Building A Yurt

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a yurt?

A yurt consists of a round wall roof system that is free standing using a tension cable at the wall and a compression ring where the roof rafters tie together. This is essentially a cone sitting on a cylinder. Traditionally, yurts were used in central Asia by nomadic herding family groups and tribes. These versatile structures have been around for at least 2500 years.  Recently the yurt (or “ger” as it is traditionally called) has been imported to North America and Europe. Modern design changes have been incorporated such as steel fasteners and architectural fabric coverings. This ancient design is still finding new and innovative uses in the modern world.

Three types of yurts are predominant in the world today.  The fabric yurt, which Shelter Designs builds, is a portable, fabric-covered yurt based on the Mongolian ger.  A frame-panel yurt is a permanent structure built of wood with a yurt-style roof. Lastly is the traditional ger from central Asia.  For a complete history of yurts and an overall invaluable information resource, check out author Becky Kemmery’s website at www.yurtinfo.org.

View our “What is a yurt video” here. 

What is the lead time on a yurt order?

We are happy to report that we are experiencing record growth and our yurts are going out the door at a fast and efficient pace.  We remain committed to quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. We typically allow 8-12 weeks for yurt construction (not including shipping transit time). For accurate yurt completion dates, please give us a call at 406-721-YURT or contact us online.

We are not a yurt factory, and we make each wood yurt component from the finest, strongest materials available.  In most instances your yurt is made to order. For instance, we use 28 seperate pieces of lumber and 128 screws to build our custom door frames.  Our door header has a 3 layer laminate, with the top layer being Red Oak. The bottom plate has a 1/2″ of cedar for extra moisture protection. Such detail cannot be rushed!

How do I pay for my yurt?

We require a 50% deposit when your order is placed. Notice of final payment due will be given 10 days prior to the date the yurt is scheduled for shipping or pick up. We accept cash, check, debit, and all major credit cards.  When a debit or credit card is used there will be a 3% transaction fee.

We often get questions about whether we finance our yurts.  At this time we do not offer financing. We suggest talking with your small local bank about financing your yurt in a similar way that cars are financed.  As always, having adequate collateral is helpful!

What is the outer covering made of?

The exterior yurt fabric consists of two separate pieces – the walls and roof.

Walls

Starfire is an acrylic top coated polyester product and is our standard wall fabric, included in the base price of a yurt.  We have found it to be durable and tough but lightweight and easily handled. It comes in an array of colors and does not have a glossy, plastic look. This product carries a 5 year manufacturers warranty.

Star800 is our premium wall fabric.  This fabric is also a vinyl coated polyester, but carries an 8 year manufacturers warranty.  Star800 is a welded fabric, so no sewn seams.  It is easier to clean than Starfire.

Roofs

ProShield is our standard fabric included in the base price of your yurt.  This vinyl coated polyester has welded seams, is easy to clean and carries an 8 year manufacturers warranty.

Duro-Last is our premium roof fabric.  It carries a 15 year manufacturers warranty, has welded seams, and offers the longest lasting level of protection for your investment.

Duro-Last fabrics are available far a small price increase.  Please contact us for more details.

Terra cotta color choice in Duro-last will cost 15% more.

All wall and roof fabric choices are available in a wide array of colors.  Please contact us if you would like to receive sample books of the different choices available.

What type of insulation package is used in a yurt, and when do I need to have it?

We recommend using our basic insulation package in most locations and situations for improving the functionality of your yurt.  The basic insulation package includes a reflective thermal barrier, which is a thin bubble wrap faced with reflective foil on both sides. It is flexible, lightweight and easily transported with your shelter. This product works well to trap heat while your heat source is operating. This insulation works well for occasional yurt use, or 3-season living in moderate climates.  This type of insulation is good as a Radiant Heat Barrier. Rather than a R-value, it has a U-value. U-values represent the transfer of energy through conduction and radiation while R-value only represents resistance to heat transfer. Therefore, a low U-value means that the material keeps a maximum of radiant heat in the structure. This means that when your heat source is going, the yurt will stay heat up quickly and stay warm.  When your heat source goes out, your yurt will cool off.

