How to Build a Low-Cost DIY Yurt from Sticks, String and Mud


| 11/24/2014 11:15:00 AM


Little Mud Hut Cob Building 

In 2007, I visited Bill Coperthwaite at his home in northern Maine and fell in love with the only round house I've ever been in that really works. The beauty of it grew directly from the circle itself; Bill didn't try to make it fit a squared-off floorplan: no right angles, and the big spaces (the main living space is about 30 feet in diameter) were simply divided in half or in thirds. People in one portion had privacy but could reach any other part of the building easily via a generous circular "room" that was open all the way around the perimeter.

Bill's designs would make a wonderful book (in addition to his classic, A Handmade Life), but I went home wondering how I could combine his ideas with my own favorite material: mud.

Creating a Structure from Basket-Woven Willow

My first attempt was a hybrid stud frame building with wattle and daub infill. It worked! The mud provided all the necessary stiffening without additional lumber, and even on the wettest, coldest Pacific Northwest winter day, it's comfortable and dry inside. The next year, I invited Bill out to lead a workshop. About 20 of us (many with no prior carpentry experience) built a beautiful 20-foot diameter, two-tier yurt with a living roof on the first tier, and shingles on the cupola. The bays in the framing of the bottom walls were filled with local willow woven by master basket-maker Margaret Mathewson, and backed with an earthen plaster.

Basket Woven Willow Yurt Frame 



Folks were delighted to learn the sophisticated carpentry required to cut all the compound angles with hand saws. Indeed, the framing was tighter than I've seen on many professional stick-built houses, Still, however, I dreamed of a design so simple that anyone could make it with minimal skills, no power tools, and no nearby lumber mill.Build A Mud Hut



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