Oct 202010
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So…can a yurt really be your primary residence, or are they limited to being a weekend cabin type structure?

After seeing a yurt, perhaps staying in a rental yurt in a state park or vacation resort area, your intrigue has become curiosity and finally a desire to live in a yurt.  That is a great decision…I know I love living in mine…but the question of living in one as your primary residence always comes up and I’ve never seen an answer…from other yurt owners or from yurt companies…that I feel really answers concerns satisfactorily…so here are some thoughts based on my experience.

Yurt companies really cannot answer the question, primarily for legal and liability reasons, so don’t get mad at them for not giving you definitive help in deciding if you want to make a yurt your home.  The legal issues that are varied all across the country make it impossible for a company to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on your particular situation.  If they make a mistake and someone buys from them based on their advice, then runs into problems with local laws, they leave themselves open to liability, so they HAVE to leave the decision up to you.

I don’t have that restriction, so I can give you my opinion, based on experience, on issues you might face and possible solutions.  Also, besides legal issues about erecting and living in a yurt, I’ll be addressing insurance issues as well.

So…let’s see if I can answer some of your questions, OK?

Are yurts a livable long term option?

The first thing that might occur to you after you’ve had a yurt experience…either camping in one or seeing one on TV or in a magazine article…is the question, “Yurts are really cool, neato, and peachy-keen, but are they REALLY livable long term?”

Well, you can read about my first year of yurt living, September 2009 through September 2010, in my post “Yurt living one year in…thumbs up or thumbs down?”,  but the short answer is a definitive and resounding yes, long term living in a yurt is not only doable, it is great!  Space is a bit limited with a large yurt (30 feet in diameter) being about 700 square feet, and you need to learn small space living, but it is not just doable, it is very comfortable…and for families bigger than a couple some folks have hooked two or more together, one for kitchen, living, and dining areas and one for sleeping and bathroom(s).

Would you call a yurt “affordable housing”?

I hate to sound repetitive, but the answer is, again, a resounding YES!  Obviously costs will vary from area to area, but my 30 foot yurt from Pacific Yurts cost me about $45,000 to build from bare ground to livable home.  Breakdowns of costs of various stages of the actual yurt will be in separate posts that will follow.

This cost included building the platform on a crawlspace foundation, buying, shipping, and setting up the yurt kit itself and all interior construction separate from the actual yurt (bathroom, kitchen cabinets and appliances, plumbing, heating, and cooling, etc).  It does not include land costs as I already owned the property debt free, site preparation as I built on the spot where my house had burned down the year before, or well and septic system installation as the ones that had serviced my previous house were still useable.  This cost also does not include the cost of landscaping, decks, or porches beyond a basic 5×10 entry porch because those costs can be so variable, depending on your taste.

So…a 700 square foot home, with ceramic tile kitchen floors and countertops, ceramic tile bathroom and custom shower, and a professional grade kitchen, can be built for about $65.00/sq ft.  A friend of mine who is a homebuilder said he wouldn’t touch this job for less than $150,000…plus the $18,000 I paid to buy and ship the kit itself.


So yes, a yurt IS affordable…very much so.

Can I get a loan to buy and build a yurt?

You are going to hate this answer, but it is yes…and no…and maybe.

Up until 1968, when Fannie Mac and Freddie Mae were instituted (I know, I know…its Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  That was my small attempt at humor.), and before the big boys like Bank of America and Citibank started the bank consolidation craze, you could probably walk into your local bank, ask the loan officer for loan for a yurt, offer a reasonable down payment, and if you had good credit you would get a loan.  Now, thanks to the Federal government making “improvements” in our banking system, the chance of getting a home mortgage on a yurt is slim to none, and slim just got on his horse and left town.  The fact is that most banks sell their mortgages to other, bigger, banks, and those mortgages have to meet certain criteria and yurts don’t meet their standards.

That takes care of the “no ” part of the answer.

The “maybe” part of the answer is that a few banks still make a few mortgages to a very few customers who have good credit, are able and willing to make a good down payment, do a pretty fair amount of business with the bank, and who want a mortgage with terms the bank is willing to hold in its own loan portfolio, typically along the line of 7 to 10 years maximum.

The “yes ” part of the answer is for folks with good credit, who have a good relationship with their bank, can make a substantial down payment, and who are willing to have a loan with “car loan” type terms in interest rate and in length of loan.

Unfortunately, when it comes to housing, especially alternative housing, in the phrase “all others pay cash”, “others” includes folks who want a yurt.

Do yurts meet “code”?

In a word, no, or at least “no” as it relates to primary residences.

Almost everything about a yurt, from the lattice walls to the light weight rafters to the reflective insulation, fails to “meet code” with any code types that I have looked at, including the SBC (Southern Building Code), UBC (Universal Building Code), and another UBC (Uniform Building Code).  This does not mean that a well constructed yurt kit, designed, manufactured, and sold by reputable yurt company, Pacific yurts for example, is an inferior, unsafe structure.  The fact is, in practice that performance of the yurt “parts” that do not meet code actually exceed the performance of a structure “built to code”.

