Course How To

Building a Large Pontoon Houseboat

by Bill Van Lenten
(Brooksville, Florida. USA)

Building a large houseboat, some perspective about size.

Building a large houseboat, some perspective about size.

I have decided to build a house boat, a large wide pontoon houseboat. And here is how I designed, calculated, and planned it all out.

To start with, I am now going to be building my own 80 foot by 18 pontoon houseboat. The cheapest, most inexpensive set of pontoons in aluminum or magnesium were priced at $53,000.00 delivered.

That was about the total price (minus engines) that I wanted to lay out for the entire house boat. So I decided to build my own pontoons. I sat down one weekend, and designed everything from top to bottom. Made calculations, drawings, and measurments.

The pontoons will be cylindrical, as the aluminum ones, and hollow, for compartments for holding tanks, fuel tanks, water tanks, batteries, and generator.

Each of the pontoons will be made of six foot sections, bolted, and glassed entirely watertight. They are 44 inches in diameter, that makes two bulkheads per sheet of 3/4 inch resin based plywood.

Each of the six foot sections are divided into two foot section, with the center two hollowed for air and storage tanks. The two end bulkheads are solid and will bolt to the next one. All seams are glass taped, then all sections glassed.

This will make two pontoons 80 foot long, completely water tight and bouyant. 2x10x18 foot floor joists will span the two pontoons, bolted to a four inch attached riser to each two foot spaced bulkheads in the pontoons. 3/4 inch plywood will be screwed (stainless) to the joists for the floor.

The front
deck is 10', the rear deck 8'. That makes the 3 stateroom 2 bath and main salon,galley, and dinning in sixty two feet of space.

The upper deck on the roof will house a bar/eatery, and grill with a party top above. As soon as I start putting this huge dream together,

I will post as many pictures as this site will allow. I will offer as much of my experience as possible. Oh yea, it will be twin outboards of 135 hp. Honda?


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Reply - Answer
Well Bill, congratulations are in order for deciding on building such a large houseboat. I'm sure many of our readers are eagerly looking forward to some pictures.

If any of our readers are contemplating building your own houseboat, have a look at the houseboat building section for ideas, tips and plans.

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

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

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Comments for Building a Large Pontoon Houseboat

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Electrical Wiring
by: Kristine

We are building a houseboat on pontoons. It has been trial and error so far. We are ready to start the electrical work on the boat. Some people say we can wire the boat like our residence and others say that everything needs to be wired with marine grade wiring. Any suggestions?

Dreaming of building a boat
by: Scott

I'm "dreaming" of building a houseboat out of a shipping container (conex). What type of pontoons will I need? The container weighs 8,000 lbs then with all that's needed inside, controls, beds, kitchen stuff, etc... etc...

New Boat
by: Bill V

Would like to post pics of my new boat. How do you do it??

Any help for building a houseboat...
by: Anthony

Hello everyone, I'm new to houseboats and I'm looking forward to building my own boat. Any help would be fine, as I'm gathering all the info to build it right. It may take me a fews years.


Large 80 foot houseboat.
by: Bill V

Sorry I haven't posted in a long time. It seems when you get older things just fall into an after or later program. Well I did recover from my heart problem, and finished the pontoons. 44inch dia. by 80 foot.. put them on a bank on the Suwannee River, and put epoxy paint on them.

I then bolted all the joists to them and laid up the flooring. We then set the whole assembly into the water, and checked the depth. 4 3/4 inch draft. We then put the cabin on, the roof and the sides.

The sides were all made from material used to build semi-trailers. FRP... All windows were put in place. Then unexpected, my wife came down with cancer.

A fellow that was really interested in my building of the boat, offered me $60,000.00 for her. After another year, we were invited to take a cruise on the boat for the week end. Such a beautiful boat it turned out to be.

She now draws 9 inches of water and handles great. I have since came into more money, but now to old to build another. I wanted something different, because I had already designed the houseboat.

I am now having a houseboat builder, build an 1898 style paddle wheel river boat. 120 foot long by 24 foot wide. 2 decks with a wheelhouse on the top. Twin stacks for looks, and will be used for dinner cruises on the Suwannee River.

Bill V.

Large Houseboat under Construction
by: Russell

I am also building a large plywood houseboat, designed for coastal cruising.

Hope you get building yours soon.

House almost done.
by: Larry

Been a while since I posted, so it is time for an update. Been working on house and other things. It has taken a lot longer than I thought, but we are sticking with our plan.

It takes a couple of days each week to do maintance work like mowing, checking on our 2 businesses, seeing after animals, helping our 86 year old neighbor (that gets around better than I do) with his farm work and cows (he runs 50 to 75, etc. Oh yea, fishing for a few hours each week, also.

