Introduction: Build Yourself a Portable Home - a Mongolian Yurt

Yurt/Gher Construction 101

A guide to Building Yurts...or more specifically, how I built mine!

Based on Knowledge Gained from "Doing it Myself", and reading about it on-line.

I've now built three yurts, for myself and friends, and we go camping in Luxury in these a few times a year.

If you like the outdoors, but you hate having to crawl around in pokey little tents then this one's for you!

We sleep two of us in luxury in this tent, in a full queen-sized bed! Of course, sleeping on the floor, like a plastic tent, you could probably sleep 20 people, easily!. :-)

We have dedicated hanging space for our clothes so they don't crumple or anything, and lockable boxes for our belongings (or a lock on the door works too!)

When we invite other camping-inclined friends over for a party in our tent, we can confortably fit 15-20 people in, sitting around on cushions and lounging on the bed and on the rugs on the floor... now that's what I can a party tent! :-)

If you like pictures, please be sure to have a look at step 9 - it's got over 50 assembly photos on that step alone !

Step 1: Overview of the Parts and Process.!

I'm going to cut right to the chase, and assume you know the following (in principle):

1) What a yurt is, and what it's made from.
2) How all the components should look when together.
If you've ever seen a yurt in the flesh, or photo's, or read a bit about them, that's enough.

As you can see from the photo/s, there are a few major components, so I'm going to write about each of these in turn, with some background info, and how to make them, and after that I'll show you how it all comes together for the assembly!

  • Dimensions and background.
  • Timber Components
- wall
- roof
- door.

  • Metal Components
- roof hub
- bolts, pins, pegs.

  • canvas components
- wall
- roof
- roof cap

  • Assembly!

below are a few sample pictures of some components, just for intereste sake:

Step 2: Dimensions and Background

Over all DImensions:

Tent Diameter: approx 15' ( 5 meters) across.
Tent Height: approx 10' (3 meters) in the centre, and 5'6" ( 1.6m) at the edges.

My Yurt Components (A reference guide for later) :

Wall Timbers: 8'(2400mm)long x 6mmx35mm Slats (see below) Quantity: 70ish

Wall Bolts: 1" or 1&1/2" long x 1/4(6mm) bolts Quantity: almost 300

Main Roof Supports: 8'(2400mm) x 45mmx35mm Beams Quantity: 8

Secondary Roof Supports: 8'(2400mm) x 45mmx16mm Beams Quantity: 8

All roof supports and wall slats are cut-down from 90x35 F8 or F12 pine framing timber - see below for details.

Roof 'HUB': Constructed from metal (see later steps)

Wall Canvas: 8oz canvas - preferably "proofed", but I used untreated and unbleached canvas and treated it myself (see details in later steps)

Roof Canvas: 12oz canvas - MUST be "proofed" (water proofed, and anti-mound treated) ...don't use 8oz or you'll regret it. If you can find a really strong and properly treated 10oz canvas(I couldn't), then that will probably do, but it might sag a little.

UNRELATED ASIDE: If I was going strictly "traditional" I wouldn't be using zinc plated bolts
(or any bolts), I'd be lashing saplings together not using machine-sawn timber, I'd be using
natural felt made from sheep and yak fur mixed and pressed with oils (linseed and boiled
animal fats) not water proofed and anti-mould treated canvas. I wouldn't have a tarpaulin on
the floor, it would be dirt, and there would be a rock-surrounded fire-place inside the tent
for warmth (and smoke). The door would always point south, the north inside wall would have
a religious idol/importance. The men and visitors would always sit/sleep on the west, the
women and children on the east, you would always stop for a meal when passing, you would
always ask 'How are you?' '..And your family?' '..And your flock is fat and well?' (and the
answer would always be yes even if it's not true) I'm not THAT anal about "traditional"
form nor am I a "historical" nazi.

Step 3: Timber Components - the Wall

How I decided on the size:

Some designs I saw specified 1&1/2"x1/4" OR 1"x1" OR 1&1/5"x1/2" sizes.

I figured that the smallest size would be lighter and would be strong enough if I had the slats
"overlap" enough, and I saw at least 3 sets of plans that used 1/4" thick slats, so I used
that size.
As it turns out, the flexibility of the thin slats is really good for portability as it allows the yurt wall to be rolled-up rather than split into sections and layed out flat.
I thnk 5-6mm is OK, but only if your timber is not prone to breaking, and has natural flexibility in it. Other timber batches do require 7-8mm. In all three tents that I've made, I've always used pine, because it's easily available, and cheap, but there are differing qualities, and using the lowest quality pine (once, in my second tent) did result in more damage occuring, more easily, so I prefer the higher grade/s now.
The extra 2mm might not sound like much, but it'll make a big difference while still giving
the flexibility...or you could leave it that thin and use a slightly harder timber than pine
(eg meranti)...pine is probably as soft as it comes, so anything comercially available will
be stronger than pine. If you don't have pine locally, use whayever softwwood it is that your house frames are normally made out of.

What size I ended up using:
I used approx 6mmx35mm (1/4"x1&1/2") cut from 90x35mm pine construction timber.
Using a "thin kerf" saw blade in a standard circular power saw I was able to cut 9 or 10 slats from
each 90x35 length, so I cut up 8 lengths into about 80 slats, and this gave me some spares
to allow for the more than occassional knot in the timber which weakened the slat and/or
caused it to snap. Don't throw out broken slats as these are used around the door where
the slats must be shorter.
The structure is quite flexible with such thin slats's quote strong enough tho, so if you are after a LIGHT and easy to carry wall structure then go for 6mm, a reasonably sized guy (me!) can easily carry my entire wall structure when it's rolled up into one 8' long 300mm across cylinder.
I've seen other designs that said when they rolled their walls up they rolled up to 2' (600mm) across, so either mine is more flexible/lighter or I rolled it tighter, or both.
Length of timber was 8' because the slats are angled at 45 degrees when setup, giving a wall
height of approx 5'6", which is adequate for anyone 'normal' (if you are 6'6" tall u might like
slightly taller walls).
My timber yard is aimed more at the commercial market, and they sell in
3.0,4.8 or 6.0 metre lengths only...which is great, I just bought the 4.8 lengths and asked them to
cut them down the middle (to 2.4m or 8') "so I can transport them easier in my car".

