My Yurt Project on Whidbey Island

Guest post by Eric

I recently bought a 1/3 acre on Whidbey Island in Washington. It was raw land, I cleared a driveway, put gravel down, and built a 16′ yurt. I did all of this myself, with help from generous friends! This is an off the grid, weekend getaway. I have a vintage ice box for refrigerator, sink with 5 gallon tank and valve (drains in a bucket), futon, recliner chair and a 12 volt lighting led strip which uses a 12 volt battery.

This is the first part of a three section of my yurt build. This is the 12,000 square foot lot, approximately cleared 3000 square foot for the yurt. This is the clearing process, all done by myself and two other friends.

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This is the yurt building job. 16′ yurt, 200 square feet, no building permit required as long as it doesn’t have a permanent heat source. $7,750 cost of yurt from Pacific Yurts in Oregon. Approximately $2,500 for cost of building materials and tools. included is the cost of generator, as there is no power on the property. Free labor from myself and gracious friends!

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Complete yurt….has a futon for sleeping, chair, vintage ice box, stainless sink and countertop with a five gallon container, drains into bucket, 12 volt LED lighting ran from AGM 12 battery (I charge it at home). As for facilities, a five gallon bucket, compostable bag lining, with toilet lid outside, enclosed in a 4’x4′ pop up tent. Uses sawdust, then is disposed of after the weekend.

This is mainly an overnight/weekend getaway….perfectly located one hour from Seattle!

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Jennifer - August 30, 2014 Reply

Look awesome! What a fun retreat! Thanks for sharing.

tthom2 - August 30, 2014 Reply

I never really understood yurts – but thanks for the gr8 walk-thru of the whole process. Very well illustrated and a nice setting. I just bought a small fixer upper (aka: $$ pit) there in Freeland. I’m working on it long distance from AZ thru a contractor friend. Whidbey really is a beautiful, layed-back place. Someday soon we may be neighbors. Enjoy your Yurt – and – thanks for sharing.

    Eric - August 30, 2014 Reply

    Yeah, some of these places and work here can be expensive! Fortunately for now, I’m able to use the property and didn’t break the bank…..Good luck with your place on Whidbey! It really is a beautiful place!!

    Cheers neighbor!

Cathy Johnson (Kate) - August 30, 2014 Reply

Nicely done! The windows suddenly make sense to me…

Sandra Benge - August 30, 2014 Reply

Did the yurt come as a kit or did you design it? Where did you get the materials? Thank you.

-Sandy Benge
860-238-4225

    Eric - August 30, 2014 Reply

    Came as a full kit, came disassembled, from Pacific Yurts in Oregon. Materials came from mostly home depot. Plans for the platform are on Pacific yurts’ website. I am not a carpenter, however, the plans were easy to understand. The platform was actually the hardest to put together.

    Cheers!

sarah | little house pantry - August 30, 2014 Reply

Awesome! For years I’ve been wanting to put a yurt up on some property I have up on Lopez Island. I think we’ve finally settled on building an actual cabin, but there is something calming about yurt camping that I will miss. Great project!

Lareena Goertz - August 30, 2014 Reply

Looks great! I’ve always wanted a yurt!

Becca - August 30, 2014 Reply

I am very impressed and inspired!

gmh - August 30, 2014 Reply

So. Very. Cool.

Anyone wanting to try a yurt can rent one at many of the state parks in Oregon. I love looking up at the skylight from my bunk and playing with the geometric designs of the roof supports. Geeky, I know.

Nancy @ Little Homestead in Boise - August 30, 2014 Reply

That’s a beautiful area, as I’ve been to the San Juans area. Just curious- would the zoning allow for full time use? And do you worry about mold and mildew with the wet climate year-round, and only being there part time? Do you worry about the noise from the fly overs, or did they close the air base there? Nice job!

    Eric - August 30, 2014 Reply

    Code does not allow anyone to “camp” or build a structure over 200 sqft with out a building permit. So, this is technically, my “storage unit”. And I’m far south, don’t hear any fly-bys. I am concerned about mold/mildew, I am just going to rinse the roof and sides every spring. Additionally, whidbey gets 22-23″ of rain annually…less than Seattle of 37-39″.

    I’ll deal with it in stride

    Cheers!

Gabe Cyr - August 30, 2014 Reply

If you’ve got an icebox, battery for lighting, propane for stove, why the generator? Is this a fair weather retreat or are there plans afoot to winterize? Loving it!

