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Buying a Steel Houseboat - Inner Hull Repairs and Painting

by Jim Coulter
(Bowling Green, KY)

A Sumerset Houseboat - steel hull repairs and painting?

A Sumerset Houseboat - steel hull repairs and painting?

I'm interested in buying a steel houseboat, and curious on inner hull repairs, and painting the interior rusted surfaces?

Looking to buy a 1976, 14x56, steel hull Sumerset houseboat which was replated in 2005. The house boat has been used very little in past two years, and will need minor repair work and painting which I will be doing.

I plan on hauling the boat out and having the hull sanded and using coal tar epoxy. The question is, IF the inner hull has rust, what kind of monster job would this be to clean and paint? What would the best paint for the job?

Thanks for any help, newbie Jim.

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Reply - Answer
Well Jim, welcome to the houseboat forums, and congratulations on your decision to buy a houseboat.

Before I get into the best way to look after the interior inner rust surfaces, I want to discuss a few details before buying an older steel hulled boat.

* You want to be sure to have a marine surveyor done, by a qualified surveyor, beforehand.

* You want to verify that the marina you're going to, will accept a steel hulled houseboat?

* Look into getting houseboat insurance policy for a steel boat before buying one.

* Unfortunately, you maybe the last owner, and therefore be stuck with disposal costs.

* The majority of rust issues on houseboats happen from the inside, going outwards.

* If you have the time, energy, money, and skills, it may be a worthwhile opportunity.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not advocating not to buy an older steel hulled houseboat, but I think it's my obligation to let potential buyers know what is involved. Especially considering the abundance of fiberglass and aluminum houseboats available on the used market.

If you're interested in reading more about steel houseboats, here are some reader articles:

Older houseboats with steel hulls, repair and replacement costs

Newbie houseboat warning - Money Saving Tips on Buying House Boats

Now back to what is the best method for restoring, repairing or painting the interior.

* The repair repainting area has to clean and dry before attempting any work.

* Use a stiff brush to remove rust, or sandblast the area to clean and prepare.

* You will be applying a base primer, than either a 1 or 2 part topcoat epoxy.

* I don't have any recommendations for the best paints, but others will comment soon.

* To get a better understanding on steel hull primers and paints, here is a link to help.

I am sure that some of our steel houseboater readers will be glad to help you with tips and suggestions on how they look after their boat hulls?

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their steel hull houseboat painting 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 Buying a Steel Houseboat - Inner Hull Repairs and Painting

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Paint primer new metal old metal
by: joe

Hello to all. . Wanting to understand we’re the info of no one or no company that is leaving exposed carbon steel on the inside of the unit etc house boat etc iive seen several comments up in the air do not prime or paint ??? As I’m redoing a 47 drifter all new steel media blasting proper painting materials and I haven’t second guessed at all painting the inside lower hule as I’m going to do in several if not more coats than that regardless of the amounts of coats if the first stages are not applied properly. Even a 100 coats is useless properly managed carbon steel can last many years it’s down fall is neglect that falls under any category. I have seen carbon steel in the harshest environment from pulp n paper mills . Chemicals other industrial applications but with the proper coating I have seen projects I installed in those mills 20/25 later most of there applications were sherwiin /Williams products two parts

Installing AIS
by: Anonymous

I'm interested in buying a houseboat to travel the rivers and intracoastal canal. Should I invest in an AIS and what is the annual cost for this.

Leaking Rusty Steel Houseboats - a huge problem!
by: Stan

I just bought a 78 (something) rusty steel hulled houseboat. We have already had two major leaks and the rust is ruining my life at this point. Afraid to pull it out (cost is only one excuse) as I am afraid the damn thing will fall apart at the dock.

I just need the thing to last for a few more years, any suggestions to seal it while it is still in the water? Looking at riveting sheet metal to the hull while still in water.

Houseboat Maintenance - steel hull and paint
by: Flyeastky

I just bought a 1985 Jamestowner with a steel hull. It has been very well maintained but the bottom was last painted about 9 years ago and that was the last time it was out of the water for anything.

The boat hasn't been out of the slip very much at all and the inside of the hull is very dry and very clean. However I know I should consider pulling it out of the water in the next year or so for fresh bottom paint and a good inspection.

How much (roughly) am I looking at to have it stripped and painted (exterior hull only) once it's out of the water? Also, does anyone recommend a good place to have this done in east Ky? Thanks, Kev

Steel Hull Houseboats
by: Kevin

I tend to lean toward a steel hull houseboat, first of all, I can afford one, and second of all, any boat that you get is expensive to maintain.

Fiberglass houseboats have far more worse promblems that steel hulls, of course alumiumn is the best but there are so expensive to buy, it is like buying a second home and then some!

Steel hulls do rust, mositure builds up from the tempeture differance between the water and the inside of the boat, a well maintained steel hull houseboat will last for many years of enjoyment.

When I got mine, I crawled inside the hull and cleaned mine out with a dust pan and scooped all the loose rusting looking particles that was laying there, and found it to be really a smooth surface underneath! Guess I got lucky there.

I am now just finishing up a complete remodel of the old hunk of steel at the cost of around $25000.00 I have put new everything in it, it looks like it just came out of the showroom pretty much!

But I spent on it as I could afford it, and it is paid for, and I am really happy! Good luck on finding one!

Reply - Answer
Kevin, you make some very good points, and I am glad to hear that your complete remodel went so well. Do enjoy your boat.

IAN from

Inner hull repairs
by: jim

Thanks for your comments. Your experiences are helpful in my quest. After looking at a few more steel hulls, there's no practical way to treat inner hull short of major overhaul.

Thanks again, Jim

1972 Stardust houseboat
by: Anonymous

We just bought a 1972, 45 ft Stardust houseboat. It also has rust on the inside of the hull. Seems like an impossible task. You can't even get to most of the inner hull, without tearing the entire floor out.

Painting steel hull houseboats
by: Stardust 1

Don't paint the inside hull of a steel boat! A steel boat rusts from the inside out. We know a guy that tried the Rino(?) liner for the inside of his steel boat and it looked great, but it hid natural moisture that is going to happen in a boat between the layers and caused a big hole!

We have a 1972 Stardust and like Sumerset they are the best houseboats around. Ours has been replated over 10 years ago and still not a single leak, always dry as a bone.

We are about to have it taken out and new bottom job done again for another 10+ years. We love it! In fact we're doing a major remodeling job on it now.

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