How I cut it:
I mounted the circular saw upside down (with the blade parallel to the wall) onto a "saw table"
which I made up temporarily from a few scraps of timber I had lying around. The table top
needs to be almost twice as long as the timber you are cutting "longwise". The table I jigged up
was about 4 meters long.
I then screwed a "running board" to the top of the 'table', parallel to the saw blade, so that it was 6mm (or your prefered slat width) behind the saw blade.
Remember that the saw itself is actually underneath the table, and has the blade sticking up
through a slot that you sawed in the table just for this purpose!.
Don't use your dining table for this! DANGER: dont ever try this at home! ;-) Using an exposed saw blade like this is a definite danger. If you like your fingers DO NOT go anywhere near the saw while it is running.
In order to switch the saw on/off and keep it on without holding the trigger in all the time, I
plugged it into a powerboard that had built-in switches, and used these to switch on/off, I then
used a "zip-tie" around the handle to keep the trigger "on" permanently.

In order to keep the timber that is being cut hard up against the timber running board( and hence
make sure that the slats are consistent in width - which is important), I added a little swinging
pivot to the table near the saw blade, and hung a heavy weight off the pivot with a piece of thin
It was arranged such that the strip of timber that made up the pivot pushed up against the
front edge of the timber being cut, and the counter-weight (in my case a large lump of hardwood,
but a house brick or 2 would also do) pulled on one end of the rope with the other end tied to
the pivot.
The overall result is that the weight on the rope pushes the 'pivot' timber, and
that in turn holds the timber being cat hard against the running board. If none of this makes
sense to you, thats OK, don't worry about it, just find a willing volunteer, give them a "push
stick" and charge them with the responsibility of holding/pushing the timber hard against the
running board while you feed it along the length of the timber being cut.
See the picture below if this is all still to much. It really quite simple, it's just hard to describe.

(SIDE NOTE: a "push stick" is a piece of scrap timber at least a metre long (or 2) than anyone
working with a table saw should be using at all times that they are anywhere near the saw. It
is used to push the piece of timber that is being cut, so that you can push it right up to and
through the saw blade without worrying about things like loosing fingers, etc, having your grip
on something slip and 'whoops there goes that hand'. The end of the 'push stick' is sacrificed
to the god of the power-saw as it becomes sliced and diced up...better it than your fingers!)

Calculating the Quantity of slats required:

A number of factors are involved... 1) how many bolt holes (ie overlapping slats) you have in
each slat. 2) how big you want the finished tent to be, and 3) how many roof supports you want to have.

1) number of bolt holes can be between 5 and 10 per slat. I have seen examples of 5,7, 8 and 10.
The person/plans I saw that said they used 5 later said they had modified their plan by adding
intermediate holes, and converted the 5 to a 9 hole. I figured that I'd pick a middle figure
out of 5,8 and 10. I used 8 holes, layed out thus:

first hole : 3"(75mm) from one end (the top)
next 7 holes: 1'(300mm) in from the last
leaving : 9"(225mm) between the last hole and the other end (the bottom)

This gives a "grid" when assembled whose sides are 1' (300mm) in length.

My finished tent is approx 15' diameter. It seems that most designs I could get my hands on a based around a 15" tent (or close to) as it is quite large enough to normally sleep say 6 or 8, and
this makes it perfect for two or three and leave lots of room to spare.

Some maths: lets assume we want a tent of around 15'(4.5m) diameter, and we are using 8 bolt holes separated by one foot into an 8' slat as described above. When the slats are assembled we will also assume that they are angled at 45 degrees. This results in a wall height of around 5'6" with the slats at 45 degrees.
The angle of the roof will mean that the centre of the tent is over 7' tall (more on that later), so if you are more than 5'6" tall, don't worry, youll only have to duck when going thru the door.
If the slats are at 45deg. then they will be forming diamond shapes in the wall grid that are actually completely square. the width of these "squares" across the diagonal (ie horizontal to the ground) is (using pythagoras) square-root of 2, or 1.41' (424mm).
In order to get a tent that is 15'(4.5m) round you need a circumference of 3.14x15' (3.14x4500mm) ie: 47.1' (14.13m). with each 'square' being 1.41'(424mm), that means we need 33.65 of them to go the entire way round the circumference.
Each square takes two slats, so we need 67.3 (must be multiples of 2) rounded to 68 slats for the entire tent. That said, we haven't allowed for the door yet, or taken into consideration how the roof sits on the top of the walls, but you get the, the doors etc....

If we make the door 2x1.41' or 2.82' (846mm) wide, then it's an nice even figure, and we can
simply reduce the number of required slats by 4 to 64. (the door taking up the space that those
slats would have take up).
Since the roof supports have to have their lower end supported onto a point where the slats
intersect, then we must be able to divide the number of 'squares' around the tent evenly by
the number of roof supports we decide to use.(or suffer un-evenly spaced roof supports - eek!)

When building my yurt, I forgot this next bit of the step, so every time I put the roof onto the walls, the roof suports never quite sit right as I have to put them onto the nearest intersection , which isn't exactly spaced out. Oh well, it still works well, just not quite as neat.

The neat way: Lets say we decide the roof is to have 8 primary supports that hold up the centre ring, and 8 secondary(smaller cross section) supports that are for stopping the canvas sagging, so we end up with 16 supports.

In order to divide the number of roof slats up evenly into the number of wall 'intersections',
we must have either 16,32,48,64 or 80 'squares' around the yurt (counting the door as two for the
sake of the math). Since we figured that we we going to have '33.65' (rounded to 34) squares
(see above), then we were pretty close to the required 32 that we have just said we must use. Of course, you could also change the number of roof supports to match the walls, rather than change the number of wall slats to match the roof supports. Say you've done what I did, and built your walls, then realising that the number of roof supports you cut is wrong, it's easier to cut another roof support or two than it is to change the wall long as you haven't built your center 'hub' yet, otherwise it's easier to add or remove a few slats from the wall.

