So you’ve looked at modern yurts and you’re convinced you’d love to live in such a structure. The seller tells you all the wonders of the yurt (there are many) and you are more excited than ever. He is presented with the price tag and learns that yurts cost between one tenth and one fifth of a similarly sized bungalow. They tell you that a yurt can be put together in a couple of days. So, knowing that you’ll be mortgage-free the instant the house is built, and that you’ll be living in this space-age creation (which was first built several thousand years ago in the Slavic and Mongolian regions), you jump to the opportunity to go to the bare minimum with this unique idea. But there is much more to consider before you buy!
While yurts have wide appeal, and while there are many advantages to living in a yurt, there are myriad drawbacks, impediments, and drawbacks to consider, as well as significant design and sizing options, depending on your region and geography.
Before we get into design considerations, reflect on some of the more obscure issues that become very important once you’ve moved. In our place, for example, we communicate with nature in a very intimate way, with black bears, deer, raccoons and skunks, wolves and coyotes, weasels, mice, squirrels, an army of insects, snakes, birds, etc. 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-walled yurt with plastic windows. A solid-walled, raised off the ground yurt is a must.
When skunks, weasels and squirrels take up residence under the building, the neighborhood disappears. Consequently, an effective mesh screen and lattice barrier are vital in keeping predators and vermin out. Sure, the weasel will eradicate the mice, but that leaves the problem of a noxious weasel! Skunks relocate quite easily, as they don’t mind being near us. it’s reciprocal. Squirrels offer greater resistance and, like raccoons, can wreak havoc on tarps. Our yurt blends in so well with its surroundings that a family of raccoons have punched holes in the canvas roof, simply by climbing on it. Squirrels only leave pin-sized holes, but more of them.
Birds are much more difficult to deal with. His use of the yurt’s tarp for target practice is a mere nuisance, but his clamor through the very roof scratches the fabric as hard as any squirrel.
The wolves are a great experience, while the coyotes, having been out of the yurt for a week, do not hesitate to move in, digging small caves under the shelters.
Insects, such as mice, pose a major problem. No yurt should have carpet inside, due to the risk of ant, tick and spider infestations. With the same force with which it seals the walls and the floor, the insects find entrances. With flexible wall yurts, mice are a major problem. This problem is eliminated with well-constructed solid wall designs.
In general, however, the benefit of being in close contact with nature in your yurt outweighs the problems posed by such contact, if you prepare for these interlopers and guests. Due to the tent-like assembly, he is intimate with the outside world and hears almost all sounds. Additionally, by using design and color options (camouflage, etc.) for your tarps, the yurt can blend unobtrusively into its surroundings.
The basic design of the yurt lends itself to several drawbacks.
Flexible-walled yurts, for example, 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 within this building. However, a solid-walled yurt can be built with conventional studs and insulated to higher levels using matte fiberglass insulation, as well as combinations of bubble and Styrofoam sheets or sheets. On the other hand, a yurt, due to its circular layout and open concept, heats and cools much more effectively than a similarly sized bungalow. For example, our 600 square foot yurt can be heated to minus 25 with a small (4-6,000 BTU) radiant propane heater, and a 20 pound tank will last almost a week. A 600 square foot home would require triple that amount of fuel and still have hot and cold zones.
It is impossible to use standard glass windows in a flexible wall yurt. Consequently, the norm is to install heavy plastic single pane windows, which transmit a large part of the heat or cooling between inside and outside. A solid wall yurt, on the other hand, can accommodate standard window units (smaller sizes). Doors pose similar problems, especially since most yurt vertical walls measure 6′ 6″ to 7′, less than the standard door frame height.
Other infrastructure also poses challenges. All wiring must be routed through conduit, as it is installed on the outside of the walls frame, rather than through it. One option is to use low voltage wiring and inverters throughout the building. The plumbing is also installed in plain sight. Of course, this installation method is much easier and faster.
Due to the open layout of these homes, privacy is compromised and closet space is at a premium. Creative designs can offset these concerns.
Other considerations include safe heating systems. Open flame is very risky in cloth yurts. With solid wall designs, fire retardant materials and fire resistant wall boards can be installed. Yurts can be purchased with a chimney vent mount, but pay close attention to sparks that can burn through your canvas roof!
Other problems that can arise include condensation problems in cold climates, when warm, moist air rises and comes into contact with thinly insulated roofing materials, condensing and dripping inside the building. If the tarps (particularly roofing tarps) are not skin-tight, the wind causes the tarp to swell, which, in turn, compacts any matte insulation used and reduces that R-value. While the effect of wind against a yurt is minimized due to the round design, this means there are no leeward sides or areas to the side of the yurt, where you can snuggle up 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 the zoning demands of any urban jurisdiction and therefore do not qualify for permits. If you are building in remote locations this will not be a problem and in fact some solid wall designs can be engineer certified. Proper design and construction practices must be employed regardless of whether the building is up to code.
Most of us choose yurts as our living option due to its simplicity and environmental friendliness. Simplicity equals Spartan, and Spartan means less luxury. The yurt is simple. That, in turn, should remove the expectation of opulence. If you want opulence, stay in the city! The yurt offers a wonderful escape and an alternative to conventional housing, but be prepared for the drawbacks as well as the benefits.