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View Full Version : Newbie seeking advice on which old houseboat to buy for major renovation/modern home



jack88
08-17-2014, 12:32 PM
Hi all,

My girlfriend and I spend our summers on Lake of the Woods, Canada, and have decided to stop renting a cottage each summer, and instead buy an older houseboat to turn into a modern floating home. When I say modern floating home, I'm referring to the type of stuff you'd expect to see in Seattle on Lake Union. Here's a website of an Australian architect who is designing houseboats similar to what we want: http://www.arkiboat.com.au/index_files/Page953.htm

When it's done, it will in no way resemble an old houseboat!

However, it does have to be powered, and operate as a houseboat. It also needs to be relatively tough under the waterline, as most of our lakeshore is rocky and that's where the houseboat would spend most of it's summer tied up.

The way I see it we have two options:
1. Buy an old houseboat with a good hull and good bones, and do a major remodel
2. Start from scratch with a new custom home, and set it on top of a new aluminum hull

I have a feeling that option 2 would cost way more than I want to spend, so I'm looking for advice as to which inexpensive older houseboat would make a good remodel opportunity, considering our circumstances. I like the idea of an older houseboat because all of the fairly expensive systems are already there, ie: motors, tanks (water, fuel, holding) plumbing, electrical, generator, etc.)

A few other notes: Our ideal size range would be 34-45 feet long by 12' beam. Fairly shallow draft is a feature we'd like. It also has to be pulled out of the lake each year for on-land storage.

I'm anxious to hear your thoughts, and if you have further questions, shoot away. Thanks in advance for the advice!

OLD HOUSEBOATER
08-17-2014, 06:46 PM
12 foot beam is NOT enough. Anything under 40' is too short for enough room for more than week ending. Sounds like you should look at Catamarin cruisers or similiar. There are a lot of used ones around. Doing a rehab is a 3 to 5 year project and in the end you have a lot of money tied up in a craft that is hard to insure and almost unsaleable. Moving up from that is a KingsCraft, Maronette and other aluminum boats.

http://www.catamarancruiser.com/

Read this:

http://www.houseboatmagazine.com/forum/showthread.php?21-Inexperenced-Newbies-READ-THIS-WARNING

Check this out: http://texascoastyachts.com/2006_catamaran_cruisers_aqua_lodge_for_sale_housto n.html

Believe me. You DON'T want to build/rebuild a boat UNLESS that is your hobby. Go into debt and buy and ENJOY the boat for the years you would be working on it. Get a part time job to make the payments. You WILL have a LOT LESS hours involved than if you do the build bit.

66 years of experience talking here.

42gibson
08-18-2014, 04:46 AM
I redid a crest houser (15x43) in 2000. a complete new roof including trusses,2 new side walls,all new decks.a new 90horse evinrude (6000) back then,all new electric and plumbing,new head,all new interior walls,new paneling.it took me and my brother 4 months of constant work and 26,000$ but worth every minute of it and would do it again.by the way,thats the 3rd one I've redone.

captmark
08-18-2014, 07:12 AM
For shallow draft and the wide beam you'd probably want a pontoon style. You could possibly find an old Crest or Catamaran Cruiser fairly cheap that you could rebuild.
You can also buy a kit consisting of new aluminum pontoons and framing that you can build on.

OLD HOUSEBOATER
08-18-2014, 08:22 AM
I redid a crest houser (15x43) in 2000. a complete new roof including trusses,2 new side walls,all new decks.a new 90horse evinrude (6000) back then,all new electric and plumbing,new head,all new interior walls,new paneling.it took me and my brother 4 months of constant work and 26,000$ but worth every minute of it and would do it again.by the way,thats the 3rd one I've redone.

So OK 1280 hours x $20 per = $25600 + $26000 + cost of boat + storage = $51,600 + You had to love it!

We had 7 houseboats I did extensive restoration on 4 of them, minor restoration on 2, and the last one was mint. I did enjoy the work as much as riding in them. However i'm not normal.

