Building a Wood-Framed Panelized Yurt

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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 Amazon.com! 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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    27 Discussions

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    joshpit2003

    2 months ago

    Awesome project guys. Thanks for sharing.

    I was wondering though: For the floor panels, why use a hardware cloth instead of just sheathing the bottom side as well?

    1 reply

    Thank you! Floor panels wouldn't need anything if they weren't insulated, but ours were. I used hardware cloth instead of sheathing to save about $200 and to keep the weight down. But sheathing would work fine and would be a lot easier to install.

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    Matthew27

    3 months ago

    Same type of construction principle as Deltec prefab homes from NC. I helped my brother build one back in the 80's.

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    Wildcat Man and RobinMatthew27

    Reply 3 months ago

    Yup! Deltec is one of a number of yurt kit mfr's we have listed in our book for people who aren't able or inclined to build their own parts. I've assembled pre-built yurts as well, for a different company, but this is the first time I built all the components, too.

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    Wildcat Man and Robinmialjojo

    Reply 3 months ago

    Multiply the radius (8, half of diameter is radius) by itself to square the number: 8x8=64 x pi (3.14159)= 201 square feet. Edit: you lose area at each corner, leaving about 190 square feet. I'll post something about that soon.

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    LilacLisa

    3 months ago

    I like it! For me, it would be my She-Shed! :)

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    kilgore64

    3 months ago

    Nice concept and I appreciate your sharing, but it seems like this is more of an enclosed gazebo than a yurt. One of the key features of a yurt is portability. This seems like a pretty permanent structure that probably weighs in excess of two tons.

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    aebekilgore64

    Reply 3 months ago

    There has been a commercial outfit building wooden yurts since the '70s , they advertised in the Mother Earth News and other places .

    An immobile wooden yurt is a long shoestring away from the traditional yurt , but it is accepted .

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    Wildcat Man and Robinkilgore64

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thanks! I appreciate your comment. As posted, this structure is built like a traditional yurt by employing a center ring and tension cable (I use two), as well as radial rafters. It's certainly a departure from the traditional yurt, but isn't a gazebo either.

    You can indeed disassemble this structure the same way you assembled it. We transported all the parts to the site on a small truck and had it together in about eight hours. The entire structure is primarily assembled using screws and bolts. If rudimentary plumbing and electrical systems were installed, as in a tent-style, they would be "unplugged."

    For people who love the idea of living in the round, but who also desire a permanent structure that can pass local building codes, this might be the structure for them.

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    max3dlee

    3 months ago

    I'm moderately sure I could build this without further detail.

    But it'd be nice...

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    Wildcat Man and Robinmax3dlee

    Reply 3 months ago

    I hope you watch the links I posted about our blog and social media site. Once we have the plans finalized, they will be posted for all to see. I'll post them here as well.

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    Donnalat

    3 months ago

    This reminds of helping my Brother in Law and Sister and my father build a Gazebo in the backyard. So many angles, so much cutting.... It was a gorgeous structure! Then they sold the house the new owners sold the gazebo and we saw it on a flatbed truck going down the road.... That experience will keep me away from recreating your beautiful structure! I know that you will enjoy this for many years!!

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    Wildcat Man and RobinDonnalat

    Reply 3 months ago

    Wow that the new owner sold that beautiful gazebo! But obviously it was portable. :-) No doubt that building a rectangular structure is a lot simpler. But the nice thing about a building that has repeated cuts is that you can set up a jig and do them all at once, including the slanted cuts. We posted an Instructable about that a few months ago.

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    Wildcat Man and Robin

    3 months ago

    Thanks for the queries regarding a desire for more details here. As the Instructable states, “People with enough skill and knowledge will be able to take this information and work with it.”

    The dimensions listed are a 12-sided circle that is 16 feet in diameter. So, the twelve floor and roof panels are equal parts that make a complete circle. The walls are standard height. The roof panels depend on the size of the skylight dome and the length of the desired overhang - either can vary. And, angles are determined with some basic trigonometry.

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    AKOldmanWildcat Man and Robin

    Reply 3 months ago

    One thing really nice about other Instructables is folks without the skills and knowledge can take on the project because all of the details are included. But then, those authors are sharing their knowledge, not just trying to generate interest in a soon to be released book. Fortunately, for me, I have the needed skills and knowledge so I won't need to buy the book.