HOW WE MAKE GREAT QUALITY YURTS
We make great quality yurts because we are the only company in the UK making yurts in Mongolia and selling them in the UK. I personally lived in Mongolia running our yurt workshop for 13 years. My wife is Mongolian and our children were born there. My brother & sister-in-law have been involved with the business since day one. This means I know what quality and value for money looks like in Mongolia, it also means I know what cutting corners and doing things on the cheap looks like.
Everyone else in the UK that sells imported yurts are middlemen. They have no experience of making yurts or any type of manufacturing, they simply regurgitate what the yurt maker finds convenient to spoon-feed them, and they pass these untruths onto you. This means you can be misinformed on important aspects of your yurt such as, what wood is used, what type of glue, joinery suitability, origin of paint, type of felt & canvas used. Why does all this matter, surely these middlemen know what they are doing as they have visited where the yurts are made and
have experience of using yurts, either via living in or renting out via their campsite in the UK,
Imagine you wanted to build your own house, who would you contract to build it for you. Would you ask an estate agent, someone that has experience of using as well as buying and selling houses, or a builder - someone that has intimate knowledge and experience of materials and work methods. Yes - few people would ask an estate agent to build their home.
GENERAL CONSTRUCTION QUALITY
Quality of joinery. This is important as it will decide how long your yurt will stay together. All joints should be blind mortice and tenon joints, glued using a waterproof D4 or polyurethane glue that is waterproof. Where necessary joints should be pinned to add extra strength. Straight through mortice joints are not good as they will absorb moisture and slowly push themselves apart.
Wood should be kiln dried or air dried. Most importantly it should be sourced from legal sources. and not illegally logged. In 13 years of living in Mongolia I have never met anyone that has admitted to using illegally logged wood, However I have met many people that have been unable to provide the government certificate that proves their timber has been legally sourced.
We are constantly amazed by the claims made by people that import yurts as to what wood they say their yurts are made from. Pine, Cedar
(Illegal) , Larch, willow the list goes on. The reality is every carpenter in Mongolia that makes doors, roof poles, crown wheel will use pine. Everyone is familiar with its use, it's quick and easy to work with - job done. Larch is far better than pine in terms of durability as it is a much denser wood. However it is difficult to work with as kiln drying it is a long and hence expensive process. To air dry, it must be done at the rate of one inch per year. We have roof poles air drying in shipping containers in Mongolia for two years prior to use. Nobody else in Mongolia is willing or able to invest the time and money in using larch.
All components of the yurt frame should be made from solid wood. No laminates, chipboard or plywood. The technique of finger jointing together lots of smaller pieces of wood to form panels and posts should be avoided as much as possible as it has a short lifespan when exposed to the elements in a wet UK.
Any fabric on the exterior of your yurt should be sewn with a bonded nylon sewing thread. Bonded nylon sewing thread is not available in Mongolia. It, like many other important components used in our yurts are shipped to the country by us. Bonded nylon sewing thread means the exterior has been covered in a protective coating that drastically increases durability. The bond provides extra resistance to abrasion, needle heat, mildew, aging and fraying. As a result it is used for sewing leather, canvas, bags and shoes.
What kind of company hands an expensive product over to you without even folding or packing it carefully. The answer is the company that didn't spend much time or energy making it in the first place. All of our yurt covers are carefully folded and packed in a protective plastic bag. All wooden components are sealed in wrap to ensure they arrive clean. We are not aware of any other companies importing yurts that take the time to do the same.
ITEM BY ITEM CHECKLIST
We would need to write a book to explain everything we have learnt about yurt construction, below is just a snippet of what we have gleaned during our 18 years of making yurts.
The door is the only wooden part of the yurt that is exposed to the elements and hence its exposed to a great deal of wear and tear. All joints should be hidden mortice joints in order to stop them absorbing water, expanding and pushing itself apart. A waterproof polyurethane or D4 glue (Again not available in Mongolia but specially imported by us) should be used. All parts of the door & frame should be painted in order to guarantee maximum protection. This is rarely the case in Mongolia where painting parts you cannot see once yurt is pitched is considered unnecessary. This would generally be the top and bottom of door frame and the door edge. This unfortunately ensures water is quickly absorbed in those areas and results in the wood swelling and eventually rotting. It can also mean the door expanding to the point it will not close, which is also a consequence of not allowing an expansion gap during manufacture. Exterior grade hinges and rings should be used. Any windows should not be glass (dangerous) or cheap acrylic but Lexan, which is virtually unbreakable as it is 250 times stronger than glass.