I’ll give you two examples.  At 1:30 AM on Christmas morning of last year an 80 foot tall pine tree was blown down and fell onto my yurt.  At the point on the tree that first struck the yurt the tree was approximately 10 to 12 inches in diameter, and fell across the yurt about half way between the edge and the dome.  In my opinion if the house had been a standard, stick-built, built to code house that third of the house would have been crushed.  Instead, I wound up with a few holes in the top cover, eight broken rafters, and ABSOLUTELY NO DAMAGE TO THE LATTICE WALL or the doorway which was struck also.

You can read details about the delivery of my 80 foot tall Christmas tree, and the subsequent repairs, at Yurt-1, pine tree-0, part one and at Yurt-1, pine tree-0, part two.  I’m going to buy my own Christmas tree this year.  Santa Claus has no concept of proper sizing.

Building codes say my lattice wall does not meet their standards and is not safe.  My experience with the pine tree last year says otherwise.

Another area where a yurt does not meet code but in practice actually exceeds the results that building codes are supposed to be striving for is in insulation.  Building codes require that three areas…walls, roof, and foundation…be insulated to a specific level and approved insulation materials are measured in R-factor.  The problem is that the insulation used by Pacific Yurts and other companies, while actually doing a FAR better job than traditional insulation, does not have an R-factor to measure, therefore it typically doesn’t met code.

An explanation of how insulation without R-factor can exceed R rated insulation:

Heat moves, or is transmitted, in three ways; conduction, radiation, and convection.  Traditional insulation deals only with conducted heat, and R-factor only measures the efficiency of insulation on conducted heat.

The insulation used by Pacific Yurts and most reputable yurt companies is a double layer of, basically, bubble wrap, with a reflective aluminum “skin” bonded to both sides.  It is not very good at stopping the conduction of heat, thus there is no effective R rating, but it is extremely effective at stopping radiated heat by the reflective aluminum skin reflecting heat back toward the source, reflecting the heat inside a house back toward the interior during the winter, and reflecting the heat back toward the outside in the summer.

The bottom line is that this insulation, while not meting code, is far more efficient at keeping you comfortable and at keeping your heating and cooling bills low.

Since yurts don’t “meet code”, how can I build one to live in?  Don’t I have to build something that meets code to get a building permit so I have the government’s permission to build my own house on my own land?

Sorry…a little bit of sarcastic political comment in asking your question for you…LOL.

The degree of difficulty in building a yurt for a primary residence is probably most dependant on where you live…both geographically and demographically.  In areas where state and local governments, ESPECIALLY local governments, are used to having free reign to tell the citizens how to conduct their lives you are going to have more difficulty circumventing oppressive rules.  I think folks in places like Maryland, Massachusetts, Delaware, etc will find it hard to get a yurt permitted or get the authorities to turn a blind eye to a yurt being built without a proper permit.

Demographically, I think the more rural your location the more likely it is that you can get a yurt either approved or ignored.  Here in Georgia, had I tried to build my yurt as a primary residence in Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cherokee, or 5-7 other counties that make up metro-Atlanta, I would have had rough going.  Instead, I live in a rural county with a county government that is still aware that they are public servants, not rulers.  Initially I got the standard, “Codes are there for people’s protection.” line, and was told that I could get a variance from codes (probably), but that it would probably take me a year and cost me $10,000 in legal fees.

Remember, in MOST jurisdictions the only thing the authorities can do if you don’t get a structure permitted is to refuse to allow the power company to hook power to your yurt.  This gives you some wiggle room, especially if you are planning to be off-grid to the point of not needing electricity.  Unfortunately I, and most others, do not plan to be that off-grid, so you have to do some legwork and planning.

First, check to see if there are any other rules that could cause you to not get power, and if there are resolve those issues first.  Where I live, in addition to permitting issues, the health department has to sign off on your septic plans before you can get power.  Originally, I had planned to use an incinerating toilet in the bathroom of my yurt, but when talking to the local health department official I found that while incinerating toilets are legal in Georgia, there had to be a backup system, either a septic tank or by being put on a sewage system, in case the incinerating toilet failed.

I found it interesting that an incinerating toilet had to have a conventional sewage system as backup in case of failure, but a conventional sewage system did not have to have a backup in case of its failure.  I did not push the issue though as I wanted to win the war, not one small battle.

Since my house that burned had been hooked up to a septic tank the health department official pulled  the installation record for the original septic system and found that it met current standards and I would be able to use that.  One challenge overcome, now back to planning and zoning.

Back at the planning and zoning office I asked exactly who was going to be protected from what that made meeting code and getting a permit so critical.  The answer was the same answer you’ll probably get wherever you try to build a yurt, and will fall into one, two, three, or all (if you are lucky) of the following reasons:

First they told me that meeting code was necessary to protect the bank’s investment.  Well, I had to answer for that.  First, it’s the bank’s job, not the county planning and zoning department’s, to protect their investment and get the finished product inspected by their own inspector before approving a mortgage if they felt that need to do so.  It was not the taxpayers’ job to pay inspections to protect the interests of a private business (bank).  In addition, in my case the point was moot as I was building the yurt of my own pocket with no bank loan involved and the only one taking a financial risk was me.

Next they told me that meeting code was necessary to protect my homeowner’s insurance company’s interest.  Again, I pointed out that it was the insurance company’s job to look after them self, not have the taxpayers spend money to look out after them.

