Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: The introduction on the YurtLocker home page says the yurt frames are “strong and utilitarian”. What does this mean? More importantly, what does it mean to me?
A: To the owner it essentially means the frames are strong. You won’t really see the frame once the yurt is erected unless you make that choice.
When you look at the components of the frame of a YurtLocker yurt you will notice the components are strong, adequate and utilitarian, not beautiful. On the other hand, they are they distractingly ugly, and we find a certain beauty in utility. The welds are not always ground smooth; they are not polished like welds you might see on your bicycle frame, for example. The bike company is trying to make the bike welds look beautiful.
The factory here is not too concerned with beauty. Once the yurt is erected, you don't normally see the frame. What the factory is concerned about is that the welds are strong, thus they put their effort into a good, solid weld, not into a beautiful smooth and polished weld.
Most of their customers (the closest 250 or so), are their neighbors, and their neighbor's neighbors. Nobody wants bad blood in the neighborhood, bad news spreads fast and it is bad for business. They want happy customers, so the frames are strong more than pretty.
The paint on the frame is likewise very utilitarian. It is a lovely battleship gray paint that is intended to stop the rust, and once again, since it is not intended to be seen, it isn’t really an issue.
The doors on the other hand are simple, single thickness bent edge metal, similar to table tops for lack of a better description, painted with the same dull-gray paint. They are lockable with a bicycle lock through the two handles which is a common requirement here. Once again it is utility over beauty.
The keywords here are strong and utilitarian. Look carefully at the pictures. You may be distracted by the ummm… lovely colors that the Kazaks seem to love so much. You won’t be turned off by the look of the frame. You won't see the frame, but admittedly you will see the door.
There is nothing overly utilitarian about the covers or the insulation. They are well sewn from good, sturdy, new material by experienced seamstresses. The "New Girl" in the factory has been with the company since 2003. With reasonable care the covers and insulation will last many years, and the frame should last a lifetime. You may buy a replacement cover from YurtLocker.
Q: Is there engineering information available on these yurts?
A: At this time there is not. I spoke with my builders and they looked at me sort of oddly. They had never even considered needing something like this. I explained to them it was testing to show how strong their yurts were.
Their answer was they have put the weight of the cover, plus hung an additional 250 kg (550lbs) from the top of their yurts when they had completed erecting them with no problems. They said they had never had a yurt frame bent, much less had one collapse. You can see the weight of the cover on the Order page if that will help you.
The Asian steppes can be a windy place, and often these yurts are erected in exposed areas where the wind is vicious some times in the year. There are more than 100 yurts in Heavenly Valley alone, perhaps 40 more on the very exposed ridge above the lake. Some of these yurts go back to 1977. They may not have been engineer tested, but they have been thoroughly field tested with no problems that have not been currently solved.
Force 8 winds with gusts to Force 10 have been recorded at Heavenly Lake. We have not investigated to see exactly what that means, but it sounds bad. We have been told a yurt can get noisy when the winds are very strong.
Q: In some of the photos of the snowy yurts, they are covered in plastic sheets. Do YurtLocker yurts leak or condense? The plastic sheets aren't in the summer photos.
A: YurtLocker would be remiss in making a statement that any yurt could not leak or condense. YurtLocker feels confident in saying no responsible yurt company would make such a statement. Your particular climate, installation and situation will have a big impact on whether or not this will happen.
YurtLocker visited and took these pictures at the Kazak village in the Heavenly Lake area in January of 2011; it was -18f degrees, (that is -28c, which sounds soooo much colder). The yurt where we ate had been erected more than 5 years before we came, and had been lived in 24/365 year around for those 5 plus years.
You can see how it is holding up by looking at the pictures. There has been some condensation, but nothing major. You can see a little mildew, and in fairness these areas were not obvious, YurtLocker was looking for all the “problem areas” that could be found. We think it is important that you honestly know what you are getting into.
As we ate lunch in the yurt we had the interpreter ask the owner why the plastic sheets? Did her yurt leak? The owner laughed a little nervously at the question. The translator explained me the owner was a little insulted. She answered something to the effect, “You think I would live in a leaky yurt?” We wondered if this some kind of a local Kazak insult? We at YurtLocker are not sure. Maybe it is like saying “Your grandma wore army boots."?