Arctic Insulation – a Shelter Designs exclusive!  Features a double sided reflective barrier with an added 1/2″ flexible foam, raising the heat retention of any yurt.  For 4 season yurt living in moderate and cold climates, Arctic insulation is often the key to making your yurt more comfortable(along with insulating your floor). The addition of the foam layer gives you a small amount of R value in addition to the reflective thermal barrier.  This means that your heat will stay in the yurt longer than with our Basic insulation. Let’s be real though! A yurt is not a stick framed house, and will never operate like one. If climate controlled space is what you need, you may not enjoy the dips in temperature that accompany living in a yurt, even one as nice as ours.  Living in a yurt is one step closer to nature, with all the ups and down that accompany the natural world. You will hear the raina few feet from your head. You might hear your neighbors diesel generator half a mile away. The birds will wake you in the morning and the summer sun will warm your yurt up.

There are many options to moderate your yurt’s temperature.

An air conditioner or mini-split AC/heater unit can be mounted in our thermal-paned windows.  Some folks use propane heat on a thermostat. In areas with extremely cold winters, you may want to consider connecting a few smaller yurts instead of the 40′ to be able to better control temperatures.  Supplemental heat sources in larger yurts, bedrooms, and bathrooms are typically recommended.

We highly recommend that you insulate your platform for protection from extremes in weather.

How long will my cover last?

Your wall and roof fabric will need eventually need to be replaced. Roof coverings experience the bulk of wear and tear. In most cases the roof cover will need to be replaced before the wall. 

ProShield is our standard roof fabric and carries a 8-year warranty.

Duro-Last is our premier roof fabric and carries a 15-year warranty.

UV exposure is the most detrimental natural force on fabric.  Carefully choosing your yurt site for shade will make the yurt more enjoyable in the summer as well as extending the life of the fabric. If your yurt will be consistently exposed to direct sunlight, we recommend that you select light colors.

How do I heat a yurt?

Most folks use either a wood stove or vented propane stove for heat. Other options include electric or radiant floor heat. Shelter Designs offers a yurt wall chimney jack option for a wood or propane heat source.  We vent all heating sources through the wall of the yurt. 

We recommend a stove that is rated for twice the square footage of your yurt.  If you plan to use a wood stove, be sure the firebox is big enough to hold 14-16″ logs.  A slow long burning fire will ensure you are not waking up in the middle of the night to re-stoke your fire!  Some customers use a catalytic converter stove such as Blaze King. These stoves are very efficient and actually re-burn the smoke to generate even more heat and reduce emissions.  What type of wood you use is an important consideration. A hot fire can heat your yurt quickly (think larch or birch wood), while a slow long burn is better for continual heat (at night, think doug fir or pine).  Using well seasoned firewood can also make a big difference.

Should my yurt go on a platform?

Definitely.  Any snow and wind load data for your yurt is assuming that the yurt is on a platform built to our specs with the yurt correctly anchored to it. The platform is an integral part of the strength and functionality of the yurt.  Most people build the platforms out of wood, but we have also seen concrete pads poured. We offer premade, ready to set up SIPS (structural insulated panels) floors for our yurts.

Visit our  Yurt Platforms page. 

Please visit our Resources page for current SIPS floor information and platform plans.

If I live in a heavy snow and wind area, can I live in a yurt?

Our yurts have been set up from Alaska to Hawaii and have seen an incredibly diverse range of climates. We developed our state of the art yurts in Montana, so winter is no stranger to us.  We build with snow, cold and wind in mind every step of the way. We have found our yurts can take a healthy dose of snow and wind, but we do offer a yurt snow and wind kit to ensure your yurt can withstand the harshest of climates. In addition, perimeter blocking, a central column, or cable tie downs can be added for extreme snow and wind situations. Certified engineering on our yurts is available if needed for building permits. Contact us for full details of yurt loading capabilities.

How portable is a Shelter Designs yurt? Can a yurt be moved?

If you are buying a yurt and live within 300 miles of Missoula, Montana, you will probably find it is more cost-effective for you to pick up your yurt directly from our facility.  Some folks fly into Missoula one way and rent a Uhaul to transport their yurt back home. We can advise you on the correct size Uhaul to rent if you are considering this option. We do not crate your yurt for a shop pick up. For yurt sizes 16′-20′ you may be able to fit your yurt into the back of a full sized pickup bed.

If you have a 24′-40′ yurt you will definitely need a truck and trailer. Keep in mind that there are 68 roof rafters on a 40′ yurt that are 21′ feet long and weigh 35-40 lbs. each.

For yurts being shipped: our yurts are crated prior to shipment and are intended to be unloaded using a forklift.  There will be 2-6 crates depending on the size of your yurt and each crate will have a packing list that tells you what it in each crate. If you order a 12′, 16′, or 20′ yurt you may be able to transport your crates using a truck and a small utility trailer (10′-12).