I’ll be addressing insurance issues later.

Last, they told me that meeting code was necessary to protect home buyers.  I pointed out that I was not a contractor, did not build spec houses to sell, was building the house for me, planned to live in it until the day I died, and that I did not need the county protecting me from myself.

I concluded by summarizing that first, yurts were not bad structures, just different from what building codes addressed, and second, absolutely no one was being put at risk beside myself, and that I was willing to accept any risks involved.  It also didn’t hurt to point out that my Pacific Yurt was not some dream pulled out of someone’s head, but an engineered structure.

I also implied that if I were going to spend $10,000 on legal fees it would be to sue somebody, not to dance around various hearings trying to meet unreasonable planning and zoning requirements.

In the end, I danced a little, and they gave a little.  I had planned to live on my property in a 29 foot travel trailer while building the yurt.  I paid $50.00 for a trailer permit, got a temporary power pole installed, built the yurt, and got the power moved from my temporary power pole to a meter base at the yurt setup as the power company required for trailers.

Are there other options to “get around the rules”?

Of course there are.  There are always options if you think creatively.  For example, you can build backwards.

Most people, especially the type to have yurts, usually have some kind of out building.  It might be a barn, it might be a workshop, it might be a chicken house, or it might be just a tool shed.  Be creative, use your imagination.

Build that first.  And get power to it.  Unlike a primary residence a barn or workshop does not have to meet health department standards by having a proper bathroom and septic system, and at least in my county a building permit is not required if the outbuilding is going to be less than 200 square feet.  So, build a 10 by 20 tool shed, install a meter base to power company specs on the outside, install a breaker box on the inside, and run your yurt when you get it built from a sub-panel in the yurt connected to your main panel in the tool shed.

Remember, every time government makes a rule they have just allowed you to do everything the rule does not address.  Find the gaps, the loopholes, and use them.

OK, so I can find a way to build a yurt.  Now, what were you going to tell us about insurance?

Well, some really good info..in my next post, next week.

Folks, I give you all the information I can, and it is as accurate as possible.  I am not the be-all and end-all knows everything expert.  Please, if you have any additions, corrections, or comments use the comment button at the end of this post and let me know.  If I don’t have the answer I’ll get it for you or maybe another reader will chime in.

Alternatively, you can just leave a comment saying “Hi!”…it’s nice to know someone is reading this stuff…LOL!

All about Bob the nutjob!

Bob is a N Georgia blogger, homesteader, yurt liver, self-sufficiency nutjob, pig farmer, political activist, politician baiter...and the best damn cook you know that doesn't make a living at it.He can be followed onTwitter. You can also "Like" our Facebook page.

  128 Responses to “Can a yurt be built…legally…as a primary residence?”

Comments (128)
  1. Love the posts! My husband and I are looking to build a yurt in CT. (yes, in Connecticut) Your posts are very helpful and incredibly informative. Especially,the info on how to get building permits!

  2. Thanks for the kudos on the site. Over time it will become the “go to” place for all things yurts, homesteading, and cooking. Eureka Moments is me just having fun…and hopefully being entertaining.

    CT doesn’t surprise me as far as location…yurts are rare in the east, except for the CT, NH, VT area. As for weather, I know a guy 250 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska living in one like mine.

    If you see anything I wasn’t clear on just leave a comment and I’ll be glad to answer.

  3. Hi Bob!

    Your site is fantastic for all this yurt info! Thanks for sharing!

    Wanted to get your take on our scenario:

    We wish to rent land from my parents (next door, out here in the country) and plop a used 1 year old yurt on it, that we are paying cash for. The rented land will be so cheap that we will be able to save cash each month and hopefully purchase our own land somewhere within 2-3 years. My question is: do we have to get the county involved in something like this? I guess that we do, right? We don’t want a septic system – just a composting toilet and a grey water system. I would also love to go on solar panels 100%, but hubby is not fully on board with that yet (so we will have to work up to that). We have talked about tapping into the well system here that is already connected to my parent’s home for water usage…and hubby was also wondering about doing electricity in a similar manner?

    Just wondering how to properly address this scenario…I’m afraid of calling the Planning Dept. with the county here and saying something wrong – and them trying to keep us from doing any of it, for whatever crazy reason. I wish there was a written list of questions that I should ask them when trying to get info on it all. I just hate the fact that we can’t just erect a yurt on my parent’s own property without having to get anyone else involved in it. Doesn’t seem right. So please, any help or advice you can pass our way would be greatly appreciated!

  4. Hi Amber…thanks for visiting.

    Change your checking around a bit…talk to the planning and zoning folks LAST. Have all your ducks in a row on other stuff first.

    Remember, these suggestions are based on where I live…rural, small county, with county decision makers aware that kping their jobs might swing on 10 votes or fewer…they are fairly responsive to voters/taxpayers. Depending on where you live your mileage may vary.

    All calls requesting info should b anonymous. No need to attract attention until you must.