Have been in the house for several months, but have finish work to do: (finishing doors and drawer fronts for the cabinets, fire suppression sprinkler system (our house is all wood). Designed and built my own cabinets and built-ins. Eastern cedar, started with cutting the trees, milling (on homemade saw mill), drying, planing, to a finished board, then to cabinets.

Idea for house started as 1500 sq ft and grew to 2400 sq ft, then the wife said "I'd like a wrap-around porch". Being as we had log cabins siding, the porch had to look authentic, so we cut pine trees for the rafters and posts with tongue and groove v-joint decking.

Still want to get back on the houseboat, but may try to buy a small trailerable one so we can get on the water quickly when we get the house finished. There seems to be price floor if they are maintained so we could sell it when the one I's building is finished. A lot of work for a 65 year-old, but I like to make things, so, I could go on but I won't bore you anymore.


Building and construction photos
by: Bill V

I am sorry guys, for not posting in a while. I did make a jig to build each pontoon section, had drawings and pictures. The weather decided it wanted my boat sooner, and flooded me out.

I lost the pics, camera, drawings etc... Then to top it off I had a heart attack. Now after a little more recovery time, it will be back to building. This is an 80 foot, 18 foot beam (wide), drawing about 10" of water.

Remember this is an easy build boat, with party deck and fly bridge. Bill

What boat is that?
by: Mike

Wondering what the boat is in the picture? Where can I get more information on it or more pictures?

An update on my houseboat building plans.
by: Larry

Sorry, but I have not been working on the houseboat. We bought some land, a few goats, some chickens, and sold our house on 1/2 acre and are building a house in the woods with 10 acres including 2 1/2 acres pasture for fainting goats.

Like everything else I do, my wife says I always do everything the hard way (and she usually says pretty good). So, I am building the house myself with a small crew of 2 or 3 men.

By doing this and doing everything that I can myself, we want to build the house with money we have from the sale of our house and we're on track to do so. I will post some pics a little later on

I want to get back on the houseboat when the house is finished. It will probably be in the fall by the time all the yard work is finished although we hope to be in before then.

We have been in our RV since Dec 2009. My wife has been very patient, but a house without a mortgage is a very valuable thing at our age. Sorry for the long version. Larry

Houseboat Dreams - you are my Hero
by: Joe

An almost contsant dream of mine as well Larry. Have you made any progress in building your dream?

Wind Power for Houseboats - plenty of wind on the water
by: tom shipman

I am big into windmills for power, especially out in the desert. But, what I have heard is that they work better on open water with all the wind available and if you are powered you will charge batteries with wind power.

I have 3x 400 watt units and 12x 12volt batteries and I always have power for anything. In fact I need to constantly dump power into my electric hot water heater.

Check with mike at mikeswindmillshop in I think in Showlow, Arizona, they also have marine units. Very inexpensive, he builds it all right there.

Houseboat Building Plans - 80 ft Bill V
by: Jimmy P

Bill, you are building what I am planing on building. I am building a houseboat that is 64 feet long with a 18 foot beam, and 2 levels.

Jimmy P.

Houseboat Construction photos
by: Dan Pedersen

Please remember to take a lot of construction photos as we are many who expect to be future builders

Dan Pedersen

Also building a pontoon houseboat
by: larry

I too am building a pontoon houseboat, but mine are aluminum, but will be more rectangular. I am building a 12'x34' with 3 pontoons. At 7500 lbs, the pontoons will draft 8 or 9 inches, which I hope will lead to good fuel mileage as we plan on doing more than just staying in one place.

My pontoons are only 18" high, but I am framing up another 14" with removable panels for tanks (water, sewer, gas, etc.). The floor framing (2x6 alum channel) will be on top of that. The front and rear upper sections will be sealed in case of waves and the other sections will be covered, but not necessarily water tight. The top will be open to the atmosphere to eliminate some of the problems with fumes and the propane section will be allowed to drain.

There is a web site that shows some details on building custom houseboats. I have been able to see a lot of construction details from their photos. The web site is

One of the details that I saw that I liked is to use what looked like metal studs instead of wood. Aluminum tubes were used at certain locations to carry the weight of the second floor, but the metal stud were light and allowed for wiring, plumbing, and insulation in the walls.

Did I mention that I want to trailer my houseboat, but only to the river and back? We live close to the Tennessee river and my wife and I plan on taking trips, not just using it for a weekend cabin. When we get back, we can load it up instead of having to pay for dock rent.

I will be making more posts as I am able to move along with construction. I am in the process of finishing up the second pontoon and have one more to go. I have had some knee problems and have not been able to work as hard as I want, but hope to finish the pontoons in a couple of weeks. Larry.

Reply from IAN
Thanks Larry for an excellent post, and do take some pictures, we all love photo's. IAN.

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