Welcome to our yurt!
“Fish weren’t meant to live in a box kid, it does things to ya.” -Gill, in “Finding Nemo”
A few years ago, I began to sense that I wanted to explore what it would be like to live with my family in the round. After exploring many possibilities, we decided that adapting a yurt to our needs would be the simplest, most expedient, and graceful solution to our situation.
So we approached Dan Kigar of Colorado Yurt Company with some pretty radical ideas: I wanted to put the whole structure on stem walls so we would have enough room for a functioning upstairs; I wanted to insulate it with sheep’s wool insulation, and I wanted to attach a functional ‘mudroom’ entryway.
Dan was incredibly helpful and gracious to work with, supportive of my ideas and helpful with the design and layout of the whole thing. Between the two of us, we designed a fairly elaborate and nicely functioning structure. Palatial, maybe even…
So, welcome to our yurt: it has four foot straw bale stem walls, a poured adobe floor, earthen plasters throughout, a loft with over six feet of head room, sheep’s wool insulation, (it’s warm!) fully functioning glass windows, in-floor heat, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a lamp post to boot.
We’ve been in it a year now, and we all love it deeply, it’s warm, lofty (it has an 18 ft. peak!) and gorgeous to live in. We’re so grateful to both Dan and Emma as well as the whole crew at Colorado Yurt Company for making it a reality!
To read more about the yurt, and see photos of the building process: http://southwestadobeyurt.blogspot.com/
Three years ago, an artist friend built a tipi with her father. After a blissful summer of living in the tipi, Sarah needed a more long term home for it. I had smudged the tipi and did an ad-hoc pipe ceremony, so she knew where to move it. On a warm December night, I suddenly had a tipi in my back yard. I fell in love.
Not a drop of Indian blood runs through my veins, but it runs through my heart. I live in Massachusetts where wigwams were the local tribes’ abode. While a wigwam is very cozy, it just isn’t the same as a tipi.
By early spring of this year, Sarah’s tipi was moldy and saggy, and we could no longer have a fire inside. The cover came down, and I looked longingly at the naked poles for a few months. Then I said to my husband, Dave, “We need to get our own tipi”.
In April, we started tagging trees to cut on our 2 acres and on our neighbor’s property. We are in our fifties, and we cut 17 trees together! I’d like to say I helped strip the poles, but my incredible husband did it all. Our poles are trees of northeastern Mass.– green ash, shagbark hickory and two maples. They are not as straight as lodgepole pine, but they are beautiful.
In June, we were ready to order our cover. Ivy at Colorado Yurt was indispensable in helping us make decisions. When the cover arrived in July, it was like a huge present waiting to be opened. I like to wait as long as possible to open presents, savoring the anticipation, so we didn’t take the cover out of its bag for 3 weeks.
On a warm day in August, we opened the big canvas bag and unfolded the tipi cover slowly over our green lawn. The canvas was stunning. Beautifully stitched, everything reinforced, nylon backing, lacing pins, ropes, stakes and of course the door!
Then, it was time to paint! The river was my daughter’s idea, since we live near the Ipswich River. The rolling green hills are representative of our part of the country. My sister designed the red tailed hawks for me, and we spent many happy hours painting them together. The yellow star at the top is for our son who is serving in Afghanistan. The design was ready, so we spread the canvas on the lawn and painted. Mother Nature had other plans……. she rained on the paint!!!
After mopping up wet paint, I emailed Ivy at Colorado Yurt. She said, “Just go with it”- so we did. Now we have a rainy, tied-dyed river on our tipi, and we love it. We moved the canvas inside the garage and painted for two more weeks.
My mother, step-father and daughter all helped pitch the tipi. I am overflowing with the love my family showed making this happen for me.
Thank you Colorado Yurt and Earthworks Tipis.
When people start to think about yurts, they usually go through several stages of yurt-exploration. Starting with “Those are so cool!” and ending up with “Where should I buy my yurt?” For many, they compare yurts based on price, without looking at what they actually get for the money.
