How is a Yurt Structured?

Since Chris and I have decided to live in a yurt permanently, we have been bombarded with questions. After answering all of the basics, some others popped up. Questions like what do the walls look like? How do you build it? How is it shipped? Does it have windows? Is it really a tent? What about the winter?

Here are some answers!

Can you live in a yurt during the winter?

Since we live in New England, this may be the most asked question we have received so far, and the answer is yes!

A Mongolian-style yurt
Yurts were introduced in Mongolia thousands of years ago. The original yurt was designed to be portable, and give optimal shelter in the Mongolian climate, consisting of dry, frigid
temperatures, and high winds.  These yurts could be packed up in as little as thirty minutes and carried away on a couple of camels. Yet when they were erect, they could withstand the most fierce winds and bitter cold.

Today, many yurts exist in the most aggressive winters. Modern yurt companies usually have a snow and wind kit that can be purchased to reinforce its structure. Ski resorts often utilize yurts on their ski slopes. Building codes for ski resorts tend to have higher snow load requirements, and yurts with snow and wind upgrades are still able to pass these codes.

A Shelter Designs Yurt in the Snow
We will most likely be ordering our yurt from a company in Montana, Shelter Designs, where they sell many yurts to snow-heavy regions. They have a very durable snow and wind kit that adds a lot of stability, as well as an “arctic insulation” layer that can be added to the standard reflective insulation layer. We will be incorporating both of these upgrades into our yurt. Though they said we may not necessarily need the arctic insulation layer, we all agree that more insulation never hurts.


Still not convinced? Watch this video of someone who actually lives a yurt year round.

How is a Yurt Structured?

Much like a stick-built house begins with a foundation, a yurt begins with a platform.shelter-designs-platformYurt buyers are responsible for building this feature ahead of time. Some platforms are flush to the ground, while others are high above. Some have a crawl space, or even a garage underneath them for added storage. Yurt buyers then can place any type of flooring they desire on top of the platform.

The basic frame for the the walls of a yurt are similar to a wooden lattice baby gate. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Imagine a giant wooden gate that is large enough to connect to itself in a circle, almost creating a huge, round playpen.

The roof frame is created by wooden rafters connecting a compression ring to a wire cable that runs along the top of the lattice. A tinted dome window is placed in the tension ring, creating a beautiful and unique skylight.

Layers of insulation and polyester or vinyl are placed over the wooden framework.

shelter-designs-windowStandard windows include a screen, clear vinyl, and solid vinyl that can be used to shut out light.

Many companies offer upgrades for windows and doors, including thermal pane glass windows, full light doors, and french doors. We are hoping to add a few glass windows in addition to a few standard windows, a standard half-light door for our front entrance, and french doors for our back entrance.

How is a yurt shipped?

Shelter Designs will send us a yurt kit that we will put together. Since this company is a small one, they will build our yurt kit personally, and as they do, they will be adding each necessary part into a custom box for safe shipping.

Shelter Designs is out of Missoula, Montana, and regularly ships their yurt kits all over the world. After the platform is constructed and we’re ready for our yurt to arrive, we will arrange for the best type of shelter-designs-yurt-buildingshipping.

In order to construct it, yurt companies suggest grabbing a handful of friends and family and taking a weekend to raise it up together. From what I’ve read, they supply very easy-to-follow directions that make the process simple. The idea of building our home with our closest family and friends over a couple pizzas and beers, sounds just about right to us.

What about the interior?

shelter-designs-interiorYurt companies do not provide interiors. They furnish everything that is needed for the exterior, and will even help offer designs for the internal structures, but when it comes to building, they leave it up to the buyer.

In a perfect world, if we have enough funds for the entire project at once, we will put in a septic, well, platform, yurt, and interior decked out with a master bedroom and bathroom, guest bedroom, main bathroom, kitchen, and living room. We are being realistic with ourselves, however, and guess that this may not be the case. If our budget runs short, we may do all of this in stages. Maybe even living off the grid for a portion of it.

The idea of doing everything at once, and when it’s finished, being able to walk into our completed yurt and have many, many house warming parties, sounds so perfect. Yet, really, this is not what all of this is about. Part of this project is about learning new things, taking our time choosing, utilizing the skills and knowledge of our friends and family, doing much of it ourselves, and ultimately slowly building our home, piece by piece. We want to put our heart and souls into every aspect, and that cannot be rushed.

We live our lives “always taking the scenic route”. So why would we do anything different when building our home? When we go out to eat, we will often take the longest route possible, enjoying the ride, because for us, the destination is not everything. If we slow down, and take the time to acknowledge the progress of the journey, we are able to witness such beauty that would have otherwise been missed. A deep conversation that the drive allows, a newly discovered road with epic views, a rare sight of a wild animal. We plan on using that same mentality when building our home. If we rush through it, what will we miss along this route? By slowing down and enjoying the journey, we see the world.


Photo credit: UBC News via VisualHunt / CC BY-NCBernd Thaller via / CC BY, Shelter Designs via, Colorado Yurts


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