Why Live In A Yurt?

by heather

Courtesy RainierYurts.com

Courtesy RainierYurts.com

Continuing my obsession with alternative housing, I thought it was time to dive into yurts. If you haven’t heard of them before, then you’re in a for a treat!

What Is A Yurt?

Yurts go back thousands of years. They originated in Mongolia and central Asia, and because of their light weight and portability, they’re what the nomads lived in as they traveled through the wilds. Yurts could be easily set up and taken down, and could be pulled on slings by horses. They were essential living spaces for a people on the move.

Yurts are still used by families living in central Asia today. They’re basically just one large open space, with a domed roof and viewing hole at the top.

The structure in modern yurts is wooden beam and wooden lattice. The outside covering can vary, depending on the manufacturer. Most companies use industrial fabrics that have been weatherized, but some also use exterior wood construction for a more permanent structure.

But, don’t think that yurts are flimsy; although the design is simple, yurts are one of the strongest structures ever created. They readily resist wind, rain, and snow, and give the inhabitants a warm, comfortable living space.

Why Yurts Are So Strong

Yurts stay standing because of two factors: compression and tension. The freestanding walls are kept in place by a steel aircraft cable running around the top (right under where the domed roof begins). But the walls are structurally sound because of the downward pressure that comes from the domed roof.

Check out this great image from YurtInfo.org:

Courtesy YurtInfo.org

Courtesy YurtInfo.org

Claire Wolfe, a writer for Backwoods Home Magazine, has this to say about living in her own yurt:

In a yurt, you’ll hear every raindrop, every breeze, every bird call and coyote howl. In high winds your yurt will rock and creak like a wooden sailing ship in a gale. Yet, while reacting strongly to every weather change, yurts handle weather brilliantly. I was inside one day when a 100-mph wind gust hit. The lattice wall swayed. My desk rolled backward, books tumbled from atop a filing cabinet. But when I checked for damage later, I found only that the drip-edge of the roof had harmlessly flipped up-something I could have avoided by using the built-in tiedown loops.

The roof and walls have never leaked, even in the worst rainstorm. The roof has never bowed under snow. And I’ve had only minor, fixable problems with cold and moisture penetrating around the bottom. If you’re living in areas of truly extreme conditions, wind and snow reinforcing kits are available.

How Much Do Yurts Cost?

Courtesy PacificYurts.com

Courtesy PacificYurts.com

Here’s where yurts really start to look appealing. Yurts are incredibly frugal to live in.

Like all housing, yurts range in size from the very small to the very large. And, you have a lot to choose from when it comes to options, so this is going to impact the cost as well. Some of the choices you have to decide on when you buy a yurt are:

  • Size- Yurts typically go from a 16′ diameter to a 30′ diameter (or, roughly 300 s.f. to 730 s.f.).
  • Insulation- You can choose no insulation, single layer, or double layer.
  • Windows- Standard yurts have soft, flexible windows that roll up, but you can invest in hard, glass windows as well.
  • Interior Design- You can opt for one large, open space, or divide things up with a loft or interior rooms.
  • Outer covering- You can choose several different types of fabrics, as well as the color you want it to be, or opt for an exterior wood cover that some companies offer.
  • Foundation- You’re also going to have to spend money on some kind of foundation. It doesn’t have to be a traditional poured-concrete foundation, by any means. Many yurts sit on raised beams or some kind of decking.

So, what’s the final cost of a yurt? Again, it’s going to vary depending how large and how fancy you want to go, but you can expect to spend $4,000-$20,000 (or more) for a yurt.

Is A Yurt For You?

Yurts can be used for many different things.

Courtesy YurtInfo.org

Courtesy YurtInfo.org

Full Time Living In Remote Locations- If you own land that’s far, far away from the things of man, then building a structure onsite is going to cost a small Turkish fortune. When you think about hauling all the materials that far out (not to mention if you’re hiring a construction crew), you’re looking at some serious money.

Yurts work great for remote locations because you can throw everything you need on a trailer (or in the back of a large truck, with a few trips) and have everything you need to put it up.

Of course, you don’t have to be in a “remote location” to live full-time in a yurt. They work well in any environment.

