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Building a pontoon houseboat with recycled products.

by Davo
(Sydney, Australia)

Using recycled products to build a pontoon houseboat.

Using recycled products to build a pontoon houseboat.

I am thinking of building a pontoon houseboat with recycled products. I want to build a cheap and simple houseboat and I want to use recycled products. I am a metal worker of 22 years so the obvious although an old method is to build it in steel.

My idea is to get discarded 270 liter hot water tanks, cut an access panel in them, clean out and rust proof each tank and reseal it. Then I would weld each end together until I reach the desired length.

Then I would weld a 2x2 x 1/4 angle along the length of pontoon at a 2.5 mm dress skin along the length also meeting the platform as this will hide any brackets holding the platform and provide a cleaner appearance as well as to provide additional strength along the pontoon.

My aim is to weld 2 tanks as a test for weight handling, and if all works out, the cabin I will make out of play and oregon pine laminated in woven glass, then coated in 2 pack paint. The pontoons will be rust protected and painted in an epoxy paint.

Thanks, Davo (Sydney, Australia)

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Reply - Answer
Well Davo, thanks for posting your plans and ideas of building a pontoon houseboat with recycled products. It will definitely reduced the clutter in the landfills.

I have heard of others using 55 gallon steel drums as an alternative to hot water tanks for the pontoons. You can usually find plenty of them around.

Either way, be sure to take some pictures of the progress and do come back and keep us posted with the project.

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their houseboat building experiences using recycled products. 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 Building a pontoon houseboat with recycled products.

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Try the plastic Pontoonz from NZ
by: David curle has an Australian site also. The cost is high but the result is safe, wont rust and wont sink. I think it is worth it. Three pontoons may be required. They are heavily UV treated.

Building pontoon boats with plastic drums
by: Anonymous

There is a tool called a Nutsert. This is an ideal tool to build a plastic barrel pontoon boat. You can build a metal frame work to house the pontoons.

Then you drill holes in the pontoons and use the Nutsert tool to install threaded rivets, they can then be bolted to the frame work.

I don't recommend used water heaters as they are too heavy and I don't recommend using steel 55 gal drums because they dent to easily.

The plastic drums are virtually indestructible and soften the blows should you run into something or run aground.

I hope this helps.

Cutting Pattern for Drum
by: Outinthewoodsnf

I'm considering building a pontoon boat using 55 gallon steel drums and I would like to cut and weld the front one into a "Bow" shape.

Where could I find a pattern that I could mark on the barrel to cut it and have it match up when welded like the bow of a boat? Thanks.

Houseboats - plastic drums, and non motorized
by: larry

I built a houseboat that was non-motorized, and it was built using 55gal plastic drums. The deck was 20x24 and I built a 12x16 cabin/building in the middle, and covered the whole top with tin.

I used 30 drums and framed it with wood. I used it and sure enjoyed it until hurricane Rita came in, and I guess she liked it more than me, because she destroyed it. It also had a 4 foot porch all the way around it. Thanks, Larry.

Houseboat Photos - any pictures of these pontoon house boats?
by: Steven Kenneth Brooks

I plan to build the same thing in Qld and at the moment living in Carnarvon WA. Have you got anything that I would be interested in. Thanks Steven

Pontoon houseboat buoyancy and submersion
by: Dan

If you convert to liters and kilograms it's easy. One liter of water weighs one kilogram. And hence one liter of air, displaces one liter of water, and can carry one kilogram of weight.

You don't want to submerse your barrels more than half way in the water. Then if you overload, you will be in danger of capsizing your boat. I would prefer 1/3 submersion of the pontoons to be on the safe side.

More on Mark Twain
by: Capt. John

Davo, very good decision on your part to do it right the first time... I am just a few years ahead of you in your plans to retire and live on your boat, as I am already there...

While I live on my boat full time, I am also cruising "America's Great Loop" full time. A portion of this "loop" takes me into the Gulf of Mexico where I cross about 100 miles of open sea.

My Mark Twain hulls are 4 feet in height, and additionally have another 2 and 1/2 feet of solid railing (which adds additional freeboard) and this railing (or freeboard) is flared up at the front 8 feet length of my bows to a point that it gives my bows a total freeboard of almost 7 feet and tampers down to 5 and 1/2 on the sides and 5 feet at the very stern.

I have had no problem in making this crossing and have done it twice now.
Good luck and Happy - Safe boating.

Mark Twain pontoon plans
by: Capt. John

Dave, I have used the Glen-L "Mark Twain" pontoon plans to build 3 boats. On the first one, I followed the plans exactly. On the 2nd, I added 6 inches to the height (how stupid of me) as I don't know what in the world I was thinking, as I should have simply built my hulls to 4 feet (the width of the plywood panel (no wasted material).

At any rate, my latest vessel has 4 feet pontoon height - and you can see what I have done at

Scrapped the pontoon houseboat idea
by: davo

I decided that if I am going to build something I may live on one day then I am to do it right the first time, so I decided to look into the Mark Twain pontoons.

I am looking to find the link I had come across of the Mark Twain with a higher freeboard then the pontoons and also create additional bunks towards the forward bulkheads.

So I guess it would be a cross between the mark twain / bearcat plans, 2 reasons being I live in Sydney and the bays get a chop happening, just building a pontoon would restrict me from entering other waterways along the local coast here.

The other reason is if it has a higher freeboard, the cabin can be made to my design layout making it more sleek.

Basically I need to be able to take it into open water and take it into the different bays we have along the coast without the expense of hauling fees. Davo in Syndey.

Convert a boathouse to a houseboat?
by: River_Brat

Hi, Well this will take a little time, but I hope someone can give me some ideas. My family had a boathouse and the DNR wants us to get rid of it. I want to make it a houseboat. Where to start?

We have plastic barrels under it now, but would like to have a better design for navigating the water besides the square front. We also need a drive system of some sort. It all needs to be done cheap. Can anyone help with ideas?

Thank You, River_Brat.

Weight capacity of houseboat pontoons.
by: Larry

If I have calculated my pontoons correctly, here is the formula I used to calculate.

Figure the volume of your cylinder in cubic feet and multiply by 62.4. That would be capacity less the weight of your cylinder. You would then divide by 2 if you want you pontoon to be submerged 1/2 way.


PVC barrels doesn't rust
by: unclejoe

Instead of using hot water tanks, use secondhand PVC barrels. They don't rust, can be attached with PVC strapping, and are readily available in many areas.

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