Introduction: Building a Wood-Framed Panelized Yurt

About: I'm a writer and illustrator of books for children and Marvin is a craftsman, carpenter, and retired building contractor. We build various things for our Funny Farm and I write about them.

This yurt is based on the original yurt design, employing a center ring and tension cable (I use two), but it is a twelve-sided all-wood yurt built using wood-framed panelized construction, which includes roof panels in addition to radial rafters similar to the traditional yurt.

A panelized building system means that the main structural components of a building are constructed off-site and then transported to the site for assembly. Everything can be constructed inside a shop or barn in almost any kind of weather. Working off-site allows the use of power tools that might otherwise not be available for a yurt being built outside of the grid.

I assembled pre-manufactured yurt components for several years, but this was the first yurt that I built from scratch. We decided to share the basics of the primary components - the foundation, floor panels, wall panels, rafters, and roof panels - and their installation here. People with enough skill and knowledge will be able to take this information and work with it. A yurt is truly "thinking outside a box."

Thanks everyone for voting for our yurt in the Tiny House Contest! We're delighted to be one of the three first place winners! If you want more information about building this yurt from scratch, read to the end.

Step 1: Follow a Plan

Here are the floor and roof plans for our yurt.

Step 2: The Foundation

You’ll need a solid foundation to attach to and support the yurt structure. I used concrete posts with brackets, then beams around the perimeter. The center post is at the same level as the top of the beams. Other options are concrete stem wall with traditional floor construction, slab, or wooden pier posts. The trick is to get everything lined up and level for the 12-sided structure.

Step 3: Pre-cut the Lumber

I pre-cut all the lumber for the floor, wall, and roof panels. Then I'd pretty much just be fastening them all together then adding plywood sheathing.

Step 4: Build the Floor Panels

Twelve matching floor panels were assembled, insulated and sheathed. Hardware cloth was fastened on to keep critters out of the insulation.

Step 5: Build the Wall Panels

Wall panels employed a template to make the building go quickly. I allowed for windows in three panels and one door.

Step 6: Build the Roof Panels

Like the floors, my roof panels were also insulated. I attached ice and snow shield as a temporary roofing system. You can install shingles on at this point if you choose to. Keep in mind that everything you add, adds weight. You can just frame and sheath the outside of the roof panels and call it good for now, as I did with the wall panels.

Step 7: Prepare the Rafters

Rafters were cut from full dimension 3x5 milled lumber I had, but the book calls for lumber yard 4x6 beams. The ends are now cut for the fascia, and the other ends are invert-cut to fit against the corners of the ring assembly.

Step 8: Build the Skylight Ring and Tower

A tower holds up the ring that the rafters attach to; the skylight fits over it. We'll post another Instructable about that later, but you'll see how it goes together in the assembly photos.

Step 9: Assemble the Floor Panels

Once all the components are done, assembly can happen in a day. The floor panels took two old boys about an hour.

Step 10: Assemble the Wall Panels

The wall panels took about an hour. Then I added the first cable and tensioned it.

Step 11: Set Up the Ring Tower

Our yurt has a 6-foot skylight, but we recommend a 3-foot version that you can build easily and for not much money. I already had a 6-foot dome skylight, so I used it. It was no easy chore to get it and the tower lifted and set into place!

Step 12: Bring in the Rafters

Once the rafters were secured, which took us about two hours, I added blocking and a second cable.The cable isn't shown here, but you can see holes near the rafter ends where it goes.

Step 13: Install the Roof Panels

The roof panels, with more help than before, took about two hours. They weighed roughly 120 lbs. each.

My next steps are insulating the ridge spaces and adding more ice and snow shield, then the skylight dome.

Step 14: Flash and Install the Skylight

We were literally finishing this yurt after I posted this Instructable! Once the roof panels had rigid foam insulation stuffed between them and more ice and snow shield installed, we flashed the wooden ring in preparation for the skylight.

We had a 6-foot skylight with eight sides for our dodecagon yurt...which meant some interesting finessing. In the book we're going to publish, we demonstrate a 3-foot skylight with twelve sides, which will be a whole lot more straight forward.

But anyway, the skylight fit snug and was screwed in. The tower can now be disassembled.

Step 15: Here's the Complete Materials List

This materials list (with prices in Lane County, Oregon, U.S.) will give you an idea of everything that goes into this structure if done the way we built it. We'll be tweaking this list before it's "done," but it's close enough now.

Step 16: That's All for Now. More Soon!

Here's a photo of the Three Yaketeers, aka Seniors Who Build Stuff. That's Wildcat Man in the middle, with Robin on the right and our dear neighbor Keith on the left. And of course, there's Jeep (our supervisor) in front.

October 22, 2018: our book is now available on! Building a Wood-Framed Panelized Yurt has 176 pages of photos, drawings, plans, and instructions - enough for anyone with a few basic construction skills to build this yurt. We are publishing both a color and a black and white edition, since color turned out to be pretty spendy. Meanwhile you can read more about the yurt and the book on YurtYaks on Facebook and on Wildcat Man's blog. Thanks for reading and thank you Instructables for allowing us to share this news.

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