So you’ve decided to move to a yurt, found the ideal building site and ordered your kit from a reputable manufacturer.  But you are far from ready.  What about power, heat, water, and waste?
Most often, power is not an issue.  Good quality wind turbines that will generate 1-3 kilowatts cost less than $1,000.  Solar panels can be purchased with price tags that are lower than $4 per watt output.  Battery storage options are varied, with an array of deep cycle marine batteries the most common option.  Good, used electric forklift batteries offer tons of storage at low cost.  Power inverters (use two) cost $150-300, with modified sine wave being the cheapest and pure sine wave, necessary for sophisticated and delicate electronic equipment such as televisions and computers, being the more expensive choice.
Heat, too, is relatively simple.  We use a combination of heat sources, including radiant propane, kerosene (biodiesel) heaters and outdoor wood furnace.  The outdoor wood furnace is a simple design, using a steel 45-gallon barrel filled with water over an enclosed wood-fired heat source. The enclosure is cinder block filled with sand.  Steel piping leads from the barrel, underground to the yurt, where it is fed through three small truck radiators spaced around the room.  Heat is circulated using 12 volt fans on the radiators.  While it was not required, we use a small RV water pump to circulate the water.  The design is such that the force of expanding hot  water in the pipes moves the water sufficiently up the slope to the yurt, while the cooled water returns to the system via gravity.  A one-way valve ensures that it flows properly.
Using just the propane radiant heaters, with spring & fall average temperatures at night averaging -5 C, and daytime highs at 10C,  twenty pounds of propane lasts 10-12 days.
Heat for cooking comes from a recycled RV propane stove.  We cook two to three months on less than 20 pounds of propane.
Water and waste are more complex issues.
Rather than spend upwards of $8,000 to $10,000 for a well that would have limited use (we consume less than 30 litres (7.5 gallons) of water daily) and would require lots of energy for the pressure pump, we haul our water weekly from a nearby artesian well and store it in a 100-gallon PVC tank.  It is pumped by a 12 volt RV water pump, through pex line, to a propane-powered tankless water heater.  Our total cost for hot water over a four month period was twenty pounds of propane!
Water consumption should be minimal.  Typically, two people can get by on 20-30 liters per shower, five litres for drinking, three litres for cooking and seven litres per day for dish washing.  Total consumption: 35 litres per day.
Waste is broken into two components: grey water and black water (sewage).  We ran our shower, bath sink and kitchen sink into one waste pipe that feeds into a 45-gallon storage tank.  The water collected there is pumped each week onto our gardens and fruit trees (trickle pipes, to minimize e-coli contamination). The toilet feeds into another 45-gallon tank.  That tank is pumped regularly, using a mascerator, into other tanks, where the waste is composted using solar heat blankets and a 12 volt fan to vent it.  After a year, the compost is used to feed the naturally occurring bush and trees on the property.
 Ingenuity is required, if you intend to live off the grid, live in an eco-friendly manner, and live cost-effectively.  But the efforts are well worth the results achieved.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Repairing Holes In Yurt Tarpaulin

As another winter passes, an examination of our yurt skin reveals numerous puncture holes. A few are courtesy of squirrels, who love to scurry across the dome.  Some are stress tears – a result of four years of wind, hail, ice, snow and old age.  Many are from branches that have broken from nearby trees and been impelled into the tarpaulin skin.  Regardless, each provides a source of leakage, and requires repair.

There are a number of options for repairing these breaks in the waterproof and wind resistant shell.

Most commonly recommended is the use of tarpaulin tape.  However, I find this to be the least effective, as, unless the surface is cleaned immaculately and the tape seals in the hot sun before the cool nights or moisture curl the edges, the tape lasts less than a full season.

I have used two more conventional solutions, and been satisfied with both.  The first is a simple vinyl repair kit, the type used to repair pool liners, kids’ air mattresses or even bicycle tire tubes.  Bicycle repair kits commonly are rubber-based and less effective that vinyl or pvc compounds.  The second is kitchen and bathroom silicone sealant.  By applying a thick layer under the tarp hole, and then a second thin skin after the first dries, you obtain a good waterproof seal that is also flexible.

