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Plastic Houseboat Pontoon Design - An Alternative to Steel or Aluminum

by Glenn Cook
(Queensland, Australia)

A sample plastic pontoon design used for houseboats.

A sample plastic pontoon design used for houseboats.

Looking at plastic houseboat pontoon design, I may have an alternative to steel or aluminum construction material?

I am just a new comer into construction of a houseboat, and I have been hiring (renting) houseboats for years and I thought it was time to build my own.

I am a carpenter by trade, and am confident of the construction from the deck up............ however deck down ......not as confident. I have spent 6 months doing countless hours of research about floatation etc.

I am a little concerned about the cost factor of steel or aluminium (and ongoing maintenance). I stumbled across a process that has been used with success.

What it basically consists of is a high quality polystyrene, which is then coated with what dries to, is a hardened plastic. There are several things that excite me (I know I get excited easy) about this idea... Easy maintenance, No painting.

One of the extra advantages is if I am unlucky enough to hit something, I will not take in water.

Just wondering if anyone has got any thought to this?

Cheers, Glenn (cookie)

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

In response to your idea of using a plastic houseboat pontoon design, instead of choosing steel or aluminum as a base material sounds good to me.

Steel has it rust and painting issues, while aluminum costs more, yet may have corrosion or electrolysis issues. The system that you mentioned could very well be a great alternative.

If you do decide to get take system, do take some pictures and do come back to post a short story about your experience for others to benefit from.

Thinking of Building a Pontoon Houseboat?

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* Before you start building that boat you should also take a moment to watch some of the best "How To" videos on boat building.

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their plastic pontoon 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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Comments for Plastic Houseboat Pontoon Design - An Alternative to Steel or Aluminum

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Good paint for plastic prevent barnacles
by: Michael James

I recently bought a 8x10. Floating dock that I tie up in the Long Island sound ( salt water ) it. Comes with plastic pontoons
We took it out at the end of the season and it was loaded with barnacles
What paint should I use this year on the plastic pontoons to prevent those nasty salt water barnacles ?

Constructing a houseboat in Fiji
by: John A

Hi David Curle, I note with interest that you will construct your houseboat in Fiji. What are the benefits of building it in Fiji? Is there a houseboat building industry in Fiji. Thanks

Plastic Pontoons
by: David curle

The plastic pontoons are made in New Zealand by and shipped all around the world. I am currently making a 20 meter x 6 meter houseboat using them.

I will construct it in Fiji. I am using 48 of the modules and three bow pieces as I am using three hulls to up the buoyancy as they are only 600mm in diameter.

They are 1.2 metres long (4ft and spline and bolt together. So each unit is sealed and self contained - like having many watertight bulkheads.

They are heavily, incidentally I am using a new construction method using honeycomb sandwich aluminum panels. These come custom made with edges turned and sealed. (4 x edges).

It is light weight and very strong and very cheap - a break through. Most of it will be 30mm thick but the Fore and Aft bulkheads will be 50mm (2") thick.

Will keep you all posted as it is made. It has a 300mm false floor which rounds up to 2 metres above the water at the bow to handle a 1.5 metre swell. So this area can be used as tanks etc...

Plastic pontoons
by: Jim V..Tampa Bay

Glenn, I am interested to know how far you progress regardless "what floats your boat". Perhaps not in your area...but "I am in the same boat". Jim

Foam in pontoons
by: Matt

Hi Glen, the upside to building with poly pontoons is they are low maintenance, but this does not mean that they will not get marine growth or barnacles growing on them and while they won't hurt the polly pontoons they will create lots of drag and greatly reduce maneuverability.

I would avoid any thing with foam filled as the foam they use is a 2 part liquid foam and it will take on water if left exposed IE: you breach your hull on a rock.

Also marine life especially small crabs love to burrow a nice little hole in any opening they find and before you know they will have removed a large portion to build extensions to the new found dwelling.

The pontoons in the photo will not displace enough weight for you to build any substantial house structure on.

You can however buy large polly air dock pontoons but they are far heavier then fiberglass. Aluminum is not the best in salt water, neither steel.

There are some specialized houseboat builders on the Gold Coast, if you do a search you will find them they will supply you with hull and deck and you can build the rest.

Hope this helps. Matt

Where do you get plastic pontoons
by: Anonymous

I wouild like to know where you get the plastic pontoons? Thanks for the info!

Thomas Jones
G.V. Idaho

Homemade Houseboats - how to get insurance?
by: b lawley

We have been looking at buying a houseboat and the one we like was built by the owner himself, who was a carpenter. It has a steel hull. I've been checking though, and I haven't been able to find an insurance company to insure the boat.

I was wondering if you were going to try and insure yours, an if you were, did you know who you would use. If you can recommend someone for me to try surely would be appreciated. Thanks Bonnie

Floating Houseboat Homes
by: P Talley Floating Cabin Homes

Hey Glenn, I build floating homes, cabins, islands, etc. I build my floatations systems with aluminum frames and the polystyrene billets. I have been researching the same thing regarding "Pontoon style Billets".

They are more expensive but may definately be worth it. Let me know if you construct your houseboat with them and I will let you know if I do also.

Smiles, Priscilla Talley

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