    First, check with power company and see what you must do, besides having an approved meter base, in order to get power. Her I was told approval for my septic system from local health dept. Health dept said I could have incinerating toilet (better than composting, in my opinion), but by state law it had to have septic/sewer as backup in case of malfunction. I asked why the septic system didn’t have to have backup in case IT malfunctioned…she said, “Bob, I don’t make the rules. Leave me alone…LOL”

    If power company dos say there needs to be health department approval, ask what about power for a tool shed/shop? You can always (easily) run a 100 amp sub-panel to yurt from a 200 amp service panel in the “shop”.

    Once you have what you plan to do OK’ed by power company and health department IN WRITING, go to planning and zoning.They may OK it, but if they don’t, they will first make excuses. When they say something about the health dept, show them the approval. When they say something about the power, show them where it is already hooked up, either to a construction pole or a sub-panel in your shop (Your shop could be a little 8×8 tool shed, you know…LOL).

    Then you are down to yes or no. Wander around the Yurt Yak category of JuicyMaters and you’ll find some persuasive arguments. If all else fails, do what I did. Told ’em I was gonna build it anyway…what law says I can’t pitch a danged tent?

  5. Thanks for the excellent info! As a practicing city planner who appreciates the vibrancy of our older urban areas, it seems to me we are making rule after rule that I have a sneaking suspicion are meant to make sure no one can buy a house without a large mortgage … and hence the need to punch the clock somewhere everyday. My wife and I are looking at mortgage-free living options as I have gotten tired of the $$ it takes to live. I’d love to hear folks experience living in a yurt in town … or near enough to town. I know straw bale homes went through a lot of back and forth with local building departments until they started to be accepted in places … I believe the building code does allow a building official to find anything in compliance with the code if it is safe and healthy, but this is a seldom used approach.

  6. MC, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I’m not sure I agree with you on motivation (forcing higher and higher mortgages on folks), but the results are the same.I think it’s a combination of “taking the easy way”, i.e the code says so-and-so and that’s just the way it is, and a CYA fear of legal consequences if on allows someone to deviate from “the rules” and someething bad happens…like the house falling down and someone getting hurt.

    The fact is, my yurt is WAY overbuilt structurally. Good kits, like mine from Pacific Yurts, aren’t just someone’s harebrained ida…they are engineered structures. Mine, with a snow and wind kit option, is designed wo stand up to 110 MPH winds and, I believe, 24 inch snow loads (don’t hold me to the snow load figure. Being in Georgia I wasn’t paying too much attention to that…LOL). As for the foundation/platform, I built it such that you would probably st a skyscraper on it without help!

    As for economy…based on using an existing well and the septic system already in place for my former house that burned down, I have a bit under $50K invested in a 700 square foot home…plenty of room for a single person or a couple…and the interior is very nicely done. No deprivation here!

    Again, thanks for the comment…and I’ll be emailing you with a proposal your comment triggered.


  7. Thank you. You brought a little reality into our dream 🙂 This was a bit of a downer actually:).
    Living off the land has been my forever dream. Watching Little House In The Prairie, and reading “The Hatchet”, Dances with wolves etc.. solidified it as a child. Luckily I married a man with similar dreams. We have a baby and a dog and hope and pray to be debt free with change by the end of summer. We are looking for cheap land that we can pay off fast as a first step. My husband works from home and on the Ocoee River in the summer. So we have flexibility in time and place… but very conservative financially. Any suggestions? Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Once we get a full toe in the water I hope to blog about our journey.

    p.s- vision.. 30ft yurt with attached bedroom yurts. Outdoor shower and kitchen for the summer. Garden, chickens, lots of space for dog and baby to run wild. Not so far out that we can’t get some church on Sunday and socialisation. Husbands vision is known to differ a little 🙂

  8. Glad to have found this site! Just wanted to let you know I’m reading.

  9. Hi Bob, I think your site is great.
    I go through these issues with each client looking to live in a dome home and have to find the same solutions.

    We are working on improving our FAQ page on our site and I would love to use your content as a source. – We can at least place a link for a good third party information source. – It would probably be better for us though, if domes were mentioned as well…

    I like yurts but prefer the geometry of the frame, the high ceiling and the big open transparent sections domes offer.

    Do you like domes? Would you be willing to incorporate the option of domes fitting a simular application as Yurts? We’re putting it together to offer a referral program (where sites like yours place a link and when slaes lead comes through and close – a commission is sent to the paid owner)

    Thank you for your great work.

    The box below E-mail in the leave a reply section shows URI – should it be URL? and the “m” is missing from “me” at the end where your inviting comments — only mentioning them because I appreciate it so much when people find the things we overlook on our site.

    Feel free to contact me by email [email protected] or by phone 541-282-3048

    Best to you,

  10. Hi Bob,

    Love this site!

    I will be moving to Atlanta, Fulton County. You stated I may have a hard time getting a permit in Fulton County for a yurt. So it is totally out?

    Thank-you, Mary Anne

  11. Hi Mary-Anne…I’m glad you stopped by and enjoy the site.

    Unfortunately, I think you wil have a hard time getting a yurt permitted as a permanant residence in any of the metro-Atlanta counties, and Fulton and Dekalb would be the worst.

  12. Bob,

    Well I don’t want to give up. I would like to use it as a place to live while I was building my house nearby. I would use it as a guest house. Can I list it as a temporary building?

