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General yurt questions, including care and maintenance

What makes yurts so special?
How long do yurts last?
What are yurts used for?
What kind of foundation does a yurt require?
Are yurts bear proof?
Are yurts secure?
What about permitting?
How long does it take to set up a yurt?
Is there a place I can see a yurt put up, or learn more before I put one up myself?
How do I care for my yurt?

What’s so special about yurts?


Yurts are the most ancient nomadic shelter. This means that the basic yurt design has been tested and proven effective against the worlds most harsh weather conditions.

  • The modern yurt utilizes an age old design and the strength, durability, and availability of modern technology.

  • With elegant fabric options, natural stains and finishing oils, yurt spaces are unique and beautiful and offer an elegant option for a shelter that is truly sustainable and earth friendly.

Yurts have numerous possible uses. The yurt can be put up quickly and then taken down and moved as one’s situation changes. This is a distinct advantage as the need for a transient lifestyle increases.

  • Once the platform is built, it takes one or two days for a crew of 4-5 to put up a fabric yurt.

  • It is not uncommon to build a large yurt with platform and get it set up in less than two weeks with this same 4-5 person crew.

The portability of a yurt makes them an attractive option for people who want to experiment with community living before making a long term commitment. The flexibility of use works well for intentional communities, where it can be used to meet a variety of needs over time (e.g., meeting space, housing and yoga studio).

  • Its round shape makes better use of space than the rectilinear counterparts.

  • They are more efficient to heat, and provide less wind resistance.

  • The roof structure, with its compression ring and tension band, provides a great deal of strength and requires no internal support system, thereby leaving the yurt open and spacious inside.

  • Fabric yurts offer a natural option for people with chemical sensitivities because of the less-toxic materials used and more frequent air exchange.

The healing, creative, communal and spiritual attributes of yurts are broadly recognized. Yurts seem especially suited to certain pursuits. They are often used in retreat centers for healing arts, meditation, spiritual practices, dancing, and community gatherings. People seem to sleep better in yurts, and often dream more.

How long do yurts last?


The wooden framework of the yurt will last indefinitely as long as it is protected from the direct elements by a fabric covering or wood preservative. The fabric cover of the yurt will last from 3-20 years depending on; type of fabric, proper care, climate conditions, and application of protective coatings that may be used. The Polaris fabric we use has a 5 year limited warranty but can last longer if it is periodically cleaned and recoated.  The canvas cover will last between 3-5 years, depending on its location and the severity of UV rays in your climate. Because it is a natural fabric, cleaning is key to keeping mildew from destroying the cotton fibers.  Extreme moisture and humidity are also environmental elements that may need special consideration. You could consider replacing the cover of your yurt much like you would consider painting a traditional home.

What are yurts used for?


  • The yurt is ideal for use as a family home, guest bedroom, year round rental cottage, office space, or classroom.

  • Invite nature in to create a spiritual retreat, meditation space, artist studio, sun room or greenhouse.

  • Comfortably experience wild places in a yurt specially designed as a portable base camp for hunting or camping.

  • Easily erect a playhouse for your children anywhere you are or watch your sales increase with a yurt specifically designed for mobile vendors.

For a more comfortable lifestyle, run electricity, plumbing, and heat efficiently to enjoy comfortable temperatures all year. Or go “off the grid” and create a sustainable home.

What kind of foundation does a yurt require?


Yurts can be set up on the ground or on a deck.  If you are setting your yurt up for temporary use, it can be set up with a fabric floor or a tarp.

  • An advantage of a yurt is that generally grading is not necessary and site preparation is minimal. A person can simply erect it on a platform.

  • The circular platform is built to the size of the yurt, and the yurt is attached permanently to the deck.

  • We use a platform design that will easily allow for exterior decks to be added.

  • The exterior deck will be stepped down from the platform and reduce the wear on the fabric walls and make it easy to remove and change the side cover.

We are happy to provide our customers with these platform plans.   Some people prefer to prepare their site for a permanent floor; options here include earthen floors and concrete floors with radiant flooring.

Becky Kemery offers many suggestions in her book, Yurts: Living in the Round, including the information about setting up a yurt on the ground in a dessert climate. She says that it helps to have a rock-filled trench around the perimeter of the yurt for drainage. For extra insulation you can dig the circle down six inches, lay in plastic sheeting, fill it in with sawdust or sand, and place your floor coverings and rugs over the soft sawdust floor. A yurt community in Kelley, Wyoming (near Jackson Hole) has lived this way successfully for many years. (For more detailed instructions, see YURTS: Living in the Round, p. 78)

Are yurts bear proof?


