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DIY: Make A Quick PVC Yurt Playhouse Or Gazebo

Canvas GazeboKids of all ages love having a clubhouse/fort/spaceship, etc. When we grow up (whenever that is), we call them gazebos/outdoor rooms and more. We like having a place separate from the house where our imaginations can soar.

A permanent gazebo is an expensive structure. Building one also means obtaining permits, electricians (if lighting is installed), and in the case of neighborhood associations and historical societies, permission to build one in the first place.

This yurt solves that problem. Everything is available at local DIY stores, and may be purchased online instead. Best of all, it disassembles easily for storage, goes to the park, camping, RV'ing, etc. It also doubles as a mild weather tent.

The example given here is 10 feet in diameter, with an inside area of 78.5 square feet, and a circumference of 31.4 feet. The actual dimensions when the yurt is erected can vary. The height near the center of this yurt is over 6 feet high, allowing most people to walk upright.

The equations for this are simple:

Circumference of a circle: Diameter (10 feet) multiplied by Pi (3.14) equals 31.4 feet.

Area of a circle: Radius (5 feet or .5 of the diameter) squared (multiplied by itself), multiplied by Pi equals 78.5 square feet.

To make other sizes of yurts, check the link in the next paragraph.

This yurt is inspired by a design by Paul King, who has a magnificent book, "Build Your Own Yurt, " free on the Woodland Yurts website. Instead of cutting wooden poles, I began to wonder if I could indeed translate this into something portable using modern materials.

PVC to the rescue. PVC garden lattice is flexible, lightweight and inexpensive. The more I looked at the basic yurt design on different websites, the more PVC fit this design. With most of the materials available at local DIY stores, the cost should be under $100 in most areas.

Your PVC yurt doesn't have to be all white- stain it or paint it any color you wish.

Yurts have been in use for nearly 30, 000 years, in places that experience high winds and cold as much as -50 below zero. Yikes. Moreover, they are still used today. I've said it before, and I'll say it again- good designs last.

Read through the instructions first and make all the pieces. Assembling the yurt is fast and easy.

You will need:

Three panels of PVC garden lattice, 4-by-8 feet

Six each 5 foot garden stakes, wood or aluminum, or rebar

Ten each 1" diameter PVC pipe, schedule 40 (stronger than non schedule 40)

Nylon rope, " to 3/8" diameter, paracord

Eight each 1" 45-degree connectors

Twenty each 1" tee connectors

Stepladder

Hacksaw

Marking tools

Measuring tape

Hammer

Four each 1" 90-degree connectors

Circle marker- directions follow

Tarp for flooring, if desired

Tarps to cover yurt, surplus parachute, blankets, etc.

All-purpose PVC cement

Drill and bits

Cardboard

One 1" cross-connector (this piece may not be carried at the local DIY store- it can be ordered online at a number of sources.)

Sewing equipment and 1" grommets

Denim, canvas or other heavy fabric - 6 to 8 yards

Four tent stakes

To Begin:

Make a circle marker by driving a stake into the ground and tying a string loop around it. The loop should move all the way around, not wrap around the stake. Measure five feet of string from the stake.

Mark the ground with items such as rocks, bricks or landscape paint (don't use this in a public park), in a clock- like configuration.

Make the Door Frame:

Cut two pieces of PVC pipe, each 32 inches long.

Cut two pieces of PVC pipe, each 4 feet 2 inches long.

Make a rectangle using the 90-degree corner connectors. The long side will be standing up.

Do not cement- set aside.

Walls:

Take the three panels and set around the circle.

Set the door frame at the spot where you want an entrance. Drive two stakes at least one foot into the ground behind each side of the door frame.

Using about 1-foot lengths of rope, tie a lattice panel to each side, making ties at each lattice "fold" or space. Make sure the panels are tied to both the stakes and the door frame. This adds stability to the yurt.

Pick up the back lattice panel and the side of the panel tied to the door. Tie together loosely. Do the same with the other panel.

This will make a circle a little bigger than 31.4 feet. That's okay, or simply adjust tying the panels to match the circle. There is no real need to trim the panels- this gives more places to tie them together for added wall strength.

Drive a stake on the inside of each of the wall panel junctions, and tie the walls to them.

Drive a stake halfway between these junctions and the door frame and tie the wall lattice to them.

Roof Poles:

This is going to be easy. Take eight of the poles and cut in half at the center. Mark a spot one Inch from the end of the pole and drill a hole through it large enough to pass your cord or rope through.

The poles are tied to the top of the lattice walls. The other end of the pole inserts into the crown piece, forming the roof. These ends are not drilled or cemented.