So, the decision I made was to have 16 roof supports, meaning 32 'squares' (two of them
are the door), so with 30 actual squares (32 minus two for the door), we should need 60
slats (plus or minus a few to be cut up either side of the door), and have a resulting tent
size of just a smidgen smaller than we originally said.

The final size is 32x1.41' or 45.12'(13536mm) circumference, and 14.37'(4310mm) diameter
if you keep the "diamonds" perfectly square. Just push the walls out a little more, and make
them a couple of inches shorter, and you still have the 15'-16' tent you started with.


SIDE NOTE: other plans I've seen vary the roof supporting structures from 5 to 45, so there is a
lot of variation here. The upper end of the range is most likely for areas that experience
snow, or that are using extremely thin roof supports, or that like the idea/neatness that
comes from having a roof support on the top of every single wall 'intersection' - ie where
two wall slats join at the top hole, the lower end is possibly for those using a very heavy
canvas, or a smaller tent size that doesn't need as much 'support' to stop sagging) My original
planned roof used 8 as I was goinf for maximum portability, minimum weight, but I modified the
roof before I had even finished building the yurt to be 16 as stated above, and this is a much
better result for minimal weight gain - the secondary supports don't really have to hold much
weight at all, just some canvas. It's the primary ones that hold up the ring. Some other plans
don't use two types of roof support, but instead opt for all of them to be load bearing. This
works too, and will probably give you a roof ring that you can do chin-ups from without any
problems. I hang entire wardrobes of garb from mine with no problems.

Drilling the holes into the slats:

Use a drill press, or be VERY careful to make sure you drill straight thru.
Every plan I read said that a drill press was a good idea. I didn't use one, I was just really careful, and mine worked, but if you are "powertool-impaired" like some of my friends (hi Wolfe!) then you must use a drill press, or get one of your non-impaired friends to do it.
Because the timber I'm using is soft (pine) and gives a bit due to how thin it is, I was able
to get away with the holes being up to 3 or 4 mm off center by the time they came out the other
side of the the 90x35 (drilled thru the 90), but I really strongly recommend taking your time
and getting the holes really straight as it makes lining up the bolts so much easier.
Be accurate and consistent in your measurements when marking them onto your timbers before you drill too as this is also really important.

Assembling the walls:
I've seen plans that specified rivetting, tying with cord, cotterpins, and bolts.
Bolts are so much easier then rivets, and so much stronger than cord or cotterpins. Just make sure that you either use self-locking nylon nuts , or deliberately damage the end of the bolt thread after putting the nut on (this stops the nuts coming off in-transit and getting lost).

I just hit the thread end of the bolt with a hammer a bit as it's cheaper than nylon nuts
(go to the hardware store and check the price difference for yourself - if you are on a tight
budget you'll do what I did).
If you are building a yurt/ger then you've obviously seen how the walls are put together so I
wont bore you any more. It's just a case of inserting 300 odd bolts thru the right holes, putting
all the nuts on (no need to tighten them - actually tightening them is very bad!), and then
making sure the nuts won't come off easily after you damage the thread a bit.

The only assembly point that is ESSENTIAL is that all the slats angled one way are *inside* the circle, and all the slats angled the other way are outside the circle, otherwise the frame won't fold-together in a scassor-like fashion.

Like I metioned, my holes were sometimes up to 5 mm off in places, but the timber has plenty of 'flex' in it so I just encouraged it a bit with a hammer where necessary, and made it fit. ;-)
(don't hit the timbers to hard or you'll break the slats before you even start).

Near the doors, the slats must get shorter by one hole at a time, I fiddled with the shape of the
timbers where they joined onto the door frame, just because I wanted a neat finish. Everyone does their doors differently as it depends what you want.
Traditionally (in the 1600's and earlier) the monguls would have just had felt 'flap' doors, not solid timber hinged ones, but I've seen quite a few that go the solid door (and it's popular in mongolia nowdays!) as it makes for a very secure structure, and is pretty cool.

Mine is a extremely simple frame made from (suprise suprise) 90x35mm pine framing timber. Two lengths the height of the finished wall (5'6"), and two of the desired door width (2.82' or 846mm). I made the simplest possible door frame, and the door is a canvas drapery that I hang over the space. I did that because I wanted portability, and a big solid door seemed like a real pain to carry around. To do similar, I suggest using a large timber screw called a coach screw, two in each corner of the door, , and drill a hole through them, and screw them together.

Other options might be :
1) a 'door' that is still canvas/cloth covered, but is actually
made of lattice like the walls, this is portable and secure, I'm sure you could make a lock for
it somehow.
2) on one plan I saw recently on the web (it might be in the URLs listed below, I
don't remember) had a "double" door, by that I mean solid "french" doors. Two
half-width doors with one hung from each side. It's more portable, and still solid. I'll
probably do this way eventually.

Step 4: * Timber Components - the Roof!

Main roof supports:
Cut up the roof supports from 90mmx35mm (just like everything else).
4x2400mm lengths, each cut down the middle makes the 8 primary supports.
2x2400mm lengths, each cut into 4 makes the 8 secondary supports.

I live in a snow-free zone. If you are going to be snowed on you'll probably want a greater
roof pitch (eg make them 9' or 10' long instead of 8' long) AND stronger beams.

Roof/height Support lengths/pitch/angle:
A 15' diameter tent has a radius from the centre of 7&1/2' (which is shorter than the 8' length
of the recommended roof supports), When the roof is angled, the pitch is slightly longer than
the straight radius, so with a bit of math, depending on the actual pitch and size you choose, you might find that 8' is actually to short to reach the centre, or perhaps a bit long. That's ok because it doesn't have to reach the centre. The centre contains a 'hub' that can be anywhere from 1'(300mm) to 3'(900mm) across.
I could say I figured out the exact roof pitch I wanted, used some more math to get the required length of the supports, then used that to figure the size of the ring I needed if the
supports were 8'(2400mm) long, but I didn't. I decided I wanted a 1&1/2' (450mm) ring, and
that I didn't care what pitch the roof ended up at, so long as it wasn't flat.
I stood in the back yard with a half-assembled yurt and no centre ring, put a ladder in the middle, and propped the top ends of the roof supports on the top of the ladder (a 10' ladder I think), and
guestimated that it would be fine.
I built the ring and I put it together, and it's close enough. I could increase the pitch a little, but heck it works the way it is, so why change it?