The most environmentally friendly solution though, is also the simplest and least expensive: birch or poplar tree resin!  By cutting into the tree in the spring, you can obtain a good, thick resin that will harden throughout the summer.  When ready for use, simply heat the resin in a small sealed container in boiling water, then apply it in layers as it cools and hardens on the hole. Zero cost, zero impact on the environment!  It isd a solution appropriate for the eco-friendly yurt.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Unique Yurt Top Plate Design Provides Exceptional Support

While yurt construction is relatively easy, there are several critical considerations to be factored into your design.  Yurts appear to be flimsy structures, supposedly nothing more than a slightly more rigid form of tent.  Yet, these innovative buildings have been the mainstay of tribes of the Himalayas and northern Middle East for tens of centuries.  One of the most vital considerations is the counter-play of the outward pressure of the roof rafter system against the vertical walls, along with the gravitational downward pull on the roof truss chords.

In flexible wall yurts – the most popular designs – the outward stress is counterbalanced by a line of aircraft wire strung through the vertical wall lattice, and tensioned using a turnbuckle system.  The rafters notch into this cable, pressing outward in a uniform manner.  Because of the circular shape, every resting point of the heels of the truss chords applies equal pressure, and thus, each truss offsets each other truss.  At the apex of each chord, the rafter ring bears the weight and pressure of the upper end of the truss, equally and counterbalancing each other truss.  This design is simple, but its simplicity means that there is a maximum diameter of yurt that can be built.

Solid wall yurts have both drawbacks and advantages over the lattice wall design.  While they offer greater protection from exterior elements, the ability to be designed taller than lattice wall units, the flexibility to incorporate conventional doors or windows and the capacity for greater insulation, they also have the drawback of being built in a multitude of wall segments, as opposed to the continuous wall format of lattice walls. Solid wall yurt systems require, because of the individual wall panels, supplementary structural support.

When designing my solid wall yurt, I incorporated not one, but four rafter support concepts.

The first was the conventional aircraft cable, strung through the heels of the rafter chords (reinforced with a metal ring, to prevent cutting through the wood of the rafter.  Secondly, I used hurricane ties on each chord heel.  Thirdly, I nailed steel mending plates at the top and bottom of each joined segment.

The fourth concept provides unique structural support for the walls, offers exceptional wind resistance, and ensures that the rafters do not place excessive force against the top of the walls, causing them to bow outward.

My yurt is twenty-eight feet in diameter.  Using forty-four two-foot wide panels, I placed each panel at an eight-degree angle to the adjacent panel (resulting in 352 degrees of curve, rather than the full 360). By using 2 by 6 studs and cutting an eight degree  “V” shaped 1.5 inch wide, I was able to generate 12 top plate segments from each eight foot length of wood.  Each piece has two arms extending from the apex of the “V”, with each arm twelve inches long. 

These pieces are nailed on top of two adjacent panels, with the “V” placed precisely where the two pieces meet, and extending one foot into each panel.  They are secured with three nails in each arm.  As added reinforcement, I used the same system as the bottom plate for the walls.

This unique top and bottom plate system has worked exceptionally well, with the yurt enduring wind gusts of 115 kph (73 mph) without any problems. In fact, in 2011, shear wind toppled a tree with a trunk diameter of fifteen inches, less than 100 feet from the yurt.  The yurt barely quivered!  2010 winter snow loads failed to bend or bow any of the truss chords.   Although I clearly have implemented more structural reinforcement than is normally required, the strength of the design provides comfort and reassurance in the harshest weather.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Build A Yurt Rafter Ring, Version Two

There are several designs of yurt rafter rings, each serving a particular purpose, and working best in specific environments.  Snow load, wind and even humidity play a role in determining the most appropriate design.  For the majority of yurt applications, the laminated design that I described in a previous article is the most effective.  However, the design described in his article is suitable for smaller yurts (less than 32 feet diameter) and in low humidity locations.  While it will withstand moderate snow loads, it is less structurally stable than the laminated version.

When designing a yurt roof, the same considerations that are factored into stressors on conventional housing roof rafter chords come into play.  That is, you need to consider the tensions (both lateral and gravitational) on the angled chords.  Truss chords endure two primary stress forces: the tendency of the bottom of the chord to push walls outward and the pull of gravity that causes slump in the riser chord.  Use of collar ties works to ameliorate the gravitational warping, but, simultaneously, actually increases the stress on the top plate-to-chord heel point of contact.  Fortunately, yurt roofs are so light that collar ties and webs usually are not needed. 

