Monday, July 6, 2009

Tom and Lisa's Yurt of Their Own

by yurt owner Tom Betras
Photos courtesy of Jamey Hill, Rick Wolf and Lisa Burroughs-Betras

This little story began in the Spring of 2008 when we purchased our land in South Western New Mexico and it ended, at least for now, June 6th 2009 with the completion of our Colorado Yurt and deck installation.

The specific construction site was decided upon in October 2008. It was over the hill from the top of the plateau and above the little canyon but not close enough to disturb wildlife. The site has a fairly gentle grade with very little habitat affected and 360 degrees of great views. (Hindsight for night time noise/wind relief - look for less windy locale, thought it may not exist at 6,700 feet.)

Many options presented themselves as building opportunities but the yurt design ended up being the most appealing to us for the current project. Through some extensive research on yurts and yurt packages we liked Colorado Yurt the most for many reasons and settled on the 30' Yurt with the Wind Package. We decided to construct our own PLATFORM and CIRCLE for this location. We enlarged the basic 36' x 36' platform drawings available on the Colorado Yurt website and created our 50' x 36' deck.

Over the winter months, those would be November through March in North East Ohio, the plans were solidified for our project. Contractors are hard to come by in this area and we realized we wanted to do this ourselves. Talented, skilled manpower was what we needed for the plan. Having REALLY GREAT FRIENDS came in handy. Good friends from North East Ohio, Florida and Arizona, (you all know who you are Jim, Tom C., Rick, Jeremy, Jamey, Joe, Tom L., Jason and Chris) all agreed to assist in this 'Fun Little Project'. Not everyone was able to make the trip to the site but all contributed in significant ways and you will never know how grateful we are to you! THANK YOU!

Ok, now with the work scope laid out, a construction plan developed (over more than a few long afternoons), and a construction crew assembled, all that was left was to insure the materials arrived on time, gather all of the tools needed from the group, and hope that the weather cooperated. Late May, early June in South West New Mexico is quite beautiful, 85 degrees and dry, exceptionally. There had been no rain for six months and they need it badly. There were other problems to be solved as well, like how do we get all of the 'stuff' out there for the project so we needed a truck and a trailer to haul all of the tools, not to mention the furniture for the finished Yurt, to the site. Please Note: WE ARE OPTIMISTS.

Week One: Tom B. (Yurt Owner) and the Jeremy drove to New Mexico to get the site prepared, haul out all of the tools for the construction and haul out all of the furniture for the finished Yurt. Week one had a few little glitches like a flat tire on the truck and having to change lumber suppliers mid week for the entire lumber package. But other than that, it went well. Renting the bobcat with the 12" auger was the way to go to drill the 24 holes needed for the 6x6s deck posts. After drilling the 40" deep holes and pouring 6" concrete footers in each hole, the 6x6 posts went in perfectly. Of course you really need to measure twice, or even three to four times, to make sure you drill the holes in the correct spot and set the posts precisely where they need to be. You know, Pythagoras did invent a very useful theorem that we used for measuring and setting all of the posts. It became especially important for the four corner posts as the deck dimension was based on these posts being correctly installed. That college education really does come in handy every now and then. In the end: the holes got drilled, the water well pump was installed, concrete footers poured, 6x6 posts set and lumber delivered for the week two construction crew's arrival.

Week Two: The crew arrived Saturday and a good dinner was had by all. Questions were being asked about working on Sunday. Of course there wasn't any question about whether or not we would be working on Sunday, that was the official Day One for the entire crew. After a hearty breakfast at the Magdalena Cafe, we embarked on the first of many trips to the work site. The road was a bit, . . . how can I describe it . . . rough in spots and the local fauna was out and about, including antelope, jack rabbits and the ever present herd of cows. Once at the site, the work began. By late morning, the 6x6 posts were marked and cut to height (hindsight: very glad we had the laser transit for this, it worked GREAT).

The 50' x 36' deck main beams were built (out of three 2x10s each clamped and nailed together) and installed on the 6x6 posts.

And by the end of the day, one third of the 2x8 joists were installed. Great start for day one. Over the next couple of days the project continued to make leaps and bounds toward being ready for the Yurt installation on day 6. Day two saw the deck frame completed and the Yurt circle framed in. Insulation was partially completed for the circle frame by the end of the day.

Day three saw the completion of the circle framing as well as installation of the insulation and vapor barrier. The 3/4" treated plywood subfloor installation was the first completed task on day 4.

Followed by some of the decking and a start on the hardwood flooring.

Day five, the day before the Yurt gets assembled. The entire crew knew the goal for the day. We all agree no time for breakfast and are out at the sight very early. We eat almost nothing that day and work very hard. We had forgotten what hard work was until that day! The goal was to have 706 sq. ft. of 2 1/2" hardwood flooring installed, the bender board installed and as much decking installed as possible to facilitate the raising of the Yurt. So at the end of a very long day using up most of the reserve energy of the crew, we did just that. Finally at the end of day five, the bender board is installed and the Yurt circle is ready for the raising of the Yurt.

Day Six: The Yurt Goes Up. First of all, if you are thinking about constructing a Colorado Yurt (especially one of their big ones 27' or 30'), you NEED to budget for the technical expert to assist the installation. That was the BEST MONEY SPENT for the entire project.The door and lattice wall goes up first

Followed by the scaffolding, compression ring, steel cable and ceiling rafters.
Then the roof fabric and insulation. This was one of the most interesting tasks of the day as the south western breeze kept picking up in magnitude throughout the day with a couple of gusts that felt like it would surely lift the roof fabric and insulation and carry it to Arizona.

If it is windy AT ALL, you need many strong hands holding the fabric and insulation in place while the final roof gets rolled out and installed.

Once the roof is installed, the wall goes on fairly easy, comparatively speaking, then the wall insulation, the ceiling dome, the High Wind Package wall studs (if you have ordered them and there are a lot of screws for each of these 48 studs 480 screws to be exact) and some tying together of everything. Then voila, as the sun starts to set, you have your Yurt.

The final day at the job site for the entire crew finds us loading furniture into the Yurt and completing the deck. This finishes up by lunch time so the work crew heads down off of the property for a little rest, relaxation and sight seeing.

WHAT WE LEARNED (and are willing to share):

  • You can not rent a truck through normal channels to haul a trailer with tons of stuff to New Mexico.
  • Get all your bad luck out of the way three weeks before you go. (We had a car accident, no one was hurt.)
  • Consider wind and noise factors in Yurt location choice.
  • Make sure all your tools are in good working order.
  • Get all your arguments out of the way before you go.
  • Set aside more time for project construction. We were extremely LUCKY but we exhausted our friends, so there was no visit to the hot springs to soak sore bodies and no sight-seeing which was very unfair but necessary.
  • Our budget contingency was about right at 10%, but reasonable and needed, though we tried very hard to keep under control once we were out there we just had to go with the flow.
  • We are very grateful because we had a lot of goodwill from the town of Magdalena, Lori Scholes for putting us in touch and making the arrangements with the High Country Lodge, The High Country Lodge was the best, Bonnie, Mike and Darryl, we highly recommend them, Kelly Collins (Real Estate Agent). Everyone out there was very helpful in every way. Keith at Raks lumber yard and hardware supplies in Socorro should also be mentioned for going out of their way to make this all happen for us.