42gibson
08-18-2014, 12:36 PM
ok OHB.your nit picking. the labor was done after work and weekends and all the boats were sitting in my yard when I did the work so no storage.if you figure it like you are I would have to figure labor for mowing grass and working on the car etc.total cost was 36000 I kept it 3 years and sold it for 45000 and did it all over again.i'm sure i'll do it all again in the near future.

Amelia
08-18-2014, 02:07 PM
What a fun project, Jack. I expect if you find a pontoon-type boat with sturdy underpinnings, you'll find the project to be fun. You get to do it as you find time, money, and inspiration. You get to design the floorplan your way, not the way everybody else has always done it. You're not limited to 1960s mod-beige deeluxe camper-with-chandeliers decor. You get to learn new skills, and polish old ones. I heartily encourage you.
Now: the reality check? My husband started a two-year build-it-from-scratch houseboat project. He had served a couple of college summers doing fiberglass work, and no way was he ever going near that stuff again, and he felt fairly competent as a woodworker, plumber, and electrician. Retirement was closing in. Lots of time and energy and joy to devote to it.
HA!
Fast forward ten... (10!!!) years. Our retired hero started butchering wood, and then was soon lured back to work. Full-time. Nevertheless, bits and pieces of time made for slow but steady progress. The houseboat Lotus Eater floats. She goes a nice smooth 6 -7 knots, her twin Yammy outboards sipping gas at a miserly 2.3gph. She is dried in, paneled in local cypress t&g, and furnished. She's a fun little boat, serves as a very fine guest house at the pier in our backyard, the galley is almost ready to put formica on the counter, and after that, plumb the kitchen sink and gas stove. The water runs in the basin in the head, yay!, and our composting no-stink, no-hassle C-Head toilet is entirely satisfactory. All the shower parts are there, but not plumbed. Alas, the wood, all of it, many many acres of it, needs repainting, and some has rotted and needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, there remains very little time to go gunk-holing in the beautiful swamp around here. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, the doc will will return to full-time boatbuilder status- maybe- in another month or two, and we will hit it a good lick then. We do like the thing and its bass-ackwards design, despite its rough edges. Our friends like to gather on it to toast the sunset, poke gentle fun at her odd lines, and remark admiringly on the latest bit of progress.
Anybody can go buy a houseboat, and be on the water by next weekend. All it takes is money. To build/rebuild your own takes a lot more... time, imagination, and money. But then you have something that's all yours. Go for it, if you can imagine not being frustrated when things take a lot longer than you expected, cost more, and have to be redone. If you like the process, that's good. If you feel pride in your efforts, love watching things take shape, if your girl is also on-board, so to speak, with an endless project, do eet!! If you're the kind of guy who would rather be playing than puttering, relaxing rather than rebuilding, take OHB's good advice. Go find something plastic and trailer it in. Voila. Instant Cottage. Just add water.

jack88
08-18-2014, 07:00 PM
To all who chimed in, thanks for the advice so far.

There were a couple suggestions to just buy an old houseboat, add water, and enjoy. There's NO WAY we'd be satisfied with that. Like I mentioned in the original post, we are looking for an ultra modern floating home, not an old RV on pontoons! So I think building or doing a total remodel is the only way to go. By the way, this isn't something I'd be doing myself in the backyard or on weekends. I'd rather be running my business and paying someone else to do that work!

A couple people said we needed a pontoon-style hull. That's what I was thinking as well. What about the shallow draft and rocky bottom/shoreline issues I mentioned? Does that mean we should only be looking at aluminum?

So we've got suggestions of Crest and Catamaran Cruisers as potential candidates- any others you guys can think of that I should be looking at? Remember, in the end, I want it to look like this: http://www.arkiboat.com.au/index_files/Page953.htm or this http://www.pinterest.com/pin/155022412143333631/

I was also wondering, are there any kit houseboats you can buy?
And if I were to go the completely custom route, how much would a bare aluminum double pontoon with decking cost me?