She then went on to explain to the translator that people living there often rode the bus a few hours into nearby towns to shop, or went to visit family. Sometimes it snowed when they were gone and they were kept away for several days until the roads had been cleared by the snowplows. The plastic sheet helped the snow slide off the roof more easily. In looking at the yurts, and looking at the pictures, it seems it is true. A little sun and the snow slid off the yurts in many cases, but not all.
Mystery solved? Well sort of. There were plenty of yurts with snow on top of the plastic, so I am not sure, but I did see a few without snow and no tracks going to the door. Once again, see the Photos page. I included pictures of the guy who walked down from the road and began using a bamboo pole knocked the snow off his yurt. Shortly after that he went inside and started a fire in his stove. I watched the smoke as he began his fire, but then I was ready to go inside.
Q: How long should a YurtLocker yurt last?
A: The company that builds YurtLocker yurts has been building yurts for since 1977. I asked them the same question. The local environment is harsh. There is a lot of hot and cold. UV is a big destroyer of us and everything we make, and the sun stays up late (for example until 10:30 PM) in the summer, so it can continue its attack on the yurts with UV until late in the evening.
That being said, the company says some Kazak people start replacing their covers at about 8 years in very exposed locations. Those yurts located in shadier and more protected areas can expect more like 10 years for a set of covers.
The Factory Boss told me they often the local Kazaks just order the top cover because the walls will often last for several more years than the more exposed top covers. Kazaks order a new cover, and you can do the same.
The frame? A little preventative maintenance and it should last a life time. Tighten any bolts that have worked loose. There is nothing that can work loose higher than the walls, but there could be rust around the tono.
Inspect the frame once in a while and look for rust. Loosen the cover and use some sand paper, or a wire brush to remove it and add a little good quality primer and rust preventing paint. Is Rust-Oleum® still around?
As the EPA says about cars, your mileage may vary, but your YurtLocker yurt should serve you for a long time.
If your yurt must be stored, this is a time for great care. It is a time of the greatest danger to your yurt.
Keep the frame and the cover off the ground in a dry, protected place or expect to have some rust and other problems. Before storage, make sure your covers are very dry, and like the frame, keep them from touching the floor or ground in a dry protected environment.
There is nothing in the yurt materials that a rodent would like to eat, but keep in mind it would not stop them from damaging your yurt in the effort to create a nest.
Q: What can I do to prolong the life of my Yurt Locker yurt?
A: The Yurt Locker will give you the same advice as any good real estate agent, location, location, location. Choose your site carefully. This will have a huge impact on everything else.
Think about the drainage situation around your yurt, particularly if you are setting up with an earthen floor. Put gravel around the outside rim of your yurt to help with the drainage, and you may even want to build a drainage system to collect the water that comes off your yurt.
If you live in a heavy wind area, you may want to seek some protection from the wind. Shrubs? Trees? A Wall? Hills?
Keep the cooling or heating in your mind as you plan the location of your yurt, not just the view alone. You may want to have deciduous trees shading your yurt in the hot part of the year, and they will shed their leaves and let the sun reach your cover in the cold part of the year. Evergreens can give you shade year around if you are in a year-around hot area.
You may want to seam seal your yurt. We don’t think it is necessary, but it will help protect the threads and seams from the sun’s killer UV rays.
You might consider putting up a shade cloth on the sunniest side of your yurt. You can find it from greenhouse equipment suppliers ready-made sort of in a tarp-like configuration, complete with grommets. You can see through it, it will also make your yurt cooler, as well as give it some UV protection.
Q: What kind of maintenance will my Yurt Locker yurt need?
A: You will want to keep the outside of you yurt clean. Simple soap and water will suffice for this. Choose a warm day and use a brush with a long handle like you might see where they wash buses or trucks. No need to scrub hard, think gentle thoughts and tease the dirt out. Under deciduous trees you may get tannin stains from leaves that stay for some time on the cover.
You may want to paraffin any zippers periodically. The easiest way is to rub a candle against the teeth and then open and close the zipper a few times. It is most effective on a warm to hot day, but you can do this anytime they stop feeling smooth.
