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, June 7, 2013

Yurt Skin Options

Flexible wall yurts use two basic tarpaulin skins: a canvas treated skin or a poly vinyl weave tarpaulin.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.
Two basic weights are used in the poly tarpaulin: a 14 ounce per yard (400 grams per meter) or 22 ounces per square yard (600 grams per square meter).  The cost of the 22 oz. weight is approximately 40% more than the lighter weight, and generally lasts about 40-50% longer.  However, both are prone to punctures from branches, squirrels and birds, so I recommend the lighter weight, as the price per year will be slightly lower than the heavier weight.
 Poly tarps tend to be less pliable than canvas ones, and, in brisk winds, can fray if they are not installed tightly to a frame.  On the other hand, canvas tarps are much heavier, and are prone to mould if snow is allowed to accumulate on them, or if they are in high humidity/high rainfall areas.
Canvas tarpaulins are easier to install, yet are a poor choice if you are using an open rafter concept, as they may stretch over a period of several years.  However, the authentic and aesthetically pleasing sound of rain or wind on a canvas is unequalled.
For solid or rigid-wall yurts, either canvas or poly tarpaulin skins will suffice.  If you are insulating your yurt and the insulation is moisture-proof (rigid insulation or Mylar-coated), condensation may build up between the tarpaulin roof and the insulation.  This problem is best addressed by using poly tarps, and treating the skin with a mildew-resistant spray.
Each type should be treated with UV protectant annually, and coated with flame retardant (at minimum, on the inside). 

Overall, a poly tarpaulin is a better choice than a canvas skin.  Cost of canvas is two to three times that of a medium weight poly, and lifespan (without treatment) is comparable.  While canvas is a more environmentally friendly choice, the value of a poly tarp exceed that of a canvas one. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Yurt Portability

One of the so-called advantages touted by suppliers of the lattice-and-canvas flexible wall yurt design is that the system is portable.  On the surface, that claim seems credible.  Fabric or poly weave skins, ultra-light pvc or wood lattice a light rafter ring and bubble/foil insulation all contribute to the perception of portability. 
It is true that each, or all, of these items are portable, if one considers only the weight and space.  But true portability also requires ease of assembly and disassembly.  Here, the flexible wall yurt fails.
First, consider that erection of a simple 16-foot diameter flexible wall yurt requires the expertise and strength of two to four people.  To hold the rafter ring in place, for example, requires two people, while another one or two install the rafters.  The assembly of the lattice walls requires two to three people to place the curved segments in place, while hoisting the skins into position also requires more than one person.  Typically, assembly of a lattice-design ger takes at least eight hours, not including the deck or floor.
On the disassembly side, things are almost as complex, requiring care and precision in taking each piece apart in sequence.  On a windy day, the task is monumental, with the risk of damage to the fabric or window plastics a major cause of concern.
The concept of a yurt being portable, to be consistent with the Mongol original yurt design, simply is unrealistic.  In fact, the Himalayan tents generally were only moved twice a year, at most, so even they were not intended to be purely portable. But today’s outdoorsman may be seeking that ability to move from place to place.  The answer is the lightweight rigid (not solid) wall system. 
The yurts constructed by EasYurt provide that ability, with their EPS rigid insulation walls and roof system, routed rafters that allow foam insulation to rest in channels, and floor deck joists that have channels cut in 2 by 6 dimensional lumber to reduce weight by fifty percent while maintaining strength. 
It is true that EasYurts offer a budget concept, with a solid (rather than clear acrylic) dome vent, lighter (14 oz) poly tarp skins as opposed to heavy (22 oz) or canvas skins and less attention to aesthetic design.  However, their prices are at least 45% lower than the nearest competitor (and as much as 78% lower than other suppliers), and their designs all include deck floors (which no other supplier offers).
I have assembled an EasYurt in under 2.5 hours, and disassembled that same unit in under two hours, by myself.  Truthfully, these yurts are simple in design and appearance, but I also can find replacement parts, if needed, at any local lumber yard.  As a seasonal camping unit, or as a summer guest house, the system is perfect.  However, I am reluctant to spend a Manitoba winter in one, as it has only R7.5 insulation value and winters here are bitter!  But, I although I have used conventional yurts such as Colorado Yurts, I would be similarly reluctant to winter in any other commercial unit. 
Yurt suppliers have found a wide client base.  Fortunately, there is such a diversity of products that you can pick and choose the right one for your preferences.  Just be sure that you research their attributes, rather than rely on manufacturer claims of portability, ease of assembly and comfort in all weather.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Build A Solid-Wall Yurt For Under $1,500

