Many Questions on Houseboats - Should I Build, or Buy a House Boat?

by Joe & Betty Austin
(Mt. Home, AR, USA)

How to Decide whether to Build, or Buy a Houseboat.

How to Decide whether to Build, or Buy a Houseboat.

I have many questions about houseboats, and wonder if I should build one, or maybe buy a used house boat instead. I ran across a good deal on an old abandoned 32'x 14' pontoon, and got all excited and thought why not build a houseboat?

However I am always having problems to find and figuring everything from the holding tanks, to how do you ground the electrical system (like in a house, we use a grounding rod driven into the ground). We think we are going to try and build a 14"X 24" "cabin" to stay in......hopefully.

I guess my main concern is with weight. Do not want to build a submarine, but a houseboat. We are open to any advice or suggestions. Also, we have to do all construction on land so it can be inspected and approved before we can float it.

Please feel free to reply. We are taking our time so this probably won't be completed for a couple of years.

Thank You, God Bless All, Joe & Betty Austin

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Reply - Answer
Well Joe and Betty, congratulations on your decision to go with a pontoon houseboat.

In regards to your question, here is a link to help you with the weight and displacement capacities of houseboat pontoons.

Now my reply below will be more based towards whether people should be building houseboats, or buying a houseboat?

Here are some things to consider about building or buying:

1) Decide whether to spend your time Building, or Boating?
It will require some time to look at your priorities and needs, and since our spare time is precious, how do you see yourself spending your spare time? Do you want to spend it with tools, or having supper out at anchor?

2) Decide if you like Building more, than boating.
This will all depend on your electrical & mechanical knowledge, skill level, available time, helpful friends, building facilities, tools, and equipment or resources available. Here is a good book about a families dream of building a houseboat.

3) Decide if you like Boating more, than building.
Than possibly it would be cheaper and easier to simply purchase a good used houseboat. It's easier to refurbish or remodel a used boat, than build one. Here is a good place to start your search for a houseboat.

* Should I buy a New or Used Houseboat?

* Looking to go for a New Houseboat?

* Used Houseboats - Where to Start.

As you can see, there is endless possibilities, just a matter of deciding which is best for you.

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their houseboat building or buying decisions and experiences. Feel free to use the "Click here to post comments." link found near the bottom of this page.

Thanks again for sharing, IAN from all-about-houseboats

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Comments for Many Questions on Houseboats - Should I Build, or Buy a House Boat?

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My dream is to build, any interest in shared-ownership?
by: Jim V, Tampa Bay

My plan is to incorporate and share my modern designs, ideas, materials & technology to build a new 45'x14' houseboat to cruise the Tampa Bay and/or Port Charlotte, Florida areas.

Rather than rebuild or try to modernize an old outdated vessel. I would prefer to contract a naval architect & builder thinking that the time and money would be well worth the effort in the long-term.

Any ideas, input or interest in a shared-ownership would be appreciated.


Buy or build: easy decision
by: Amelia

4. Is your primary reason for thinking of building your own to save money? Building may not be your smartest choice, then. Everything you buy, raw materials, powerplants, electronics, deck gear, plumbing, electrical stuff, etc, etc, will be very likely purchased at retail prices, and every minute you put in on this project might be more profitably spent in some other endeavor.

If, like us, you find you like the prospect of the long pre-launch haul and the technical challenge, the uncertainty that what you'll end up with is what you want, and the congenial ribbing of your neighbors, and everything already built strikes you as a somewhat-tacky and shoddily-constructed compromise, then DIY might be right up your alley.

Understand that there's no greater joy for the true DIY afficionado than gazing upon one's own creation, and no greater pride than that which comes from mastering a whole new set of skills. You DO have to be brutally honest with yourself about just how much time- ages, skill--a lot, and money --far more than you figured--you can afford to spend, and adjust your plans accordingly.

Best of luck to you!

Reply - Answer
Well Amelia, I wanted to personally thank you for such a down to earth, and realistic comparison of "buying or building a houseboat".

I am glad to hear that the project is advancing nicely, albeit slowly. Hanging the motors is a great day :)

IAN from

Buy or build... easy choice
by: Amelia

I'm not a homemade houseboat builder, -- but I live with one whose wonderful oddball project is almost ready to hang motors on-(woooohoo!)-despite an entirely unfinished interior so here's some secondhand expertise, gleaned the fun way.

If you're considering building your houseboat, rather than buying one, here's what you need to ask yourself:

1. How are your construction skills? Are you the meticulous sort who likes the challenge of doing it right, or are you in a hurry to git 'er done so you can go play? If the "joy is in the journey", if building your very own is something that would make you happy for the long time it'll take to do the job right, if you have a working knowledge of marine systems or are willing to spend the time and pick the brains of experts to learn what you need to know to be safe, read on.

2. What's out there? If you can find something already built that suits you and your boating ambitious, well, there you go. You'll already KNOW it's going to float, that its systems comply with safety regs, and roughly how much it's going to cost, both to start with, and to maintain. Spend some time looking for the perfect gently used, well maintained one.

There may be no need to reinvent the wheel if you don't have a good reason for spending the months or years to put your own together. In this economy, there are quite a few bargains (if anything boat-related could truly be called a bargain) and you may well be on the water in a matter of days or weeks.

3. Ask yourself what you really want to build and WHY, and then look around to see what might save you time. Buy plans or design your own? Buy a hull and build a house on top, or start from scratch?

Hire help? Hire experts to lead you through some part of the process that might be beyond your current skill level, or go with trial and error, and be willing to pull out what didn't turn out quite right, do some more research, and try again?

(to be continued)

I decided to Build, instead of Buying a Houseboat
by: Larry Speakman

I presently have a pontoon houseboat under construction. I spent 6 months and several hundred dollars looking at older used houseboats.

What I found was that I could not find any that I would not have to do some pretty major repairs or updates. They would need a generator, and or a rebuild of the sewer septic system, and or major remodeling.

I have arrived at a plan to solve the problem about mounting tanks. See my post at

I have thought through most of the process, so if I can be of any help, let me know. Larry Speakman

Best Bet
by: Bill V. Fla.

In this day and age, there are many travel trailers that can be had CHEAP. If you get a 27-28 footer would be a nice size, and if bolted down right, the coast gaurd will accept it.

That way you have your holding tanks, water tanks, and storage areas already in place. There are a few here in Florida built that way, and with a little overhang roof work, and a fly bridge, it almost looks factory built.

Look into it, It's an inexpensive way to have a good looking houseboat to even live aboard. Bill

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