In my prototype solid-wall yurt, I employ several redundant reinforcements for the chords.  A series of mending plates, hurricane ties, aircraft cable and unique angled top plates create a structure that resists very significant outward stress.  These concepts will be presented in future articles.

The rafter ring design in this article consists of two layers of ½ or 5/8 inch oriented strand board (or plywood, if OSB is unavailable) and a collage of two-by-four blocks.  Other materials needed include a pound and a half of 3 ½ construction or deck screws, a pound of 1 ¾ inch construction screws, enough 3 ¼ inch framing nails to allow for four nails per block, and a quart of carpenters glue or three tubes of construction adhesive.

Begin by cutting a four by eight sheet of OSB into four-by-four pieces.  Scribe a circle four feet in diameter in the first piece, and a circle three inches smaller in the second.  These will form the upper and lower  layers of the “sandwich” ring. 

Cut as many four to six inch lengths of 2 by 4 as you will have truss chords.  Lay out the pieces around the perimeter of the larger OSB circle, equidistant apart, with the pieces pointing toward the exact centre of the ring.  Mark the location of each piece.  Apply a layer of carpenter’s glue to each piece, and re-secure them in the spots as marked.  Once they have dried sufficiently, turn the assembly over and secure the pieces using two 1 ¾ inch screws per block. 

Measure the distance between each block at the inner edge.  Cut pieces of 2 by four that will fit accurately between each 4-6 inch piece.  Do not worry too much about angling the cut edges precisely, as these pieces simply act as stabilizers for the main blocks.  Apply glue to the long edges of these blocks, slide them into place between each 4-6 inch block and secure them using 3 ¼ inch screws, toenail angled into place.  Use one nail per longer block to nail the spacers into place.

Turn the assembly over again, apply glue to the exposed edge of all of the blocks, and attach the second ring, with its centre aligning exactly with the centre of the larger ring.  Use two screws per block, as in the prior side of the sandwich.  Turn the assembly over once again, and screw in two screws per spacer block.

This rafter ring is much lighter than the laminated version described in prior articles, and is much easier to raise into place.  With the smaller ring on the lower side of this sandwich design, the truss chords, once cut on the proper angle, will slide into the notches quite easily and will hold themselves in place as each truss in installed.  However, the drawback to this design is the tendency for the OSB to expand and weaken if it gets wet, or for the screws to pull through if they are set too deep in the OSB.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Making A Yurt Rafter Ring

One of the most basic components, yet one of the most crucial structural elements of any yurt is the rafter ring.  This device holds each rafter in place, ensures geometrical and structural integrity of the building, allows for installation of the essential dome vent and must be installed so as to apply uniform weight and pressure to each rafter at the same time that each rafter equally holds it in place.  There are a number of pieces that make up this assembly, whether it is designed and constructed  in-house or custom ordered.

The ring, in some instances, is built from one piece of wood.  However, this is quite a costly venture, relative to the total cost of the yurt.  Other wooden rings use a layered approach, sandwiching a layer of OSB between pieces of dimensional lumber, or the reverse. Other rings are constructed from metal, or metal and wood combinations, while a few are built of polymers.  Since most yurt-dwellers have a core of self-sufficiency, I recommend constructing the ring completely from dimensional lumber, in layers. 

For this piece of your modern Mongolian yurt, you will need fourteen eight-foot lengths of one by six spruce, fir or pine planks.  As well, one quart of carpenters glue and one hundred eighty two-inch construction screws complete your parts inventory.  For tools, you will need a variable speed drill, ½ inch drill bit, screwdriver bit, jig saw with blades and a small paint brush.

Begin by cutting all of the eight-foot lengths of planking into four-foot lengths.  Lay them side by side, using nine pieces on the first layer to form a near-square.  Due to the actual width of a six inch plank (5.5 inches) he total width should be 49.5 inches – slightly wider than the length.  At this point, this is not important.  Next, tie these boards together temporarily, using one of the four-foot lengths screwed across the centre point of the nine boards.  Apply a liberal coat of carpenters glue to the surface.