Today’s commercially available yurts largely are flexible wall units, with lattice forming the “frame” of the walls, and studs resting on an aircraft cable strung along the top of the lattice.  They are lightweight, but, by that definition, are vulnerable to the elements and to wildlife.  Although defined as portable, they require a full day to set up, using three or more people.  Their insulation (optional) generally is Mylar bubble insulation and windows are heavy plastic.
The yurt concept in this set of plans calls for rigid insulation walls, readily available materials, glass windows, standard-sized door, and a very lightweight, truly portable design. Although the yurt plan is sized for a 16-foot diameter unit, size can be scaled up or down quite readily. Total material cost generally is less than $1,500.
Typically, one person can cut all the pieces needed to size in less than 40 hours.  To assemble the unit requires one person and three or four hours.  To disassemble takes two hours.
The guide includes numerous photographs of a sample yurt being built.  Also included are discussions of problems with many yurts (and solutions), ideas on plumbing, heating, interior finish and power.
The manual is available at, or For Amazon or Smashwords, type in author name (Robert Lee) and title of book (How To Build A (Semi) Solid Wall Yurt (For Under $1,500), or ISBN 9781301795956. Price: $5.99

Monday, March 11, 2013

Portable Yurt Floor Design

This article is part of a how-to-guide for building a semi-solid wall yurt.
The floor, like the rest of this yurt, is designed to be lightweight, portable, easily assembled and disassembled, inexpensive and durable.  These may seem difficult standards to reconcile, but are surprisingly simple.  Materials consist of high density rigid foam insulation,  plywood clips, 2 by 2s, one-by-six lengths of spruce, pine or fir, one-by-three lengths of SPF, 7/16 (or ½) OSB or plywood and a small quantity of 2”, 2 ½” and 3” deck screws, as well as a few pieces of scrap wood for levelling the floor on uneven surfaces.
Begin by cutting seven lengths of eight-foot 1*6 into 94.5 inches for each of the eight-foot by eight-foot sections of the 16 by 16 foot yurt platform .  If you are planning on including a deck in the design, allow for two more sections of platform.  Mark along the face of each 1*6 the depth of the rigid insulation that you will be using.  (Minimum recommended thickness is 1.5”).
Next, cut twelve pieces of one-by-three to 94.5 inch lengths per platform section.
Using wood or carpenter’s glue, apply a liberal amount of adhesive to the side of a one-by-three, then align the one-by-three top edge with the marks on each one-by-six and clamp together.  Using the 2” screws, join the two pieces, placing screws offset from each other at one-foot intervals.  Each 8*8 section will require two of these joined sets.
Using the same process, attach one-by-threes to each side of a one-by-six.  You will require five of these sets per eight-foot section of platform.
(Note that the use of 1 by 6 joined floor joists is intended to provide the most lightweight option for your portable yurt floor. If you are unconcerned about weight and portability, substitute this assembly for 2*6 joists, with 1.5" (or 2", depending upon thickness of your rigid insulation) deep by 0.5" wide notches on either side of the joist, allowing the insulation to rest in these channels upon completion)
Next, cut two 1*6s into four lengths of 14.5 inches and two lengths of 13.75 inches per board (per platform section)
Mark two 1*6s at 16” intervals.  Lay out and temporarily screw together the assembled 1*6/1*3 combinations to each of the marked 1*6s, so that the 1*6 parts of the combinations are centred on the 16” marks, forming a framework of seven joists and two 1*6 headers.
Using the first 13.75 piece of 1*6, fasten it on the inside of the 1*6 marked header, between the first and second 1*6/1*3 combination joist with three 2” screws and wood glue.  This piece should fit tightly between these segments.  Do the same between the last two joists of the section, and repeat on the other header.  Using each of the 14.5 inch pieces, screw them in place between each of the remaining joists.  All pieces should fit snugly in place.  If they do not, re-measure and realign the spaces between the joists, keeping in mind that the 4by 8 foot sheet of OSB that will be used later as a subfloor must align precisely along the centre of the 1*6 joist.
Cut two 2*2s into four lengths of 14.5 inches and two lengths of 13.75 inches per board (per platform section).  Aligning the 2*2 top edge with the top edge of the 1*3 part of the 1*6/1*3 combination, fit one of these pieces between the joists at the 2.5 foot distance from each header.  This will provide additional support for the rigid insulation that will rest in the channels created by the joist assemblies.
Cut four pieces of 2*2 into ____ lengths, with 45 degree end cuts.  Toenail one end of the first piece to the third joist where the cross brace 2*2 meets the joist, and the other end along the adjacent fourth joist.  Fasten the second piece in the same manner between the fourth and fifth joist.  Fasten the third piece between the second and third joists on the opposite end, and the fourth between the fifth and sixth joist.  These braces provide diagonal support while you complete the assembly, and help to support the rigid insulation.
Cut the 1.5 inch rigid insulation into four pieces measuring 14.5 inches wide by 94.5 inches.  Cut two pieces of rigid insulation measuring 13.75” by 94.5”.  Fit each of these pieces into the cavities between the joists, using the narrow 13.75” pieces on each end.
Lastly, lay out the two sheets of OSB across the joists, parallel to the joists and with the edge of the sheet exactly aligned along the centre of the fourth joist.  Ensure that all outer edges align, as well, with the edges of the joists and headers, so that the structure is square. Screw OSB into place using 2” deck screws. 
Your floor deck is complete, and may be finished using indoor/outdoor carpet loosely laid on top.
Time to cut and assemble floor: 1.5-2.0 hours per 8*8 platform section.