    Mary Anne

  13. You MIGHT get by with calling it a temp structure…I believe they fit that section of code…but I wouldn’t recommend saying a word about living in it until you have a CO…and you will have to go through the whole inspections/CO thing in Fulton.

  14. @ Bob:I think I may know of the yurt you mentioned in Fairbanks, AK! I lived there for a year and a 1/2 and saw a yurt on the way to Silver Gulch just outside of Fairbanks. It’s the reason I started doing research on them!
    I recently moved to Washington state with my husband and our goal for the future (we are in our mid to late 20’s) is to build our own yurt. However I’m not sure what state we will be in then!
    I was a little disappointed about the building codes and home loan problems but it is nice to know that there are ways around these things!
    Your site is wonderful and I will be checking back often!

    Thanks so much,
    Jame Tolson

  15. HI. Sounds interesting. just trying to find finished photos.

  16. Hi Teresa…thanks for stopping by.

    For a number of good quality pics in all kinds of terrain, both interiors and outside, with a variety of interior looks, click on the Pacific Yurts ad in the sidebar and when you get to their site, click on “Gallery” on the right side of the top menu.

    Have a great day and stop back by.

  17. Hi bob!

    My wife and I want to put a yurt up on the back 5 acres of my parents property. We want to run a well and septic but are planning on going solar/generator for electricity. The county is very rural so I’m hoping that will be in our favor. My question is, what do we do first and how do we go about getting it permitted to live in?


    P.S. Great site, lots of good information on here!

  18. Hello Danny…glad you enjoy the site…keep coming back.

    Before addressing the steps, let me make a suggestion regarding septic. If the yurt is going to be sited where it will need a separate septic system, I’d suggest going with an incinerating toilet rather than putting in a septic tank and drain field IF you can get it past the local health department.

    Incinerating toilets come as electric models, 110 and 220V, and as propane or natural gas models. I personally think a propane toilet is the way to go, as you aren’t dependant on an electric company or natural gas supplier to be able to hygenically use the bathroom…LOL. If you are not completely self contained ANYTHING from severe weather to TEOTWAWKI can kill your ability to flush.

    Now…the steps.

    First, you should quietly…VERY quietly…see how your local permit folks (usually called a “planning and zoning department) feel about non-traditional housing types. Unfortunately, in most cases their initial reaction is going to be , “No. It doesn’t meet code.”. If that doesn’t happen, you are good to go just like it is conventional construction. If it does, well…

    You will just have to use some, or all, of the suggested ideas in this article.

    Good luck.

  19. My wife and I have 40 acres of land (20 open, 20 wooded with a stream) in Frederick county, Maryland. There is a homesite with a well installed on the hill of the open property where we want to have our primary residence built. In the meantime, though, we’d love to move out of our apartment and into a yurt on our property during construction. Afterwards, the yurt would remain in the woods as a very cool place to visit for us and/or our guests! The yurt would look great in the woods beside the creek, in my opinion.

    The power company has not come out to look at our land and map out where the power lines / transformer will go. We like the idea of telling them that we intend to put up a tractor shed / tool shed / whatever in a certain spot and running the electricity to the yurt. However, the septic field is near the home site, which would be uphill from the yurt. Do we need to have another well drilled and septic field approved and installed?

    I guess my first question should have been – is this even a practical idea?! Or should we just stay in the apartment for almost another year while the primary residence gets built?

    Thank you all for any responses or thoughts!

    Our questions are similar to others, I’m sure, so I apologize for re-asking. It’s just that we’re interested in this topic and this site is the only place we’ve found that gives good answers!

  20. Hello!

    this site is great! me and my wife have been doing alot of searching on fast well built but cheep homes and we have learned that the yurt is the way to go! but where we are want to buy land is in josephine county of oregon. we are planning on being off the grid with wind and solar power and being on atleast 5 acres (more would be better though). when i called the county about yurts they told me that a yurt can not be used as a home just as you said cuz of code but that they can be used as long as there is no kitchen in them is there a way to fight this and still make it legal? or since i plan on buying land and being off the grid can i just build it and that cant do anything to begin with? or can they fine me and i lose my home and land? because my land would not be paid for all the way. hope to hear from you.

  21. Hi joseph…
    I really hate to try to forecast what officials will or won’t do, especially in another state. I share what I would do, how hard I would push, and what chances I would take, but then, I’m playing with my money, taking chances with my money, and only I would suffer the consequences if I pushed too hard and made the, angry. I will say that in your situation I’d say to hell with them and build it.

    You are lucky in one way. The yurt company I think is the best to do business with, the company I bought mine from, is based in Oregon and has great customer service, even before you are a customer. That is Pacific Yurts (yurts.com) from Coaatge Grove, OR. I’d suggest giving them a call and ask them how best to deal with Oregon law…and tell ’em Bob from JuicyMaters told you to call. They are great folks.

  22. Hi Lee…sorry to be so slow in answeringm you…I somehow missed your question until this morning.

    First, to the important question…HELL NO don’t live in…er…suffer with…the apartment for another year!…LOL. My God, man, a human can only stand so much torment!