For the next layer, lay the second set of nine boards perpendicular to the first layer, with the leading edge flush with one side of the 49.5 inch width.  This will leave 1.5 inches of the first layer exposed.  Later, that surplus will be removed.  Put one screw at each end of the nine boards of the second layer.  Since there is no lateral security using single sets of screws, you now are able to square the assembly, using a standard two foot square.  Holding the setup in place, set one screw every six inches, alternating from one side of each board to the other.  The screws will protrude beyond the bottom side of the first layer at this time.

Flip the two layers over, applying a layer of carpenters glue to the underside of the first layer.  Lay the third layer of boards perpendicular to this first layer, and attach exactly as you did with the second layer.  Allow the assembly to dry, then use a saw to remove the 1.5 inches of excess width on the second layer.

Use two strings from alternate corners of the square, so that the two strings cross over precisely in the centre of the box.  Secure a nail here, then tie a string that is exactly the length of the distance between the centre and any side to the nail.  Be sure that the string or twine is not stretchy.  If necessary, use a thin piece of wire.  Hold a pencil at the very end of the string, and arc it around the outside of the square, drawing a perfect circle.  Now, shorten the string by eight inches, and draw a second circle.

Using your jig saw, cut the exterior run of the first circle.  Drill a hole at any point of the inner circle, then use your jigsaw o cut out the centre piece.  You have constructed your basic rafter ring.  However, for added reinforcement, you may want to screw a band of medium thickness aluminum ring around the circumference of the ring.  Alternatively, a ring of 3/16 inch plywood may be glued and screwed to the outer edge.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Building A Solid Wall Yurt, Part Two

This is the second article on building a solid wall yurt. 

Although yurts both are vastly lighter in weight than conventional housing and offer minimal wind resistance, they, like any house, still require solid piles on which to rest. 

There are a number of options available to provide a solid base for your yurt, with the simplest and most solid being beams on pad, with no posts and no piles. 

When you opt to construct a solid wall yurt, rather than tarpaulin and lattice, you add significant weight to the structure, but, through the use of innovative top and bottom plates, cable reinforcement, hurricane ties and mending plates on the walls, you can build a yurt that equals any house for structural integrity.

To design a base system for a yurt by boring piles is an illustration of overkill, however.  Not only do you change the definition of your building for zoning and permitting purposes, you provide a degree of reinforcement that is quite unnecessary.

The most cost effective and structurally sound combination of bases for your yurt is a simple pad system.  However, you may, depending upon the grade and type of soil, need to use posts and pads, notched pads, crossties and webbing, saddle brackets and so on.

Let us look at the most simple design: beam on pad.  Whereas conventional wood frame homes may require 2 by 12, 2 by 10 or doubled versions of each for beams, imbedded joists, grade beams, piles, etc., yurts, even as large as forty-two feet in diameter, will require no more than single 2 by 10 or 2 by 8 beams under 2 by 8 or 2 by 6 joists. For flat terrain with packed soil and good drainage (or in high wind regions), use a basic patio pad.  For sloped ground, gravelly or soft soil or windy regions, use notched pads, or notched pads on patio pads secured with anchor bolts. 

Begin by ensuring that all pads are level with each other. Simply lay the beam into or onto the pad, and then tie the joists into position, sixteen inch on centre separation.  Beams should be spaced a minimum of eight feet apart, with pads spaced four feet apart for greatest stability.  Reinforce the beams by nailing cross supports between beams at eight foot separation.  As in conventional housing, joists should be tied together with webbing (2 by 2s).

To use post and pad on heights not exceeding twenty-four inches, use four by four double saddle brackets and double the beam using a second eighteen inch length of beam material in the upper saddle bracket.  Set the foot of your four by four pile into a slotted deck pad, ensuring that the top of each four by four posts is level versus each other post top.

To use post and pad systems on heights exceeding two feet, be sure to use diagonal cross supports extending from the bottom of each post to a nearby beam or joist on two adjacent sides, alternating sides with each sequential post location.

After laying the joists into place on the beams, be sure to install appropriate headers, using a minimum of four 3.5 inch nails per joist-to-header connection, and three nails, toe-nailed into place on each beam intersection.

