Yurts of America - Don't Be Square!
Dec 152009

What’s the biggest mistake people make in buying a yurt? The wrong size? No. You can always add a second yurt if the first turns out to be too small. The wrong style? Not usually. Most of the fabric yurts, for example, are pretty similar to each other, and if you’re buying new you usually get to choose your options and customize it to meet your personal needs.

Last winter I heard from someone who purchased a Mongolian import for a rainforest climate–she’s not having much success since that style of yurt wasn’t designed for her climate. But this is relatively uncommon.

Frankly, yurts aren’t that complicated and there aren’t too many mistakes people make, except perhaps overbuying (snow and wind kits where they aren’t necessary) or underbuying (not getting insulation where it would make a big difference). But none of these mistakes is terribly serious.

The most common mistake I see, and the only one that can be truly devastating, is buying from the wrong company. Devastating in the sense of losing your investment (worst case scenario) or dealing with months of headaches in trying to get your yurt set up and perhaps never getting all the right parts.

Most yurt companies are reputable businesses with a solid  product. By far the majority take intense pride in their customer service and your satisfaction. My observation is that even the newest companies (in the middle of their learning curve) will usually bend over backwards to make sure that you are happy with their product and service. Let’s face it–It’s a feel good business and that’s why most people are into it.

However, every once in awhile a company  just doesn’t seem able to perform. Yurts won’t arrive when they are supposed to. You’ll have your platform built but then the yurt doesn’t show up for three months–or sometimes it’s 6 months. Meanwhile your platform is sitting there exposed to weather and the elements. The baby that was supposed to be born three months after the yurt arrives is born in a makeshift RV (yes, that’s a true story) three months before the yurt ever shows up.

When the yurt does arrive some of the parts are missing, and the directions don’t make sense. You call the yurt company but they don’t answer the phone or return your phone calls,no matter how desperate you’re starting to sound (funny, they always returned your calls promptly when you were buying the yurt). You’ve never put a yurt together before, so it takes awhile to figure out what’s missing. Some of the parts you wind up replacing from Lowe’s or your local Home Depot. Other parts you can’t find, and so the calls to the company continue. At some point perhaps you threaten to sue.

A month later–or six months later–you finally have all the parts and the yurt finally is finished. A project that should have taken a day–or, at most, two days–has taken months, many trips to the hardware store, desperate calls to other yurt companies for help (yes, that happens), calls to your company (your long distance bill looks like it might cost what the yurt did), hours of frustration, and so on… You realize, too, that the fabric seams are sewn where perhaps they should have been radio welded, or they have been single stitched instead of double stitched, and so on. The fabric doesn’t fit just right, but you’ll find a way to “make it work.”  And so on.

Too often, for my taste, people write me using the word “nightmare” in reference to their yurt experience. If you don’t believe me, here’s a recent sad story you can read for yourself (go to Yurt (Part 1) and Yurt (Part 2) for the sad sections).

What can you do to avoid making this mistake? First, read the section I wrote in YURTS: Living in the Round titled “How to Buy a Yurt”, or the expanded excerpt from the book on the Yurtinfo website.

Your yurt is a major purchase, foks. Do your research!

Usually the troubled companies are the ones advertising the cheapest yurts, something like “we have the cheapest yurts and the best in the country…” That should be a red flag for starters. If you’re researching a company that makes claims that don’t seem believable, Google “Better Business Bureau” for their home state and see what kind of file the company has. One company currently has an “F” rating from their local BBB. Do you really want to purchase from them, regardless of their price?

Check out the forums on Yurtinfo.org to see what other yurt buyers have experienced. That’s why the forums are there, so people can share their experiences and we can all learn from each other.

