24 May 2012

Tipi Questions Answered: Can You Live in a Tipi?

By | 2012-05-24T14:37:55+00:00 May 24th, 2012|

Ahhhh, the romance and beauty of the perfect indigenous structure… a tipi. You can imagine staying overnight, camping for a week and maybe doing a meditation workshop in a tipi. But, can you actually live in a tipi?

This question is the essence of our company– our genesis in fact.

Earthworks Tipis started in 1976, when Dan and Emma Kigar decided to live in a tipi of their own creation. Something about their simple lifestyle resonated—soon their friends and mountain neighbors were asking Dan and Emma to make them a tipi of their own. The Kigars lived in their lodge for four years in Colorado and a couple of years in a cozy spot near Ann Arbor, Michigan while finishing college. They learned to make their lodge a comfortable and cozy home. At times, they used an open fire to heat and cook; other times they used a wood stove. They learned how to adjust the smoke flaps to let in the breeze and keep out the rain and snow. In time, they even brought a baby boy into the world.

Dan, Emma and baby Sam in 1985

So, what is the reality of living in a tipi? First, you should not expect it to be like living in a house. The elements are right on the other side of a canvas wall. The wonderful parts of that are the sounds, smells and feel of nature every day.

In the summer, you can roll up the side walls to catch a breeze for cooling. You will burn wood or have some other type of heat source in the winter. Whether you have a firepit, a woodstove, or gas heat you’ll want a liner. Not only does it create a draft for the smoke to travel up and out the top, but it creates insulation and privacy and finishes the interior. With a liner, you can also have an ozan or extended ozan… which brings us to rain.

The sound of rain on the canvas is a soothing, calming way to relax inside your tipi. But, there’s the hole up at the top (where the poles cross and the canvas wraps around). Yes. Rain can come in that hole. Usually, the water will travel down the poles and out behind the liner. Or, it will drip into the center of the lodge. To protect the bedding area from rain, we recommend the ozan or extended ozan. It’s a fabric canopy that hangs in the tipi- diverting rain off of the living area to behind the liner. It also helps hold in heat.

Tipi home in Colorado

We have customers who are living in tipis. A family in Idaho lost their home a few years ago. Since they had some land, they decided to shelter themselves with a 26’ Earthworks tipi. They say, “We got it up within 2 hours of that winter’s first blizzard and moved in on January 3 almost two years ago.  Thank you for making us a strong and beautiful tipi that has withstood all weather and has kept our little family protected.”

Interior of family tipi in Idaho

In Maine, another family has a home- but chooses to sleep every night in their tipis. They enjoy the sounds of the woods around them, the feel of the breeze through the tipi and snuggling under the blankets to stay warm in the winter (-25 degrees one night). Their commitment to tipi sleeping is something they feel very strongly about. They recommend it highly, saying, “Ever feel stress? You need a tepee. That’s what’s missing in your life.”

11 May 2012

Yurt Questions Answered: How Long Does a Yurt Last?

By | 2012-05-11T18:30:52+00:00 May 11th, 2012|

We like to talk about yurts. The best part of our day is spent talking to our customers and potential customers about yurts (and tipis and tents). We’ll be using this blog to address some of these common questions and concerns, and hopefully get the word out about these unique and useful structures.

Yurts in Colorado

Yurts in Colorado

So, this blog: “How Long Does a Yurt Last?”

This question doesn’t have just one answer. Many things contribute to the longevity of a yurt. Our customers have yurts that are over 20 years old, and still going strong. Since a yurt is a structure with several components: frame, dome, doors, fabric walls and roof– you will replace different pieces at different times.

Yurt in progress

The wood frame of a yurt is long-lasting, and should not have a “wear out” date, just like other wood structures. We use quality lumber and it’s built to last. Doors occasionally need refinishing and sometimes need replacing, as they wear out because of weather conditions and use. 

All rafters are MSR lumber. Frame is clear, vertical grain Douglas fir.

It’s all about the conditions your yurt lives in- a yurt in the rain forest in Washington faces much different environmental factors than one on a sunny mountainside in the Rockies. Since yurts are covered in fabric, environmental factors play on that fabric in different ways. Snow and wind are not as hard on fabric as sunshine. Here in Colorado, we have over 300 days of high altitude sunshine a year. So, we have seen first hand how our fabrics hold up. We’ve found that vinyl fabrics (ProTech, ProStructure and DuroLast) hold up better in the sunshine than canvas fabrics. One reason is the seams. Our vinyl is seamed with a welder, not thread, (which tends to degrade faster than the fabric around it). In sunny, high UV conditions, a little bit of shade on your yurt makes a big difference.

Seams are welded on vinyl fabrics.

Most people get many years of use out of yurt walls, but at some point they will need replacing. If thread is showing through the vinyl, the roof is leaking or your windows are coming apart- it’s probably time to call for a price on replacements. We do offer replacement walls and roofs, and can usually fit them to your yurt- (even if you didn’t purchase the yurt from us).

We recommend trying to replace the wall and roof fabric at the same time- just for installation ease. If there wasn’t insulation on the yurt originally, adding roof insulation is much easier when replacing the fabric.

Installing insulation and a roof.

One component of a yurt that will need replacing over the years is the dome. The acrylic is tough, but it will crack or break under certain conditions. We estimate that a dome might need replacing in 7-9 years under normal conditions.

Acrylic dome at the top of every yurt.

Taking care of a yurt will ensure many years of use. Wash fabric walls as needed with a mild soap, such as Ivory Flakes (never pressure wash a yurt, as it can damage the fabric). Re-staining or re-coating the doors and outside wood might be necessary every few years, depending upon the climate.

We are always happy to answer your questions, take your suggestions or make replacement parts for your yurt. We hope you enjoy your yurt for years.