What is a Yurt?
Sometimes in history, we come across a design that is so simple and effective it travels through time practically unchanged. This is surely the case with the yurt, a type of round, portable tent that originated in Central Asia over 3,000 years ago. The frame typically consists of a circular lattice wall, a doorway, wooden rafters, and a circular crown in the center of the roof. The Yurt's frame is then covered with material - traditionally animal hides, weaved fibres, or felted wool. Today Yurt covers are made using a variety of materials, and can be treated to repel moisture and resist mildew. Circular geometry allows small to medium sized yurts to be self supporting, and to actually become stronger as more force or weight is applied to the exterior.
What is the history behind Yurts?
The first recorded people to live in Yurts were the Scythians, a nomadic horseback culture in based in central Asia. In the 3000 years since then, many cultures have adopted adaptations of the Yurt; the design has maintained popularity in central Asia, Mongolia, and most recently North America. With such a long history, there is naturally great diversity in style and materials to choose from when building a yurt, but the basic circular design remains unchanged.
Is a Yurt right for me?
Yurts aren’t for everyone, but there are great reasons to consider this option. First off, the simplicity of the Yurt's design promotes a healthy, more minimalist lifestyle for it's occupants. Another huge benefit of the Yurt is it's price tag; Yurts are a very affordable alternative to living in a traditional house. Thirdly, Yurts are an environmentally sustainable housing option. The Yurt's circular design creates a large floor plan, while reducing the amount of building materials needed for construction. Built on temporary wood bases, Yurts can be constructed and removed from a building site with minimal impact to the surrounding environment. Here at Tiny Life Supply, we are excited to see companies like Pacific Yurts, Yurta, and Rainier Yurts also prioritizing sustainability in the manufacturing process.
Unsure if you could actually live in a yurt? Try renting one of these Yurt Airbnb's for a weekend! If you're ready to go tiny but unsure about yurts, you may want to consider a Tiny House, Micro Home, or Cabin.
How much does a Yurt cost?
While preparing a budget for your Yurt construction project, there are several factors to consider. Perhaps the most important is where you plan to put your Yurt. Unless you already have an available site, purchasing or renting land will likely be the largest cost of your new home.
Once you have a site, you will need to decide on a design for your base. Prices for Yurt bases vary greatly as there are many options to choose from. Some popular Yurt foundations include wood platforms, concrete pads, and insulated earthbags.
The second largest cost will likely be your Yurt itself. If you plan on building your own yurt, check out this article by Mother Earth News. It is possible that building your Yurt from scratch could reduce your costs, but the number of manufacturers producing quality Yurts makes purchasing a kit an attractive option. A great tool for comparing manufacturers and pricing is this Yurt Companies List that the folks at yurtinfo.org put together. Make sure that you incorporate estimated shipping costs when comparing manufacturers.
The last main expenses to consider will be purchasing your systems and finishing your interior.
Is it legal to live in a Yurt?
This is a tricky question with varying answers depending on your local zoning laws. If your yurt is plumbed in or connected to utilities, you will need to meet codes, and will likely need an engineer to sign off on your yurt design. If you are completely off grid, you may be able to classify your yurt as a tent, shed, gazebo, or tiny house. Making your yurt legal will often mean having a one on one discussion with your local inspector or zoning official. Words like 'temporary' and 'removable' are reported to be helpful.
To get an idea of your local zoning climate, check out these great resources for tiny house regulations in both the United States (Tiny House Society and Money Task Force) and Canada (Tiny Homes Canada).
So... what about the toilet?
Because most Yurts are not plumbed into a tank or septic field, popular toilet options include composting toilets and traditional outhouses. As composting toilet technology has improved, more and more Yurt owners are investing in this option.
A composting toilet is a dry toilet that uses aerobic processing to break down organic waste. Composting toilets are also a great option for environmental reasons. Waste is transformed into nutrient-rich compost that can be safely returned to the environment, or even used in agriculture. At first the composting toilet concept may seem a little strange, but the modern designs really work great.
The best way to decide if a composting toilet will work for you is to hear from somebody with first-hand experience. If you are interested in the details, Ariel McGlothin has written some of most comprehensive composting toilet blog posts that we've seen.
What about storage?
Yurts are definitely not for hoarders. Because of the small footprint and minimalist design of most yurts, there is no room for nonessential items. For most people, this means that the transition to tiny living will require purging a lot of 'stuff', and adopting a more minimalist lifestyle.
That being said, creative storage solutions are one of the most important features to incorporate into your yurt plans. A clever storage compartment or unique shelving design can become a beautiful design feature; use your imagination and have some fun! For inspiration, check out these great storage ideas by 'Live Big in a Tiny Home'.
Are people actually doing this?
Absolutely! Yurts, or Gers, are still a popular housing option in Mongolia and central Asia where they originated. More and more North Americans are also building the structures as guest homes, recreational shelters, or full-time houses.
Tiny Life Supply is proud to take a leadership role in the tiny life community through our ambassador program, the 'Tiny Life Renegades'. We would love to add a Renegade with an exciting Yurt project to the roster! If you or somebody you know is Yurt Renegade material, drop us a line with an introduction.
What Systems will I need?
Choosing the perfect systems for your yurt is one of the most exciting steps! From customizing your tiny kitchen, to selecting your power and heat source, picking the perfect systems is the key to designing a yurt that works for your lifestyle. Use the links below to browse through the best appliances, gear, and supplies.
Don't let the options overwhelm you; take the planning process one step at a time, and get a hold of us if you need any help!
Ok, I'm in; what's next?
Ok, you're set on a yurt! So... whats next?
1. Find your site and do your research. Yurt Forum is a great place to get all kinds of reliable information straight from the yurt community.
2. Source your yurt. Comparing manufacturers may seem daunting, but this post by Apartment Therapy is a great place to start.
3. Design your systems. Here at Tiny Life Supply we have sourced the highest quality and most reliable products for yurt living. Start the planning process by browsing our products by category.
If you have any questions please drop us a line! We love meeting new tiny life enthusiasts and would love to hear from you.