November 2014

This time five years ago, we needed to know how to put a stove pipe through our yurt roof. We couldn’t find anything useful online. So we just did what made sense and hoped for the best.

Since then, we’ve put three more stove pipes through yurt roof wheels – and I thought I’d learnt enough to write that missing blog post. I was originally going to call this: “The easy way to put a stove pipe through a yurt roof” or “How to put a stove pipe through a yurt roof in XX easy steps”. But as we discovered today, even when you’ve done it a few times before – differently each time – there are no easy ways to put stove pipes through yurt roofs. Let me explain.

Here’s the top part of the silicon flashing we used today, freshly cleaned after it came off the old roof wheel cover.

yurt stove pipe 5

This is the part that goes on the outside of the yurt cover. On the inside is a smaller circle of aluminium (US: aluminum) with pre-drilled holes that match the upper part. For clarity, I’m going to call this inner circle the Lower Side of Your Silicon Flashing Sandwich (LSYSFS). This professionally made flashing kit came with a stove we bought from Windy Smithy in the UK and is incredibly useful. Our first flashing kit (can’t remember where it came from) just had the top half and some self-tapping screws. We had to invent an LSYSFS using some aluminium sheeting from the local DIY place, which left us with a lot of very sharp waste.

It’s still in use and, this evening, looks like this (also pre-used).

yurt stove pipe

Right. That’s enough of an introduction. Here’s the post I wish I’d found in 2009, which comes with the accurate-but-not-very-snappy headline:

How to put a stove pipe through a yurt roof in 12 (or 13) steps, some of which are (fairly) easy

Step 1: 

yurt stove pipe 1

Put the LSYSFS (see intro above for explanation) in position and fix with exterior sealant.

Step 2 (You will want to skip this Step):

Using very sharp scissors, poke a couple of holes through the canvas in preparation for cutting out the canvas circle. Then decide it would be even easier to leave the sealant to dry and…

Step 3:

yurt stove pipe 2

Hold the LSYSFS in place with a couple of bits of scrap wood.

Step 4 (If you chose not to skip Step 2):

Fill the little holes you made with some more sealant and wait for several days for it to stop raining.

Step 5:

yurt stove pipe 3

With those small, very sharp scissors, poke holes through the pre-drilled holes of the LSYSFS from below.

Step 6 (A nice easy one):

yurt stove pipe 4

Cut the canvas out of the middle of the LSYSFS, rendering your beautiful and expensive new yurt cover pretty much useless and definitely worth less.

Step 7:

yurt stove pipe 6

Check you’ve got everything (maybe this should be at the beginning). I used a socket wrench, spanner, those sharp scissors again, clear exterior sealant, the nuts, bolts and washers that came with the flashing kit and a ladder. Ignore that screwdriver – I don’t know why it’s there. Also, the tool belt’s not much use, although I did need something to keep the nuts and bolts safe after Step 10. You won’t be needing the hammer or the spade.

Step 8 (not shown):

Undo the side of the yurt and roll the roof up so if will stay in place while you are working. We could do this fairly easily because these days we use Velcro instead of rope to keep the roof and walls together. (We use something cheaper than Velcro, but that’s so you know what I’m writing about.) You’ll have noticed by now that we are not using a star on the yurt any more. This is also one of Her Outdoors’ new design improvements.

Step 9:

yurt stove pipe 7

Construct an unsafe-looking ladder that will get you high enough to reach all the way round the stove pipe from above the yurt. Place the lower part of the stove pipe in the stove for guidance.

Step 10 (not shown):

Climb the ladder and ease the top section of the stove pipe through the hole in the roof wheel from above. You have already (i) slipped the silicon flashing over the pipe (sorry for forgetting to take a photograph – I was busy at the time) and (ii) secured the witch’s hat (choose your own expression for this if you like – pretty sure it’s not called a witch’s hat).

Step 11:

yurt stove pipe 8

Spread sealant all around the hole where it will be sandwiched by the LSYSFS. At this point, I realised I had made my Enormous Mistake of the Day. So I asked Her Outdoors to get another ladder. First, she took a photograph.

Step 12:

yurt stove pipe 9

With your partner gently but firmly holding your nuts, tighten all the bolts on the flashing kit and spread some more sealant around for good measure.

Step 13:

yurt stove pipe 10

Secure the roof to the wall again and light the fire. Wait for the rain to see if your work is weatherproof – and hope for the best.

I probably shouldn’t show you these photos. You don’t really need to look at them. But they’ll be good for me and Her Outdoors to look back on with the kind of head-shaking disbelief you are about to experience.

You see, when I say (as I do at the end of Part One of my book) that we became poor within months of moving to France, I wasn’t kidding. We continued to be poor for many years, while pouring our energy – and every available penny (or centime) – into creating a beautiful and successful yurt camp down on our land.

This means we’ve had to make do with living conditions few people in the developed world would bear.

old yurt cover

This is our old yurt cover. Made with cotton canvas in 2007, it was long past its use-by date last winter. And we’ve only been able to continue living in it by covering it with plastic sheets.

leaky yurt cover

Tied and clipped to the roof wheel.

yurt cover holes

With other bits of plastic tucked in where the rain showed us they should be.

yurt cover patches

Patches in some places.

yurt cover leaking

Silicon sealant in others.

yurt cover patch

And bits of canvas over big holes where the cotton canvas shrank unexpectedly (I’ve covered our disappointment with canvas in another post – we won’t be using it again – ever).

yurt cover ripped

Some holes we left over the summer (this was patched with kitchen foil on the inside last year).

yurt cover rotting

Others were fully revealed when we dug away the hillside behind the yurt.

trench round yurt

Which was done with pick, spade and buckets, to create more air flow.

yurt frame dusting

On the coldest day of the autumn so far, we took this cover off. Which gave us a good chance to dust it properly.

new yurt cover

And put the gorgeous new cover on.

It’s made from Sunbrella, which has only just been made available in this country, and should last for a very long time. One moment of tension came when we had to put the new stovepipe through the roof, just as school pick-up time was approaching, with a parents’ evening to follow and rain due in the morning. But this kind of thing has happened so often, it wasn’t particularly remarkable.

So there we have it – from shanty town embarrassment to fancy yurt splendour in one day. In other words: Just another Thursday in écovallée.