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Steel pontoons make my houseboat obsolete.

by Kathe

Sample of older steel houseboat pontoons

Sample of older steel houseboat pontoons

The difference between aluminum versus steel houseboat pontoons. I have had this houseboat for 23 years, the boat is a 1972. My wonderful boat has steel pontoons. I can not find insurance for my houseboat because of the age and pontoons.

I have tried calling many companies and am having no luck at all in finding insurance. I am ready to do the repairs on the cabin that need to be done. I don't even know what the cost would be to replace the pontoons, or if it can be done.

I had no idea that my boat could become obsolete. I am looking at demolishing my boat now. I am terribly sad.

If others are looking to buy a houseboat be sure to have the newer aluminum pontoons.

Has anyone else experienced this?

Kathe in California.

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Reply - Answer

Hello Kathe, so sorry to hear about your dilemma regarding your houseboat.

I don't know all the details about your houseboat, the cost, or it's condition, but you may be able to have the steel pontoons removed and aluminum ones installed.

You may find that it would be too costly to have it done, since you may be better off to take those funds and put it towards a newer aluminum hulled houseboat.

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers and visitors will share and post comments about their steel pontoon houseboat experiences and tips.

Feel free to use the "Click here to post comments." link found near the bottom of this page.

Again, sorry to hear about your situation, IAN from all-about-houseboats

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Comments for Steel pontoons make my houseboat obsolete.

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by: JimAnonymous

Hears an idea for all you people with bad boat hauls . There is a primer called ( Carbo Mastic ) it’s a 2 part primer consisting of an aluminum particles in a resin and the2nd part is the harder mix it 50 to 50 yes paint thinner to get the right consistency to spray keep shaking your gun or all the aluminum will settle to the bottom of your gun . Don’t filter the paint if you do you will catch all the aluminum particles. You don’t want that . This primer is supper had when dried . It drys in a silver or aluminum color . It’s very important that you get the thinner to primer mix right . This is an industrial primer it’s inpervius to almost everything. You can add multiple coats on top of coats salt water this stuff laughs at it .

Life on the water
by: Anonymous

Just strip and clean an make any repairs prime and triple coat with good paint then call a foam insulation installer and have them filled with insulation it will never sink. Have a great summer . Terry. I'm looking for a house boat to live on an cruose

Steel pontoons
by: Jaime

Hi Kathe. We have an older houseboat with steel pontoons as well. I love our boat and insuring it was difficult until I tried American Family Insurance. Insured boat with no problems. Just wanted to let you know that you should give them a call. Good luck.

Need Info on Plastic Pontoons
by: The Helms

Just a question for David Aubut from Virginia Beach. What is the name of the company or contact info for the company that makes the plastic pontoons. Thank you.

Steel pontoons
by: Snappy

We have the same problem in reverse. We need steel pontoons so the boat can be left in the water and tied. Aluminum pontoons won’t last rubbing on ground, rocks, etc

Steel Pontoon Houseboat Insur
by: Sue

I have an older houseboat with steel pontoons. You can get insurance but it is only liability. I have insurance thru State Farm in mine, very inexpensive. But they will not insure for loss etc only liability I suppose because it's so risky with them rusting or sinking

fixing while still floating
by: Anonymous

Try to just cut sections of your steel out and everytime u do add one of the new plastic pontoons that is #basically makes up against the wait.

Lifting out of the water
by: Anonymous

What i forgot to mention: if you're gonna lift the boat out of the water for inspection/ repair/ replacement of your floats (pontoons), you may be advised against that, or flat out refused the service, for fear of the pontoons collapsing, effectively ruining the rest of your boat also.

To navigate this obstacle, consider placing the aluminum or steel reinforcement beams (the ones you need to add structural rigidity, when switching to modular and maintenance free polyethylene floats) BEFORE you replace your floats. You need these beams anyway when you're switching, so mounting them beforehand solves a couple of potentially major problems.

If your underside is accessible enough to just slide the beams under it, you might even use the beams to rest the bot on, as a towing aid, attaching them temporarily. Once ashore, you can re-attach them properly.

The PE modular floats combined with the beams will be a cheaper solution than aluminum, steel, stainless and what have you, both in initial investment as in cost of ownership.


Why worry?
by: Yuri

You can't find insurance, so now you have to demolish your boat? What were you gonna insure it against? Surely demolishing it to get insurance is defeating the purpose of insurance in the first place?

Spending the insurance money on a savings fund toward maintaining and eventually replacing (parts of) your houseboat would seem the logical path then.

On another note: just replacing the floats (by polyethylene, would be my suggestion) in itself is not too complicated a job, assuming the cost of raising your boat onto shore and have an outdoor working area available for a couple weeks will not cause enormous expenses.

The polyethylene is inexpensive, UV-resistant, repairable when damaged by impact or cut, maintenance free and, last but not least, available in modular segments.

The latter, apart from making it very easy to fit any houseboat with off-the-shelve floats, also adds the advantage your floats are compartmentalized by default, meaning a leak or malfunction of one segment will not affect the floating capacity of your boat as a whole. (Optional foam-filling would further protect the segments from taking in water, even when punctured.)

