Eagle River Weather

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Getting Your Yurt Ready for Winter

As cold weather approaches us (or is already here) many yurt dwellers worry about staying warm. Here are a few things you can do to help retain the heat. Most of these are things you can do after you have erected your yurt and after winter has already come.
Yurts are full of gaps where warm air can escape out into the cold. While, you will probably never be able to completely seal up your yurt, you can reduce the amount of drafting. Most holes occur at the top and bottom of the wall and around windows. By using ratcheting buckles and long straps, you can cinch up the gaps around the walls. Here is a picture of a ratcheting buckle with a 100 foot length of 1 inch wide strap.

Buckles can be bought at most hardware stores and the strap had to be special ordered from a sporting goods store. Most buckles come with a pre-attached strap that will have to be removed or tied into.
The straps are simply put around the perimeter of the yurt at the base of the wall and the bottom of the roof. You can see those straps in place above and below the door of our yurt.

Tightening the buckles sandwiches the wall fabric between the yurt frame and the strap. This closes off any gaps between the yurt frame and the wall fabric.
Another ratcheting buckle can be used on the rope that is attached to the bottom of the roof fabric that the wall is hung off of. This rope can often sag over time or be stretched during high winds or as the yurt expands in the sun. Sagging can create gaps between the wall and the roof. By adding a ratcheting buckle to this rope you can easily take up any slack that might occur. You can see the buckle in the upper left of this photo.

On the inside of the yurt adding more insulation and weather stripping can decrease the amount of heat loss you experience. Weather stripping around the door frame and door is a great idea.
A more ambitious project is to add foamboard insulation to the ceiling. Pie shaped wedges can be cut from foamboard and wedged into the space between the rafters. Here is a picture of one of the wedges half way removed from it's place in the ceiling.

I used in inch R-tech foamboard. R-tech has a reflective side that I painted over with latex primer to keep the inside of the yurt from looking like a solar oven. While this paint works it ended up being very fragile and flakes off easily if it is bumped into. I cut the pieces with a hacksaw blade with out the hack saw. I taped the cut edges with white duct tape to keep the foam pieces from crumbling and getting every where while installing it. If you have a yurt whose rafters are not anchored to vertical supports, you can get away with cutting all the wedges uniformly and push the rafters into place around the foam. If, however, you have those vertical supports to increase your snow load, like we do, you will need to measure each space between the rafters and cut the foam to match. If done correctly the foam wedges will stay up with friction. It is hard to quantify how much the foamboard helps, but as I was putting the foamboard up snow fell on the yurt. The snow on the roof above the foamboard took a lot longer to melt than the parts of the roof with no foamboard. If you have another questions about this process, just let me know.
And, finally another use for the ratcheting buckle. We have fairly high winds during the winter, and that wind can cause the wall fabric to flap quite a bit. The flapping can cause sagging in the wall fabric and a lot of noise on the inside of the yurt. This buckle and strap is simply put around the perimeter of the yurt at the center of the wall. Here is a video we posted earlier in the year of that strap at work.

Make sure you talk to your yurt manufacturer about all of their insulation ideas and acessories. We have a full wind and snow load kit from Pacific Yurts. We also have their insulated window inserts for all our windows and use them all winter long.

Good luck this winter if you own a yurt and if you are a prospective yurter, winters in a yurt can be cozy and warm with the right preparation.


Anonymous said...

We recently had a visiting American dinner guest who lives in a yurt. She loves it. She has three yurts, and she’s named them all: Gurt, Burt, and Yurt.

Unknown said...

I live in a 30' yurt in Maine. Your layout is great I'm curious if you have a scale drawing of it? I have a loft/bathroom/kitchen combo and I'd like to expand the loft for sleeping.

Thanks -ben

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

sorry for other post just found drawings!!


Ben Schneider said...

Happy to help :)
BEN (this could get confusing)

Unknown said...

Hello, My wife and i are going to live in a yurt in Va. Was wondering how u built the basement and the deck. so that water would not effect the deck top? Thanks Bill

Ben Schneider said...

Bill, Sorry to say we did not build the deck or basement to keep water off of it. Our stay here is only temporary and our yurt it attached to the top of a garage that the owners are hoping to build a house on some day. The top of the garage is sealed with tar paper, and, despite our efforts for good drainage, the yurt is the lowest point of the garage roof. Lots of water pools around the yurt deck. When we take the deck off in the next year or so, it will be interesting to see how well we sealed things up between the garage roof and the yurt deck.

Skibum said...

Have you had any condensation behind your foam in the rafters, also how do y deal with the dome freezing and melting in the morning. I have a 30' pacific yurt and the dome freezes every night with cold temps, even with ceiling fan running and woodstove, very low humidity inside.

Ben Schneider said...

@ Skibum

We pulled down the foam board when we moved the yurt and there was no mildew or other type of water damage to the fabric above it. This was after 4 years of use. However, every once in awhile I would put my hand up there and could feel dampness between the foam board and ceiling fabric. It never became an issue though.
We had the same issue with our ceiling dome. I made a few attempts to put insulation across the opening but that just seemed to make it colder up there and form more ice. We had a loft in our yurt setup which made access to the dome very easy. I'd go up there with a rag and just mop up the water that would collect on the center ring. A couple of times when it was real bad I'd use a plastic spatula and scrape off the ice before it could melt.
We don't live in the yurt any more, it is just a workshop and guest house now, so we don't have any condensation issues. But if we were living in it again, I think the only way to solve the condensation issue would be to find some sort of clear membrane to fit up there in the center ring to use as an air sealer. If you could keep the condensation from getting up there to the dome, you might be able to solve the problem. Kind of like that stretch wrap that you use to solve the same problem on glass windows in a house.
Hope this helps.