If you have the opportunity, ask for a reference for the company you’re considering–from someone who has already put their yurt up. Find out if the company was timely in their delivery. Were all the costs of the yurt up front or were there hidden costs that appeared after the fact? When the yurt arrived was it well crated? Were all the parts there? Were the instructions clear, with diagrams if necessary? What about platform instructions? How was their customer service? Have they replaced any defective parts? And so on…

There’s a 2009 blog, Yurtopia, started by a fellow yurt enthusiast in the process of purchasing his own yurt. He’s also a designer with lots to say about siting and good design in general. Take a look at the Yurtopia blog and ask Sean your questions. He’s definitely done HIS research and started the blog to fill in the blanks for folks like himself, all the unanswered questions…

What am I doing to help remedy the situation? I now offer an hour of free consulting to every new yurt company, mainly to head off issues like the ones mentioned above before they have a chance to become a real issue. And I sometimes work with companies that have had problems but are trying to straighten things out, helping them pinpoint issues and bring their standards closer to the very high industry standards that have been set by companies like Pacific, Colorado and Rainier.

I wish each of you the best of luck in making your yurt decisions. Hopefully someday I’ll hear about the wonderful yurt you’re living in and the great experience you had along the way.

Yurts, always,
becky

12 Responses to “Buying a yurt”

  1. Barry Gardner says:

    Who you send me the email from Steve Hammond about building a yurt? The link on your site does not connect me to the information. I would like to build my yurt and I’m trying to gather as much information that I can about this. Thanks for your time and consideration.
    Barry Gardner

  2. crownjade says:

    I am working with a couple who bought a Colorado Yurt on Craigslist. They were assured they had the Wind and Snow package. They did not know the snow load for their area until I prompted them to obtain it. The yurt did have the Snow and Wind package, but the rafters were 2×4’s and not big enough, once we applied the local snow load. Now, they have to add a Doug-Fir Select Structural 2×4 or a standard No. 2 grade 2×6 onto each rafter, in order for me to provide a structural approval PE stamp, as required by the local building department. The moral of this story is to contact a knowledgeable structural engineer before buying something that anyone but an engineer tells you will work. Unfortunately, I cannot let it “slide” since I am buying the yurt with my PE stamp and must require the reinforcement to meet engineering approval. See my link on http://yurtinfo.org/consultants.php.

  3. Ron Day says:

    I am researching yurts currently and looking for good resources. I enjoyed the above artice, but when I went to the links withing for more information, nothing would pull up. Not sure if its because I am computer inept, or maybe its the military system I am on that iss even more handicapped than I am with computers. Either way, I could not get more than just the drop down lists to show. The lists whow topic I really would like to know though! Can you please make recommendations, possible book references or seperate website that I may have more luck with?

    I am retiring military, looking to finally settle down in one place. My dad was the one that told me to look into Yurts, and at first i thought he was seriousely joking as I have been to the middle east and asia and actually did see some of the native Yurts. Needless to say, while interested for future camping and hunting trips, not my idea of a permanent home. However, I am old enough now to actually listen to my parents so went looking.

    I am looking for a permanent yurt, if that makes since. I love the open floor plans! I am either going to settle near parents in Tennessee or in Northern California. Looking to buy acreage now with a small cabin or something that I can live in while getting it built. Being military, definitely not made of money so I cannot afford to make a whold lot of mistakes. So any resources that I can learn from about the whole process would be greatly appreciated!

    Ron Day

  4. 蛙鏡 says:

    Great site, though I would love to see some more media! – Great post anyway, Cheers!

  5. becky says:

    Hi there, glad you found the post on Buying a Yurt helpful. What is the website you want to post it on, and what parts would you be cutting and pasting?

    I’d appreciate it if you would acknowledge the blog source (www.livingintheround.org) and include a link either to the article or to the homepage of the blog. Also that the piece was written by becky kemery, author of “YURTS: Living in the Round” and the website http://www.yurtinfo.org. Thanks!

    And thanks for asking! Good luck with getting your yurt,

    becky kemery
    Author of “YURTS: Living in the Round”
    http://www.yurtinfo.org
    http://www.livingintheround.org
    Yurtlady on Facebook

  6. becky says:

    Hi Ron,
    Sorry you had trouble with the links.
    The best online resource is my site http://www.yurtinfo.org. I’d start with the “Yurtstory” and “FAQ” sections and then move through any other sections that look interesting.