First, let’s get it out there, Colorado Yurt Company yurts are not the least expensive yurts available. We pride ourselves on engineering, quality materials, customer satisfaction and our nearly 40 year reputation. We want to make a yurt that goes together perfectly and lasts our customer a really long time. Our prices are competitive, and we strive to make them the best value.
There are two basic distinctions in yurt makers- the engineered yurt and the yurt without engineering. The difference is the ability to meet building codes and give snow and wind load ratings on the yurt. Our yurts are the best engineered yurts you can buy. We give you snowloads up to 150 psf of unbalanced load– no one else even comes close. Our wind ratings are equally as impressive. So, when you go to sleep at night in your Colorado Yurt, you won’t wake up wondering if that snow on the roof is going to end up on your feet.
Beyond engineering, when you look at yurts, the comparison is not really like apples to oranges. It’s more like comparing those tiny apples in the red net bag to the fresh, big, yummy apples straight from the orchard. In other words, we give you a quality yurt – the best quality yurt, in fact.
We throw in lots of extras at no charge. Things like: a single wall height that eliminates the cost of a tall-wall upgrade, three windows standard in every yurt, handicapped accessible doors on every yurt, heavy duty zippers with covers on each window, all window flaps convert to awnings, our standard door includes a window, a rain diverter over every door, our exclusive wall to roof lacing system, smooth sanded rafters to prevent wear and tear on fabric, lattice to floor “L” bracket at every other crown instead of every fifth and many more.
We are experienced with shipping all over the world- and our customer service and customer satisfaction is second to none. Our company’s reputation is everything. We don’t want to be known as the cheapest yurt maker. We strive every day to be known as the best yurt maker.
We recently had a very positive experience with reality television. No, we weren’t featured on Swamp People or Jersey Shore. A little classier programming for us- HGTV’s Design Star, in fact.
In the spring, we were approached by the producers of Design Star. They wanted to use yurts as the challenge format for their final three interior designers. We were intrigued- and thought it was a great opportunity to show a significant number of people our yurts.
Originally, the production company was going to buy the yurts. However, as we’ve seen in the past, the structures are often warehoused or discarded after the shoot is over. We thought that was a terrible waste of yurts. So, we arranged to “rent” the yurts to them. After the shoot, we brought them back to our shop and sold them at a discount (remember the “gently used yurt sale”?). This way- we were able to guarantee the yurts would be enjoyed for years to come.
Clint, Jon, Anna and Ricardo spent a couple of dreary rainy days in L.A. setting up the three yurts for the show. (Yes, we heard it never rains in Southern California- not true apparently). The skies cleared for the actual filming with the designers, and they did a pretty awesome job with the challenge- which was to create a luxury bedroom in a yurt.
We were excited to hear one designer say our company name on camera- and the film crew got a great close up of our logo. That night, after the episode first aired, our website lit up! A ton of people were intrigued by the yurts, and visited our site to learn more. We saw increased activity on the facebook page, and our phone has been ringing too.
So, we don’t think we’re ready to start appearing on Big Brother or Survivor- but we are really pleased with our brief foray into reality TV. Design Star did an exceptional job showcasing our yurts, we saw some creative solutions to the challenge and we had a blast with the whole experience.
Did you watch the show? You can watch it again this Saturday, July 24 at 8:00pm Eastern time. Or- here’s a link to the HGTV website- where you can see the episode online: http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv-design-star/show/index.html
Colorado Yurt Company definitely qualifies as a small business. We have one location in Montrose, Colorado. We are family owned by Dan and Emma Kigar, who founded the company in 1976. Colorado Yurt Company employs about 30 people in four different departments: office, wood shop, tipis/tents and yurt fabric shop. We each have our job to do, and we all take pride in our work. We have employees who have been with the company for over 20 years, and have couples where both husband and wife work for us (and sometimes their kids too).
In a world where so many things are made in far away places and shipped across the world to a big box store, we are proud to make everything right here in western Colorado. In a world where you are much more likely to get a recording asking you to “press 1 for sales”, we are proud to answer each call with a real, live, friendly person and exceptional service.