Amelia
08-18-2014, 07:18 PM
Ooooh , I LIKE it!! That is beautiful. And on an inland lake that doesn't get much in the way of severe blows or waves, it would seem ideal. Where we are, we get some pretty good storms, hurricanes, nor'easters, and just your run-of-the-mill wild southern thunderstorms, so all that gorgeous glass wouldn't work so well for us. We really appreciated the sturdiness of the construction last spring, as we plowed through a sudden storm on the Albemarle Sound, with 3-foot beam seas. It was good to have that much freeboard. But that won't be your concern in the north country.

easttnboater
08-19-2014, 06:23 AM
As you can see, there are two distinct camps when it comes to building your own houseboat. Based on the link that you provided, I think that a pontoon style will fit what you are looking for better. As far as one of the conventional builders building a base for you, I have never seen one of them do that. You can however buy prebuilt pontoons and go from there.

It is your time and money, spend it how you want. Just understand, that insurance may be difficult to get and that potential resale will be a crap shoot.

Again, it is your time and money. If you do decide to build your own, please document it on a blog so that we can watch the progress.

Stmbtwle
08-19-2014, 06:43 AM
Homebuilt boats tend to be heavy. My experience is that pontoons don't carry weight all that well, and they will draw MORE water than a similar sized flat bottomed barge hull. If I were to do as you propose I'd get a good ALUMINUM barge hull and go from there. Old fiberglass hulls are usually reinforced with wood, and have rot issues. Even though I love my diesel, for a boat that isn't expected to move a whole lot I'd stick with outboard power. I/O would be my LAST choice, after paddles. My next houseboat probably won't have an engine, it'll have a remote controlled push-boat that will double as a launch.

I'd get the widest hull I could find, and build out to the edge for maximum space in a given length. If you REALLY think you need walkways, add catwalks (I've never found the need).

Keep everything on one level if possible, split-levels are a PIA.

Just my opinion.

BananaTom
08-19-2014, 07:41 AM
Go for it, build your own. But know this.

Insurance will be near possible to obtain.

Even just Liability. Ask Amelia.

It would be better to get a 50 foot or greater existing pontoon boat.

Survey it, insure it, and then rebuild it.

As it appears you are self employed, insurance on the vessel, and then an umbrella is highly recommended.

BananaTom
08-19-2014, 07:49 AM
Look at the fiberglass barge a buddy of mine just picked up on this thread.

He is making a reef hauler out of it, but it would work in your application.

A little small, but would work.

http://www.pensacolafishingforum.com/f21/needed;-someone-do-fiberglass-work-asap-402058

42gibson
08-19-2014, 08:23 AM
To all who chimed in, thanks for the advice so far.

There were a couple suggestions to just buy an old houseboat, add water, and enjoy. There's NO WAY we'd be satisfied with that. Like I mentioned in the original post, we are looking for an ultra modern floating home, not an old RV on pontoons! So I think building or doing a total remodel is the only way to go. By the way, this isn't something I'd be doing myself in the backyard or on weekends. I'd rather be running my business and paying someone else to do that work!

A couple people said we needed a pontoon-style hull. That's what I was thinking as well. What about the shallow draft and rocky bottom/shoreline issues I mentioned? Does that mean we should only be looking at aluminum?

So we've got suggestions of Crest and Catamaran Cruisers as potential candidates- any others you guys can think of that I should be looking at? Remember, in the end, I want it to look like this: http://www.arkiboat.com.au/index_files/Page953.htm or this http://www.pinterest.com/pin/155022412143333631/

I was also wondering, are there any kit houseboats you can buy?
And if I were to go the completely custom route, how much would a bare aluminum double pontoon with decking cost me?
we had a 15x52 playcraft pontoon houseboat and you could virtually not hurt it,it was like a tank.when we sell our Gibson were looking for another one.