Our crown wheels consist of three layers of solid wood that are glued and most importantly pinned together using wooden pegs. The uppermost of the three layers of wood is shaped to form a "lip" around the crown wheel circumference. All of the various fabric layers on the yurt sit neatly underneath this lip. The spokes of the crown wheel should follow a very specific construction style that consists of the four spars radiating out in a North, South, East & West direction meeting in the middle with the other spars constructed around this. This provides a strong long lasting crown wheel. Cheaper yurts will use a quicker method of construction which consists of a separate wooden wheel to sit in the center of the crown wheel that is then held in place via eight spars. To the untrained eye this looks the same but in practice it is a shoddy method, the only true benefit being it is quicker and cheaper to make.
All of our wall section are made from cut larch. They are then bent into shape using a form and connected the traditional way using rawhide ties. Before we hand them over to you they are treated with a natural oil based wood preservative. Other companies will use split wood, either larch or pine to make their walls from, they will then use cheap leather offcuts to connect them. They will NOT be treated with any kind of preservative and will quickly go moldy in the UK. Mist companies do not make their own wall sections and will instead buy them in from multiple makers thus resulting in odd matching groups of wall sections.
ROPES & WEBBING
Horsehair ropes are traditional, they look great and are wonderful to use. However they can retain moisture when used externally and this will propagate mould growth, for that reason we only use them internally in positions that are not structural. Externally we use high tensile polyester webbing that is extremely durable and braided polyester rope.
Horsehair ropes. One of the most pleasing aspects of pitching a Mongolian yurt is the use of horsehair ropes. Our are made for us by a single family living in the far suburbs of Ulaanbaatar. They are made using 100% horsehair. This has an obvious roughness to the touch. Many companies will fob you off with sheep or other animal hair ropes. These are not as durable and are easy to tell apart from the real thing by their soft feel and touch.
This is an important topic as it not only affects the longevity of your yurt but it also has the potential to affect your health. All of our yurts are painted in the UK using top quality paints that conform to all EU safety standards. To ensure maximum durability all wooden components are firstly treated with a wood preservative before being painted using top quality paints from Dulux. This translates into five coats in all. Yurts can be painted in an oil based paint or an environmentally friendly water based paint in over 1,000+ colours.
Yurts painted in Mongolia generally receive one or two costs of a very thinned down paint. This does not offer enough protection to the wood when placed in a damp UK. This will result in a lot of movement in the wood which will eventually results in joints pushing themselves apart. Paint can be sourced from a variety of countries but Russia is currently the favourite. However such paints do not confirm to any Western safety standards. Russian Paint Dangerous to Health I personally know people painting yurts for companies in Mongolia that have died of cancer, hence I suspect there is nothing good for you in these paints.
All of our felt is sourced from one of the few ISO 9001 companies in Mongolia. It is also one of the oldest companies in Mongolia dating back to the communist regime. It was originally established to make felt for yurts for collective use. Nowadays it continues to make the best quality felts from 100% organic sheep's wool.
Traditionally Mongolians would make their own felt
( see our felt page ) but this contains natural by-products such as lanolin which make it unsuitable for use in the UK. Just like wood, we are amazed at the stories spun by other companies and individuals. We
have seen yurts advertised with
- Goat hair felt (That's called cashmere and it's too expensive to make felt)
- Yak hair felt (the fibers are too fine and hence it doesn't felt well)
- Recycled felt ( the technology doesn't exist in Mongolia to do this yet)
Cotton canvas, Duck canvas, Polycotton canvas, Acrylic canvas, Silicon Impregnated Canvas, Fire Proofed, Rot Proofed and Water Proofed. Canvas is an important and complicated topic. We could truly go on for ages regarding this fabric, it's treatments and uses. And we are far from experts in the field. Sourcing good quality canvas is one of the most difficult aspects of making yurts in Mongolia as there is no demand and no funds available to invest in the large order quantities set by most canvas manufacturers. In our experience anything offered for sale from Mongolia and designated as waterproof will leak. Good quality canvas is not available, the equipment to seam seal other fabrics is not present and the expensive machinery required to radio weld PVC fabric is not there.
Given the importance of the waterproof layer on our yurts we have chosen to have this layer made for us in the UK using the latest equipment and materials available.