We hand craft and inspect every yurt, tipi and tent in our shop. Each structure is custom made to your specifications. We place the windows, choose the fabric, paint the canvas, locate the stove pipe outlet… all according to what the customer wants. Our skilled craftspeople take pride in each stitch, wood joint, phone call and shipping crate. Our sales people get to know many of our customers’ stories and take a personal interest.
Despite our diminutive size, we work on large scale projects. We’ve delivered large yurt orders for state parks, resorts and campgrounds around the world. We recently shipped a substantial order of uniquely-designed yurts to a new project in Greece, produced 100 tipis and 200 tents within a five week period for the Coachella Music Festival in California, and we are currently working on several other major jobs.
We’ve achieved what we feel is the perfect balance. By utilizing some cutting edge production management techniques, while staying small and flexible, we are able to meet the needs of each customer. Whether it’s a resort that needs 30 yurts or a family that wants a small tipi for the kids, we will deliver just what the customer orders. We do it on time, professionally and with the best product quality and customer service in the industry.
Are you close to retirement? Is your house taking too much time and money? Maybe you should consider retiring in a yurt! Retirement yurts are a growing part of our business, and many customers tell us they love retirement living in their yurt.
Families are living with several generations under one roof for economic reasons or to keep a closer eye on a parent who needs more help. Perhaps a yurt is the way to make it work. Andrew Birden put a yurt in his yard for his mother-in-law. The local paper was intrigued enough to do a story about it.
How about the teenagers? Their music is too loud, they stay up too late and they think they need privacy. A customer in New Zealand had the perfect solution- a teenager yurt!
Dreaming of a mountain cabin? Joe Holmes, a designer and photographer in Denver, has a yurt at 11,800 feet elevation that he used a lot this past winter. He says, “I am looking forward to summer and many more years at ‘High Yurtitude’ with friends and family watching and photographing wildlife and exploring the forest around my yurt.”
Australian, Astrid McCormick bought a 16′ yurt to stay in while building her organic garlic farm. Now, they visit the yurt 3-4 days a week and love it. She says, “Living in the round, we feel safe and sound.”
Colorado Yurts are used as a restaurant and overnight rentals at Tennessee Pass Cookhouse and Sleep Yurts near Leadville, CO. One review on Yelp raves, “Tennessee Pass Cookhouse is legit, people. We had the absolute best time here. I mean, it’s a yurt. On top of a mountain. How many times will you have THAT experience in your lifetime?”
We’ve seen customers use Colorado Yurts as yoga studios for many years. Krista Zember has BE Yoga Yurt in Virginia, where she teaches yoga to special needs kids and other groups. Her clients love the yurt!
We use a 20′ yurt as an office here at Colorado Yurt Company. Nearby in Durango, Bill Graham of Ska Brewing Company has his home office in a Colorado Yurt. Bill says, “We couldn’t be more pleased with the decision to add a yurt to our house, rather than building on. It was inexpensive, works great, looks cool and we love it.” We like having a friend in the beer business- especially because Ska Beer is excellent!
Yurts are versatile, low-impact, affordable solutions to many needs. How will you use your yurt?
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“How do you heat a yurt?”
“Aren’t they hot in the summer?”
These are some of the most common questions we hear when it comes to yurts. It makes sense: the idea of yurt living is new to many people and thus, the comfort of a yurt is a big unknown.
So, how DO you heat a yurt?
Most yurt dwellers use a wood stove, pellet stove or sometimes, a propane heater. We also know of customers who have used in-floor radiant heat in a concrete floor and others who use electric heaters. A lot will depend upon your climate, your power/energy source and the type of heat you are comfortable with. In all cases, the key is a good, consistent heat source that is sufficient to heat the size of yurt you have. It also helps to have roof and wall insulation.
Then, summer comes around, and you want to stay cool.
In many climates, a yurt in the shade that has a dome lifter, ceiling fan, plenty of windows and a roll-up wall for cross ventilation will stay very comfortable. We also recommend the use of window awnings on the sunny side of the yurt to shade the windows. The tinted bronze dome is available to reduce the UV rays coming through the top of your yurt, which can also help keep it comfortable.