You do it however you like. :-)

My First yurt was assembed this way, and it assembles fine, but it's more of an art to put together than a science. The next two yurt/s actually turned out a bit smaller (13-14' foot diameter), so I actually found it was necessary to cut up to a 20cm(6") off the roof timbers, so that they don't hang-out-over the edge of the yurt. That's OK too, and I find these are actually easier to assemble!.

Roof Support Connections:
Joining the roof supports to the centre 'hub' is detailed in the hub section, but joining the bottom of the roof supports to the top of the walls can be done in a number of fashions:
1) the first method I used, and the one I currently still use on my first yurt (but don't recommend) involves tying them down. Drill a 6mm hole thru/across the bottom end of the roof supports about 30-40mm (1&1/2") from the end, and tie a loop of strong woven cord (eg 4-5mm nylon venetian blind cord) that is about 150mm (6") across through that loop. The loop can then just be tied around top of the wall , when the support sits on the wall. I currently do that, and also extended the loop with about 450mm (1&1/2') of cord that can be lashed to the wall further down so the joint is secure (this bit works well enough).
2)What I did on yurt numbers 2 and 3 was to use a steel "pin" on the top of the wall, and have a holedrilled into the rool timbers at an angle matching the pitch of the roof. the steel pin on the frame goes into the hole on the roof timber, and creates a joint. have a look at the pictures, and you'll see what I mean.

Step 5: Metal Components - the Roof Hub

Roof Hub Options:

The whole purpose of the 'hub' is simply a way of connecting the centre of the roof all together
while also giving a centre 'vent' or 'port' for circulation/ventilation/smoke/watching the stars.

1)Traditionally it would have been a ring of saplings that the roof saplings were lashed to, but that's not something that's easy to dissassemble, and reassemble.

2)Today the most common form (I've seen it in other yurts) is a 3 layer "laminate" ring made of two layers of ply and a middle layer of wedge shaped timbers, the result being that there are squares to push the roof poles into. (the roof poles need to have an angle cut into them to use this form). I have seen this form work well and would recommend it if you have timber skills,but not metal working skills, but I did not use it myself.

3) A timber "ring" formed by building a vertical laminate up from long thin lathes of timber
which are steamed and bent into a ring, and glued and clamped together, with more lathes of timber being added into the inside of the 'ring' until it has a thick-enough profile/width.
This is lighter than 1), doesn't require the roof supports to be weakened by cutting onto an angle,
(only rounded off to fit the large holes that are then drilled into the ring laminate), and is
probably the best form to use if you ignore the construction. It's just really hard to make and
get it to work right.

4) Finally, The form I ACTUALLY used: I own a welder, and have reasonable metal working skills, so I made a 450mm (1&1/2') ring from solid metal 15mm rod (actually an ocatagon, but it looks like a circle if you don't look to closely!), and off of that I welded 8 large (15mm round) 'prongs', and 8 smaller 8mm round 'prongs' (one for each of the 16 roof supports), I arranged these so that they were angled down at the same pitch as the roof is supposed to be (whatever you worked it out to be for yout tent, I just guessed).
To join the roof timbers to this steel "star", I then VERY CAREFULLY drilled a very deep 16mm or a 9mm hole long-ways straight into the end of the roof supports/timbers. (I bought 2 spade bits(16&9mm) and a "spade bit extender" in order to drill a really deep hole.
I drilled about 200mm into the timber end for the large supports, and made the large 'prongs' 220mm long, and 100/120mm for the smaller 'prongs' ).
The idea is that the roof supports slide over the 'prongs', and produce a very strong joint. This
works really well, and I found it easy enough to make.

I made this joint up..I've never seen anyone else use this method on their yurts/plans..I just
guess no one's thought of doing it this way before...or they don't like it because it's not
"traditional" enough for them.
My 'hub' (the first yurt) is really rusted - because it was recycled steel in the first place, but the newer yurts I made were painted with zinc-impregnated (rust inhibiting) paint, which keeps them looking reasonable.

Step 6: Metal Components - - Bolts, Pins, Pegs.

The remaining metal components that need to be manufactured in some way or another are:

Metal Pins
- for pinning the doorframe to the wall lattice. these are just bent steel 6mm (1/4") rod. they need to be removable so that the yurt can be dis-assembled, and re-assembled easily. I made the ones in the picture from a piece of mild steel 150mm long, with a 50mm (2") handle/bend at one end.
Newer ones I actually make by purchasing galvalised tent pegs (just like the one shown), and cutting them in half. It's easier, and they don't rust so much.

The 3rd picture shows a close-up of the pin assembled through part of the wall lattice and door frame/s.

Bending them is actually really easy with one end in a bench vice and hitting the other end with a hammer (start lightly, don't rush it, or you'll create cracks).

Roof Eyelets, and Hooks.
- the hooks are actually an option, but something I find makes it easier to assemble the finished roof.

At each of the 16 points around the roof edge where the timber/s point to (ie equidistant), your should put a brass "puch-through" eyelet which is large enough to lace your cord through.

Every second of these should have an "S-hook" fitted (see the second picture for mine) so that you can easily hook tie-down rope through it when you are assembling the yurt. I custom-made mine out of large calvanised nails, bent into a funny U shape, such that the head of the nail will not fit through the brass eyelet in the tent, but the shank will.
Bending them like this, I can permanently fit them to the roof, and not lose them, but can still lace the rope around the open end easily.

Pins for connecting walls to roof
Look closely at the last picture in this set, and you'll see that the vertical part of the "pin" appears to join onto the nut/bolt that goes through the wall lattice X. It's actually all the same bolt, just a long one, with the head cut off.
The bolt is a 1/4"(6mm) diameter, 120mm long bolt with thread on about 1inch of the shank.
By threading a nut on as far as it will go, and bending it almost exactly where the thread stops next to the nut, you get a L-shaped pin which is threaded on the short-section, and has the nut permanently locked into the "corner" (due to the distortion of the thread that occurs while bending the bolt right next ot it).
It's actually quite easy (just bend a bolt)'s just hard to explain.

