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Houseboat or Floating Home - Where do we Draw the Line?

by Mr BUrns

Vancouver Harbour, BC - Floating homes, or houseboats?

Vancouver Harbour, BC - Floating homes, or houseboats?

Where do we draw the line when it comes to houseboats or floating homes?

I noticed the discussion on cabins on floatation devices, and still the term houseboat being used.... Would these in the pictures be termed houseboats, or floating homes..

Mr. BUrns

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Reply - Answer
Well Mr BUrns, I want to thank you for sending in the great photo of a beautiful floating home. Quite the architectural design with plenty of angled windows for great interior daylight.

I do agree with you, where do we draw the line, and I would say that if it is not self propelled, and needs to be towed by another vessel, than I would call it a floating home, and not a houseboat.

I do have to say that those terms get widely used throughout the internet, and would be curious to see what the technical definition is in the Coast Guard or Marine Code.

I am sure that this post will get some comments, and whichever term people are using to describe them, they are both great ways to spend a lifetime, IMHO :)

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their floating home or houseboat 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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Grand Designs on water - looking for projects to cover for series 2 of My Floating Home
by: Windfall Films

We are on the lookout for projects to cover for the second series of ‘My Floating Home’, which will be broadcast on More4 in the UK and FYI in the USA.

In each episode we will follow the action as a client - with the help and expertise of architects and builders - designs, builds, and eventually moves into their new home on water.

We will film the key stages of construction as well as short interviews with those involved in the build, as the project develops.

Windfall Films, an award-winning TV production company based in London, would love to hear from you if you are currently (or about to start) building a home that floats on water! Contact Harri Davies

More comments on foundations and architecture
by: Richard

As I previously mentioned, I have many photos documenting the building of our latest project which we started in 2007.

I can either download them to this site, if there is a way or, perhaps, I can email them to you.

I also have a collection of projects by others including some pictures of a complex log foundation on a place in BC. It is amazing!

There is a construction company in Portland, Even Construction, (you can do a web search since this site does not allow HTML), that has a web site with many "high end" projects documented in an extensive photo gallery (there are a couple land based homes but the majority are floating structures).

I just noticed, they started to use concrete flotation which is well documented. They are collaborating with the guy from International Marine Floating Structures who I mentioned earlier...

I also have some very nice photos from Even's earlier gallery showing the beginning construction of a log flotation system.

Houseboat and floating home foundations
by: Richard

There are many options, logs, foam, HDPE pipe, aluminum pontoons, concrete etc... I have three floating cabins, all of which are built using logs as flotation.

The last one I built has salvaged logs, some of which had previously been used for the same purpose. The logs are flattened where stringers are to be placed.

Sometimes there is cribbing set on these flats before the stringers or the stringers are placed directly on the logs. Of course we only use pressure treated lumber suitable for this purpose.

I am not necessarily recommending this but will describe how we chose to approach the issue. In our last project, due to the difference in the log diameters and conditions we chose to drive anchors at an angle into the logs, build forms and pour reinforced concrete footings/foundation piers with standard j-bolts protruding from the concrete to anchor the stringers to the footing.

I think the footings were approximately 16"x8" and varied in depth to bring all to level. I believe these were poured in 13 rows approximately 4' on center so maybe there are 70 plus concrete blocks.

The stringers are 30' PT 6x6. After the stringers were anchored to the foundation via the j-bolts we simply constructed a system of floor joist with more PT lumber.

We decked over the joist with 1 1/2' PT center match plywood. The cabin is 16'x36' with an overall footprint, including deck, of 1500sq ft. or 30'x50' I have photos documenting this project but am not sure how to download them to this site.

I have an older cabin built on logs in the 1960's. This cabin is built on 4 huge stringers approximately 8"x16"x50'. These stringers weigh a lot and the logs are old thus there is some problem with sinking.

We use 55gal plastic barrels placed under the logs as additional flotation. This is common practice but in our case we lined the barrels with plastic bladders and have permanently mounted tubes to the barrels to maintain air in the barrels without the need of a diver.

Sometimes foam blocks are placed under log flotation. The barrels are easier to sink and then fill with air but they can leak at the bung.

Other structures near us are built on Styrofoam blocks encased in plastic sheeting or foam encased in an HDPE shell. Two places I know of built on foam encased in HDPE have steel I-beam structure and a steel truss system. Both are then stick built.

There are many floating structures built on concrete floats. International Marine Flotation Systems is one company that makes these.

HDPE, a division of Furgeson makes flotation out of HDPE pipe, optionally filled with foam.

Floating Home vs. Houseboat
by: Oceanside Images

I have been interested in the ocean my entire life. When I saw 'Sleepless in Seattle' I was stunned to learn that these type houses do exist.

For me, this is the perfect compromise between a regular home on land with all the space therein, and living on a boat.

Currently, I'm an Architecture student. A floating home will be my next class project, and hopefully one day, my home. (This site is a good research tool, and a great read!)

Can someone please direct me in the right direction to creating the foundation?

I like the Seattle home styles the best vs. houseboat designs... I'm just not sure how to proceed so I can design it! Will need links to codes as well. Thanks! Jamie

Floating Homes or Stationary Houseboats
by: Richard

I knew there were differences but never considered the navigational aspect, DUH! Houseboats as primarily discussed on the site are clearly boats but the terms are commonly interchanged.

In Oregon there are some distinctions that might be of interest. There are floating homes that are permanent dwellings built on flotation. Many, but not all may have a common moorage. Many if not most have grid tied utilities e.g. municipal sewage, electric, and domestic water.

I have read that Portland has more than any other city in U.S. Other float houses (that is what the Marine Board calls them, are not grid tied and may be classified as floating recreational cabins.

All the designated structures are licensed by the State Marine Board, similar to a boat, but the designation is intricately tied to the use and availability of utilities, whether the structure can be accessed from land or via boat only as well as usage.

These designations are defined by the Division of Lands which has jurisdiction of submerged land in navigable waterways and is responsible for permitting all floating structures not classified as boats, i.e. permanently moored.

The BC government official definition
by: Ron Porter

According to the BC government at it's a floating home if not equipped for navigation or not intended for navigation.

Whether the 'intent' is that of the designer or the owner is open to question, but the navigational requirements are clear.

Boat or house
by: Dan Pedersen

If it's self propelled, and has all the navigation lights that is needed in the area that its traveling in, it must be a boat. A houseboat is only a boat with a house on it.

And a floating home is a house with a floatation device instead of a foundation.

Of course this is my opinion and where I am living, there is a lot of "houseboats" that are permanently moored and connected to shore power, water, and sewerage.

Dan Pedersen

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