Building a Trailerable Pontoon Houseboat

by Larry
(Somerville, AL USA)

Do you build a trailerable pontoon houseboat, or should you buy a trailerable pontoon houseboat?

1. Why.....My wife and I have been wanting to do a little traveling on the water. We have an rv and really like the water. We started off with a plan of building a trailerable pontoon houseboat and if we liked river life, we would try that for a year or so and then consider selling our house and buying a large houseboat to live on. We can put it in on the Tennessee river and go for extended trips.

My wife was ready to get going and did not want to wait for me to build one, so we started looking at used trailerable houseboats. Wanted to stay in the $20,000 to $30,000 range so as to get on the downward depreciation curve and be able to use it for a year or two and get most of our money back so we could buy a larger one or not. We looked at several smaller used houseboats (30 to 42 feet), but they all required so much work that after a while (wasted building time), I have gotten back to the houseboat building plan.

2. Houseboat will be 12' wide by 30' or so feet long and I have started the pontoons. Will have 3 aluminum pontoons about 32" wide. I say about because they are not a rectangle nor round, but have some bends for strength. Will be partitioned at 48" and pressure check each compartment. I can get a permit for 12' wide for $100 a year and I have a trailer already that I can transport it on. Weight capacity at 8" is about 7500 pounds. Pontoons will be sealed at 18" and have about 14" about that open on the top for water, gas and sewer tanks that will be accessible from the sides.

Am interested in solar power, and will use a lot of rv stuff (propane/elec refrig, 12 volt furnace, etc) as I am familiar with that.

Power will be outboard in the 100 horsepower range. Would like enough power to stay out of trouble and small enough to get some fuel mileage.

Will consider all suggestions. Will use suggestions that I think will work for me. Any help appreciated. Will start taking pictures soon.


Reply - Answer
Excellent post Larry, since many of our readers are also considering building trailerable houseboats. Like you mention, sometimes it's worth just building a houseboat if you have the necessary tools and experience.

Hopefully some of our readers will post comments and pictures to help your project along, and we are all hoping that you will upload some of your own pictures, since a pictures is worth a thousand words.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your project with us...

IAN - from

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Buy a used pontoon, and build it up.
by: Dennis

I've been thinking of building a houseboat also for a long time. I work as a carpenter and have collected about 2000 sq ft of 2 x 6 western cedar boards and quite a few are 18 ft.

Anyway, I looked at boats every kind and decided it would be smart, for me, to buy a Pontoon setup already operational with trailer so all I have to deal with is the shelter/deck area.

I bought a 12x17 fiberglass Pontoon boat from 1970 that has a dry weight of 1200 lbs, for $1200. I'll be doing everything down to the frame and rebuilding it with the cedar.

It's fun to think of the possibilities. I plan to use it for camping on the St Croix here in MN.

Houseboat Propulsion - single vs twin dual engines
by: Carl

I was out with my last boat and lost engine power, and since we only had one outboard we were terribly inconvenienced to say the least. Several hours later we got a tow to the nearest marina.

At this point we learned what the term (ripped off) meant. I strongly recommend dual or twin outboards for your safety and the long term protection of your finances. Carl

12 Volt houseboat appliances
by: David

Larry, great posting, and I appreciate your situation. Solar, 12V, sounds ideal. There is lots of 12V items available. I worked in the Solar Industry for a few years as a Mfg. Engineer. Although we built systems for commercial applications, 12V is after all, 12V.

The crux of the matter, as it were, is to know how much power you will need to develop, how much your items will use, and then calculate how much energy you will need to generate.

Don't forget the batteries. Running a 12V system from a battery is ideal. Then you will charge the batteries, drawing power from the battery. Series and parallel hookup is important and possible. The voltage can be varied if need be.

All the best to you and your wife, David W. Wilson

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