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How Yurts Work


Benefits of Yurt Living
Yurts work well in a variety of climates.
Yurts work well in a variety of climates.
Peter Adams/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Yurts were beneficial to Mongolian nomads because of their portability. The nomads just needed a horse or two to carry their homes away, and smaller yurts may still easily fit in a car or a truck for that weekend camping trip. Setup and take down is easy as well, even for someone with no experience. It could take as little as half an hour, though a few hours is more likely. While you could complete the process on your own, it is easier with a helping hand or two. It's even easy to move once already erected, should you decide that a patch of ground a few yards down would be a better spot.

The yurt has a proven record of withstanding the elements; just in Mongolia, it has endured rain, snow, wind and extreme heat. Because of its low height and circular structure, it's easy to heat with just a fire in the stove and a few extra layers of insulation. Some of today's models even come with extra insulation for colder climates. When it's warm, the layers can be rolled back so that a breeze can enter, and lighter reed mats may be used to ensure privacy.

Even when faced with the toughest elements, the yurt is durable. Some of the pine frames used to build Turkish yurts last 50-70 years [source: King]. One manufacturer guarantees the canvas for 15 years, longer than the average shingled roof [source: Hughes].

The yurt's success in campgrounds speaks to one of its benefits: the ability to be close to nature -- but not too close! In a yurt, you can enjoy the sounds of the rain and the wind but stay safe and dry. You can hear nearby animals and see the stars at night, but you're afforded adequate protection and comfort.

Not only does a yurt bring you close to nature, the structure is friendly to the environment. The materials of a traditional yurt are all recyclable, and because no permanent foundation is used, there's no lasting impact to the ground when a yurt is moved.

The structure is also safe. You can get doors that lock, and even if someone pulls up the canvas sheeting, it would be hard to get through the latticed wood. That also keeps the wild animals out, should you be sharing space with them. Yurts are also fairly inconspicuous. Since the structure is not much taller than 6 feet (almost 2 meters), it can be placed within some tall shrubs or trees for privacy.

Yurts can be fairly inexpensive for a structural dwelling, although the add-on features obviously drive up the cost. It's also possible to build your own yurt if you possess carpentry and sewing skills; a simple Internet search brings up many instructional guides. Another way that you may save might come down to taxes. Because the yurt is not a permanent structure, it may not be taxed when placed on a property as a house would [source: Wolfe].

On the flip side, however, it may be difficult to finding financing or get a loan for a yurt. One yurt manufacturer tells his clients never to use the term "yurt" when dealing with a bank because of it's unconventionality, but to emphasize that it was designed by an architect [source: Tedeschi]. It may also be tricky to place your yurt according to building codes. Check with local planning departments for the rules in your area.

Last, you can't deny that there's a fun factor to yurts. One downside to staying in one may be that everyone comes over to talk about it.

For more on yurts and other dwellings, see the links on the next page.