    Eric - August 30, 2014 Reply

    Generator was used for power tools for building….still have it there just “in case” ….of anything?!? 😉 I am planning on using a little buddy propane heater. It has a low oxygen cut off, and I’ll just crack the windows when using. The plan is to heat it up, just into a cozy bed and shut off at night….sounds great in theory, I’ll get back to you in the winter 😉

    Cheers

Wendy - August 30, 2014 Reply

Wonderful little yurt! What was the situation with zoning- is it considered a temporary structure or did you have to get a building permit? And what is the insulation? I have a very dear friend who is from Mongolia. She grew up in Ulan Bator but her grandparents lived in the country in yurts. If you get a chance to speak to a Mongolian about yurt customs and culture- it is really interesing. For instance, men are supposed to be on one side, women on the other (she said as a child her grandparents let her go wherever she wanted). And also a yurt is always open for visitors- even if no one is home, you are allowed to go in, eat food, rest, and drink their vodka. 🙂

    Eric - August 30, 2014 Reply

    Under 200 sqft, without a “permanent heating source”, no building permit needed. In other words, no wood stove 🙁 And technically, this is my “storage unit/shed”….not a cabin, as I was advised to tell, should someone ask;)

    It is open to friends at this time, not anyone:( Great story about yurts in Asia, thanks!

    Cheers

fleming behrend - August 30, 2014 Reply

Great job. Looks like you had some IPA while building :0)

Brian - August 30, 2014 Reply

Very cool but I have 2 concerns. First, I realize it is a small structure, but are you not concerned about frost heave? By having your footings on the ground, the building is subject to the flexing dirt as the moisture in the soil freezes over the winter. It’s probably not a major problem where you are but over time the yurt could warp a little due to this.

Second, it appears the floor Tyvek was installed upside down. Since Tyvek is made to allow water vapor to pass through one direction only, it should always be installed with the printing facing the outside of the house. In this case it should have been installed with the printing towards the dirt. You may experience some water vapor entry into your yurt. It will be more problematic in the winter when you use your non-permanent heat source to raise the temperature from 30some to 60some. Then any water vapor admitted into the building will condense into water on whatever surface, possibly the underside of the wood floor.

    Eric - August 30, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the concerns…..Really appreciate it!

    I used a jumping jack on the ground, then a plate compactor, since it was dry, then layer gravel and compacted it too. I understand it may warp over time, if I can get 5 years before having to do anything, I think I’ll be satisfied….we’ll see how it goes?!?

    I did use the vapor barrier on the bottom of the platform, with the “Tyvek” writing facing the ground, I had leftovers, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to use it on the top?!? I’ll see this winter I guess?

    Thanks again!!

    Cheers!

      Brian - August 31, 2014 Reply

      I wasn’t sure. One of the pictures looks like you guys are screwing decking down (or finish floor?) with the print facing up. So I’m guessing the lower layer faces down and the layer shown in the picture faces up? Worst case scenario, water vapor won’t be able to leave through the floor. But the subfloor should stay nice and dry. 🙂

        Eric - August 31, 2014 Reply

        Oh I see…What happened was that I put a 1 1/8″ t&g flooring down and cut it too small…15′ 3/8″, not 16′ 🙁 So, I put an additional 2×6 t&g flooring on top….and I layed the extra tyvek on top of the smaller cut floor. Hindsight, I should have not even put it down, for the reason you mention, but this is my first build, so, I’ll see what happens in the next few years….I’ll either win or learn but never lose;)
        Cheers!!

Gail L. Van Luvanee, Architectural Designer/Drafter - August 30, 2014 Reply

As an architectural paraprofessional, i recommend that even if a building permit isn’t necessary that you still have one. The building department and laws are there for your protection, not to be a “kill-joy.” Please, believe me on that.

    alice h - August 30, 2014 Reply

    It’s easy enough to build to code even without a permit. I usually build at least 2 steps above code since it’s just the minimum standard allowed. As an example, some of the weight limits allowed by code for joist spans are a bit too bouncy for me.

    Eric - August 30, 2014 Reply

    I greatly appreciate your advice. I plan on building a full cabin in the future, this is temporary until then. Hoping to sleep there while building a cabin, which I will get a permit for.

    Thanks again!!

    Brian - August 31, 2014 Reply

    Sometimes the added cost of the permit can be the entire budget for the project.

Tina Larkin - August 30, 2014 Reply

Hi! Awesome! I’m the Harp and Fiddle Diva who has the Purple Harpmobile, published here back in June. Am in Seattle now. Are you open to having well-behaved visitors? I’d love to see your digs. thanks and best wishes

Cedar - August 30, 2014 Reply

I really enjoy seeing the photos of the set up for your yurt. Nicely done inside arrangement as well. Pacific Yurts are made so well I suspect you will get years of wonderful experience……….the views up through the circle sky window are wonderful either rain or clear night.