A bear may tear through the fabric of a yurt, but they will find it more difficult to get through the trellis wall which is very strong. Bears have incredible strength and can rip through exterior walls, or break down doors of normal houses if they want to.  Generally, bears are more curious and frightened, and rarely make diligent attempts at entering a structure.  However, if you are using your yurt as a honey processing plant in Alaska, you might want to consider building it up above the largest reach of a bear.

Are yurts secure?


Yurts are hard to break into because of the trellis wall. The weak spot would be glass in your door that could be broken (just like they could in a conventional house). Of course, security systems can make great deterrents, and yurts are not at the top of the list when it comes to planned robberies by determined burglars.  We install exterior lock sets that include deadbolts on all the doors we sell.

What about permitting?


Building codes and permitting is a complex issue that varies with location and with the style of yurt you’re considering.  You’ll want to check with your local code officials before purchasing a yurt. For some helpful information check out yurtinfo.org (the Yurts and Codes section). It may be helpful to bring information about yurts with you when you go to meet the inspector. Here are some subjects that will be taken into consideration by code officials.

  • One of the most common hurdles for passing code is r-value concerning insulation. Since yurts are generally not set up with a space for typical insulation, r-value is not a good measure for determining the yurt ability to retain heat.

  • Reflective foil insulation reflects heat back into the space.

  • You can also paint the canvas with a ceramic acrylic coating that can be applied to the inside and outside of the fabric.  This product has been engineered to reflect up to 85% of the radiant heat that is directed toward it.  This coating contains very small ceramic spheres that have most of the gas removed from them and a vacuum is created inside the sphere.  Since a true vacuum cannot conduct the transfer of heat, the coating reflects the heat back into the yurt as it comes from the inside of the yurt, and protects from heat and damaging UV rays that come from the sun.  This product does all this while still remaining flexible and offering a wide choice of colors. When the coating is applied on the inside and out it can eliminate the need for an interior insulation and interior liner.

  • We are also working with real low-e windows and doors.  We are  utilizing them with fiberglass or foam insulation to take advantage of the space that is created between the lattice walls and the wind/snow load vertical boards.

Another major factor that will be considered by code officials is fire resistance. Unfortunately, this subject is usually addressed with fabrics that have been made to be inherently flame resistant. Many times these fabrics are not made of natural materials. Inspectors may also need to address issues like:

  • having an engineer draw complete plans with specifications and strength ratings specified, or water, septic, and electricity regulations.

In some cases it may be easier to use an existing building that has been inspected and has a current certificate of occupation to get electricity, water, and septic to the site and then setting up the yurt as a “temporary”  structure that you spend a great deal of time in.

  • You may also want to research to find out about any yurts that have gone through the permitting process and get suggestions and form a plan before applying for a building permit.

How long does it take to put up a yurt?


With a crew of three or four, it may take two days to two weeks for the deck, depending on site prep, weather conditions, and  experience of the crew.  The yurt itself can be set up in a day or two if all goes well.

I‘m nervous about putting up a yurt myself. Is there a place I can see one going up, or learn more before I put one up myself?


Check out the yurt raisings on yurtinfo.org calendar (and when you get ready to put up your own yurt, you can email becky@yurtinfo.org so that they can put it on the calendar). We periodically have workshops for yurt building and setup and generally have a yurt in process that needs to be set up.  We can also recommend a person that is familiar with our yurt set up that may be willing to help on the day of set up.  The fee is usually 200$ a day plus travel if more than 1 hour away.  This person can recommend what size crew to have on hand and also help with the deck building process if needed.  If this service is of interest to you please call for contact info for these people.

How do I care for my yurt?


  • Vinyl Windows When you put your windows up, make sure to always roll them (folding the vinyl will create creases which weaken the material). Clean the windows with soapy water and a soft cloth. The surface of vinyl windows scratch easily, so treat them like you would your glasses, and wash off dirt before cleaning.

  • Door and Door Frame if you have a door that has been coated with paint or polyurethane, this coating will need to be reapplied as needed.  The door takes  the most abuse because it is the only part that is not covered.  The hardware may also need to be replaced. The lock set will likely get more water on it due to the limited overhang at the door.

  • Dome Skylight and Door Window Wash acrylic dome and door window with a mild soap like dish washing liquid and plenty of lukewarm water. Make sure to use a soft cloth and not paper towels or other paper products that will scratch the finish.

  • Care of Yurt cover Yurt covers are very important especially since natural fabrics are being used.  Generally it is not a good idea to use a pressure washer or harsh chemicals on any of the fabrics.  Use the recommended cleaners for the fabric that you have and follow recommended time intervals for cleaning.  Our replacement covers are fairly inexpensive, but regular maintenance can add years to your cover.