    Now…to the logistics. I don’t see how another well would be anything but a colossal (I know…spelling sucks) waste of money. You didn’t say how far the yurt would be sited from the existing well, but since it’s downhill to the yurt site it would be way, way cheaper to simply pump your water from the existing well to the yurt.

    OK…so that leaves dealing with the sewage. Most yurt types are very much back to nature, old ways of living types, so an outhouse is always an option, right? No? The wife doesn’t like roughing it that much…or there is a shortage of corncobs and Sears catalogs in this digital age?

    Ow well…there is still a solution that is far, far cheaper than a second well.

    For about $150.00 or less, you can get one of those cube tanks (used) that are in the aluminium cages that hold 250 gallons and put it under the yurt (I’m assuming crawlspace construction. It’s all I would do, for several reasons) to collect grey water, and rainwater if you get a gutter system option on your yurt, which I also reccomend, and you can use the collected grey and rain water to use to water a garden or anything else.

    For dealing with the actual sewage you can install either a composting or incinerating toilet. My personally preference is an incinerating toilet, as I don’t trust a composting toilet to keep odors down.

    Good luck, and keep us informed as you progress, OK?

  23. Hi, I just spent a couple hours at the county. I have 40 acres I want to buy, it is zoned long term forest. I’m allowed to have a campground with tents for rentals but not cabins except the one I’m living in. Are yurts considered tents?

  24. According to most building codes a yurt is a “temporary structure”, and that would be open to interpretation by the local zoning folks. I would imagine that they would be likely to not cause issues for you IF there is no attempt to hook to sewer or septic tank, and that is easy to avoid. Use grey water along with rain water off the roof to water plants, and put either an incinerating or composting toilet in the yurts. My preference would be an incinerating toilet.

  25. @ Bethel, CT:
    Just curious if you built your yurt? Several friends are looking into purchasing property in CT and putting up yurts. Wondering if you met any resistance with your endeavor.

  26. Thank you for the info. about yurts being considered “temporary structures.” I have been considering using incinerating toilets. Do you think that it would be hard to educate people at a campground to use them correctly? Is there much margin for error? If you get my drift. I’ve never used one myself, I’ve only seen them online. Educate me!

  27. I am 62, and wish I had the money now to live the rest of my days in a yurt. Meanwhile I live in a paid for el cheapo trailer by the river as a compromise…I kayak. I met a Pacific Yurts salesman in 2000 at a Sufi and Orthodox conference. He was an interesting little dude who had followed his priest to Washington state. He was the father of 6 or so kids big into meditation which I was too as a Sufi. I had been reading mother earth since the 60’s. so knew of yurts. He reminded me of the possibilities and that is when I started dreaming .I hope by the time I retire my savings will have recovered and I can tackle said project. I like the idea of the composting toilets and wonder what caused you to not try that route..as I read up on them they seem to be THE answer to sewerage systems that pollute all over.

  28. Hi robin…welcome to JuicyMaters. I’m always glad to have new members of the JuicyMaters family joining our little part of the web!

    Composting toilets…well, I did some investigating and found two problems. First. they weren’t as odor free as some users make them out to be. Second, getting power to my property was dependent on the health department signing off on allowing the power company to install power and the health department wanted either a sewer hookup or a septic system. I might have fought them (as I really wanted an incinerating toilet) but since there was an existing septic tank and system already installed I went along with the health department to avoid a fight.

    Again, as I said…welcome, and keep coming back!

  29. Great info, great lateral thinking. Thanks!

  30. Thanks Casey…I’m not sure if I’m that smart, or just that stubborn, to absolutely refuse to take “no” for an answer…LOL…especially when I’m talking about MY home, built on MY paid for land, and built with MY money, not the bank’s!

  31. I am really loving the theme/design of your web site.
    Do you ever run into any browser compatibility problems?
    A small number of my blog audience have complained about my site not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox.

    Do you have any solutions to help fix this problem?

  32. I can’t get your site to load so I can take a look at it so I really don’t know what the problem might be. If it is a WordPress site you might visit my blog on WordPress and inexpensive web video production, HayleStorm Interactive.

  33. So bob do you help by email or phone calls because now I’m more confused, lol. A lot more to think about yurts that I didn’t realize.

  34. Hi Andrea…glad to have you here in the JuicyMaters family! Keep coming back.

    I actually prefer to answer questions here in the comments section of the site. If you have a question, you can bet at least 10 more people want to know the same thing but are too shy to ask…LOL…If you ask it here, pick a post that is close in subject to your question and ask it in the comments, where I will do my best to answer it for you. That way EVERYONE that visits here will get the question answered.

    If you have a question that none of the other posts seem to be even close to, ask it here on this post. It gets the most visitors of all the posts and will have the most people see it, along with the answer.

  35. Great for doing this. If you think 700 sq ft is small, I am trying to live in my Tiny Home on wheels which is 128 sq ft and I am loving it. But again, they are saying I cannot live in my tiny home on wheels on my own land. So I was looking at a yurt. It seems I will run into the same zoning and building codes as I am with my tiny house. So if you cannot live in a yurt, what about a T-pee as I am 1/16 Native American and have been looking into that too…?