The polyethylene modular solution does not add stability to the structure built on it though. If your steel floats were part of the structural design (i.e. if they were calculated to add stability to the houseboat and all that's built on it), replacing them with polyethylene means you need to add an (preferably aluminum or stainless) beam along the length of your boat on both sides, to compensate for loss of rigidity formerly provided by the steel floats. An engineer should calculate the dimensions of said beams.

Pontoon problems
by: Val

The company Boston Whaler made their boats filled with Styrofoam. They don't sink, even when cut in half.

Clean the outside of the pontoons and have them coated with fiberglass, then call one of the companies that does expanding foam and have them filled.

Also adding the third (center) pontoon will give you a better ride. Steel?? What you talking about Mr. Insurance person there fiberglass filled with foam!! Isn't that how a Boston Whaler is made & you insure them....

Good luck & giving them the devil.

Steel hull pontoons
by: Anonymous

A pontoon is just a pipe with a point on it. Call steel fabrication companies,,, they will make them or you. You can even have them galvanized if used in fresh water. Check it out.

Worn out steel pontoons can be replaced
by: David Aubut

To all those people who spent a boat load of money on your houseboat just to find out the pontoons are shot, fear not.

I found a company in Ohio, owner lives in Houston Texas that make plastic pontoons. A very nice man willing to help anybody.

Good luck, Dave Aubut, Virginia beach

Steel pontoons are becoming obsolete
by: Sue Brown

I own a 76 Kayot houseboat with steel pontoons. Over the weekend I spoke with the mechanic at the marina explaining that I wanted to have the boat pulled out of the water and the pontoons checked, coated, repaired, whatever was necessary to ensure their continued performance.

I was shocked to find out that pulling the boat out of the water was not even recommended because of their age. The mechanic explained some of the steel is probably paper thin and putting the boat on a trailer could damage the pontoons beyond repair.

This was terrible news because we LOVE this boat. We have refurbished the inside and outside never knowing that the steel pontoons could render it obsolete.

I am weighing the options of replacing the old steel with aluminum. Or, does it make more sense to buy a newer boat with an aluminum hull?

This is big bucks either way, has anyone ever replaced the pontoons? This boat is 50 feet long...

Thank you, Sue

Saving money
by: chris b

I recommend that you patch any leaks in pontoons then ziebart them with a rubber coating just as we, northern people, do to out carsand trucks to stop corrosion and leaks. This will make your pontoons last a lot longer and though it may not look so hot, you will be able to count on the pontoons lasting longer.

I agree that aluminum pontoons may set you back a lot, I have been searching the net for a suitable set of pontoons but aluminum is out of the qustion as I plan to put it on salt water or tidal waters. I am seeking stainless if i can locate them. You might also consider filling your pontoons with styrofoam floatation as an insurance. This way if there is a leak you wont lose your whole house.

As far as insurance goes, ask the insurance companies what you must meet for specs to qualify for insurance. If the cost is too high consider selling or starting over. Chris

Steel houseboats
by: Anonymous

Hi we had steel pontoons on our houseboat here in Qld Australia, being over 55ft you are support to have insurance to get the boat registered, but to get that you need to have an out of water survey done, but to get the boat lifted out at a marina to do this you have to have insurance. Talk about catch 22.

Even then most insurance companies are not interested we had to go through an insurance broker. The most frustrating thing about this is that our steel hulls were much stronger then any of the other materials used on the other houseboats at the marina where it was stored.

During the tail end of a cyclone we had here, we had a large fibreglass boat wash into our boat which was on the outer arm at the marina turning upside down and partially sinking under our boat. No damage to our boat but ours made a mess of it. I would much prefer steel pontoons to any other material.

Depends on age of houseboat?
by: Tom Habanek

Will the insurance company insure a boat that is your age if it had aluminum pontoons? Usually they go back so far, and stop insuring them no matter what because of age.

Don't Insure the boat, invest the money instead
by: Anonymous

If it's an old boat don't bother with insurance, I have 12 boats and no insurance. Every year I put money in my investments making me 10 percent. I did this with 6 planes also.

Insurance companies make a profit on you, make that profit for yourself you will like the change.


Add aluminum pontoons
by: Barry

It's not that difficult to add pontoons. You did not say whether you move your houseboat or whether it sits in one place mostly.

If the latter, it would probably be fairly easy to add two new aluminum pontoons to the center portion. You see, sometimes, pontoon boats with three pontoons.

I imagine if you go out in the boat then replacing the two with aluminum will be your best option if you cannot somehow have the pontoons coated with something (probably be cost prohibitive).

You might also check with other insurance carriers. For instance to purchase sailboat insurance to take a boat out of the water [marinas require this], BoatUS requires a survey.

To get the survey, the boat must be taken out of the water. It's a Catch-22. But, OTHER COMPANIES DO NOT REQUIRE THIS.

So check around, if you maintain the boat well, have it taken out and the pontoons inspected sanded and painted regularly, there is probably someone who will insure it to the extent needed. But it may not be the one company with the lizard (just using them as an example).

Good Luck. Please keep us informed by new comments to this page. Thanks, Barry

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