If you find you need more than mother nature to cool your yurt, there are ways to do so.
Here in the arid west, we use swamp coolers. In our 20′ office yurt, we have a floor-standing unit that cools very efficiently.
In parts of the world where humidity is mixed with the heat, a swamp cooler would be miserable. In those climates, a window air conditioner can be fit into a second doorway or one of our operable windows. Or there are free standing a/c units available too.
In all cases, heat or cold, we recommend that you upgrade your yurt with the Astro-Shield insulation package. It is a reflective insulation that bounces your heat back to you in the winter and helps keep heat from coming inside in the summer.
In most climates and situations, insulation with the heating and cooling solutions above, will make your yurt a comfortable, live-able space for all four seasons.
And to hammer home the hot and cold of it, here’s a few yurt/temperature factoids we thought you might enjoy:
The state of Delaware has a 30’ that they use for a reptile exhibit. It is heated with base board electric heat. Gotta keep those snakes comfy.
The yurts at Pearl Lake State Park near Steamboat Springs are also heated with electric heaters, of the sort you would see in a hotel room.
In the tropics it’s well known that fans of all sorts—ceiling fans, floor fans, table top fans and window units— keep people cooler. CYC yurts in Belize have numerous fans that guest move around to suit their needs.
We can make water “boots” (or gaskets, or sleeves) to seal around your swamp cooler or air conditioner.
Some customers in extreme weather conditions, like Alaska or the Southwest desert have enhanced their insulation with batting (for recycled denim batting see bondedlogic.com) or rigid insulation. Our staff can help you figure out how it’s done.
When Tonya and Stephen purchased land in the wilderness of Alaska, they knew it would be a challenge to build. Their land is bordered by the Chugach National Forest on one side and the Wrangle St. Ellias Wilderness Preserve on the other, 1 mile east of the Copper River. Since it’s very remote, with the closest road 25 miles away and 35 miles to the closest village, the only access is either by boat or aircraft.
They chartered a helicopter service and made twelve trips to bring in all of the materials for the deck and the yurt. The loads were placed high upon a bench, which offered a fantastic view of the lake in front and the surrounding mountains. With the help of three friends, they set out to build their yurt in the wilderness.
They cut a trail into the site and moved all the materials to allow for the set up of the Yurt. After clearing the area of all the alders and trees, they began setting the foundation blocks. At the end of the 1st day they had the foundation set and half the 2X6 floor installed. Not too bad for a 16 hour day! By the end of the 2nd day they had finished the floor, erected the lattice wall, compression ring, rafters- and the liner, insulation and cover for the roof (this was a 12 hour day). On day three, they installed the fabric wall and insulation and were finished by lunch time…32 hours from start to finish!
They plan to use the yurt as all-season retreat, so they installed a solar system for power. It has a full bathroom (with shower), full kitchen (with refrigerator, freezer and stove) and a wood burning stove from Englander to heat the yurt. They installed a well to fill the 200 gallon cistern. The yurt is a fully functional home, but it’s just located in the wilderness of Alaska. They have leather sofa and chair, full sized bed and a cafe style dinette set. The yurt is over-looking the lake, which offers a chance to watch the Trumpeter Swans and their 2 cygnets, bears, beavers, eagles and a host of other wildlife.
Stephen and Tonya had looked at several options for their wilderness home: wood frame, log and yurt. They investigated several yurt manufactures, and settled on the 27′ Colorado Yurt because the finished product was excellent and the options were what they looked for. Plus, they told us the customer service was excellent! They thought the instructions were very good to follow.
They are looking at setting up 2 additional yurts and offering them as a wilderness experience for those who wish to really get back to nature. They could also be used for winter time helicopter skiing groups.
Stephen and Tonya have now spent the summer in their yurt and love everything about it. They say, “Colorado Yurt, you produce an awesome yurt!!! Thank you!” and “PS. The fishing is great!!!”