    A fabric yurt is a great option to live in while you’re building a permanent structure, and it can be moved, sold, or turned into an office or guest room when your house is finished. If you want something round and more permanent, check out the frame panel yurts. You’ll find websites for both types of yurt companies on the “Yurt Companies” page, I’d check out a bunch of sites. Smiling Woods Yurts might be interesting in your situation because he offers the option of building the walls yourself (from plans) and then purchasing a roof kit from his company (the roof is the difficult part).

    You have a smart dad!! Welcome home, Ron, and good luck with creating your most perfect home.

    All the best,
    becky kemery
    Author of “Yurts: Living in the Round”
    http://www.yurtinfo.org
    http://www.livingintheround.org
    Yurtlady on Facebook

  7. Corina says:

    I am wondering if smiling woods yurts have gone out of business. I have tried contacting them by phone and email but have not heard anythi

  8. becky says:

    Hi Corina,
    Smiling Woods is still going strong–they were probably busy or out of town when you called. It’s a small business and some things perhaps fall through the cracks.

    Best of luck with your yurt project,
    becky kemery
    Author of “Yurts: Living in the Round”
    http://www.yurtinfo.org
    Yurtlady on Facebook

  9. Roni Russell says:

    I am very interested on how to find out zoning laws and building codes for my area. I have no idea how to even start this process. Any help you can provide would be appreciated.

  10. Natchi says:

    I have a friend name David who moved to a yurt years ago in Hamilton, Ontario. He bought his yurt from Pacific Yurts and highly recommeded this company because of their ethics. I was so impressed by his decision to make a yurt his permanent dwelling that I made a documentary about it. Let me know what you think. Here is a trailer: http://www.roadslesstraveled.tv/trailer. Let me know what you think? I’m looking to transfer to an unconventional lifestyle of my own. How do people find living in yurts? Any advice? I’m interested.

  11. Anoura22 says:

    Hi! i’m enjoying your site very much. it’s neat 🙂

    I was wondering if you could recommend a couple yurt companies in the south west?

    I’m in the metro las vegas area and I am worried that shipping will be outrageous if I order from Pacific yurts or a company even further away.

    do you know of any in California, Arizona, Utah, ect? that you would recommend?
    thanks,

    anoura

  12. Scott Fogarty says:

    It is a buyer beware market. We have a Colorado Yurt, it is a great product, all the details are perfect, great service. Well constructed, no issues after 10 years. We started looking several months ago for a second one. We contacted Nalina at Spirit Mountain Yurt. We were intrigued by her company. She had a cancelled order for a 24′ yurt with THREE windows. She was willing to drop the price 1000.00 on it. We figured great, saves some money. We order it. She ships it without a dome, says they are backordered, now after 3 months and still no dome.
    Anyways, the yurt shows up, badly crated, took a week and a half to get the freight charges figured out. Nalina had done that incorrect. We are setting up the yurt and it has only TWO windows. The first of several missing items. There were no rafter brackets. They use small drywall screws to hold the cable end unlike bolts with the Colorado Yurt. They use a small dome ring so you have fewer rafters for snow and wind loads. We ordered the insulation package. The kit shows up with yurt, no windows are cut out of the lining or the insulation ??? Where the Colorado Yurt is all lined and the windows are nicely hemmed.
    We are now 3 months since the order was placed and still no dome. Nalina refuses to answer her phone. She sporadically answers emails with ” we should be shipping yurt parts next week”.
    They never explained the missing window, just a whoops, and we will send a check for the missing window, well that has never showed up.
    The set up directions could have been written better by a 6th grader. I guess they were smoking a lot of dope when written out in the desert in NM.
    There was no one available by phone at anytime during set up to help with questions.
    The roof material looks like a skinny person wearing pants 4x too large. It is a shabby job.
    DO NOT BUY A SPIRIT MOUNTAIN YURT.
    Feel free to contact me for pics of both our yurts or for advice.
    [email protected]

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