Build A Yurt or a Cabin?

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Which is better a yurt or a small cabin?

What is easier for a first time builder with little experience?

Are you thinking of buying a yurt or building a cabin but not sure which is right for your needs? Then you’ve come to the right place. This article will talk about the pros and cons of both as both can be a great solution for your family live in or camp in.

First of all I think I should begin with the obvious. What is a yurt?

Our old yurt, looking like a space capsule

A yurt is a modern adaptation of the ancient shelter used by Central Asian nomads for centuries. The compact shape of the yurt and combination of lightweight members in tension and compression mean that the structure is highly efficient in maximizing strength while minimizing the use of materials.

A modern yurt is a lightweight, low-cost, state-of-the-art version that retains the sense of wholeness of the ancient form while delivering the structural integrity, longevity and low maintenance demanded by modern users.

Though generally classified as a tent, a yurt is much stronger and weathertight. The circular structure consists of a durable fabric cover, tension band and a wood frame that includes a lattice wall, radial rafters, central compression ring and a framed door.

A yurt can last for 20 years, with the watertight, UV-resistance cover being the most likely point of failure. Yurt’s can be fully insulated, wired for electricity and fully plumbed with running water including a bathroom.

For this article I’ll define a cabin as stick built structure using normal framing methods and it will be a similar square footage of the yurt.

Inside yurt wood stove and sink. Notice the lattice walls

inside of yurt with bunk beds and futon

inside of yurt with bunk beds and futon

A yurt would be good for people who:

  • Have limited to no building experience but want to build the structure themselves to save money.
  • Need the structure built sooner than later! A yurt can be setup with a few friends in a weekend.
  • Will have difficulty getting a permit for a cabin due to expense, time limitations etc. For example some peoples property is not zoned for cabins, due to septic tank reasons or too close to a hill etc etc. Everyone’s code requirements are different. Yurts are considered to be tents or temporary structures by most jurisdictions. This is one of the main reasons I see many yurts in my area.
  • Want a cool looking fun structure that’s different and not mainstream. My old yurt looked like a spaceship and everyone wanted a tour and was impressed.

This is the front of our 16′ yurt. Notice it’s sitting on a pressure treated post and pier foundation

Con’s about yurts
  • Value. The first con that I would mention is also one of their benefits. That is they are considered tents or temporary structures by most counties or jurisdictions, even though they can last for 20 years. Meaning they don’t add any value to your property, even though they cost a pretty penny. For some it doesn’t matter and others that want every addition to their property to be an investment. It should be noted that there is a HUGE demand for used yurts. I searched Craigslist near Seattle and used yurts if you could find them were going for 2/3 of the new price. So sellers could sell their yurt separately as the bank’s appraiser won’t give it any value.
  • Yurt’s can be more expensive than a comparable cabin, IF you built them both yourself. For example our 16′ yurt cost around $6000 including the platform it was built on. If we built a similar sized 200 square foot cabin ourselfs it would have been less for the structure without any interior or insulation. However if we paid to have the cabin to be built it would have been far more than a yurt we setup ourselves.
  • Yurt’s are more fragile than a cabin. While yurts are tough and mine never leaked even though we we’re near a rain forest they are still a fabric based structure and don’t have the same strength to hold up to extreme weather. Ours lasted for 8 years then it collapsed in a 30 year snowstorm that dumped 4 feet then rained 4 inches making the weight on the yurt several tons. The collapse was so violent that the wood members looked like they exploded! Look at the pictures.I should mention that our’s didn’t have a snow load kit which beefs up the walls and cable support. If it had a snow load kit I believe it would have survived. Also us being up there to scrape off the roof snow would have saved it however this should be considered before buying yurt or even a cabin with a lower pitched roof.

Buy Small Cabin Plans

A small wood stove is perfect for a yurt or cabin

Cabin Pros:

  • Adds value to your property, as long as it’s traditionally or at least well built. May appeal to more buyers if re-sale is important.
  • Cabin’s will last indefinitely if maintained.
  • Can be built cheaper if you have building knowledge and even cheaper if you can reuse salvaged materials like windows and doors.

Cabin Negatives

  • Harder to move a cabin if your needs change.
  • It takes much longer to build a cabin than a yurt even if you have building experience. Months vs days.
  • Maintenance may require more work on a cabin as it will need painting or staining if you used wood. Yurt’s need little maintenance, only cleaning.
  • Much harder to move materials to site if your site is remote or has no vehicle access. A yurt would be ideal for remote sites.


cabin with outhouse

3d cabin model with outhouse

5 Responses

  1. Laura Smith says:

    I’d like to know the information amy asked for as well please

  2. Amy says:

    I’m very very interested in acquiring a yurt but know I have more homework ahead of me. My area is quite tornadic during spring and fall so I do have some reservations. Could you email me to answer a few ?s I have? [email protected]

  3. Mic murray says:

    Very awesome perspective. Can you email me.

  4. I would like more info

  5. arod says:

    Awesome option with the yurt

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