Traditional Mongolian gers were covered with animal hides with a regular cycle of replacement. The modern version from Groovy Yurts offers water resistant canvas with a lovely decoration. This natural cotton material helps the yurt to moderate humidity inside when combined with the natural felt insulation (and an optional modern moisture barrier in our case). We first setup our Super Ger in 2016 and then moved it to the big deck in 2017. Left in place under the intense New Mexico skies for the last five years, the canvas on our yurt started to show wear in a number of ways and required a total replacement. Read on to see more about yurt life.
Making the decision to buy a Groovy Yurt to be our full-time residence came with the understanding that we would be subject to regular maintenance and sporadic upgrades over the years. Like other homes built in more conventional ways that might require window or roof replacement, plumbing upgrades, regular painting, etc., we expected to give our yurt some TLC as it aged. We traded out the original horsehair ropes around the outside with modern ratchet straps early in 2020, and we replaced the vinyl windows in the toono (skylight) last year.
When the yurt is properly installed with parts in good working order according to instructions, the canvas is wrapped snugly around the toono and secured so that water runs off the top and down the sides. There should be no leaks inside the yurt even in strong storms. In 2019, we started to notice some water intrusion by the stains showing themselves on the inside cotton liner near the top. We had concerns that the wooden toono had cracked from exposure to the elements and created a channel for water to enter the interior instead of running off. A more attentive maintenance routine to paint and seal the exterior wood structure may have prevented this.
Besides the cracked wood, we suspected that the canvas wasn’t secured around the toono as well as it could’ve been after we reset the yurt a few years earlier. When we moved to the deck and re-wrapped the canvas at that time, one of the main attachment straps (made of canvas) had torn off short and left us to make a quick fix with a patch of round cotton clothesline to help close the gap under the lip of the toono. Evidently, this repair was not sufficient.
Additionally, we caught another active leak inside coming through all the layers near the back where we sleep. After looking more closely, we discovered several burn holes in the canvas from the hot embers blowing off the stovepipe. We used Gorilla tape to hastily patch the offending hole from the outside and made the call to Yurt Daddy to have a new canvas treated with fire retardant sent our way.
An even closer inspection revealed that there were many more holes in the original canvas ranging in size from a pea to a quarter. Fortunately, they had not burned all the way through. For the most part, the natural wool insulation felt is fire-resistant. The modern moisture barrier, not so much. We also made sure to check as best we could for any mold or other degradation of the inner layers that had been in contact with water and were happy to find none since the natural felt is also mold-resistant.
As we moved forward with the canvas upgrade, we also confirmed our suspicions that we had some sort of nesting animal making themselves comfortable in the urgh (toono cover/ventilation flap). We had heard some skittering on the roof and then some pretty determined scratching/burrowing sounds overhead on occasion, but couldn’t see any evidence from the inside. When we started pulling the urgh off to remove the main canvas, we saw the pretty obvious lump next to a tear in the weather-worn canvas material. Inside, we could see that the little bugger had found the wool felt a nice place to nest. Again, a more attentive maintenance routine would have helped us to catch this intrusion earlier.
The urgh was essentially a complete failure with the canvas badly shredded, proving how the extremes of Northern New Mexico weather had worn down the natural materials over the course of six years. Wasting no time, we set to work disrobing the yurt. Along the way, we took in the view from the top, discovered where flies go in cold weather, and shared Pete’s gratitude for having the big deck as a place to enjoy work around the yurt.
Once we had the old canvas off, we made another close inspection of the moisture barrier and patched any holes we discovered with the modern miracle known as Tuck Tape. Then, it was time to put up the bright new treated canvas cover sans blue ribbon designs. Note that all this work was being done under big blue skies with temps in the 40’s. We kept Ostaf the wood stove going the whole the time so it was a little tricky to work around the hot metal both inside and out. Ideally, we would have done this repair during the summer months when we can take the stove out, but this overhaul couldn’t have waited another season.
We did the best we could to repair the urgh with a scrap of moisture barrier and a lot of Tuck Tape and Gorilla Tape to get us by and keep the rodents out, but that component will need to be replaced as well. As things go, we also had a mishap with the windows during the process and tore through the vinyl, so we patched them with the cherry red tape for another temporary fix. It took about five hours for us to finish the job and chuckled at the thought that we stitched up our abode Frankenstein-style just before Halloween!
Traditionally, a Mongolian ger is inspected and repaired each time it is reset during seasonal moves. Ours is pretty well parked in one place year-round and contains all our worldly belongings. While yurts do well to be reset on a regular basis, ours at Sahalee requires a complete move out to dismantle the pieces for repair and replacement of the toono. We’re really hoping that we put the fire-resistant canvas on more snugly this time around so that we won’t have any more water leaks inside. We’re looking at replacing the mended urgh next season when we can catch the Groovy Yurts delivery tour to save money on shipping. If we find it doesn’t hold up that long, we may end up making a new one on our own from the old canvas fabric, new felt insulation, and new ropes. All that being said, we are still completely in love with our Super Ger and are so very proud to call it home.
Thanks so much for reading and we’re happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments. Peace!