These special L-shape bolts are used in-place-of the short bolts at the top edge of the roof, but only on every second joint. (where the timbers sit).

Step 7: Canvas Components - the Wall!

Buy a piece of canvas that's as long as your tent is round, including the door, plus a bit spare - perhaps 30cm( 1').

The simple version (my first method) :
I didn't have to do anything else to mine apart from hem the two raw ends, and put a few brass eye-lets into the hemmed ends. To keep it up, it just has the top few inches hung over the wall,
and held in place by the weight of the roof supports (bull-dog clips during assembly).
At the door, the canvas end is just taken thru the door, and string/light rope is used to lash
from the eye-lets in the end seam back to the lattice on the inside of the wall, which holds
the canvas tight around the outside of the wall when these are tightened a bit. The wall itself
can then act a little like a "tension band" ..the tensioning ropes are still a must though!.

The longer version (my perferred method now) :
background: my yurt's are constructed such that when all the timber frames are together, and the roof timbers are fitted, the top edge of the wall/lattice has a roof timber fitted on every second X joint. This leaves every second bolted joint free, and accessable for hanging the wall from.

To do this, I sew a reinforcing to the canvas just below the point that would be matched onto the joint in the wall, and sew a wodden "toggle" , via a strong nylon cord into the reinforcing. The wall canvas can then just be hitched-up onto the wall timbers, and hung there from the wooden toggles.

This gives a result that is invisible from the outside of the tent, easy to erect in a repeatable way, and still within the spirit of the construction.

Note about Tensioning ropes:
These tension ropes/cords (I use two bands, each of 3mm woven venetian blind cord) must be
permanently fitted to the timber walls before the camvas walls and roof are put on. I will go into how these cords are tied to the wall at the end of the Instructable. During test assembly though, you can just wrapt them round the whole yurt, and at least the top one must be partially tightened, or the timber lattice walls will fall down. This must be done before any weight is put on them like when you put the the roof timbers us, or the wall canvas is put on.

Step 8: Canvas Components - Roof

Roof Canvas Construction:
Buy 16 metres of roof canvas at approx 6' wide, and cut/sew it as per the picture below.

Notice how there are two sections 1800(6') wide, these are the full width of the canvas. The two smaller rectangles (top, and bottom) are from the same length of canvas, just split down the middle to half their width.

The "wedge" that is shown missing needs to be cut out and sewn up so that the roof canvas becomes "cone" shaped. to match your roof pitch.
I actually find it easier to just assmemble the whole timber structure in the back yard at this point, and hang the completed flat circle onto the framework/roof. Using a stepladder, and lots of strong pins, I can then pin the roof so that it's clear exaclty how much canvas (the wedge shape) needs to be removed, leaving the roof as a "good fit".

For the simple version:
Do a final Trim, and hem of the outer edge only after you have removed the "wedge" and sewed that bit up, located the roof on the structure again, and finally walked round the outside with a piece of chalk drawing a line where you think the hem should go. I didn't, and no matter how I tried to make it an exact circle, the hems are still a bit uneven. Oh well.

For the more complicated (but preferred) version:
I sew a flat and straight "band" of canvas, about 20cm (6") wide, all the way around the roof edge. This fabric is deliverately NOT curved to match the roof, it is instead straight to match the walls, and it hangs from the bottom of the roof, down the walls, and fully covers-over the wall->roof joint making is really wind/rain/sleet/bug/insect proof.
This also gives a nice professional finish to the outside of the yurt.
I only did this in my 3rd yurt, for which I forgot to take pictures, but believe me, it's really good having a nice air/wind-tight seal there ( my current yurt, the oldes one doesn't have this, and gets a bit drafty). Most of the pictures in this instructable are from my second yurt, which has "dagging" (ie zig-zag square shapes) around the roof edge, this was at the request of the "new owner", and is a bit prettier, but also less traditional, and not as airtight as the 3rd yurt with a solid band.

FINALLY: Don't throw out that "wedge" that you cut out from the yurt.... Cut the biggest equilateral triangle or circle that you can from it, and use that as the "cap" to go over your vent hole.
You'll need at least 24' (8m) of cord/rope to hold that 'cap' in place (three ropes that go from
the tips of the triangle or edge of the circle out to the the walls to be tied off.)

Step 9: Assembly - Putting It All Together/up

The best way is to just give it a go and try putting it up. Expect the first few times you do it
to take quite a while. You'll need two or 3 people, but no more. I can do it on my own now, but
it's still easier with two.

Follow along through the pictures below for a detailed step-by-step pictographic guide with text hints. Seriously, looking at all the pictures is worth it - there are about 50 of them on this step! That's gotta be worth more than 1000 words. :-)

*) You'll need a "tension" cord/band (or even two) to go right round the top (and optionally
the middle) of the wall. It's important that you put this in place before you put the roof
supports on. Some people use a band of canvas that is a few inches wide, I use a 3mm venetian
blind cord round the top and middle of the wall (a thicker slat might not need two tensioners).
I use two tensioners just to reduce the slight "bow" in the walls after everything is in place.
I bought a complete 100m roll of cord and it was cheaper than buying 40m at the by-the-metre
price, so I have plenty for things like tying the roof down.
  • you can fit the tensioner cord permanently to the timber walls, by tying it onto each bolt-head all the way round the wall, which is a great idea, and makes putting it up so much easier too! See the pictures for details.

*) put(or keep) the tensioning cords/ropes in place before even getting the canvas out of the car. I
always forget them, and then have to take the wall canvas off again in order to put them on. You can put them under, or over the wall canvas, I always prefer under, but others use over, it doesn't really matter, and is just cosmetic.

*) If the wind is light, hang the wall canvas over the walls before putting the roof supports on, and hold it in place with bull-dog clips (or stitch little pockets for the canvas to hang from). If the wind is strong, the wall canvas can act like a sail, and blow your tent away, so leave the canvas untill you have the weight of the roof timber/s to hold it down.

