Building a Wood-Framed Panelized Yurt




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."

Step 1: 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 2: Pre-cut the Lumber

Using a cut list, 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 3: 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 4: 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 5: 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 6: 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 7: 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 8: 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 9: Assemble the Wall Panels

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

Step 10: 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 11: Bring in the Rafters

Once the rafters were secured, which took us about two hours, I added blocking and a second cable.

Step 12: 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 13: That's All for Now. More Soon!

Now you know the basics of the floors, walls, rafters, and roof panels for this kind of yurt construction. As shown in the above photo of a yurt I assembled, you can add a porch or just a wrap-around deck. Some people build 2-3 yurts and connect them together into one house. Yurts can be two-story as well.

In September, 2018, we are publishing a book about this 16-foot diameter, 12-sided yurt. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, we hope this Instructable takes away some of the mystery of how to build one of these amazing structures.

You can visit to request notification. You can also follow us on YurtYaks on Facebook where we'll keep you updated on the book.

(Photos by Robin Koontz, copyright © 2018)

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    14 Discussions

    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!!

    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.

    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.

    2 replies

    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.

    "Fortunately, for me, I have the needed skills and knowledge so I won't need to buy the book." Exactly! I'm glad you understand and we're happy that you got all the information you need, that was the point. We've posted eleven other instructables, all but one of which had all the needed details.

    Our suspension bridge was set up like this one, and not to sell books (which FYI is not a way to quit your day job), but because there is far more to explain to someone without your skills and knowledge to share in this format.

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

    But it'd be nice...

    This is a nice overview but it is very lacking in detailed instructions. I hope you will update your excellent start to include more actual details.


    Question 1 day ago

    Why not include a list of materials, plans, dimensions, angles, detailed photos and comprehensive explanations/directions in order to make this a full blown instructable. As it stands, to me, it is really nothing more that a look what I built. It looks nice but I think very few people will be able to build one with these instructions

    Oh, yes, I want to see more. I felt left hanging.


    Would be nice to have the angles for the cuts you used.


    Question 2 days ago

    You talk about cables and tensioning, but I'm not seeing them in the pictures. Where are they located?

    1 more answer

    One cable goes around the top of the wall panels, secured with turnbuckles and cable clips (it is shown in Step 9); other cable goes through all twelve rafters, secured the same way. You can see the holes for the cable in Step 11.