Crown Piece:

This piece is the most interesting of all.

On the cardboard, mark a 2-foot wide hexagon. Place the 45-degree angles on each corner, and place the cross connector in the center. Place two tee connectors on each of the hexagon sides, evenly spaced and pointing outward. Place a third tee connector on the four lines for the cross connector and point the insertion holes inward.

Tape in place if necessary to keep pieces from moving while being measured.

Measure between the connectors and add two inches for insertion. Cut and dry fit each piece. Do not cement in place yet. Using the marker, place reference marks on each of the cross connectors and pipes, each corner connector and pipe, and each tee connector and pipe that corresponds to the cross connector. When cementing, these lines will keep everything straight.

The other tees will be marked when the structure is erected. Using the step ladder, the tees will be marked so the angle will be correct when cementing in place.

It's okay at this point to cement the flat pieces- the cross connector and corresponding tees, and the corner pieces. Allow to dry for 24 hours.

Take the piece outside. Insert the roof poles into the tees and tie the other end of the roof poles to the side walls of the yurt.

Do not mark the roof pole tees yet.

Stabilizing Band:

This is a 10" wide band, which fits around the junction of the wall/wall poles. It helps to stabilize the yurt, adds strength to the walls and keep them from bowing outward. It also helps to keep the structure round.

Measure the length around your yurt and add 6 inches on each end for the hem, and to create a strong place for the grommets. Stitch the fold down securely, and insert the grommets 1 inch apart 1 inch in from each end.

Wrap the stabilizer band around the wall junction, and tie the grommets to the door/wall/stake frame.

Now get the step ladder and place reference marks on the roof pole tees. Work slowly- there's no rush. It's much easier to do this when the yurt is on level ground and there is no wind.

Remove the stabilizer band, the roof poles and using the reference marks, cement the roof pole tees in place. Allow 24 hours to dry.

Cover:

Make a custom cover for this yurt, or cover with old blankets or tarp. A military-surplus parachute works well for a summer shade room. Solar screening fabric, although more expensive, provides more shade.

Change covers to suit the weather, seasons or as finances allow.

Tie extra bands around the yurt to keep the cover in place. This can be extra lengths of rope, or create more elaborate bands from fabrics.

Water proof fabrics will keep campers dry. Purchase from fabric stores, tent supply companies or purchase spray cans of water proofing for the cover. Spray this stuff outside- it's very strong. Allow to air-dry for 24 hours before bringing it inside.

Tie Down:

Tie a length of rope together to make a circle approximately 6-7 feet in diameter. Tie four lengths of rope to this circle.

Pass the circle over the top of the yurt and tie the four ropes to the tent stakes. The tension should be firm, but not enough to bow the walls or harm the roof.

Door:

If a working door is desired, here are some suggestions:

The door frame is made of round PVC pipe. Change to 1-by-4 wood, and make a wooden door with hinges and a lock.

Instead of changing out the PVC pipe, make an inner door frame with a PVC hinge. Make a PVC lattice insert using PVC cap moulding cut to fit inside the inner pipe door, and cement the cap moulding in place.

Notes to consider:

Make a door using PVC cap moulding and PVC lattice.

Use slip tees for the crown piece- it's easier to get the angle, but mark for gluing while structure is standing so the angle is correct, just as in the design.

Cover with one or two sheets of 6-mil plastic or UV greenhouse plastic for an inexpensive greenhouse.

Just as with any tent, instruct children not to try to climb on the poles, walls or hang from the crown piece. It's not made to hold human weight, only the covers.

If using as a greenhouse, do not hang heavy plants from the ceiling or wall poles.

Although the traditional yurt has a fire burning inside, absolutely do not have an open fire inside this structure. If heat is needed, use a heater rated for tents and keep it away from anything flammable.

The crown and wall poles will accommodate battery-operated lanterns for night use.

Hang solar- powered LED patio lights from the roof poles for a night party.

Never cook inside a tent or yurt.

This yurt isn't made to live in, although weekend camping or use as an emergency shelter is one function it will serve well.

If transporting the large sheets of PVC lattice is impractical, it's okay to cut them into manageable sizes. Just remember you may need another panel of lattice when reassembling to keep the same circumference.

Have fun with your PVC yurt. Use it as a party house, gazebo, fort, spaceship, medieval pavilion, greenhouse, and anything else your imagination desires.

Source: Paul King, (1995), "Build Your Own Yurt, " eBook, Woodland Yurts Website

By Tina Gallagher - Professional writer published in national magazines and online. USAF Veteran and Former Paramedic/Firefighter with over 20 years of medical experience including the health insurance industry. Educated at Uni...  

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