This is the 3rd instalment of our customer experience blog series written by Beige, who lives full time, off-grid in a Groovy Yurt.
The traditional Mongolian yurt is a beautiful structure made of natural materials and enhanced by hand-painted designs on the Huns and door.
I quite enjoy the rustic feel, the rawness of the materials and knowing that owning one supports the people overseas who are building them.
A Groovy Yurts kit is complete with all the pieces one needs to have a functional structure. That said, there are many things one can do to modify their Groovy Yurt to make it more suitable to their environment and modern life. Here are some of the retrofits I have made to my yurt.
Since I live alone in my yurt, I have found it challenging to tighten the outer tension ropes myself.
To remedy this, I put a simple loop at one end of the tension ropes and used that loop to attach ratchet straps. The ratchet straps allow me to easily and quickly adjust the tension of my outer tension ropes.
Waterproofing the Toono
When I purchased my yurt, the Toono (center ring of the yurt) came with four inserts that fit into the openings of the Toono.
These inserts had a flexible, translucent plastic to let some light in but keep the rain and critters out. The problem with the inserts is that water still found its way to the inside of the yurt through the space between the inserts and the Toono.
My solution was to take the inserts out entirely and cover the outside of the Toono with plexiglass.
This task proved to be a bit difficult due to the curvature of the Toono, and I ended up cutting a separate piece of plexiglass for each of the sections I covered. I then drilled pilot holes in the plexiglass and into the appropriate spots in the Toono, then secured the plexiglass pieces with roofing screws.
Finally, I applied a generous coat of caulking around each section of plexiglass to ensure that water would not be able to find its way inside. I chose to install plexiglass on 3 of the 8 Toono sections because 4 of them were already covered by the canvas Urgh (the piece of canvas covering the Toono), and one of the sections has my chimney pipe coming from it.
Plexiglass was a suitable choice for this as it’s transparent and lets lots of light in, is flexible and can be bent a little bit to curve with the Toono and can be cut to any size.
If you are doing a retrofit similar to the one described above, you might consider covering all of the sections of the Toono with plexiglass.
The benefits to this would be: preventing water from entering the yurt when the Urgh shifts, holding heat better during cold months and providing the option to take the Urgh off to allow more light to enter.
Please note that Groovy Yurts now offers Top Covers for the Urgh with clear vinyl to cover the open sections of the Toono. I don’t believe this was an option when I purchased my yurt nearly five years ago, or perhaps I wasn’t aware of it.
Although this is a more straightforward solution to the retrofit just described, I think the plexiglass is an excellent choice because it offers an undistorted view, and I imagine it keeps the heat in better.
Securing the Urgh
When tying the Urgh (a piece of canvas covering the Toono) to the tension ropes on the outside of the yurt, I noticed the Urgh was subject to a lot of shifting.
Most of the time, this wasn’t a problem as it’s quick and easy to readjust. That said, if I were away for several days in a row and the Urgh shifted while I was gone, I would sometimes come home to find wet contents in my yurt.
My solution for this was installing eye screws on both sides of the platform, which I used to thread the ropes to the Urgh through a more secure tie-down.
The eye screws are strong and unmoving, unlike the tension rope that would be pulled up when tying another rope to it. The eye screws allow me to tie the rope for the Urgh very tight, holding it in place for longer than when I tied it to the tension ropes of the yurt.
Plus, using the eye screw instead of the tension rope has the added benefit of having these two ropes be independent of each other.
Now I can adjust my tension ropes without the rope holding the Urgh to be moved.
Modified Chimney Design
My Groovy Yurt came with a Toono insert that fits a 4″ chimney pipe, but the standard chimney pipe size is 6,” and the insulated ones are even wider.
So I created a customized Toono insert out of sheet metal that can fit an insulated chimney pipe and withstand a bit of warmth that the insulated pipe gives off.
Much like creating the plexiglass windows, I measured and cut the sheet metal to fit over one of the Toono openings. Then I cut a hole out of the center of the sheet metal to fit my insulated chimney pipe before securing it to the top of the Toono with roofing screws.
Finally, I sealed the sheet metal’s perimeter with caulking and sealed around the chimney pipe with heat-proof caulking.
Blankets on door and window
To reduce the draft from coming into the yurt, I have covered the door and window with blankets.
To hang the blanket covering the window, I tied some rope that spans the window’s width to drape the blanket over. Then I attached a carabineer to the eye screw attached to the window to clip through the rope to hold it up.
This keeps the blanket from sagging and prevents it from dipping down such that it won’t be covering the top of the window.
Similarly, I had a quilt made that ties to the Huns (rafters that join the walls, door and window to the Toono) that fit into the door.
I like having these in the winter to keep some of the cold wind out. They are so easy to put on and take down that I can still enjoy the added brightness of the window when I take the cover off during sunny parts of the day.
Screens on the inner folding doors and window
The location of my homestead is VERY abundant with mosquitos, so adding screens to the bay window and inner doors was essential if I wanted to open them for airflow.
It was a simple retrofit involving nailing little pieces of wood to secure the screening on both the door and window.
With a few simple retrofits, my Groovy Yurt has become much more comfortable and functional.
Completing these retrofits offered me the opportunity to gain some skills and to think outside of the box. Having the ability to conceptualize and carry forward modifications and repairs is a major part of homesteading, no matter what kind of structure you choose.
It’s essential to be aware of this to ensure you are prepared for the amount of work involved in maintaining a homestead.
Groovy Note: We now offer an acrylic finish option to cover the toono. All the improvements that are not typically made in Mongolia can be purchased or made at home. Detailed DIY instructions can be provided for many of our add-ons, such as the chimney flashing or the house wrap, and we’re always ‘at yurt service’ for advice and recommendations.
Contact us today if you have any questions for us, or yurt stories to share!