*) Put the centre ring up by putting in 3 opposing main supports first, the ring will then
hold itself up, and the person who was holding it up will not get such sore arms. Try not to stand under the centre-ring very much while assembling it, because getting hit in the head with a large heavy object (if it falls down unexpectedly) is unpleasant and dangerous.

*) Start to pull the roof canvas over the roof, and at the same time have one or two people
inside the tent with long poles (borrow a couple of minor roof supports for this if necessary),
get them to use the poles to push the canvas up and over the roof. It's easier than trying to
just drag it over with ropes.

*) Get a tarp, or large black-plastic dropsheet for your floor, you won't regret it. Cut a circle
about 3/4-1' (~200-300mm) larger all round than your tent, and fold the sides up inside your tent to
prevent water getting into the tent. I origninally used 2500mm wide black-plastic "concrete underlay" plastic sheet (as it was cheaper than a 15' square tarp) and joined it together down the middle with
that wide-brown "duct-tape". It sticks to that black plastic like glue, and is waterproof
enough to survive a month underwater if necessary. The longevity of the black plastic isn;t great though ( a dozen uses or more over 5 years) before the ground/rocks tear it up) , so having a tarpaulin floor is good, which is what I now use - I found a local canvas and tarpaulin supplier who made it to-measure for the circular shape for only $AU100 (about $US150) .

*) In anything except nil-wind conditions you definitely will want to take along a few tent pegs, I use 8 or them, placed in the ground directly as the bottom of the walls, and roped to the roof. (ie tie the edge of the roof canvas to the tent pegs) by putting the eye-lets and S-hooks every so soften around the roof hem, and zig-zagging the tie-down rope between these eyelets with the S-hooks and the tent-pegs set at the same spacing around the bottom of the wall. You end up with this nice regular tringular pattern visible around the edges of the yurt.

*) Otherwise (ie in nil-wind conditions) you can hold the roof canvas down with a noughts-and-crosses # pattern of ropes across the roof.

*) take three times as much 'cord' or 'rope' as you think you'll need, use it for:
- tensioning rope/s (about 15m per tensioner - I use two, so 30m)
- zig-zag tie-downs (roughly every meter round peremeter means 35-40m) or # roof ties (roughly 25-30m)
- cap ties (about 8m or more)
- tying wall canvas in place (either side of the door) (about 5 m)
(I bought 100m and use just about all of it somewhere. I even managed to not have to cut it, so it's
still useful for other things for the other 350 days of the year)

Now, the assembly pictures! There are a LOT of these, in the order of assembly, so just have a look!


slivie made it!(author)2014-05-18

I wonder about making the lattice with 1/2" to 1" pvc pipe, drilled but instead being bolted, using long pop rivets. It might be expensive but it might also be pretty sturdy and still be lightweight.

Chimonger made it!(author)2017-07-09

Only on a Small yurt...maybe 10' diameter or smaller..

PVC is flexible. And, can crack. A 1" PVC pipe lattice might do OK for a time, but not rafters...PVC pipe sags..even on the smaller diameter.
Connections might be better made using thin rope....rope is softer than metal, therefore less likely to wear at the holes, and reduce splits.

Frog143 made it!(author)2016-03-01

I think that is a great idea. I would probably drill through the pvc so it will fit

1/4" tubing. I would then insert screws to and wing nuts and maybe use two flat washers and a lock washer. A ni-lock nut could be used as well. Thanks for the suggestion.

JON-A-TRON made it!(author)2016-03-05

Great instructable! Very thorough. I love the design of this yurt though- it's actually much easier to build and put together because there aren't nearly as many parts. I slept in one in Joshua tree in 40 MPH wind once, it held up like a champ!

Chimonger made it!(author)2017-07-09

A well-engineered yurt can withstand much higher winds...we have a Nesting Birds [Now Rainier Tents] 30' yurt, on a site that annually can have episodes of 100+ mph sustained gusts!
The hard part is's in the Pacific NW, where there is plenty of humidity and rain...that's hard on the canvas and the vinyl roof. We've stocked a small collection of Boat and sail maintenance items, like the white Dacron tape, for mending any hole or tear in the roof cover or sides.

Jonnie58 made it!(author)2016-01-25

Would a rocket mass heater work in a yurt?

Chimonger made it!(author)2017-07-09

Sure can! Just make sure to use proper procedure for running the exhaust flue. Proper rocket stoves can use a smaller diameter flue...which works better in tents, too. Be sure to have intake air, too...though, tents are generally plenty ventilated. The smoke-hole cover is generally used to control how much intake air can flow upwards to/thru that hole...convection ventilation.

GraydonB made it!(author)2017-02-06

Yes. It would. Just be sure to ventilate well and as usual keep anything flammable away from flames, and a rocket-mass heater should work well in a yurt.

Although depending on where you are you may not really want one....insulation might be a better option.

Chimonger made it!(author)2017-07-09

Very nicely done! I liked the outer-rafter-end support, better than most commercially made yurt rafter supports...those usually only support half the rafter end; yours supports the whole rafter end...much better.
A bit concerned about how stable the rafter center supports might split under stress...But that's a nice, easy assembly insertion method...could reinforce-wrap those ends, to prevent splitting. Use a metal strap-wrap for that end, maybe.

SPenrod made it!(author)2017-07-09

First, well done! 1. Insulation. Try moving blankets. 2. Roof ring. The stresses of the inserted metal rod may crack the rafters, like a wedge, under high winds. I think a more traditional version would be stronger. 3. Additional info on Ger/Yurt building can be found at ... Mr. Mueller is very thorough and has all of the math shown plus an on board calculator. I also made a spreadsheet from his formulae so i can adjust as needed. I have some plans in the works but my project got stalled for personal reasons. Again, well done!

Swansong made it!(author)2017-04-12

I'm sure just a little modification and you could also turn this into an adaptation of a celtic round house. That could be fun for a re-enactment camp!

GraydonB made it!(author)2017-02-06

I'm sure you've answered this somewhere....what was the total cost of this project? I'm considering building a yurt to live in while I convert a school bus into a home, and I'm on a minimal budget, but I still want something durable and homey.

