Our eco-friendly $5000 home

In the past few months, we have turned a storm damaged yurt into an eco-friendly, toxic-free, funky home for our family. Last night my wife and three of our kids officially moved in to the house we created from recycled materials. We slept on our new wood floor, lit a fire in our pot belly stove, ate some pizza and watched a movie before we all fell asleep. This morning I woke up to see sheep sleeping outside our window

Elizabeth cello in the yurt

Our home has cost us NZ$5204 which is US$4,287. The only thing left to do is plumbing the bath and sink to the hot water cylinder and installing a wetback in the pot belly stove. And I need to make some more furniture but that can wait a while.

Still a bit more work to do but our house is very livable and enjoyable. A yurt is a Mongolian style round tent, also called a “Ger”. Ours was originally made in NZ by Jaia Yurts and was badly storm-damaged when we bought it from an English lady who was moving back to the UK. Much of the frame was broken, the canvas was water-stained and the round ring that holds it together was smashed. But it was worth salvaging and I managed to find the right wood and replicate the broken pieces.

Building yurt

We got permission from the Ngatiawa community, a Christian contemporary monastery near Wellington, to build a small structure on their land. Its a beautiful green valley surrounded by trees and hills.

Tj in yurt

The biggest expense, apart from the original yurt ($2000), was the floor. When we started, we only had a plastic groundsheet but it was summer and warm enough to get away with it. But the weather eventually changed and the family was flooded out while I was overseas on a trip.

Yurt floor and sheep

As soon as I got home, I started to get the yurt off the ground and I eventually found some nice native timber offcuts, enough to make the floor.

Yurt floor sanding

Having sanded the floor all night long, I was still caffeinated and delirious when the sun came up. I never did get it really smooth because the wood was all different sizes but its a floor nonetheless. And it looks rustic like the rest of the yurt.

While I was busy getting the yurt away from the wet ground, Debbie was created an insulation cushion out of old wool blankets that we are finding in charity shops. It took about 15 blankets to make the ceiling. She filled them with eco-therm insulation which is made from recycled wool. It turned out amazing.

Debbie yurt insulation ceiling

For a complete breakdown of how that $5000 was spent, go to Jonesberries.com


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Awesome mate! Love it

  • Danelle wants to know where the toilet is?…

  • Brian Pember says:

    Mate, I am so envious!

  • Shannon says:

    You guys are AMAZING! But does this mean you are staying put in New Zealand? Or will you start driving again someday?

  • Andrew says:

    We will keep up the traveling but this means we will actually have a home to come back to, to store our things, and to keep us sane. NZ will be our new base but we will launch out from here and will get our truck ready for next African trip. Also, I will be traveling more to other continents on occasion by myself (South America in June) and leaving the family behind. Part of our transition from Europezone to wider world.

  • Andrew says:

    if we were alone in our paddock, we would do a composting toilet but since we are living at an old Presbyterian camp [turned into a community} there are toilets available.

  • alanc230 says:

    This is amazing. I am always impressed by people like you. I don’t imagine that I’ll ever be able to do likewise, but I love looking at your photos and dreaming.

  • Andrew Nightingale says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Looks great, what are the dimensions?
    Janelle thinks it looks awesome.

  • Andrew says:

    7 meters diameter. Thats a step up from our 140 square feet of our truck. We hardly know what to do with all that space . . . heh heh

  • Anna says:

    looks great! I understand the desire to have a base from which to travelling. I’m still working that out myself…

  • LovingGod says:

    This is absolutely awesome. I love it!

  • Orion says:

    Fantastic! Keep up the good work guys.

  • alanc230 says:

    You are an inspiration to all of us who are trying to downsize, simplify, and generally turn our minds away from the 21st century consumer-throwaway-endless resources concept.

  • Darryl Iorio says:

    The picture made me wonder if we are still allowed to cut a tree as huge as that one. But the concept is good. It would be a great place to live in if good insulation and plumbing were installed. And it’s affordable and green, even if they almost doubled the last price.

  • wellness at work says:

    Wow,This is so expensive house yet very Eco-friendly.I guess all the materials are worth because it is safe at the same time you help to save our mother earth.

  • Andrew says:

    i think you mean “inexpensive”? thanks

  • benni bonnin says:

    we live in Wellington, about to move to Coromandel and thinking about buying a Jaia Yurt as our new home. Curious about the storm damage to yurt… where did it happen in NZ and was the English woman ok, what condition were the rafters in? Keen to live in a sturdy yurt.

  • john says:

    yur yurt is saweet mate.

  • Tim says:

    My wife and I are coming back to New Zealand after 2 years away in England. We are really keen on getting a site in Auckland to put up a yurt to live in full time.
    Have you got any suggestions on who to approach, or how to get permission. We are keen on buying land but it is beyond our means at the current time…

  • Alexa says:

    Hi there!! Just wondering, me and my partner are about to build a wooden floor for our Yurt- is there any advice you could give us for insulating it and how you actually did it?? How many posts into the ground and what you did for framing etc?? Any help would be much appreciated!

  • peppacourt@gmail.com says:

    Andrew what sort of council consents did you need for the yurt
    we are wanting to put a yurt on a family members rural property and wondering what consents we have to get
    Thanks Linda

Leave a Reply