All the information you need on how to build a yurt
So, not only do you now know what yurts are you have even decided that you want to build your own. Congratulations!
It is certainly a feasible project. Many have built their own yurt before you, and some have been generous enough to share their experiences.
But make no mistake, even if the yurt seems to be a simple structure, it is not such a simple task to complete. You need to be able to handle both power tools as well as a sewing machine and a needle. In fact you will probably be working the needle and sewing machine much more than you will be cutting wood.
First a word of advice; before jumping ahead and starting on your big permanent yurt, build a smaller one first for practice. This will give you invaluable insights that no document or book could ever give you. Don't think of it as a loss of time or of money. In fact you could always make use of it afterwards by adding it to your main yurt. It could become an office, a stand alone bedroom, a bathroom, a laundry room etc etc.
You may want to build your first yurt for camping, and that is certainly a good practice, but we are going to assume that your final goal is to build a yurt for permanent living. This makes sense to us because on this website we speak mainly about permanent living spaces. Plus most of the American yurt builders and yurt users is living permanently and happily in their yurt.
With a yurt you cannot skip around the building permits like you can with a house on wheels like a tiny house. This is because unlike the a tiny house on wheels a yurt for permanent living is considered permanent structure and as such they need to comply with the regulations.
This is because unlike the a tiny house on wheels a yurt for permanent living is considered permanent structure and as such they need to comply with the regulations. Even if the recent movement to downsize that is moving across the country, have caused many states and counties to become increasingly positive towards alternative housing, there are still counties that do not allow them, so make sure to check with your local building authority.
To get your permit for your permanent yurt, you will most probably need to build a sturdy platform raised at least a foot or two from the ground. You can also use a concrete slab of course.
The main idea is that you get the yurt of the ground to keep it dry and away from moist. Also the yurts structural integrity relies on it being set on a flat firm surface.
The platform is the preferred method by most yurt dwellers as it can be insulated and it provides a crawl space that also can serve as additional storage room. Rainier yurts have some good articles about platforms and SIPs panels. There are good information even if you do not go for one of their rather expensive yurt options. On a side note, if you do chose a Rainier yurt you will get an absolutely outstanding customer service. Rainier are famous for it.
You probably also discover that the platform also may become more expensive than you initially thought.
The yurt structures strength
You will also need to supply engineering specification have them signed off by an engineer certified by your local building department. The advantage of buying a yurt kit, is that most of the companies will be able to provide you with these papers. When you build your own permanent yurt from scratch you will have to produce these yourself, and that means calculating and proving that the structure will with-stand the forces of nature in the area where you are going to put it, be that snow loads, strong wind, earthquakes or any other force nature may decide to test you with.
You also need to prove that your yurt complies with the current energy codes in terms of insulation. This may become a challenge in some counties as insulation is mainly rated by R-Value. In yurts radiant or reflective insulation is preferred mainly because you do not want to put several inches of conventional insulation in an already small living space. The way the radiant material work is that it will reflect the heat back into the space as long as the heat source is operating. However it does not have the capacity to hold the heat after the source is turned off. So as long as you have the heat source on (or air conditioner in the summer) you will easily be able to maintain a comfortable temperature. However when the source is turned off you will basically be at the same temperature as the outdoors.
The brilliant thing with reflecting insulation is that also acts as a sound deadening effect and you will be grateful for that, because yurts do not offer much sound insulation.
Also, do not skip the insulation of the floor and make sure you do a thorough job here or you will loose a lot of heat.
Tip: A good ceiling fan will also help you move the heat in the room!
Handy and helpful resources when building your yurt:
There is a yurt dimension calculator on Rene Mullers web page and here you will will also find a calculator for estimating the amount of canvas and other materials needed. The page uses the metric system, you just convert the results to United States customary units.
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