Keep any hook and loop fasteners out of the sun. This material generally can’t take a lot of UV exposure. It is also known as Velcro®. Build stick on covers that can protect the exposed material from the sun.
Should you get a tear, you can easily repair it with a sewing awl. Adding a little silicone caulk will make it waterproof again.
If Uncle Billy has one too many, and backs into the yurt, the cover can be loosened and a section of the frame removed for repair. Maybe you can just hammer it back straight, (or close enough) on a tree stump or an anvil. You can order replacement frame or cover parts from YurtLocker, but it is also possible to get a replacement part made locally taking a similar part as a pattern. Only the door frame has unique parts.
If your frame is cast in concrete, pull the cover well back to avoid damage from flying sparks and hot metal, and have your local welder perform the repair. You have lots of options, all of which are relatively inexpensive.
Q: What kind of modifications can I do to my Yurt Locker yurt and not void the warranty?
A: You can do anything you like. The Yurt Locker warranty only covers manufacturing errors, not the way you choose to use the yurt. You are not going to void the warranty with any modification.
Replace the door, (the YurtLocker’s personal pet peeve) with a wooden door and frame, install wood frame and glass windows. You can even paint the canvas however you like. Put the stove jack where ever you like, or don’t install it at all. Use a stove jack to install a vent over your cooking area.
If you plan to use a wood stove, we would suggest a spark arrestor on the chimney.
Build your yurt on a deck, a permanent cement pad, a temporary cement pad, a cob floor installation. Whatever you like, it is your yurt. Make yourself happy.
Q: You have mentioned the door is not pretty. Why haven't we changed it from the factory?
A: If a door is made of wood, it adds a great deal of expense, complication, and difficulty to the cost, and the shipping paperwork. Wood can contain insects, or even insect eggs that are not welcome in another country. Wooden objects have to fumigated, quarantined until any eggs would have a chance to hatch, and then fumigated again and held in quarantined until they can be shipped to avoid re-contamination.
We are making every effort to keep yurts affordable for you. Contact us to discuss how easy adding a wooden door will be if you are handy with simple hand tools. In time we will have plans on the Other Stuff page
Q: What kinds of materials are used in building a YurtLocker yurt?
A: The frame is made of steel pipe.
The standard cover is a 700 gm polyester canvas impregnated with “organo-silicon waterproofing”.
There is also a less expensive cover that is made of 600 gm “single sided vinyl coated canvas” available by special order at this time.
windows are of heavy vinyl, but we don't have a quote on the weight or the mil
thickness at this time.
The insulation is new material 1/4 inch polyester felt.
The inner most liner is normally white cotton muslin. Let us know if you want something more exotic for an inner liner.
live where it is hot; we live where it is cold. Should we add more
insulation our yurt?
A: We at YurtLocker think Prodex® reflective insulation could be a good idea. Frankly we are unsure about the idea of an additional vapor barrier, but they also have a pre-perforated (non-vapor barrier) version of Prodex®.
Quoted from the www.Insulation4less.com website:
Prodex Total Insulation: One solution for Cold, Heat and Water = Reflective Insulation (R-value 15.67) + Radiant barrier + Vapor Barrier - All in one product! 13/64 inch (5mm closed cell polyethylene foam covered on both sides with .0012 inch (0.03mm) aluminum foil facing.
Prodex Total Insulation4Less keeps your home cool in summer, warm in winter and dry all year. Prodex Total works great in hot and cold climates. Unlike fiberglass or cellulose insulation, the Prodex R-value is unaffected by humidity or "thermal bridging". Unlike radiant barriers, Prodex has two reflective surfaces. Unlike double bubble, Prodex has a quality core that seals around nails and doesn't collapse. Unlike spray insulation, Prodex is safe, easy to apply and it prevents radiant heat transfer.
Energy Star Qualified, ICC-ES Recognized and Member of U.S. Green Building Council.
Polyester felt is a lot better than nothing, and a lot better than wool felt in our opinion, because nothing wants to eat it, but according to Insulation4Less, Prodex's® insulation R-value = 15.67. Searching on the internet we found that the fiberglass insulation in a 2x4 inch wall is quoted at R-value = 12.
