Building a Yurt from Scratch: Resources

Yurts (and more interestingly to us, Gers) are front and center on the Milkwood research table currently. We’ve identified these structures as a likely cost-effective, climate-appropriate solution for our coming need for weatherproof, windproof, cosy crew-space come Spring at the Farm.

While there’s many solutions to easily yurt oneself if you have a reasonable budget ($8-$10,000), we need to find a solution more in the DIY realm. So we have searched far and wide, and here’s what we’ve come up with in terms of build-it-yourself-from-scratch Yurt and Ger resources.

Firstly I should clarify that I do mean a Yurt. A really truly, portable, cosy, weatherproof structure that, once the pieces are fully assembled, can be set up or pulled down in a couple of hours. Not a wooden hexagonal post house, not a cordwood-and-cob roundhouse. But a yurt.

More precisely, we’re looking at resources to aid us to build a Ger. A Ger is a Mongolian yurt (a yurt is more the Turkish term, apparently), which differs from a Yurt in various ways, the primary one for us being that it has a lower roof, upright poles holding the central skylight aloft, and is of slightly simpler construction.

Lower roof means easier heating, and warm crew quicker, with less wood burned, on a windy rainy night. Thumbs up for the Ger.

This is all coming out of us being really impressed with Dave and Phoebe’s DIY yurt which came to Milkwood last Easter. This was a 100% hand-made, home-made Ger constructed at a cost of under $3000 all up, made by a non-carpenter (read: he paid a carpenter to do the tricky bits). Which sounds pretty good to me.

So between Dave’s fine effort, which he constructed based notes he took in Mongolia (while staying in various Gers) and various other leads, here’s what I’ve got so far in terms of good build-your-own Ger + Yurt resources:

Online Build-Your-Own yurt / ger resources:

Build your own Yurt – A complete guide to making a Mongolian Ger: P. R. King (pdf) – Gotta love this title – not ‘how to’, not ‘why not try’, but BUILD your own yurt. This 1995 doc looks great, and has since been developed into a book.

More Build your Own Yurt resources from the same source (woodlandyurts.uk)

The Mongolian Yurt – A pdf of an article from a 1995 newsletter with some good info

The construction of a yurt – according to Ellisif Fkakkari (Monica Cellio)

Yurt / Ger Notes – an amazing resource containing construction notes, a yurt calculator and enough other useful info to see out at least one entire rainy day.

Yurt Plans from campingyurts.com – these plans cost $20. I bought them and they are extensive + very detailed, and will be helpful no matter what exact version of construction we end up taking.

Instructable plans for building a yurt – some good pictures, worth a look

Yurt Forum – lots of owner-yurters here

Not strictly a how-to but still very funky yurt foundation info by Bill Coperthwaite, the author of A Handmade Life.

Yurt Books detailing construction:

The Complete Yurt Handbook  – Paul King

Mongolian Cloud Houses: How to Make a Yurt and Live Comfortably – Dan Frank Kuehn

Yurts: Living in the Round – Becky Kemery

Simple Shelters: Tents, Tipis, Yurts, Domes and Other Ancient Homes – Jonathan Horning

While I admit that the aesthetics of the Ger aren’t as luscious as many of the super funky (mostly with a price to match) off-the-shelf yurts available these days, and won’t be the same experience as hanging out in, say, our friends Cam + Jessie’s yurt, the practicality and pragmatic shape and feel of a Ger will suit us best for this first project, i suspect.

Maybe once we’re yurt ninjas we can get fancy, but for now it’s about expediency. We need to design, manufacture and construct a warm common room by Spring on a budget of $3000 max, with the caveat that it needs to be portable so we can reposition it if needs be. So we’ll start with something that we know is achievable, and take it from there.

Know of any other excellent resources of this kind? Let us know! And we’ll share our final plan (and plans) here once the research session hands over to the construction phase…

>> More posts about natural building + all things structural at Milkwood

Lead photo by Azelia Maynard, taken at Milkwood Farm, Easter 2012

10 Comments

  1. Posted July 4, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    Have you seen that movie the Weeping Camel about the Mongolian camel herders? They have the most beautifully decked out gers with lovely carpets and painted wooden furniture. Sigh…

  2. Posted July 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Seriously check out the Celtic style roundhouses. Way easier to get the basic structure up (all you need is polewood and wire or if you want to get fancy, eye bolts).

    They also have some nice options to extend them to make external “nooks” (bathrooms, showers, entries etc).

    Harris has the book and we built the frame of one at Kotare in a day. Which just leaves the same challenge of the yurt of how to cover/insulate it.

  3. Sylvia
    Posted July 4, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Mike at The Yurt Farm in Goulburn would be happy to share his experience, I’m sure. He has had woofers there building yurts and a nice little stone one was built by a Korean from memory.

  4. Posted July 9, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hey Kirsten,

    Thanks for contacting us at http://www.tentofalltents.com We are glad to see that your Ger project is up and running. I hope all the information that we sent you has come in useful. If you require any further assistance in the future please feel free to contact us at any time.

    • Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink | Reply

      Saatia your beautiful Gers had me swooning! Wish we were in the market for an off-the-shelf one… but i think we have to stick with DIY for now…

  5. Posted July 24, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink | Reply

    You’ve reminded me how much I want to go to Mongolia – aren’t the Gers beautiful. A friend of mine used to make Dome Tents – not Gers but similar.

  6. eremophila
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Reblogged this on Eremophila’s Musings.

  7. Heather
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We built a 20′ ger using the Paul King book, and loved it. Spent 3 years using it as a bedroom (ie, slept and stored our stuff in it, shared kitchen and bath with my Dad). If you want to use it in the winter, (experience with 3 winters in central Maine) the solution we came up with to insulate it was a layer of wool army surplus blankets, and a layer of cheap emergency blankets to reflect the heat back into the “room”. Unless you put something up over the emergency blankets it kind of looks like your living in a Jiffy Pop container, but it did brighten things up! We also made the roof pitch about 35 degree’s, because of the problem of snow buildup. Really easy to heat-check out Three Dog Night stoves, built specifically for canvas tents. Also, if you build a platform, it’s best to make it round, so the side cover falls past the edge, to keep water from running in under the sides. We had ours on a flat platform, and over time it settled towards the middle and every time it rained water would come in around the edges. Also, the idea of putting a strip of tarp or plastic on the lower 8″-12″ of the wall cover is a good idea, our marine canvas cover rotted really badly along the bottom. Good luck with it-they are wonderful to sleep in, we really enjoyed being able to hear the wind and rain and all the animals wandering through.

  8. Suffolk Scout Leader
    Posted December 31, 2013 at 8:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Some really useful tips in this forum. I’m looking to get materials to build a yert/ger with my Scout troop in Suffolk on our annual “frostbite camp” in a few weeks. Normally the Young people build natural shelters (bivvi). This year we’re at a different site that does not have the woodland to do this.I’m thinking that this will be an exciting challenge for them if I can get materials and a practise build in before…

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