Yurts – the traditional domestic abode of the Mongolian menace – aren’t just for bloodthirsty invading horse tribes anymore!
Yurts are round tent / cabin hybrids. They are constructed with a wood lattice wall held in compression by a top cable ring along the wall / roof line. A domed roof sits on top of the lattice, and fabric wall panel clip onto and hang down from the compression cable, clipping on to a bottom cable that runs along the base of the lattice wall. They are typically built on a wood platform, held in place with screws or hurricane clips and the weight of the structure. They come in kits that fit in a pickup truck.
Modern yurts – often complete with kitchens, bathrooms, 20′ ceilings, and space age synthetic fabric walls – are popping up everywhere, and not just in the county. Lots of people are introduced to yurts via backcountry skiing or hiking trips, as they are easy shelters to drop into the wilderness and can be moved around. With a crew of people and a nice base to put it on, the frame of a yurt can be assembled in a day or two.
Call your friends over for a yurt raising!
Modern yurt kits cost anywhere from $8-25K depending on the size and features. Some of the big yurt vendors are Pacific Yurts and Blue Ridge Yurts. When evaluating yurts consider the degree of support the company will provide. It is easy to screw up the assembly, so if they offer professional assistance during the construction that is a big plus.
Yurts require a platform, you can’t just place them on the ground and expect things to work out. This means the deck they sit on may be as expensive as the yurt itself. They are also prone to mold, especially on the shady or cool side that does not get direct sun in areas not right on the equator. Humidity control is a good idea – either via air circulation or via a heat pump or other HVAC system. Radiant heat sources seem to work best, especially radiant floor heat, as it heats from the ground up evenly and controls condensation along the base of the fabric walls.
Yurts have some pluses and minuses. The pluses are they are a unique and beautiful interior – with high domed ceilings and a round floor plan. They also let sound in (which can be a negative) so you hear the birds, wildlife, streams, rain, everything. It is really like living in a tent. The downsides include shaking and noise during windstorms, mold and condensation issues, and general coldness and heat (they have little insulation). It’s not like living in a house. My personal opinion is that yurts are a blast to stay in for a while, but a bit of a chore to live in full time.
Given that yurts can be 700+ square feet, there is plenty of room to add in the comforts of home. Most modern yurts have some kind of loft or sleeping room, and a kitchen in the central area. Wood stoves are a great addition both for atmosphere as well as survival.
Suck on this, Genghis.
Ready to jump on the yurt, er, bandwagon? Check out AirBnB for a short term yurt rental first. If you can handle the din of screech owls and cicadas, or alternately sirens and car horns, maybe yurt living is for you.