Meditation or Retreat Space

Yurts are very often used as meditation rooms, spas, or spiritual retreat spaces. Why? Well, because there’s just something about the circular, open space that relaxes and rejuvenates us. The circle is considered by many to be a sacred shape, and many people that stay or live in a yurt report that they’re more relaxed, they’re more positive, and they dream more because of their yurt experience.

Yurts take us back in time to our ancient roots, roots we might not even realize are there until we step inside one of these structures. It’s a very soothing, positive environment that many people respond immediately to.

Green Living

As you can imagine, living in a yurt means that your footprint on the environment is incredibly small. The circular shape especially blends in with the natural surroundings, and if you choose a natural colored fabric your yurt can almost go unnoticed in the background.

Courtesy YurtInfo.org

Courtesy YurtInfo.org

They’re also incredibly inexpensive to heat and cool. Most yurts use small propane heaters, wood stoves, or pellet stoves as the main heating unit. And, YurtInfo.org reports that yurts have 12% less surface exposed to the elements than their rectangular-shaped counterparts, so they’re more efficient to heat in cold climates.

And to cool? You simple open the top window, and the windows all along the outside walls. The air exchange is really wonderful in yurts, so they stay relatively cool.

Yurt Resources

If you’re interested in yurt living, then check out some of these great resources:

General Information

  • YurtInfo.org– Make this site your first stop. Their FAQ page is incredibly thorough, and they have a wonderful “Yurt Classifieds” page where you can find used yurts for sale.

Yurt Manufacturers

Last Word…

I’ve still got my heart set in living in a shipping container. But, these yurts really set my imagination on fire! I love the idea of living in such an organic, flowing space. It seems as if it would be incredibly peaceful to be in one…

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Topics about Ships » Why Live In A Yurt?
March 20, 2009 at 7:14 pm

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennie March 20, 2009 at 11:55 am

What a great article! Thanks for promoting yurt living. It’s a really affordable option that a lot of the general public is still not familiar with. Your writing makes it very appealing and understandable. And thanks for the link to our company Colorado Yurts. If you ever need photos or info for other stories please let me know. We’d be happy to supply them. Again, thanks for the great info on yurts.

Heidi March 20, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Another post that captures my heart – the first “real” semi-camping trip that the fiancé and I took was actually to a local state park that has 3 yurts! We’ll be there again this weekend and I need to get pictures of it, somehow slipped my mind last time. These were really small, but I can see using one as the circular bathroom structure for a stand-alone bathroom next to the container house! The thought of a claw-foot bathtub in one just makes me way too happy (though not as water-saving as it could be, gah!)

Anyway, thanks for the bloggage!

Betsy Bargain March 21, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Thanks for the very interesting article on yurts. I’ve always had a fascination with them. I have read that people have trouble obtaining permits to erect them in a lot of areas. Would love to hear from some people who live in them!

Krystal October 22, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Can they be insured for homwowners flood insursance…..ect

heather October 23, 2009 at 6:25 am

Krystal,

I don’t see why they wouldn’t be, but you’d have to call your agent and check. I’m really not sure.

Greenish March 11, 2010 at 6:29 pm

I’m planning to move to a yurt full time in the next year or so. From what I have read, you can’t get homeowner’s insurance.

betty July 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I to am wondering if anyone has been able to insure their yurt. Can it be insured as a out building? Any information out there?Betty

Bob Hayles August 6, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I live in a yurt and plan to die here (just not anytime soon), and so far I’ve been unable to get traditional homeowners insurance. So far the best I’ve found is contents, or “renters” insurance.

Visit my blog…all about yurts, cooking, homesteading and more.

Bob

Alma June 18, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Im just wondering, if you have any of your yurts for sale or used. If so I would appreciate the information =)
Thanks
Alma

Alma June 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Hello Im just wondering if you have any yurts for sale, or used?
I would appreciate your information if so =)
Thanks
Alma

Alma June 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I wonder if you have any yurts for sale, or used
thanks
Alma

Zhenya September 5, 2011 at 5:14 pm

If you are building a panel yurt, it is best not to use the term “yurt” with the building department as they will automatically place it in the category of the canvas or fabric yurts. You should instead use the term “round house”, as this is actually what a permanent round structure is categorized as.

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