24′, 27′ & 30′ yurts will require a full size truck and long trailer (16′).

35′ & 40′ yurt will require a full size truck (3/4-1 ton truck) and heavy duty trailer (20’+)

SIPS floors will typically double the size of container, size of trailer used, and cost of shipping (if you are getting your yurt delivered).  We can walk you through the specific details of shipping your yurt and what size trailer you will need.

How do I receive my yurt and who sets it up?

We can arrange delivery to all 50 states and can also arrange international shipping.  For folks living in a 300 miles radius of Missoula, Montana, renting/borrowing a trailer or Uhaul type vehicle will often be more cost effective than shipping.  International shipments are delivered to the nearest port, at which point the yurt purchaser will need to make final transportation from the port to final destination and negotiate tarriffs, duties, and port fees.

We can easily give you a shipping estimate of current prices provided we have your yurt size and type, number and type of windows and doors, and shipping location. Shipping estimates are based on weight and size.  We allow for a 2 week pick up time frame after which customers will be charged a weekly storage fee. Shipping prices for a yurt and SIPS floor generally range from $800-$4000.  

There is a crate fee charged for all shipped yurt packages.  All yurts have a $400 crate fee. If you add glass windows to your yurt, an additional $150 will be charged on top of the base fee.  SIPS floors have a $300 crate fee. If you pick up your yurt at our facility, we do not charge the crating fee.

All of our customers are provided with detailed instructional videos. Please visit our Youtube Channel for detailed interior build out and set up tips.

We do not currently offer our services for deliveries or set-ups.  We can recommend an installer who has set up many SD yurts and can be hired directly. Contact us for details. The yurt set up requires a few tools, a completed platform, and quite a few sets of hands.  

Many folks hire a local general contractor to help with their platform build, yurt set up, and interior build out.

We ship yurts via LTL freight carrier or a flatbed semi truck.  You will be required to supply a forklift to unload and move your crates.  The delivery site will need to accommodate a full size semi truck.

How long will it take to set up my yurt?

The amount of time it takes to set up your yurt is dependent on many factors, similar to any other construction project. Your experience with tape measures and tools, the yurt site itself, and the quality of your helpers can make things go smoothly, or cause your timeline to take longer. Watching our detailed instructional videos prior to the set up is very important. We can walk you and/or your contractor through any questions that come up during your set up. We hear time and time again that our customer service during the set up phase made all the difference for our customers. 

The estimates below assume the platform is built and ready, you are working 8-10 hour days, and you have good weather.

We estimate the following time frames for your yurt set up. This is to get your yurt assembled and does not include the final buttoning up of the yurt. Plan on 1-2 days in addition to the estimates below to get your yurt completely done. If you are setting your yurt up in cooler weather (40’s and below) please note that the fabric covering may not relax fully. It is common to have to retension the fabric when warmer weather returns.

12′ yurt: plan on 1-2 days with 3 people

16′ yurt: plan on 2 days with 3-4 people

20′ yurt: plan on 2 days with 3-4 people

24′ yurt: plan on 3 days with 4-5 people

27′ yurt: plan on 3-4 days with 4-5 people  (machine lift of fabric helpful)

30′ yurt: plan on 3-4 days with 4-5 people  (machine lift of fabric helpful)

35′ yurt: plan on 4-5 days with 5-6 people  (machine lift of fabric required)

40′ yurt: plan on 5-7 days with 6-7 people  (machine lift of fabric required)

The 40′ Big Sky yurt roof fabric alone weigh about 550 lbs, so a machine lift is a must. Each 40′ Big Sky yurt rafter weighs 35 – 40 lbs and is at quite long at 21′. Scaffolding is required during the installation. Full assembly instructions will spell out further requirements.

Can I have plumbing and electricity in my yurt?

Absolutely! A yurt can be set up with all the conveniences of a modern home. We also have plenty of experience living with alternative systems such as solar and wind setups, composting toilets, etc. If you are going to be living off the grid, we can recommend companies who can help with the design of your system.

Do I need a building permit for my yurt?

Every area of the country has different requirements for building.  Yurts have been classified as permanent, semi-permanent or temporary structures depending on the location and use. It is the purchaser’s responsibility to fully research local codes and inform us of all requirements for compliance before the yurt is ordered.  Engineering data is available for all Big Sky Yurt Models from Shelter Designs. You may have to hire a local engineer review our plans and approve them.

Check out our blog on permitting here. 

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