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Pontoon Houseboat Maintenance - how often to coal tar epoxy the pontoons?

by Craig Jacobsen
(Oakland, CA, USA)

Steel Pontoon Houseboat on Lake Trinity in 2009

Steel Pontoon Houseboat on Lake Trinity in 2009

When it comes to maintenance of the pontoons on my houseboat, how often to check or coal tar epoxy the pontoon. I have a 56' houseboat on Lake Trinity in Northern California.

My boat has steel pontoons and they are cold tarred. The boat has been in the water for 5 years. How long is it safe to leave the boat in the water before I need to haul out, and re-tar the pontoons?

Thanks, Craig, Lake Trinity.

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Reply - Answer
Well Craig, welcome to the forums, and congratulations on having your steel pontoons coal tarred, and your decision to look into the condition of the hull.

When it comes to how long before preforming maintenance on your steel pontoons, it depends on a few factors. You have to look at what kind of service are the pontoons being put through, and how well the coal-tar epoxy has been applied?


* Are you beaching or grounding the house boat often, and thus scraping and slowly removing the coal tar epoxy?

* Depending on where you do your boating,
such as what kind of water conditions like salt, brackish, or fresh water?

* How well was the coal-tar epoxy applied, was the surface properly cleaned first to provide maximum bondage and adherence?

* Are you more inclined to do preventative maintenance, or want to wait for a complete hull coating job is necessary?

From my experience you can generally go 5-7 years of use before hauling the boat out, and doing a thorough inspection. There is many folks that will do yearly visual inspections by diving around the pontoons, or hiring the local diver to have a look around.

If you're a more technically inclined person, and you would like a more detailed explanation about coal tar epoxy and marine use, have a look at

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their houseboat coal tar epoxy tips 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 Pontoon Houseboat Maintenance - how often to coal tar epoxy the pontoons?

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Click here to add your own comments

Coal tar epoxy
by: Anonymous

Is it ok to use coal tar epoxy on aluminum pontoons?

rhino liner?
by: Rich

has anyone used rhino lining type coating on there steel pontoons?

Steel pontoon painting
by: Sue

I purchased a 45 foot steel pontoon houseboat. From the water line down it has been cool tar epoxied, but I want to repaint above the waterline and all of the deck railings.

I am planning on sandblasting or sanding first to remove any surface rust. But first I want to know how to prepare the surface, and what kind of paint do I use on the steel from the waterline up?

Algae growth.
by: Anonymous

Our aluminum hull boat, 16 ft. Smokercraft used for fishing only, lives year round in a river above tidal influence in western Oregon (temperate climate, river almost never ices over).

I am looking for some kind of hull treatment that will minimize algal growth; we do not take the boat out of the water from one year to the next, but can clean off the growth using a brush or other mechanical device during the summer when the water is low enough to wade in.

Do you have any suggestions?

Re-coat Coal Tar?
by: Dennis

Good info, thanks. Does anyone know if coal tar epoxy can be re-coated? I'm restoring a 1980 Kayot 3612. I've got some welding to do in a few places but the existing coal tar looks decent. Can I wire brush and rough up the existing coat and then apply a new coat of coal tar epoxy?

Thanks, Dennis, Parker, AZ

Coal Tar Epoxy Experience on Houseboats
by: O ld Houseboater

I utilized Coal Tar Epoxy on 2 RiverQueens, 2 KingsCrafts, and 1 Pluckebaum. I checked condition on the steel boats every 2 years, on the aluminum boats every 3.

Other than scrapes I never had any peel off. I had mine sand blasted prior to application in all cases. Hands down the best material for metal boats.

Maintenance schedule of steel pontoons
by: Craig

I do not ever beach my houseboat. The lake is freshwater and very clear. The alkalinity and calcium levels are very low. The lake level is only at 40% capacity and who knows when it will come back.

I am able to pull the houseboat in the next 2 weeks, or it may be stuck in the water for a couple years if I don't because of low water and new forest service regulations.

I do inspect the pontoons twice a year and they look perfect at this time. The cost is $2,900 to haul the boat out and re-tar the pontoons.

Inspection Tell You When To Repaint
by: Mark, South Australia

I have my boat hauled out every two years - it only costs me a couple of hundred dollars to do this.

The Murray River water is essentially opaque, so inspection in the river isn't much of an option.

As we get algae growth on the hulls, I water blast it off before inspecting. You generally see any bad areas fairly rapidly when the blaster hits them.

Removing the algae has the added bonus of reducing hull drag.

The paint on the leading edges of the pontoons is always damaged from mooring into river banks, or scraping along the bottom going into shallow mooring areas.

A major service to the outboards is also easier when the boat is out of the water.

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