Build Your Own Yurt

Plans for building a simple, low-cost, modern day version of the age-old Mongolian yurt.

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    Figure A,  B-1 and B-2
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    Build your own modern version of the yurt, an ancient Mongolian home design that has stood the test of centuries.
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    Figure C-1 and C-2
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    Figure E-5 and E-6
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    Figure E-1, E-2, E-3 and E-4
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    Detail of Section E. Roof and Compression Band
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    Figure G and H
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    Figure N-1, N-2 and O
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    Figure J-1, J-2, M and M-1

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 This yurt design has its origins in the folk wisdom of ancient Mongolia, where the prototype has—for thousands of years—been found able to withstand the severe cold and violent winds of the steppes. This particular structure has been designed in the belief that a more personal, intimate relationship with our environment is desirable . . . and that people—especially those who wish to live in simplicity—should have the opportunity to play a larger role in creating their own shelter. The yurt's low profile and curved walls help it to blend into the natural environment. This is an attempt to design a dwelling that will not challenge, not dominate, not contend with nature but—rather—exist in harmony with it. The purpose of the design is to reduce to a minimum the skills needed in building a structure . . . yet still produce a beautiful, inexpensive, and permanent shelter.

Nine 54" lengths of 2" galvanized pipe
Nine 6" squares (or rounds) of 1/8" steel plate
Two 45' galvanized steel cables (preferably 3/8", but 1/4" will do)
Four 3/8" (or 1/4") cable clamps
Two 5" double-strap hinges, with screws
One wooden wagon wheel, 40"-46" inside diameter 

Measuring tapes
Circular saw
Rip and crosscut handsaws
5-pound sledgehammer
Carpenter's level
Adjustable wrench
6-foot ladder
Heavy-duty stapler
Strong knife
Paper and Pencils

LUMBER (use dry, seasoned wood only)
20 pieces of 1" x 12" x 54-1/4" white pine for inner wall
20 pieces of 1" x 12" x 54-3/4" white pine for inner wall
46 pieces of 1" x 12" x 64-1/2" white pine for outer wall
18 pieces of 1" x 12" x 12' white pine  for inner roof
18 pieces of 1" x 12" x 12' white pine for outer roof
18 pieces of 1" x 8" x 75" white pine for outer roof
10 pieces of 2" x 6" x 12' spruce or fir for floor timber and skylight blocks
2 pieces of 3/4" x 4' x 8' plywood (CDX) for floor
2 pieces of 1/4" x 4' x 8' plywood (C) for floor frame base
1 piece of 1/2" x 30" x 54" plywood (ACX) for door
(Note: Inner wall, outer wall and inner roof lumber is best if planed on one side only. Outer roof boards will hold better if rough on both sides.)

Skylight: 47-1/2"-48" circumference circle of 1/4" or 7/32" clear safety plate or tempered
Door: 19" X 16" oval of 7/32" clear safety plate or tempered
Windows: 11-1/2" X 16" double-strength glass

Floor: 20 cubic feet, pouring-type
Walls and roof: 260 square feet of four-inch-thick foil backed fiberglass (as long and wide as possible)

3 pounds, 16-penny, galvanized, box-type
7 pounds, 10-penny, galvanized, box-type
15 pounds, 8-penny, galvanized, box-type
7 pounds, 7-penny, galvanized, box-type
2 pounds, 1-3/4" ring nails
shingle nails as required

2 squares (200 square feet) of cedar shingles

A. Foundation

Draw a circle with a radius of 47 inches on the ground (Fig. A) and divide the circumference into 8 as-equal-as-possible sections. At the eight points, and at the center, drive the 2" pipes into the ground (the 47" radius is kept to the outside of the posts) as pilings until the pipes are level at the desired height. The lower the yurt, the better it will blend into the landscape . . . but do allow at least four inches of air space under the building for ventilation. (Other types of foundation can be used. Wooden posts should be anchored below the frost line. Large rocks placed level on the ground will also work, but in frost country will need to be leveled each spring.)

B. Floor

Make a framework of 2 X 6 timbers as shown in Fig. B-1 and carefully nail it together with the 16-penny nails. Spike three of the pieces of rim into each half of the frame first, and then saw the fourth section of rim to fit. You'll need to add filler blocks to round out the frame's rim (Fig. B-1). The pieces can be cut and shaped with a handsaw, power saw, drawknife, or band saw—or hewn with an axe—from 2 X 6 pieces. (If you do use an axe, toenail the roughly cut filler pieces to the rim first, and then hew them to shape. They can be nailed together more securely after the hewing is completed.)

Now cut the four sheets of plywood with a sharp, fine-toothed handsaw held at a low angle (see Fig. B-2). Nail the 1/4" plywood to the frame with ring nails spaced four inches apart, and coat the platform with old motor oil to protect it from dampness. Then turn the assembly over (plywood side down) and place it on top of the posts with the six-inch steel plates between the pilings and the wood itself. Now you can fill the frame level with pouring insulation, and nail on the top layer of heavier plywood with ring nails spaced four inches apart. (If you prefer, two layers of boards—nailed at right angles to each other—can be used instead of plywood for the floor.)

Rusty G
9/26/2019 10:50:22 AM

Great article on how to DIY a yurt! I’m not that handy when it comes to building so I bought myself a yurt kit from I did have someone come and build me a platform for the yurt to be on. Never thought I'd be a yurt dweller but I love it!

11/23/2017 10:56:28 PM

48" radius would mean it's 8' diameter. And the walls appear to be ~5' outside and dome right around 10'.

11/23/2017 10:56:26 PM

48" radius, I'd say it's 8' in diameter.

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