  36. Hi Ben…welcome to JuicyMaters. New members of the JuicyMaters family are always welcome.

    Depending on your specific problems with the zoning nanny state folks, you may have a couple of options to make it work to stay in the tiny house…I can’t believe I said that as I am a huge proponent of yurts…LOL. What specifically are the authorities threatening to do to prevent your living in the tiny house? Obviously they can’t enforce their order by threatening to tear it down like they might an unpermitted, uninspected structure like a house. What ARE they threatening? Give me specifics and maybe I can give you an idea or two that might work.


  37. We are in the middle of trying to get building permit for a permanent residence yurt in Sullivan County New Hampshire.A couple of interesting points: yurts are “alternative dwellings” and as such may qualify for ‘exceptions to the International Building Code which is what New Hampshire uses universally. We also found some yurt companies that are capable of modifying their yurts for the 100 pps snow load. Another is working on the getting the insulation to meet the IBC (21 walls and 30 roof).
    We are finding that we are needing to educate the inspector about E values vs R values for insulation.
    As it stands now permanent residence yurts are NOT permitted in New Hampshire.

  38. Frankly, I really didn’t ask if I COULD build it…I told them I WAS…we could do it easy or hard, but I really didn’t think they wanted to stand before a jury and tell them that a person could not build their own house out of their own pocket on their own paid for land.

    Its nice to live in a state where jury nullification is not only legal, it is enshrined in our state constitution

    Good luck…the more yurts the better.

    ps…you might suggest it would be nice if, as government officials, they believed in the state motto up there…and conducted themselves accordingly.

  39. Hi Bob 🙂
    I am a single mom and at the moment I live with a friend, I live in Eastern North Carolina, I know there are yurts in the mountains in NC, but what about here where I live? Like I said I am a single mom and I have been thinking about a yurt for some time now. I live with a friend because to even rent a cheap crappy trailer its $600 – $800/mo so you can only imagine what it would cost to rent a house. I only make about $600/mo. I stay with the job I am at because as being a single mom they work with me, there are times I can bring my daughter to work, etc… they are good to me so I stay. I cringe at the thought of being a servant to the government. I used to own my own home but I had cancer and I lost everything and filed bankruptsy on top of it. Sorry for the life story, but I am desperate to get our own place and a yurt was my next thought Im sure I can find a piece of land for cheap, since nothing is selling around here due to the inflation of everything. Have you heard of anyone with a yurt in this area and what kind of hoops do you see me encountering wth the laws?

  40. Hi Lavel…thanks for stopping by. Keep coming back!

    I’m sorry, but I don’t know of any yurts, Pacific Yurts or other companies, in eastern NC. As you said, there are some in the western part of the state, but those are all I know of. If you will click on the Pacific Yurts ad in the sidebar and get their phone number off of their website, I’m sure they will point you toward any that the owner has said it was OK to send folks to see what the best yurts made are like.

    As for legal issues…the more rural the location the more likely the local officials are when it comes to skirting the zoning and building codes. Since you haven’t bought land yet you can search for the right atmosphere regarding permissions instead of having to live with things as they are where you own land.

    Keep coming back…you never know what you might find here!

  41. This blog is fantastic- and very enjoyable to read. We are trying to put up a completely off grid yurt in Taos County, NM. We thought, with the plethora of earthships there, we’d have no problem, but all we’ve heard is “no” from the planning dept. Might you know of any folks who have been successful in getting a permit for a yurt there? We’re buying from CO Yurt company, and they told us they do not get involved in these issues. We are at a loss as to how to find out more information, and were feeling hopeless until reading your blog! We’d like to learn specifics from someone who has been successful in working with the permitting departments in NM or Taos. BTW what is the worst thing that can happen if we build without a permit? Thanks for your thoughts!!

  42. Hi Iskra…thanks for stoppiing by. We’re always glad to add new folks to the JuicyMaters family!

    Let’s deal with the really bad news first, OK? “What is the worst thing that can happen if we build it without a permit?”

    Well, the bad news is that, depending on state law in New Mexico, they CAN make you tear down anything you build without proper permitting. Now…the question is, “How likely is it that they would make you take it down?” In my opinion its wouldn’t be very likely, and the more rural and remote the location is the better off you would be. If you tried it in downtown Albuquerque you’d be served with papers before the platform was finished!

    The ideas in the post will help you if you want to “game” them a bit, but only do it if you know and are willing to chance suffering the consequences. Me? I’m a bit of a renegade. I personally think a person using their own money on their own land should be able to build and live in whatever they want…but government HATES freedoms and rights for the individual.

    OK…off my soapbox…LOL…if you have any specific questions feel free to ask, and again…

    Welcome to the JuicyMaters family!

  43. hi Bob!
    I live and work in Athens, but have dreams of a small farm on 5-10 acres somewhere nearby. I would love to live in a yurt long term right there on the farm. I know I can’t even put a new trailer in Clarke county. Do you know about the neighboring counties (Madison, Oglethorpe, Jefferson, barrow, Jackson, even oconee– though property tax in oconee is stupid high)?
    Also, I know alot of areas around here are eligible for USDA loans. Do you think part of a USDA loan could be used for the yurt construction if I can’t find more conventional financing?

  44. hi John, thanks for stopping by. We always like having new members of the JuicyMaters family.

