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Quick DIY Yurt for Cold Climate by Wheaton Labs Standards

 
Posts: 60
Location: Wisconsin
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I'm looking to build something to live in for this winter without chucking money to the gick production monstrosity. I'm drawing up plans from various inputs with little margin for error beyond going into survival mode, so would appreciate anyone shouting 'hey dumbass' if there is something my plans are missing.

It doesn't seem like building a platform is in the cards for the first year. I'm going to go with an earthen floor along with a rocket mass heater of some sort and count on large quantities of old, downed wood to provide heat from a central heater with a pebble style circle around the center. I'm using this website to come up with the lumber and fabric numbers I need. I chose 24' diameter and 58" tall walls to go with the 67" bolt of duck cotton I ordered.

One question that came up was about cutting the Uni (Rafters) with a 1" dowel at the end to fit the Toono (ring). Is there any reason to not just drill a hole in the Uni and stick in a dowel? I'm thinking that would make for an extra part to keep track of when deconstructing and moving, but wondering about comparable strengths...

I'm reading recommendations to keep the walls short for strength and presumably keeping heat down low. Any reason not to dig down for an entrance to fit a full size door?

I'm hoping to burn extra wood to compensate for a cold earth floor, but any suggestions on mitigating that heat? At the RMH Jamboree I was being encouraged to dig drown around the perimeter and install insulation (foam boards?) around that trench edge. I figure I'll do that at least for drainage, but anything to do for insulation down there that isn't gicky?
 
pollinator
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On the door issue, no reason not to dig down if drainage can be worked out (a roofed vestibule of some kind), but also consider building up a lower wall out of earthen materials of some sort, say to 3' of height, so that your actual yurt wall of 5' height gets added to that. Now everything is somewhat more standard.

Possibly a raised floor height of 1' or more above grade or whatever drain problems the site has, some kind of material below the earthen floor (lava rock for insulation, etc.), rubble/trench foundation walls (circular), earthbag up to 3' above floor, yurt after that ...

Depending on dirt characteristics, maybe the excavation dirt lends itself to use in the earthbag, saving fill material costs.

Only use insulation sheets from the perimeter out about 3' to 6', to provide a frost-heave protection system; might also improve (block) cold characteristics.

I would argue with the code folks that all the earthbag work is also "temporary" (no concrete in sight), as is the yurt, depending on how you finish the earthbag walls; or, call it an AG structure, and have a chicken running around in there ...
 
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Hey Coydon,

   I'm considering building a yurt and first and foremost find your post and the responses to be informative, so thank you..Might I ask, have you considered your goals for insulating the yurt and possible approach?



quote=Coydon Wallham]I'm looking to build something to live in for this winter without chucking money to the gick production monstrosity. I'm drawing up plans from various inputs with little margin for error beyond going into survival mode, so would appreciate anyone shouting 'hey dumbass' if there is something my plans are missing.

It doesn't seem like building a platform is in the cards for the first year. I'm going to go with an earthen floor along with a rocket mass heater of some sort and count on large quantities of old, downed wood to provide heat from a central heater with a pebble style circle around the center. I'm using this website to come up with the lumber and fabric numbers I need. I chose 24' diameter and 58" tall walls to go with the 67" bolt of duck cotton I ordered.

One question that came up was about cutting the Uni (Rafters) with a 1" dowel at the end to fit the Toono (ring). Is there any reason to not just drill a hole in the Uni and stick in a dowel? I'm thinking that would make for an extra part to keep track of when deconstructing and moving, but wondering about comparable strengths...

I'm reading recommendations to keep the walls short for strength and presumably keeping heat down low. Any reason not to dig down for an entrance to fit a full size door?

I'm hoping to burn extra wood to compensate for a cold earth floor, but any suggestions on mitigating that heat? At the RMH Jamboree I was being encouraged to dig drown around the perimeter and install insulation (foam boards?) around that trench edge. I figure I'll do that at least for drainage, but anything to do for insulation down there that isn't gicky?
 
pollinator
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Location: Victor, Montana; Zone 5b
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I wouldn't bother with putting rigid down along the perimeter, the heat will still suck out and down into the ground rapidly. You could use rigid foam and lay it down inside like a pad, then cover with scrap plywood or drywall for a temp floor. If you want to avoid the insulation, if just for a season, I would use a nice thick layer of woodchip or sawdust which will give a nice insulation, nice smell, and nice softness to the floor. Definitely would cover with scrap plywood or drywall as it would be a fire risk and you wouldn't want sawdust getting into everything.

Another option, that is also very cheap or free, is to use a bunch of wine or beer bottles. I did this for a portion of my house and have seen it used effectively in a superadobe dome. Would need to have an earthen floor overtop though which would require some more work.
 
Coydon Wallham
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Location: Wisconsin
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Unfortunately have limited net access at the moment and little time to respond point by point to comments/questions, but here is another thread that inspired my efforts. Particularly note the Permie-style use of snow for insulation.

I ripped the khana and uni yesterday, cutting to length today. Will probably spend the next week or two drilling out the khana and cutting tenons in the uni. Still need to figure out how the uni will interface with the khana as the site I linked isn't very detailed in that regard...
 
pollinator
Posts: 1866
Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
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If you don't install a thermal break between your living space and the cold, cold ground beneath your feet, you will have a miserable winter. It can be a deep layer of dry moss, wood chips, sawdust, corn stalks, you name it. If it's gross, put a few inches of dry soil on top. Then build a floor using pallets. But you MUST create a thermal break.

Edit: I feel my post was more "should-y" than I would like. The thermal break is still a big deal IMHO. There are tons of closed-cell carpet underlay being landfilled every day. Closed cell means it doesn't absorb water, so it keeps its insulating value. Perhaps diverting this from a landfill, temporarily, might keep your feet warm while meeting your specification of "not throwing money at gick?" Luck!
 
Coydon Wallham
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Location: Wisconsin
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Progress is slow but steady, may have time to post pics soon. Right now I am getting ready to start on the canvas, looking at thread options. The site I'm going from recommends #69 bonded nylon thread. It doesn't sound like I need any greater strength to work with 12oz canvas, but I'm wondering about a non synthetic option? I guess the main problem would be aging and UV resistance? Is cotton/silk thread unworkable? Any other options? Forget if I mentioned it, but instead of polypro rope to tie the lattice together, I bought a bunch of 'Manilla Hemp' rope. It is more difficult to tie and takes longer lengths to account for inflexibility, but is supposed to be moisture resistant enough to last a looong time. At 1/4 inch it is a bit too large for the sewing machine though...
 
pollinator
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I was going to suggest a layer of sawdust for underfloor, as well. Like Douglas says, pretty much any dry stuff will work, though. Cattails came to mind for me since I live next to a swamp :D

When we lived in our tent while building our house, we put pallets down to keep the tent off the ground and avoid water problems. On top of the pallets, we put a few layers of cardboard so we wouldn't fall in between the slats of the pallets. It worked well. Maybe you could do something similar, although I think cardboard is a no go for Paul.

I think if you don't do something to insulate yourself from the ground you'll be very uncomfortable.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
pollinator
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Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
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Jan White wrote:Cattails came to mind for me since I live next to a swamp :D



Yes! Excellent suggestion. Cattail stalks/leaves have an internal spongy cellulose layer that provides insulation. When I was experimenting with primitive bushcraft, I used it to sit on and keep me off the frozen ground. It's a widely available, sustainable resource.
 
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