Shadwfax made it!(author)2009-08-21

Have you ever heard of anyone ripping down plywood to make the laths? Might add a little to the cost, but seems like it could be more structurally sound. Probably not as stiff as pine, so might consider going a little thicker.

rarbfoster made it!(author)2016-11-09

Plywood has layers of wood going in two directions. If you cut narrow strips, half the layers would be only 1.5" long, reducing the strength of the strip immensely. Pressure downward or at 45 degrees would tend to bend or break the strips much more than pressure on straight grained wood. I would rip 1/4" pieces from straight 2x6's instead.

davidbuzz made it!(author)2010-02-02

When I build my yurts, I get approximately 10-20% of the purchased pine ends up being unusable due to knots, flaws, cracks, etc, so I just over-cater by that amount in the purchasing.    I also try to be selective at the timber yard, and not take obviously "bad" timber to start with.

davidbuzz made it!(author)2009-08-22

no. I haven't. I don't see the value, as I don't have sructural issues at the moment, so it's overkill as far as I'm concerned.... and the glue use in most plywoos is not waterproof or exterior rated, so it's not going to last well in wet conditions either.

pparker4 made it!(author)2016-09-03


Domas_Ya made it!(author)2016-08-18

Wow.......That"s cool idea. Thank U)

I have my own website of building materials :
, so I like your idea ) )
bignail1954 made it!(author)2016-07-06

I like the way you do your crown and use it as spikes into the rafters. you could possibly add a skylight of sorts to allow light in and defer rain or snow. Kuddo's for your instructable!!!

bignail1954 made it!(author)2016-07-06

I like the way you do your crown and use it as spikes into the rafters. you could possibly add a skylight of sorts to allow light in and defer rain or snow. Kuddo's for your instructable!!!

speacock3 made it!(author)2016-05-01

The only thing I would recommend is to drill the holes in the 2xs before ripping as that way the holes would be easier to keep lined up. Of course if you already said this ok.

sevendayshoppin made it!(author)2016-03-24

I was reading about Gers a true lively place in Mongolia.

ahmet_024102 made it!(author)2016-03-05

I am turkish from turkey thank you

primosanch made it!(author)2016-03-05

Very nice.

blackslax made it!(author)2016-03-03


I think it may have taken you more time to write up this Instructable that to actually make the yurt. It's really quite complete.

nativewater made it!(author)2016-03-02

Yurt testimonial here. I wanted one for camping in the desert, but before I did one of portable size, I built a 16 food diameter prototype first. Most of the lumber for the lattice came out of 2x6 decking that someone had donated to me. The rest I made of maybe a dozen 2/x4s at two bucks or so apiece. Lots of sawdust made ripping the lumber. The covering for the prototype was plastic advertising banners (free). I made the central ring out of wood. Some plywood and another two by four for that. Total cost easily under a hundred dollars. The yurt has been standing behind my shop for two years now and withstood 50 mile an hour winds. The main challenge of wind is that it creates lift over the top and want to lift off the roof. Also if you don't have good tiedowns, your roof canvas will do a lot of flapping. It took some trial and error to get that part worked out.

For camping, I built a ten foot diameter yurt and covered it with waxed canvas. Ten foot turned out to be a little cramped so I upgraded that to 12 foot (44% increase in floor space) by adding another lattice section. I simply extended the ten foot wall covering but had to make a new roof and a new center ring (tono).

Used that yurt in the Mojave Desert, which gets big winds on occasion. First day during setup wind pushed the yurt sideways. But I had cut a bunch of 1 foot sections of rebar to which I anchored the roof tiedowns and everything was cool after that. Still some flapping though which made sleeping a challenge. I suppose that heavy felt covering would be less prone to high winds than lighter canvas.

The other thing I learned about the canvas is that it shrinks more along the length than the width so on the 12 foot yurt I soaked the canvas in water and let it dry before doing any cutting.

Love the yurt and it is always a great conversation starter. Total weight of the 12 footer is about 180 pounds (not suitable for backpacking) but it fits inside a Pontiac vibe except for the wall lattice and the roof poles which go on the roof rack. On warm days we leave the roof canvas off for desert camping where there is little chance of rain.

KevinC65 made it!(author)2016-03-01

I lived in Mongolia, and the correct term is a ger. This house/tent usually was built in a day by Mongolian nomads. The ger is the national home and most rural areas use it because its warm, cheap, and is portable. The insulation is regularly wool. The doors are extremely small, and are painted usually by the older family as a gift to the newer generation. Most doors are almost 20 years old! One family I encountered had a 100 year door but didn't use it because of decay. The hole at the top was usually covered by a thick wool blanket with a metal ringed hole for the chimney of the stove top. Nomads would cover the whole in winter and leave it open in the summer (basically all other season except summer are winter!). Thank you for making this intractable as it gave me past memories of the beautiful countryside! (Attached are photos a friend took. One of them is inside a ger and the other are mongolian wrestlers outside of a ger)

KevinC65 made it!(author)2016-03-01

The correct term is ger if you are speaking of the Mongolian one. They used felt mainly, as well as wool (almost same thing)

EduardoR34 made it!(author)2016-03-01

Beautyfull! Wonderfull!

Thanks for sharing!

EduardoR34 made it!(author)2016-03-01

Beautyfull! Wonderfull!

Thanks for sharing!

rhonashill made it!(author)2016-03-01

If only I was younger! Can't build one now, eyes are screwed up and the rest of me don't work either! Great job, beautiful yurt, I'd love to live in it!

LeslieGeee made it!(author)2016-03-01

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful!!!!! I have always loved Yurts and fascinated by their construction. Thank you David for a tutorial VERY well done :)

Wolf+Seril made it!(author)2007-11-19

Cool. I dont have the patience or cash to completely make this, but I might make a more... "impromptu" version at camp.

davidbuzz made it!(author)2007-11-19

Traditionally (ie as far bac as the 1600's), the mongolians actually made the timber structure of these tents out of saplings (and small trees), which were lashed together with twine/cord, or bark that had been stripped from the samlings themselves, so making an "impromptu" yurt yourself from your available surroundings can be done!. Of course, cutting down 50-100 small trees, stripping the branches, etc, and lashing/waeaving them all together is a fair bit of work. The result can be a beautiful semi-permanent structure though.