What makes yurts so special?

How long do yurts last?

What are yurts used for?

What kind of foundation does a yurt require?

Are yurts bear proof?

Are yurts secure?

What about permitting?

How long does it take to set up a yurt?

Is there a place I can see a yurt put up, or learn more before I put one up myself?

How do I care for my yurt?

What’s so special about yurts?

Yurts are the most ancient nomadic shelter. This means that the basic yurt design has been tested and proven effective against the worlds most harsh weather conditions. The modern yurt utilizes an age old design and the strength, durability, and availability of modern technology. With elegant fabric options, natural stains and finishing oils, yurt spaces are unique and beautiful and offer an elegant option for a shelter that is truly sustainable and earth friendly. Yurts have numerous possible uses (see the “Yurt” Choice section of the site). The yurt can be put up quickly and then taken down and moved as one’s situation changes. This is a distinct advantage as the need for a transient lifestyle increases. Once the platform is built, it takes one or two days for a crew of 4-5 to put up a fabric yurt. It is not uncommon to build a large yurt with platform and get it set up in less than two weeks with this same 4-5 person crew.

The portability of a yurt makes them an attractive option for people who want to experiment with community living before making a long term commitment. The flexibility of use works well for intentional communities, where it can be used to meet a variety of needs over time (e.g., meeting space, housing and yoga studio).

Its round shape, make better use of space than the rectilinear counterparts. They are more efficient to heat, and provide less wind resistance. The roof structure, with its compression ring and tension band, provides a great deal of strength and requires no internal support system, thereby leaving the yurt open and spacious inside. Fabric yurts offer a natural option for people with chemical sensitivities because of the less-toxic materials used and more frequent air exchange. The healing, creative, communal and spiritual attributes of yurts are broadly recognized. Yurts seem especially suited to certain pursuits. They are often used in retreat centers for healing arts, meditation, spiritual practices, dancing, and community gatherings. People seem to sleep better in yurts, and often dream more.

How long do yurts last?

The wooden framework of the yurt will last indefinitely as long as it is protected from the direct elements by a fabric covering or wood preservative. The fabric cover of the yurt will last from 3-20 years depending on; type of fabric, proper care, climate conditions, and application of protective coatings that may be used. The Polaris fabric we use has a 5 year limited warranty but can last longer if it is periodically cleaned and recoated. The canvas cover will last between 3-5 years, depending on its location and the severity of UV rays in your climate. Because it is a natural fabric, cleaning is key to keeping mildew from destroying the cotton fibers. Extreme moisture and humidity are also environmental elements that may need special consideration. You could consider replacing the cover of your yurt much like you would consider painting a traditional home.

What are yurts used for?

The yurt is ideal for use as a family home, guest bedroom, year round rental cottage, office space, or classroom. Invite nature in to create a spiritual retreat, meditation space, artist studio, sunroom or greenhouse. Comfortably experience wild places in a yurt specially designed as a portable base camp for hunting or camping. Easily erect a playhouse for your children anywhere you are or watch your sales increase with a yurt specifically designed for mobile vendors. For a more comfortable lifestyle, run electricity, plumbing, and heat efficiently to enjoy comfortable temperatures all year. Or go “off the grid” and create a sustainable home.

What kind of foundation does a yurt require?

Yurts can be set up on the ground or on a deck. If you are setting your yurt up for temporary use, it can be set up with a fabric floor or a tarp. An advantage of a yurt is that generally grating is not necessary and site preparation is minimal. A person can simply erect it on a platform. The circular platform is built to the size of the yurt, and the yurt is attached permanently to the deck. We use a platform design that will easily allow for exterior decks to be added. The exterior deck will be stepped down from the platform and reduce the wear on the fabric walls and make it easy to remove and change the side cover. We are happy to provide our customers with these platform plans. Some people prefer to prepare their site for a permanent floor; options here include earthen floors and concrete floors with radiant flooring.

Becky Kemery offers many suggestions in her book, Yurts: Living in the Round, including the information about setting up a yurt on the ground in a dessert climate. She says that it helps to have a rock-filled trench around the perimeter of the yurt for drainage. For extra insulation you can dig the circle down six inches, lay in plastic sheeting, fill it in with sawdust or sand, and place your floor coverings and rugs over the soft sawdust floor. A yurt community in Kelley, Wyoming (near Jackson Hole) has lived this way successfully for many years. (For more detailed instructions, see YURTS: Living in the Round, p. 78)

Are yurts bear proof?

