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DIY Houseboat Construction

by Tom Lutzenberger
Houseboats are commonly found on lakes and calm peninsulas with very little wave action.

Houseboats are commonly found on lakes and calm peninsulas with very little wave action.

Building a houseboat involves a significant and complex set of tasks. Not only are you constructing the basics of a boat, but you're also building living quarters on top of that boat hull. The structure design as well as materials used cause significant impacts to the comfort and performance of the houseboat on water. However, with time and patience, it is possible to do this project yourself.

1.

Design the size and scope of the houseboat project on paper with a pen. Draw the design to scale, using the concept of an outboard engine to propel the houseboat on the water. Review your dimensions and design with a boat designer. Double-check that you've addressed all the critical points that the boat designer points out may need to be adjusted.

2.

Purchase a used, broad boat hull and remove the upper structure. Break down the cabin, mast, and general upper deck with a sledgehammer and saws. Clear the upper structure completely until down to the edges of the hull itself.

3.

Use a hammer, nails and a power saw to craft a flat floor onto the boat hull. Stabilize this floor into the boat hull use wood beams and metal brackets. Treat this wood with water-proofing sealant once it is installed into the boat hull, using a paint brush to apply the sealant.

4.

Build the house boat frame with aluminum or wood beams. Craft the walls on each side of the boat, with sufficient cross-frame beams to allow square cavities for windows and doors. Install plywood on the sides to create the internal wall surface of the structure.

5.

Staple fiberglass insulation into the walls against the plywood and between the wood beams of the structure. Seal this up with a hammer, drywall, and drywall nails, cutting the drywall to size as necessary with a saw. Nail siding to the outside of the walls to establish a external weather-proofed surface.

6.

Use a hammer, nails, and brackets to construct the roofing structure. Build the roof frame at an angle to assist rainwater draining off the top of the houseboat. Attach plywood to the roof frame to form the base surface. Nail lightweight roof shingles to the plywood in an overlapping pattern so the water doesn't penetrate between.

7.

Install fiberglass insulation into the internal side of the roof, stapling it to the roof plywood inside. Seal up the roof area on the inside with drywall.

8.

Use a power drill to make necessary holes and cavities for wiring and plumbing. Install pre-fabricated windows and a pre-hung door into the cavities you previously designed. Nail these components into place into the houseboat structure. Seal the edges with water-proof caulking.

9.

Install an outboard engine onto the back of the boat hull with sufficient power to push the houseboat size and weight. Bolt it to the back of the hull with a drill, socket wrench, and nuts and bolts hardware. Build out the internal furniture and equipment of the houseboat as desired to finish the structure.

Items you will need

  • Used boat hull
  • Sledgehammer
  • Saws
  • Water-proof sealant
  • Paint brush
  • Industrial stapler
  • Fiberglass insulation
  • Power drill
  • Pre-fabricated windows
  • Pre-hung door
  • Caulking

Tip

  • Working with a partner on the various aspects of framing and wall construction can make the work go much faster.

Warning

  • Be very careful building the houseboat construction in the water. Using the wrong tool near the hull can cause a leak, submerging your entire project and causing a catastrophic loss.

About the Author

Since 2009 Tom Lutzenberger has written for various websites, covering topics ranging from finance to automotive history. Lutzenberger works in public finance and policy and consults on a variety of analytical services. His education includes a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from Saint Mary's College and a Master of Business Administration in finance and marketing from California State University, Sacramento.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images