Building the Yurt

We’d just come back from a super relaxing six days at Besnard Lake, SK. In fact we were so relaxed that we decided to come back a day early. Any more mellow and we were worried we’d lose the drive for putting up our yurt, which we were supposed to be picking up the day we got home. The following morning we drove to the local yurt delivery company (at least I think that is all they deliver). A man in a neon yellow jumpsuit questioned me, “do you know how big this thing is?” I had a pretty good idea – 8’x4’x7’ and about 1000 lbs. Bingo, he said. I’d brought my trusty rusty truck and trailer along to do the job. Getting the huge crate onto the trailer was a feat of engineering prowess and a bit of improvisation on the part of the young forklift operator. I was a bit worried when he started using the points of the forklift to jab and push the crate and also when the bottom support bracket snapped off send a metal strap flying into the air, but hey, he got the job done. We secured it in place and away we went. Ready to getting yurting…


We drove out to our shop and I got to work opening up this massive box.


As we started to dig through the box and lay stuff out on the floor I had an overwhelming sense of dread… I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t know how to build a yurt! What kind of fool am I to think I can just build a Mongolian house in 3 days… Who do I think I am? All these thoughts were running through my head and I felt in over my head. Again.

Oh well. Too late now!

The next day, my dad came out to help me finish the cursed foundation, which entailed laying the radiant insulation and installing the plywood subfloor. I know, it sounds like an easy job. But man, it takes forever. 5 hours later it was done.


Day 2, was the day that we asked (begged) some friends and family to come out to help us. We bribed them with beer and hotdogs, and you know what, seven people showed up! Ha! Suckers!

Darcie and I got up early to try and finish the flooring. We had bought some $1/sqft tile and laminate flooring from the left over stuff at one of the flooring places in town. People always buy too much flooring so if you need a small amount of tile or other flooring for a laundry or bathroom floor (or yurt, naturally) then ask these companies. They’re happy to get rid of it and there was a lot of good options. Anyways we had hoped to get the flooring done before everyone showed up, but by 1:00pm we were still working on it. Frick. How were we going to get this yurt up by tonight?

I had read the lengthy 25 step manual of installing the yurt twice through the day before and felt as prepared as I could be. But by early afternoon we were yet to start step #1. Finishing the floor was pretty much insane. John (Darcie’s dad) laid on the grass and used my jig saw to cut the laminate floor following the circular plywood I’d cut the day before. He then cut all of the tiles into a rounded edges by hand. We nicknamed him Popeye for obvious reasons. Darcie laid and mortared the tiles. Dad and I laid the laminate. And Scott and Ryan (our helpers) cut and fastened a skirting with 5/16” plywood around the perimeter of the base. Everyone had a job. Including my mom who documented and photographed this whole process. Finally Step #0 was done.



Step #1 involved installing the door frame to the base. Immediately everyone started saying how this should be done. Darcie and I were the only ones that had read the manual so we had to tell our parents to listen up… You know how parents are. The door went on square and level. Neat! Maybe this whole yurt thing won’t be that bad.

Step #2 was installing the lattice. This was pretty fun. It was all rolled up in a tight little bundle that we all wondered how to could possibly be stretched out to 45 feet. But with us pulling along its length, after bolting one side to the door frame, it stretched out beautifully. There. Walls. Done. Hell ya. Now onto the (not) fun part. Raising the rafters.


Step #3. The rafters are very pretty 2.5” round Douglas fir beams. There is a cut out on one side and a peg on the other. The peg was to theoretically insert into the centre ring and the cut out was to sit on the airplane wire that we’d strung around the top of the lattice. Ryan and Scott climbed a ladder each holding the sides of the ring with their arms outstretched above their heads. Meanwhile the rest of us idiots tried to maneuver the beams into the ring trying not to knock Scott and Ryan off the ladder or hit any of us in the face with the beams. Sounds chaotic? It was. There was also a lot yelling and swearing… “No put it here.” “No over here!” “No this one!” “Oh shit!” Look out!!” Let me remind you that Darcie and I was the only ones that read the instruction manual. However I would say that the manual was a little bit overly optimistic on the ease of putting these up. “The peg should slide easily in when you have the correct angle.” Well, I guess we’re morons because we never found the correct angle. We ended up having to hammer the ends of the posts in place. Fortunately we only had two posts fall. Neither of them hit anyone but both took a nice chip out of our freshly laid floor. By the time we got the last rafter in place it was 5:00pm and everyone was tired, sore and ready to head home. And now the the yurt was starting to look like a yurt at least.