    I’m not sure what County it is in, but there is a yurt (a Pacific Yurts yurtthat is exactly like mine, except for the interior build out) not far from you in Bogart, Georgia. That one is about six months older than mine. When I was investigating yurts, before I plunk down a $9000 deposit. I wanted to actually see and touch what I was going to buy, and I went down there and looked at it. This was April 2009, and he had just finished his about two months before I went to see it. I don’t know how the zoning laws may have changed in that area since then, but if permitting was a problem, you could always point and say, “but you let him have one!”

    On the financing and insurance front, news is still bleak, even though it is getting slightly better. I’m pretty sure you would not be able to get a USDA loan that was directly for a yurt, but you might get a farm loan and designate the yurt as an out building, rather than your primary residence. Any time you are talking to any government official about yurts, never say “primary residence”. That will usually kill your chances before you even get started.

    I don’t know what your timeframe is, but in the next 30 days. There will be a JuicyMaters yurt membership site up and running. There will be six modules that you can join either individually or save a little bit of money and join all of it at once.

    The modules will be 1.) an alternative housing report that covers seven different styles of alternative housing, including yurts. That module is free when you sign up for the email list (the sign up form is over in the right sidebar).

    In module 2, you will find especially interesting considering your question. It covers the legal aspects of yurts and other alternative housing, including permitting, planning and zoning, insurance, and financing.

    In module 3 there is a discussion about properly citing a yurt. Given a yurts unique attributes, there are specific things you need to do when choosing where to put your yurt.

    module 4 gives a general overview of foundation types, discussing which is best for a yurt, and why, and gives specific, detailed plans on constructing your yurt platform on a crawlspace, pier and post foundation.

    Module 5 will go over kit erection from the point of view of someone who did it for the first time, instead of being totally familiar with it, like the company provided manuals are.Pacific Yurts’manual is good, but there are a few tweaks that can make your life a lot simpler as your yurt goes up, and this module has those tweaks.

    Module 6 picks up where the company manuals leave off. They stop when the kit is up, and this module takes it from there, building out the inside.finishing the inside is a whole lot different than putting light switches in sheetrock walls and hanging cabinets on 2 x 4 stud walls.

    Each level has a monthly membership fee, and as you work through the tutorials you canceled the one you’re done with, and subscribe to the next one or you can save some money by just subscribing to the whole thing all at once. Membership will open on May 1, but you can get the first module before you join just by opting into the email list.

    Also, I am adding on to my yurt in Jasper, Georgia. The 30 footer was big enough. When it was just me, and it would be fine for a couple, but I got married, December 31, and now there is a 13-year-old stepdaughter involved. The 30 footer is not big enough. I am adding a 20 footer, connected by a short hallway, as a master bedroom. You would be welcome to come over and see how things are done. If you wanted to at any time during the construction. The excavator work to clear the spot for the new yurt begins this weekend, and I just ordered the kit about two hours ago, so from this point forward, just let me know if you’d like to stop by. My phone number is (I’m going to mess this up just a little bit so spambots can’t figure out the number, but pay attention and you’ll be able to figure out what it is). First, you know where I live, so you know the area code. Then it is 502**…*** 0858.

    I look forward to talking to you soon, John, and again… Thanks for stopping by JuicyMaters.

  45. Bob–did you check Walton County? I have 5 acre no debt there…

  46. Walton County would be doubtful, as it is becoming too much “suburban Atlanta”, far more that when I lived in Bethlehem, GA 20 some odd years ago…but if you already own land there its worth checking into. One thing though…be secretive when talking to planning and zoning officials…no name or exact location of the property. If they aren’t friendly to the idea of alternative housing, you don’t want them to have a specific location to keep an eye on.

  47. Yeah, Bob, but you should look at it now–it’s foreclosure city, down to subdivision lots. My family started settling out there when it was cawntry. Years later we got a paved road then I found the lot I wanted. Two decades later, if you go to satellite view, the road I’m on looks like a weird fern what with all the subdivisions (empty subdivisions) carved off of it. There’s a subdivision behind me now but at least it appears to be a viable one. The town has no agricultural zoning any more! They should change the zoning and people will take those lots methinks, even with front yard vegetable gardens. Sigh.

  48. Back in November of 2011 I moved to rural southern Indiana and erected the 24ft. diameter yurt that I built myself(I prefabricated it where I was located in northern Indiana and trucked it to the property. Currently it’s not finished on the inside as I’ve decided to move it down the hill about 200ft. to an area just below a 20ft. shear rock cliff. Right now I’ve only got about $5,000.00 invested in the materials, it will probably take another $2,000.00 to $3,000.00 to finish the inside. I absolutely love yurt living!

  49. This was a great website to find! You are inspirational Bob! I tried to call two different cities in LA county and they both laughed at me for mentioning a yurt, even when I called it a temporary structure first. I’m not sure if there’s any easier way to find out if you can build a yurt without calling every city. Do you know anyone in California who lives in a yurt?

  50. I’m afraid that even ik liberal California it is not much different than anywhere else…getting a county’s approval for a yurt, or at least getting them to ignore you while you build without a permit, gets less and less likely the closer you get to an urban/suburban area. The more remote/rural the better.


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