We also saw R-value for fiberglass = 3.14/inch, but the dimensions of a 2x4 are actually 1-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches, which would make the value closer to a R-value of 11. Using this method, a 2x6 wall (which is actually 5-1/2 inches, the R-value = 17.27, but in each case this is the fiberglass only, not including the interior or exterior wall. You can decide what will make you comfortable in your particular climate, circumstances and budget.
Insulation4Less sells rolls of Prodex® that are 6 feet wide, and rolls of reflective tape which would make covering the walls an easy job.
If you choose to do the roof, (which is where we think it is even more important), let us know when you order your yurt. We can provide an additional muslin inner liner for your ceiling that would cover the shiny aluminum Prodex®, but not affect its efficiency.
Don’t forget insulating under the floor. Even if you pour a concrete slab, insulation under the slab and around the edges of the slab will help keep heat in and out.
Should you choose to add the Prodex® insulation, check with Insulation4less, and then with the YurtLocker who also sells Prodex®.
Check out our estimate of the amount of Prodex® needed to further insulate your yurt on the OTHER STUFF page.
Q: What kind of floor should I build for my Yurt Locker yurt?
A: Having a yurt is not like buying a house in many ways, it is a little more like deciding to build a house. You have a lot of decisions to make.
YurtLocker has seen many, many different methods of building yurt floors. The only limit is your imagination and budget.
We are sure everyone has seen yurts mounted on decks in picturesque settings. Check the Big Guys' websites and see plenty of these. Wow, some are really wonderful settings.
A common method here is casting the frame legs of the yurt frame into a concrete pad. They install tile over the concrete to make an attractive and an easy-to-clean surface. Perhaps it helps as a heat/cool sink as well?
Over part of the tile, perhaps 1/3, they will build a platform about 14" (36cm) high, and they will cover this platform with thick wool rugs and this will be the sleeping area. The area under the platform is used for storage. The tiled area is used for cooking, washing, and the rest.
The another common method is still a concrete pad, but instead of setting the frame legs in the wet concrete, they put pieces of pipe that are larger than the frame “legs” in the concrete when it is wet, making a bunch of holes to slip the legs into. We did not notice if they secured the frame to the pad in any way, but we would suggest, why not? We could use 3 or 4 eye bolts with a big washer or some other piece of metal attached and cast into the cement, or even something as simple as a couple feet of chain cast into the concrete at 1/3 or 1/4 intervals around the perimeter.
The third common way was setting the frame on the ground and having a dirt floor. Personally, we only saw it in one yurt, but we heard it was common. In the one dirt floor yurt we actually saw, they had still built a sleeping platform with storage underneath.
Other ways we have seen “around” or maybe just heard of include: (1) Building on a raised deck over storage containers, (2) Using pallets and boards or pallets and plywood to make a floor, (3) a packed clay earth, (4) Groundcrete - This is covering the ground with about 2 - 3 inches (5 cm - 7.5 cm) of concrete mix and using a tiller to mix the concrete into the top couple inches of soil and then leveling, smoothing, and misting the ground and letting it set up to a hard surface. It makes a good, solid, surface. You can even seal it with concrete floor sealer if you like. It makes an attractive and interesting floor if you do your part correctly, and (5) Using an above ground pool liner as a floor over a smooth pad of earth or sand. You may need pieces of carpet to put under your table and chair legs to keep them from "worrying" holes through the liner, but it makes a pretty good temporary location floor that is very earth friendly over the long term.
On the internet we have seen a method that starts with steel roofing as the bottom most layer and builds up from there in layers, ending in a plywood floor. I think the idea was credited to R. Buckminster Fuller, but I can't find the link at the moment so I may be dis-remembering. If I find it again, I will post it. If you know it, drop me a line.
If you can imagine it and build it, YurtLocker would be interested in seeing what and how, and helping you share your experience with the wider yurting world.
Please send your questions or comments to Rod@yurtlocker.com. We will try our best to answer, and may even add your question to the FAQ, well, if it is frequently asked.