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Fix Leaks and Leaking Houseboat Roofs - Do you rebuild, repair, or replace?

by John
(Atlanta, GA)

Do you repair or replace a leaking houseboat roof.

Do you repair or replace a leaking houseboat roof.

Find and fix houseboat roof leaks, and do I rebuild, repair, or replace the complete surface?

I just bought a 1972 Stardust houseboat that has a roof leak, and upon inspection I found several soft spots. How do I repair or replace this roof, and where to find information for some guidance.

Thanks, John.

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Reply - Answer
Well John, congratulations on your Stardust houseboat purchase, and sorry to hear about your leaking houseboat roof. You can maybe get some comfort from knowing that you are not alone when it comes to roofs that leak.

Any structure that is exposed to the harsh exterior environment will degrade and be compromised with time. I have seen some houseboats that have leaking roofs anywhere from 10 to 20 years.

The trick with roofs on houseboats are to keep an eye on them on a yearly basis. This does require some discipline and a small amount of effort, yet will greatly prolong the life of the surface.

Since houseboat roof surface tend to flex and twist, the stanchions and anything that is attached on them will be the likely culprits where water begins to infiltrate. A bit of water penetrating in different areas, can then grow to more serious roof leaks or damage.

You want to have a good yearly look at all the things that protrude or that are attached on the roof, to be sure that the screws, seams, and surfaces are properly sealed with a marine sealant.

I don't remember what kind of construction material is used on the Stardust roof surface, so I will presume that it is fiberglass. You will have to remove any and all the soft areas to have a good look below, and also from the inside to verify that there is no mold, mildew, or serious structural damage.

Once you can verify the roof condition and structural strength, you can start to rebuild the surface with marine grade plywood, and cover it all with fiberglass epoxy and

If you're not overly handy with tools and fiberglass, you may find that other boaters in your marina maybe be able to guide you through the process. It is not overly complicated, yet the work is usually divided into four steps.

1) Removal and Inspection of any roof leaks and damage,

2) Rebuilding and Replicating the existing roof design.

3) Fiberglassing and Sealing of the new roof surface.

4) Painting and Finishing of the new roof surface.

That is one method to repair houseboat roofs. I have had another opportunity to help a neighbor repair his houseboat roof that had simply reached about 20 years of age, and the structure was not severely damaged.

We ended up using a RV Roof Sealing compound that came in 5 gal pails and it was painted (rolled on) and after several coats reached a nominal 1/8" thickness. It came in several colors, and was available at your local RV Trailer stores.

Either way, don't worry, a leaky roof is not the end of the world, yet looks like a major problem, however can be easily repaired. It just requires an appropriate game plan to decide upon first.

As a last ditch effort, try and find a local roofer that can come by to give you a free estimate. You would be surprised at the different solutions that they can offer you. And they can sometimes do the repairs quickly and reasonably.

In closing, if you can try and take some pictures and let us know how you went about it all, as I am sure many other houseboaters would love to see and read about the "before and after" tips you can offer.

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their leaking houseboat roof repairs 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 Fix Leaks and Leaking Houseboat Roofs - Do you rebuild, repair, or replace?

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The longest leakproof roof coating
by: Anonymous

Many years ago I worked around boats and I learned how to fiberglass. I took my knowledge and applied it to fiberglassing sundecks in the Vancouver area.

This one house had a flat tar and gravel roof that had a carport underneath. The house owner wanted me to fiberglass it so he could cut and install a sliding door and turn it into a use able sundeck.

The fiberglass company told me all the plywood had to be replaced after removing the tar and gravel. Now tongue and groove plywood was nailed down, using galvanized twist nails.

Then you rolled on polyester resin to seal the plywood and then you used fiberglass bondo on all the joints and hammer marks and nail heads.

Then I used 1 ounce Matt rolled on the resin, I colored this with unwaxed color coat to show any bubbles, I ground them out and patched them.

After that I waxed the color coat and put crushed walnut shells in for non skid, anyone can do this.

Redoing the roof.
by: Anonymous

We are thinking about buying a 1981 Somerset houseboat and it needs a new roof. What do you think about polyglaze topcoat 400 2 part kit?

by: MIKE

First I have never done this kind of work befor. the prep is completed all new plywood sheeting. One piece 60 mill rubber sheet to be glued down with water based adhesive. I have a 45* angle up to the upper level.

The rubber sheet when folded over the edge and down the side wont lay flat. When I cut the rubber so it lays flat it leaves a upside down v exposed. What is the best way to waterproof that area.

Put a piece under the sheet then put the sheet over that piece? Unsure I have seam tape and one sided flashing tape and caulking. Can I heat it and try to stretch the rubber?

Could use some help with this as I am doing the rubber next week end.

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