Since you already have ensured that the structure is level (by levelling either the pads or the tops of the posts), you should only need to check level of the joists to ensure that nothing has shifted during construction.  Now, lay your underlay into place, using 2.5 inch nails.  The tongue-and-grove ¾ inch OSB or plywood should be placed so that edges meet at the centre of the joist.  Use plywood ties between joists for added structural strength.  Your next layer of flooring will be installed at right angles to the underlay, at a later time.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yurt Drawbacks and Advantages

So you have looked at modern yurts, and are convinced that you would love to live in such a structure.  The salesman tells you all of the great things about the yurt (there are many), and you are more enthused than ever.  The price tag is presented, and you learn that yurts cost anywhere from one tenth to one fifth of a similarly sized bungalow. You are told that a yurt can be assembled within a couple of days.  So, knowing that you will be mortgage-free the instant that the home is erected, and you will be living in this space-age creation (that was first constructed several thousand years ago in the Slavic and Mongolian regions), you jump at the chance to go minimal with this unique idea.  But, there’s a lot more to be considered before you buy!

While yurts do hold great appeal, and while yurt living has a lot of advantages, there are myriad drawbacks, impediments and disadvantages to consider, as well as significant design and sizing options, depending on your region and geography.

Before we look at design considerations, reflect on a few of the more obscure issues that become very significant once you have moved in.  In our locale, for instance, we commune with nature in a very intimate way, with black bear, deer, raccoons & skunks, wolves & coyotes, weasel, mice, squirrels, an army of insects, garter snakes, birds and so on.  This interaction with nature is, for the most part, enjoyable. 

However, when the bear gets up close and personal, you don’t want to be cooking inside a flexible wall yurt, with plastic windows.  A solid wall yurt, raised off the ground is a must. 

When the skunks, weasels and squirrels take up residence under the building, there goes the neighbourhood.  Consequently, an effective mesh screen and lattice barrier is vital to keep the predators and vermin away.  Sure, the weasel will eradicate the mice, but that leaves the problem of a noxious weasel!  Skunks are fairly easily relocated, since they do not care to be in close proximity to us.  It is reciprocal.  Squirrels offer greater resistance and, like raccoons, can wreak havoc on the tarpaulins.  Our yurt integrates so well into its surroundings that a raccoon family has torn holes in the roof tarpaulin, merely by climbing onto it.  Squirrels leave only pin-sized holes, but more of them.

Birds are much more difficult to deal with. Their use of the yurt roof tarpaulin for target practice is a mere annoyance, but their clamouring across that same roof scratches the fabric as much as any squirrel.

Wolves are a great experience, while coyotes, after you have been away from the yurt for a week or so, do not hesitate to move in, burrowing little caves under shelters.

Insects, like mice, pose a major problem.  No yurt should have carpeting inside, because of the risk of ant, tick and spider infestations.  As tightly as you seal the walls and flooring, insects find entrances.  With flexible wall yurts, mice are a major issue.  This problem is eliminated with well-built solid wall designs.

Overall, though, the advantage of being in close contact with nature in your yurt outweighs the problems that such contact poses, if you prepare for these intruders and guests.  Because of the tent-like assembly, you are intimate with the outside world, hearing almost every sound.  As well, by using design and colour options (camouflage, etc.) for your tarps, the yurt may blend discretely into its environment.

The basic yurt design lends itself to several drawbacks. 

Flexible wall yurts, for instance, have walls that are less than two inches thick.  Even with the space-age bubble and foil insulation employed, you will experience more rapid heating and cooling variations inside this building.  However, a solid wall yurt can be constructed of conventional studding, and insulated to higher levels using fibreglass matt insulation as well as bubble & foil or Styrofoam foil combinations.  On the other hand, a yurt, because of its circular design and open concept, heats and cools much more effectively than a similarly sized bungalow.  For example, our 600 square-foot yurt can be heated during minus 25 temperatures with a small radiant propane heater (4-6,000 BTUs), and a 20 pound tank will last nearly a week.  A 600 square foot house would require triple that amount of fuel and still have cold and hot zones.

It is impossible to use standard glass windows in a flexible wall yurt.  Consequently, the norm is to install single-sheet heavy plastic windows, which transmit a great deal of the heat or cooling between interior and exterior.  A solid wall yurt, on the other hand, can accommodate standard window units (smaller sizes).  Doors pose similar issues, and, more so, because most yurt vertical walls are 6’6” to 7’ – less than standard door frame height.