Darcie and I, worried about a chance of overnight rain or that the humidity from the river would wreck our floor, decided to keep going. Who needs food and water and rest? Not us. We kept working. Turning on flood lights when the sun went down, we installed the inner posts for snow/wind protection (which you can see in the above photo), laid the inner liner on the roof and walls, insulated the roof and walls and lastly, hung the exterior liners. At around 11:00pm we put the door back on and threw a tarp over the dome opening of the roof. There. We were going to sleep in the yurt. We had been motivated all day to be able to sleep in the yurt that night and dammit we were going to do it.

We dragged our sleeping bags and air mattress from the tent and put it inside. Just then the wind started to come up, whipping the tarp against the roof and wall. Hmm maybe earplugs would help. I went back to the shop to find some… Two ear plugs. Ok well I sleep on my right side and Darcie sleeps on the left. We each got one. Needless to say our first sleep in the yurt wasn’t the best despite being incredibly tired. At 5:00am I got up and took the tarp off. The sun was already shining and birds were chirping. There was barely a wind but I guess it doesn’t take much for a 20×15 foot tarp to get blown around. I went back and laid down. I looked up through the centre ring to the sky above. Woah. It hit me. I’m laying in a mother trucking yurt! That we built! “Darcie look at this yurt!” We watched the sky through the centre opening. Not a moment later a passenger plane cruising at 30000ft peacefully passed across our view leaving a majestic stream of cloud behind it. Wow. What were the chances of that?! We waved to the plane from the comfort of our yurt.


Although we felt close to being done we still had 7 or 8 steps left. Fortunately my parents were coming back to help. This was all the finishing stuff now. We had to first lace the roof and walls together with the “nylon rope provided in your materials kits.” Ummm, where’s the rope? Ok, there’s no rope. Well, then let’s do the next step, “use the zip ties to secure the inner lining to the airplane wire.” Cool. Oh wait, where’s all the zip ties? Frick. I called my parents and asked them to stop and pick up these supplies in the meantime, Darcie and I went to work evening out the outer lining.

The outer lining is a beast. It’s a heavy canvas/vinyl material that’s 8’ tall and over 45’ long. You want it to be symmetrical all the way around so that the windows all line up nicely. Really there’s no easy way to do this. We measured it out and figured we needed about 13 inches of excess on either side. After three tries we got it evened out. Sweet, now it will be super easy for my dad and I to lace the roof and walls. Piece of cake. Ya, not so fast.

To be honest, I have no idea how this happened, but we effed it up big time. Once my parents arrived I explained what we had to do. Each of us lacing zig-zag style from the back to the front. My dad doing one half and me the other. This wasn’t easy work. But we made it around, stepped back and thought, Oh shit. It wasn’t even close! There was 19” of overlap on my dad’s side and 7” on my side. It looked terrible. One window was super far from the door and the other was ridiculously close.

“Nope, I’m not doing that again. No way. It looks fine,” my dad tried to convince me. Um, it looks horrible, I said. This is not acceptable. We have to get it right. I don’t mind a bit of the Wabi-Sabi look, but this was just crap. Ok, how were we going to fix this without pulling the liner completely off and redoing it totally. We decided to start at the door this time. We knew there needed to be a 13″ overhang of excess material on each side. So Darcie’s job was to hold the liner and make sure it stayed at 13″. Dad and I unlaced the liner sequentially, took up the slack and relaced, while my mom made sure everything laid evenly between the door and where we were relacing.


With our fingers crossed, we finished the lacing and measured it. 13.5” on one side and 12” on the other. Fuck it. Close enough.

The last big thing to do was to install the dome. This made me nervous. It was 5.5’ diameter and fairly delicate plexiglass. The way to do this was to stand on the ladder through the centre opening while my dad stood on the outside and gently reached it up to me. I had to lean across the roof with my tiptoes on the ladder to just barely reach it. Installing it then was the next trick. I had to get the springs and bolts secured to the centre ring. The springs are incredibly strong and it took all my power to pull them into place. It was also about 32°celsius, but the dome amplified this immensely. I was completely soaked in sweat after 5 minutes. I could barely hold onto my tools.

Lastly, we evened out and lined up the inner lining with the outer and secured it in place with the zip ties my parents brought. We then used tuck tape to secure on the seams and screwed the wall liner to the skirting.

Done. Hell ya. We got ourselves a yurt.




(Originally posted August 18, 2014)

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