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Rebuilding a steel hull houseboat.

by Phil Carker
(Houston, TX, USA)

A popular Steel Hull Houseboat make and model.

A popular Steel Hull Houseboat make and model.

I am looking at rebuilding a 40ft steel hull houseboat, and I want to gut it and start new. I'm looking for help and information on all the mechanical systems, I also need a step by step guide, from design to finishing.

I'm very experienced in remodeling work only on land based homes, and I am also mechanically inclined, but I am looking for some guidance.

Thanks Phil.

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Reply - Answer
Well Phil, congratulations on your decision to start rebuilding a steel hull houseboat. Unfortunately you didn't give us much basic or technical information on the houseboat, so I can't venture much further.

Now, the best advice I could give you for starters would be to have a qualified marine surveyor have a quick look at the houseboat to be sure that you're not investing time and money into a rebuilding nightmare.

The reason I say this, and I am presuming that it is not a newer boat, you may possibly find it difficult to insure an older steel houseboat that doesn't have a "clean bill of health survey".

There is plenty of houseboat classifieds with older steel houseboats for sale, and I always recommend a qualified marine survey before pursuing a major retrofit.

A survey or a DIY Preliminary Inspection can give you a great overall view of what amount of time and money is involved in retrofitting a steel hulled houseboat. It can also be the basis for priorities in deciding the bigger and smaller projects. It will be money well spent.

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their steel houseboat rebuilding experiences. Feel free to use the "Click here to post comments." link found at the bottom of this page.

Thanks again for sharing, IAN from all-about-houseboats

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Comments for Rebuilding a steel hull houseboat.

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Restoring a steel hull houseboat
by: Bruce

I'm a new houseboat owner of a 47' 1983 Masterfab with steel pontoons. At the time of sale the previous owner handed me the fresh water tank and pointed to the front sofa bed as that is where it belongs.

Not knowing any better I didn't ask any questions as I was so overwhelmed by everything. Does anyone know where I can get building plans for this houseboat.

I went under the boat and there wasn't a place for it so it must have been under the bed but now there is no room for it. Sure would like a blueprint.

Thanks for any help, Bruce.

No steel houseboats
by: Richard

Steel houseboats are tricky as many marinas in Georgia will not take steel houseboats due to sinking, due to lack of maintenance.

You have to re-paint the steel bottom every five years. If not, you will develop rust, and to repaint you must sand to bare metal, apply rust block and then paint. The paint is $150 gal.

Many insurance companies will not insure steel boats, yet steel houseboats are always the cheapest around.



I have been hearing this also, and it sounds a little "discriminatory" as the insurance companies are playing the "all mighty" here.

I wonder how all the (steel) cargo ships in the world get insured? Or do some ports reject them from docking & unloading their cargo?

I feel that a marine survey should reveal any sinking issues with a boat.

Just sharing my thoughts,

New to houseboating
by: howard

I am new to houseboating. Where can I start looking for a cheap steel hull houseboat.

Lots of good info.
by: Kyle In Vegas

I've got lots of good Info for you. New motors, we got 2 new mercruiser 4.3's with bravo 2 outdrives from a PPT in Stillwater Oklahoma. They have realy good prices.

Walls are easy, we used part of the old design 2x2's or 2x4's flat with either 1/4 or 3/8 plywood on the outside. The siding can be bought at most RV wholesale companies. It's called Filon Siding.

The roof you can make out of 2x6 joists with plywood laminated to the outsides of the 2x6. Just make sure you use a good wood glue and roll it on thick with a paint roller. You should taper the roof joists on the ends or throught the whole joist.

The roof decking is just 3/4 T&G Plywood. Make sure you are buying good exterior rated plywood and DO NOT USE OSB SHEETING. It swells and delaminates easily.

I've got a lot more info if you need it. The most important thing I can tell you is when building a boat, it's not plumb and level.

It is Square and Straight, and boats bend and twist, EVEN METAL hulls. So make sure you have a good reference of how the boat sits when its in the water and make sure it is not twisted when you put it in dry dock.

I hope this helps, Kyle

Houseboat needs motors, what kind?
by: phil carker

I have this 40' steel hull houseboat that is in really bad shape, it needs re-modeling. I will gut the boat and re-do many areas.

It needs motors ??? what kind ???

It needs new outside walls ??? what kind ???

What is good for upper deck construction ???

Please, need guidance. Phil.

Don't do it
by: AR-Boater

My advice would be to not do it. If a steel hull boat is so far gone that you need to gut it and replace the engines, it is too far gone to save.

I did a total rebuild on a steel hull Stardust Cruiser several years ago and wound up putting about $20k into it and had a boat worth about $12k when I was done.

Steel hulls
by: joe

Hello to all I really enjoy the forum wish it would go more into detail on the steel hull rebuild it seems to say steel and the next Comment is run away . As for me I'm remodeling top and bottom inside and out 12x 50 drifter 350 Chevy v8 with a odd ball lower an upper drive unit. trs . Tr , m .m one . Some say pre alpha boat is s steel hull 1972 drifter no longer in business the hull looks like a screen door and she was floating . Fell in love with her upon my eyes gazing at her tied to the dock. I'm a month behind starting schedule and sticking to my plans 3 months start to finish new hull blast n paint new floors inside and out above new hand rails top an bottom new walls plumbing same electric wires they look and tested good new aluminum skin outside bottom paint top side paint cabinets open bar even sewing my own curtains. And if it isn't within a 1/16 on every cut or install it will be removed an redone period metal hulls sent the big monster they are betrayed out to be they can last many years just bye taking the right steps and proper matenance they can bring you years of service I witnessed the after effects of a glass 35 ft h/b driver didn't see a floating log /stump /stiff wood peels back approximately 3ft opening in the glass toon bad day for that couple Shop around if your not able to do welding repairs or fab metal talk to your metal shops talk to the locals they no the ropes talk to weekenders that do skilled craft work if your not in a big rush some of those weekenders those guys can put out some high quality work at a lower rate compared to . I'll blast n prime metal prior to installing after installed ill blast the affected weld area and HAZ ASLO POST N PRE HEAT METAL USING TEMP STICKS TO MONITOR TEMP .proper gap to insure 100%pent as for the wood sub floors 50 year advantc osb t/ g wood both top and bottom will be layered with fiberglass and resin extend THE longevity of the product also on the top deck as well and installing alum flashing on leading edges overlapped were needed to prevent any possible leak then a final one piece rubber roof epdm same as your Rv camper has I miss typed the time frame 3.5 months . Any questions on steel hull removal or install please contact me as I will help to the best of my knowledge. Owner an operator welding and fabricating business serving senses 93

Beware of older steel houseboats
by: balloongurl

We have lived on the water for seven years both summer and winter. We now have a 53 foot Three Buoys houseboat. If I have learned anything over the years it is to be aware of older steel hulls and to always have a survey done on any boat you buy.

It is the best money spent. I have seen many older boats that have had a multitude of problems. The biggest problem that I have seen is with leaking roofs, followed by holes in the hulls. I have seen those people with all their dreams and empty pockets.
So plan your projects wisely. Ciao B

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