Other infrastructure poses challenges, too. All wiring must be routed through conduit, as it is installed on the outside of the walls framing, rather than through it.  An option is to use low voltage wiring and inverters throughout the building.  Plumbing, too, is installed in plain view.  Of course, this method of installation is much easier and quicker. 

Due to the open design of these homes, privacy is impacted, and closet space is at a premium.  Creative layouts can offset these concerns.

Other considerations include safe heating systems.  Open flame is very risky in fabric yurts.  With solid wall designs, flame retarding materials and fire-rated wall boards can be installed.  Yurts may be purchased with mounting for chimney egress, but pay close attention to sparks that may burn through the roof tarpaulin!

Other problems that may arise include condensation issues in cold weather, when warm, moist air rises and contacts the thinly insulated ceiling materials, condensing and falling inside the building.  If tarpaulins (particularly roof tarpaulins) are not skin-tight, wind causes the tarp to billow which, in turn, packs down any matt insulation used and reduces that R-value. While the wind effect against a yurt is minimized because of the round design, this means that there are no leeward sides or areas next to the yurt, where you can huddle against the cool breeze.  That also allows smoke and loose sparks to migrate around the building during the winter.

Yurts, almost always, do not meet zoning demands of any urban jurisdiction, and, therefore, do not qualify for permits.  If you are building in remote locations, this will not be an issue, and some solid-wall designs, indeed, can obtain engineer certification.  Proper design and construction practices should be employed regardless of whether the building meets code.

Most of us choose yurts as our living option because of its simplicity and eco-friendliness.  Simplicity equates to Spartan, and Spartan means less luxury.  The yurt is simple.  That, in turn, should eliminate the expectation of opulence.  If you want opulence, stay in the city!  The yurt offers a wonderful escape and alternative to conventional housing, but be prepared for the drawbacks, as well as the advantages.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Building A Yurt In Winter

Building a yurt may not be at the top of your desirability rankings in the dead of winter, but, with proper planning, a quality structure can be pre-fabricated, then assembled on site in a matter of a few days.  While flexible-wall, tarpaulin yurts are the most popular structures in North America, it is the solid-wall yurt that provides the greatest protection, for the lowest cost in cooler and colder climates.  Soft-wall yurts offer the primary advantage of being able to be assembled, then disassembled and relocated with relat9ve we, while solid structures do not lend themselves well to relocation. The question then becomes, if you intend to relocate frequently, why not buy a tent or RV?

Our solid-wall yurt will stand for years, and has proven itself, already, to be a weather-tight, comfortable home.  Although, due to our wanderlust and travelling nature in winter, we do not spent the deepest Part of winter in our home, it has endured the coldest, snowiest and windiest days of our Manitoba, Canada winters.  If minus-40 is still too warm for you, then a yurt, of any variety, may not be a viable living solution! 

By using 2-foot panels, assembled on an 8-degree angle to each other, we have constructed a 600-square foot (that’s incorrect:  hard to have square feet in a round building!) facility.  Similarly, one could build a yurt in a variety of diameters (12, 16, 24, 32) with relative simplicity. 

Simply construct the individual panels, cut the sectional top and bottom plates, build the roof ring and saw the appropriate angles into the roof rafters, and the entire package of components is ready to be shipped to your building site.  Assembly on your pre-existing platform or floor should take two people no more than 12 hours.  Slide the wall tarpaulins around this wooden framework, slip the roof tarpaulin over the rafters and install your doors and windows and your yurt is ready for the finishing inside touches.

The tarpaulin walls offer both aesthetic and practical benefits.  As a Tyvek-type exterior skin, the tarp is impervious to the most violent winds, while repelling both rain and snow. The roof tarpaulin, however, needs to be installed tightly.  This demands that the supplier manufactures it to your precise dimensions and pitch, and that your roof rafters and top plate assembly are equally precise.  If the tarp is too loose, any flapping or vibration in the wind will act as a billows, and dislodge your roof fibreglass batt insulation, or break the seal on your foil-backed bubble insulation used to line the interior of the ceiling.

Within two days, your yurt metamorphoses from a pile of dimensional lumber and fabric in your garage to a fully liveable home, for less than 50% of the cost of a conventional  flexible-wall yurt, and one twelfth to 1/6 of the cost of s similarly-sized conventional house.  The added appeal is that this project can be undertaken and completed at any time of the year.