A bear may tear through the fabric of a yurt, but they will find it more difficult to get through the trellis wall which is very strong. Bears

have incredible strength and can rip through exterior walls, or break down doors of normal houses if they want to. Generally, bears are more curious and frightened, and rarely make diligent attempts at entering a structure. However, if you are using your yurt as a honey processing plant in Alaska, you might want to consider building it up above the largest reach of a bear.

Are yurts secure?

Yurts are hard to break into because of the trellis wall. The weak spot would be glass in your door that could be broken (just like they could in a conventional house). Of course, security systems can make great deterrents, and yurts are not at the top of the list when it comes to planned robberies by determined burglars. We install exterior lock sets that include deadbolts on all the doors we sell.

What about permitting?

Building codes and permitting is a complex issue that varies with location and with the style of yurt you’re considering. You’ll want to check with your local code officials before purchasing a yurt. For some helpful information, check out yurtinfo.org, the Yurts and Codes section on this site. It may be helpful to bring information about yurts with you when you go to meet the inspector. Here are some subjects that will be taken into consideration by code officials.

One of the most common hurdles for passing code is r-value concerning insulation. Since yurts are generally not set up with a space for typical insulation, r-value is not a good measure for determining the yurt ability to retain heat. Our yurts utilize two types of insulation both reflective in nature. One is a reflective foil insulation that reflects heat back into the space. The other is a ceramic acrylic coating that can be applied to the inside and outside of the fabric. This product has been engineered to reflect up to 85% of the radiant heat that is directed toward it. This coating contains very small ceramic spheres that have most of the gas removed from them and a vacuum is created inside the sphere. Since a true vacuum cannot conduct the transfer of heat, the coating reflects the heat back into the yurt when it comes from the inside of the yurt, and protects from heat and damaging uv rays that come from the sun. This product does all this while still remaining flexible and offering a wide choice of colors. If the coating is applied on the inside and out, It can eliminate the need for an interior insulation and interior liner.

We are also working with real low-e windows and doors and utilizing them with fiberglass or foam insulation taking advantage of the space that is created between the lattice walls and the wind/snow load vertical boards. Another major factor that will be considered by code officials is Fire resistance. Unfortunately, this subject is usually addressed with fabrics that have been made to be inherently flame resistant. Many times these fabrics are not made of natural materials. Inspectors may also need to address issues like; having an engineer draw complete plans with specifications and strength ratings specified, or water, septic, and electricity regulations. In some cases it may be easier to use an existing building that has been inspected and has a current certificate of occupation to get electricity, water, and septic to the site and then setting up the yurt as a “temporary” structure that you spend a great deal of time in. You may also want o research to find out about any yurts that have gone through the permitting process and get suggestions and form a plan before applying for a building permit.

How long does it take to put up a yurt?

With a crew of three or four, it may take two days to two weeks for the deck, depending on site prep, weather conditions, and experience of the crew. The yurt itself can be set up in a day or two if all goes well.

I’m nervous about putting up a yurt myself. Is there a place I can see one going up, or learn more before I put one up myself?

Check out the yurt raisings on yurtinfo.org calendar (and when you get ready to put up your own yurt, you can email becky@yurtinfo.org so that they can put it on the calendar). We periodically have workshops for yurt building and setup and generally have a yurt in process that needs to be set up. We can also recommend a person that is familiar with our yurt set up that may be willing to help on the day of set up. The fee is usually 200$ a day plus travel if more than 1 hour away. This person can recommend what size crew to have on hand and also help with the deck building process if needed. If this service is of interest to you please call for contact info for these people.

How do I care for my yurt?

Vinyl Windows When you put your windows up, make sure to always roll them, as folding makes creases weaken the material. Clean the windows with soapy water and a soft cloth. The surface of vinyl windows scratch easily, so treat them like you would your glasses, and wash off dirt before cleaning.

Door and Door Frame if you have a door that has been coated with paint or polyurethane, this coating will need to be reapplied as needed. The door takes the most abuse because it is the only part that is not covered. The hardware may also need to be replaced. The lock set will likely get more water on it due to the limited overhang at the door.

Dome Skylight and Door Window Wash acrylic dome and door window with a mild soap like dish washing liquid and plenty of lukewarm water. Make sure to use a soft cloth and not paper towels or other paper products that scratch the finish.

Yurt cover care of Yurt covers is very important and especially so when natural fabrics are used. Generally it is not a good idea to use a pressure washer or harsh chemicals on any of the fabrics. Use the recommended cleaners for the fabric that you have and follow recommended time intervals for cleaning. Our replacement covers are fairly inexpensive, but regular maintenance can add years to your cover.

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About the Author

yurtmanI live in a little sustainable minded yurt village in western NC near AshevilleView all posts by yurtman →