Jan - August 30, 2014 Reply

So don’t have a lot of tech comments/advice but I am very inspired. One day…

Marsha Cowan - August 30, 2014 Reply

Looks really comfortable and spacious. It was fun seeing how a yurt goes up. Once you have the round floor, everything else seems really easy to get up with the help of good friends. Great job! Enjoy!

Linda - August 30, 2014 Reply

I love the photos of the Yurt construction. I did not know exactly how they were made and supported. Interesting!!!

robin ball - August 30, 2014 Reply

Congrats on your WI purchase, a beautiful location, I have friends that also live there. I would recommend taking a good look at your overhanging branches, and close trees as you might loose one in the windy storms. Others wise enjoy your piece of heaven! The Orca watching is great!

Bret - August 31, 2014 Reply

Must be South Whidbey if only an hour away from Seattle. I lived on the island for years and are you not worried about mold and mildew with all the rain. I would love to build a tiny house and move back to Oak Harbor.

Ray - August 31, 2014 Reply

Thanks for posting your project pictures. Very inspiring to me. My dream is a similar project on one of the San Juan Islands.

Mo - August 31, 2014 Reply

Hey Neighbor, I wouldn’t worry too much about frost heave here, especially if you graded the area around the Yurt with enough slope to carry the water away. I just re-roofed a shed I built more than 20 years ago for a family member that used a similar style foundation. The building was still straight and level.

Any code issues will likely originate as complaints with your neighbors. Make them friends and I suspect you’ll have many trouble free years ahead.

We use the buddy heater at our little place (344sf) in Eastern WA and it works great, even when the temperature drops below zero (Fahrenheit). It’s not a Yurt but winter temps here rarely dip below the 20s. The bulk tank attachment for the heater will pay for itself quickly and a 20 pound tank will last an extended weekend. We have a CO monitor and have never reached the dangerous levels. In fact our propane apartment sized range spikes the CO reading more than the heater. Some ventilation is required. Getting a CO monitor/alarm is worth the $ to know for sure.

Thanks for sharing and good luck with the “Dept of making you unhappy” as Mr Wheaton would say.

-Mo

Deana Geno - August 31, 2014 Reply

We bought 1/3rd acre just below Greenbank Washington On Whidbey Island and are trying to get it cleared and ready. Also finding out about building codes. That is a good Yurt and a beautiful piece of land.

    Daniel - May 7, 2015 Reply

    Deana,
    Did you ever decipher what the building codes/permit requirements for building a yurt on the island is?

    I would like to see about getting a couple of acres that I can have septic and electricity connected to a cluster of two-three yurt system.

    ~Dan

Kate - September 1, 2014 Reply

This is awesome! I am one of the owners of the “Cool Bus” next to Three Sisters Market and am always glad to see fellow Tiny House folk! I hope this becomes more of a norm for people. Keep up the good work and spreading the good word! 🙂

Craig Jungers - September 4, 2014 Reply

We have a lot in Beverly Beach near Langley and wanted to put our yurt on it (also 16′) but we were told that:

a) No “camping” is allowed even on your own lot… even in an RV (which is not an approved living space according to Island County).;

b) We needed both water AND septic. A composting toilet (which we have and were planning to install) was not sufficient;

c) Only yurts allowed were on lots that already have living quarters (approved ones), sewage, water, power. And even then only as an “office” or “storage”.

Has something changed?

Craig

    eric - September 7, 2014 Reply

    I was also told that camping was not allowed in island county. Was also told that any structure with a permanent heat source, was then not considered a storage unit and needed a building permit, no matter the size. My yurt is my storage unit. When i use the facilities, I pack out what I pack in, saw dust in a bag, removed into a plastic tub, that is then disposed of. My friend has a cabin down the street also, he lets me use his toilet, luckily:)

    Also, I have not met any neighbors who are really asking me about the building codes, i am not ruffling any feathers, hopefully no one is upset, but everyone seems really interested in the yurt and approves. Beverly beach is great! People there are laid back, they won’t mind if you put up your “storage unit” yurt!! Go for it!!!

      Craig Jungers - September 8, 2014 Reply

      Our neighborhood has a “snitch” who is well-known for turning in code violators. He has already defaced parts of our property (claiming someone else did it) and has turned in people for camping on lots. This makes it very difficult, to say the least.

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