The Demolition of the Yurt-Shaped House ⚒

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.

The Demolition

In the James Cameron movie Avatar, soldiers use something called an Amplified Mobility Platform suit or AMP suit. It’s a huge, powerful robot that’s controlled by a human who sits inside the machine. It can move around like a human, control weapons and lift heavy objects.

James Cameron movie Avatar

AMP suits are mostly science fiction, but I can’t help but think that excavators, like the machine that demolished the Yurt, are the closest thing we have to those suits. With a small move of the wrist, a human can wield a 30,000 pound beast to demolish a wall, lift a 30 foot log, or break through rocks. Excavators feel impossibly powerful to me and I figured I’d just have to watch from afar.

Then, just as the garage demolition started, Drew asked if I wanted to take the excavator for a spin. He didn’t have to ask twice. I got in and he showed me a few of the controls, which felt like using a giant video game controller. I could swivel back and forth, extend the arm and move the bucket. It was easy to see how quickly the controls could feel like second nature. Soon enough, I asked Sachi to record a video as I smashed the garage. For a moment, I was twelve years old again.

Yours Truly at the Controls
Yours Truly at the Controls

I had been anticipating this day for weeks. After so many months of planning, the real work was beginning and I wanted to make the most of it. I imagined having a way to capture both photos and video of the entire project, starting with the demolition. What I needed was another bit of science fiction in the real world: a little drone called a DJI Spark.

a little drone called a DJI Spark

As you’ll soon see, the drone is making Ready for Rain a more multi-media experience, complete with a new YouTube channel.

With the drone ready and the real operators at the helm, the proper demolition could begin, starting with the garage. Before we knew it, the building was a pile of rubble.

starting with the garage

The main event was the destruction of the main house and Drew did the honors. For the videos to come out the way I wanted, we had to work as a team; him behind the machine and me piloting the drone. After a quick thumbs up, the southern end of the roof was the first to go.

destruction of the main house

Next was the main house and the moment the claw of the excavator crushed the ceiling, I thought to myself that there’s no going back. In an instant, the Yurt, our home, officially became unlivable.

the excavator crushed the ceiling

Before the main house could come all the way down, the metal cable that encircled the entire structure needed to be broken. From there, the main house went quickly.

The cable that held The Yurt together
The cable that held The Yurt together

Eventually Drew handed control over to an operator to finish the job. Over a number of days, the property became more apocalyptic in appearance and hazardous in practice. Broken glass, insulation, shattered wood, and random refuse was everywhere.

Drew handed control over

I started to see that breaking down walls was a small part of the process. A lot of the time is spent making piles and crushing the piles into small bits that could fit into the succession of container-sized dumpsters that appeared on the property. Dumpster by dumpster, the Yurt disappeared.

container-sized dumpsters

And of course the always-present deer had to inspect the wreckage.

 deer had to inspect the wreckage

Within a week the house was gone and all that remained was the circular foundation.

circular foundation

Soon enough, it too disappeared, and the property became devoid of nearly any trace of the Yurt.

any trace of the Yurt

The entire building was hauled off over the course of a week and it was hard not to feel a little nostalgic. We owned the Yurt for just under two years. It was our second place for a while and allowed us to sink our teeth into the island and formulate a plan for moving.

feel a little nostalgic

But more than that, it was a place to be with friends and family. Even though it lacked interior privacy, it performed admirably over weekends and holidays when visitors would arrive from Seattle and elsewhere.

weekends and holidays

One of the traditions we started was marking peoples’ height on the wall, along with their name and the date they visited. All that was required was an overnight stay.

marking peoples

Over time, it became a list of friends and family who experience the Yurt in all its glory. No one will ever sleep in the Yurt again, but we’ll always have memories of its strange shape, odd fixtures and 1980s style . It was our yurt-shaped house on Orcas Island.

Demolition Highlight Video

Demolition Highlight Reel

Bonus video: Watch the entire house move as the metal cable snaps under the weight of the excavator.

Or, go to the YouTube channel, which has 17 short videos.


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On most Tuesdays, I share a story from my life on Orcas Island and a recommendation for something I love. I'm interested in how to design work and home for lifestyle, livability, and fluffy dogs. Learn more.

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