TeresaM7 made it!(author)2016-03-01

My neighbor has given me permission to hack down a pile of bamboo on his property. LOTS of bamboo! It occurred to me, aside from the hoop greenhouse that's on my TO DO list, that one of these would be an option for a weekend build as well. :)

Stroke+of+luck made it!(author)2016-01-08

Native American tribes also made similar structures - wigwams and wickiups, both are best made with green or flexible sticks.

rgbarnes made it!(author)2016-02-28

If you do not have the skills or the tools to cut the strips, ask for lathe at your local lumber yard. I may be a bit more expensive, but a lot less work.

drisacher made it!(author)2016-02-01

I would love to see what all the disassembled parts look like on a trailer (or even just in a pile on the ground.) I.e. How hard is the yurt to pack up and move?

Liese made it!(author)2007-12-14

Hi David, Very Imressive work you've done to document this! It seems that this yurt is covered with 1 layer of canvas, have you seen or thought to do one with the traditional felt? Having a small flock of sheep I was thinking a yurt would be a great fiber studio - would need windows tho. Do you think that windows could be incorporated into your process and how would you think to go about it? I would build this on a small deck. I'll have to look into the costs of something like Sunforger canvas since it would be up full time. For those thinking of using cheap tarp to keep costs down - they really need replacing often. We build pasture shelters using the strongest tarp available locally and they see only 1 year at best.

davidbuzz made it!(author)2007-12-16

I forgot tot mention... Adding Windows is really easy, and is quite popular on all styles (modern and traditional), it's just a mtter of cutting a hole in the canvas where you want your window, and sewing a tie-over flap to cover the hole. if you were to simply cut a U shape (three of the 4 sides, leaving the top uncut), this flap will then "roll up", and can be rolled down again to close it. You will still need a way to "seal" the window, so either an extra strip of canvas (to cover the seam), or a zipper (for those looking for a modern approach), or both, would all work. THere is not normally any need to cut the lattice/wall timbers away from the window(unless you intend passing large objects through it) just the canvas, but you can do this too of you are careful about the overall structural integrity of the yurt.

Stroke+of+luck made it!(author)2016-01-08

If you have the money, you can make windows out of marine grade ABS. Vendor's web site:

HISsparrow made it!(author)2008-03-09

First of all, I would like to say that this is a truly exceptional instructional manual. I give it "two thumbs up"!!! I'm new here, but when I saw the post for this I just had to "take a peek" and boy, am I delighted I did! Thanks for all your hard work! I would just like to ask a question about sealing the window. I was wondering if you thought velcro stripping might work for that? God bless and good luck with your 4th yurt!

davidbuzz made it!(author)2008-03-09

verlcro - no reason why it wouldn't.... any joining/window technique that can be used on fabric tents can be used on a yurt!.

Liese made it!(author)2007-12-17

Brilliant! I can envision a port hole window with a slightly larger flap and then ties to both hold the flap down or up. As for the felt - it may take a couple of years of collecting fleece but there is a youtube film on making a rug in the mongolian fashion which would certainly serve as a felting lesson. My thoughts are to keep the felt between the lattice and the waterproof outer fabric. Not traditional but practical (maybe).

davidbuzz made it!(author)2007-12-17

If you live in a cold(ie snow) or windy and flat(ie stepps) area, then having extra insulation between you and the outside world is a definite plus!

Some of the ways I've seen previously used are:

1) wrap the latticework in bubble-wrap plastic sheet ( ) a couple of inches thick, and then put the canvas over that. (so it's canvas-bubblewrap-lattice from the outside to the inside). This method will easily cope with extreme temperatures like snow.

2) use traditional felt externally, as thick as you require to cope with the weather requirements.

3) use internal hanging fabric non-waterproof walls, that allow the air-gap between the external canvas and the internal fabric to act as an insulation barrier. (so it's canvas-lattice-air-fabric from the outside to the inside). not as effective as option 1, but lighter, and easier to assemble.

Your solution is a variation on option 1 above, just replacing the bubble-wrap with felt, and Im sure it will work just fine.

My current solution is to use option 3, but only when the weather is inclement enough(ie when it's the middle of winter!) to need it.

davidbuzz made it!(author)2007-12-16

I though long and hard about making one out of felt, but it's just not practical for me for a number of reasons: 1) felt was traditionally yak fur, and yak are smelly and oily. The oil is a natural waterproofer which is good, but the smell is aweful. Washing the smell away removes the oil too, so would require re-adding synthetic waterproofer/etc. This seemed like a lot of work. 2) Mongolian's have been known to boil the guts of a yack to render out the fats, and use these to waterproof the felt. I don't have ready access to yak guts, and I'm VERY glad I don't, this is just Gross (Ew!)! 3) Storage. To be structurally as strong/waterproof, the felt needs to be up to an inch thick, sometimes thicker. This is how the monguls used to do it. Storage for this amount of felt would be a problem for me, as it becomes very big very quickly. 4) The felt was normally made in "tiles" up to a meter or two square, and these tiles were tied-down onto the framework. the process of tying down donens of heavy felt tiles every time I want to assembly my yurt didn't appeal to me. Modern manufacturing techniques might solve this problem, but not all the others. 5) Commercially, Felt is really expensive in the quantities needed, and few people (myself included) have sheep/yak/goat and also the desire to make our own felt. I am in awe of anyone that is keen enough to actually do this. Please send me picture if you do!. :-)

Bruce+Giddens made it!(author)2015-12-14

assembly pictures? where?

becida made it!(author)2015-12-08

Nice! Only a couple of questions at this point, How much room do you need to store it? Any pictures of the walls folded up?

jay1flagg2 made it!(author)2015-11-09

I think David did a nice job on this. I intend to build one soon, so I'm looking at ALL examples. So there.

rexhamilton123 made it!(author)2015-11-07

I 15 and in school im in the home program and we dicided to construct a ongolian ger for a trip that we do evry year would one canvas cover last at least 5 years

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