OLD HOUSEBOATER
08-19-2014, 08:59 AM
"A couple people said we needed a pontoon-style hull. That's what I was thinking as well. What about the shallow draft and rocky bottom/shoreline issues I mentioned? Does that mean we should only be looking at aluminum?"

Yes, aluminum pontoons are compartmented. After looking at the pictures I would suggest you contact the builder of the pictured boat and go from there. I would suggest more freeboard though. And 2 low HP high thrust outboards.

From your picture gallery IMHO you will not be satisfied with anything less than new construction. I wouldn't want to put that much effort on an old hull. Likewise shoot for 45 X14 as an absolute minimum. Material cost for a decent size boat is not significantly more than a cramped smaller boat.

Keep us updated on your progress.

Amelia
08-19-2014, 10:55 AM
We really like our two Yamaha T-60s. They were expensive, but so far seem quite sturdy, smooth, and quiet. The time a fuel line came loose and we needed to limp back to the dock, having that second motor was a blessing. It's nice that our unwieldy-looking craft turns on a dime, and tracks straight. I think this thing would be difficult to get into our slip with just one engine.

Oh, about insurance: we (finally!) got full insurance through Amica Insurance Company. Great people to deal with. The guy who came and did a preliminary survey at their request was a hoot. Amica calls every year to see if we are finished building it yet. LOL.

jack88
08-21-2014, 07:25 AM
I redid a crest houser (15x43) in 2000. a complete new roof including trusses,2 new side walls,all new decks.a new 90horse evinrude (6000) back then,all new electric and plumbing,new head,all new interior walls,new paneling.it took me and my brother 4 months of constant work and 26,000$ but worth every minute of it and would do it again.by the way,thats the 3rd one I've redone.

42gibson- have you found that its more cost effective to rebuild an existing hull as opposed to starting from scratch with a new hull?

Amelia- Why did you guys decide to build from scratch as opposed to a major remodel of an existing houseboat? Do you have a thread you could send me a link to showing your build?

I'd like to compare the costs of starting from scratch as opposed to doing a major overhaul. For example, for a 12x40 bare hull in aluminum (pontoon or barge), what should I expect to pay?

OLD HOUSEBOATER
08-21-2014, 08:15 AM
http://www.u-fabboats.com/

Go at least 14' wide

Amelia
08-21-2014, 09:19 AM
Jack, here's the link to a lengthy, but infrequently updated blog. https://sites.google.com/site/robreiheld/houseboat. . Wayyy too much information.
Why start from scratch? Good question, one to which I have no real answer, only a rueful shake of the head.
My husband. Lord love him. He has always been one to do things the hard way, and he loved the idea of a major retirement project. Nobody ever built a boat like ours, and for good reason. Still, this idea of building his own shanty boat had been in the back of his mind since he was ten years old. The appeal of a luxurious lake-bound floating trailer, even one with lots of bells and whistles, did not appeal in the slightest. My earnest lobbying for an ocean-going sailing catamaran fell on deaf ears. So, he built a little model to show me what he had in mind. No plans. No list of materials. No budget. Not a bit of yacht design experience, and precious little actual boating experience. He and his grandpa had built a house together when he was a kid, but that was a long time ago. He frankly doesn't seem to care if he ever finishes it. And in that, he seems to be on target. bless his heart...as we say here in the Deep South.

jack88
08-21-2014, 09:49 AM
http://www.u-fabboats.com/

Go at least 14' wide

I agree, the wider, the better. But I'm really hoping to build this thing as light as possible, so that transporting it by road is a real option. During the course of my research, I've found that 12' wide is a lot easier than 14' in regard to road permits, lead cars, etc.... But I do agree, 14' would be ideal.

BananaTom
08-21-2014, 01:25 PM
The difference between 12 foot and 14 is huge.

I would never own a 12 after motoring both, 12 and 14.

BananaTom
08-21-2014, 01:26 PM
. https://sites.google.com/site/robreiheld/houseboat. ..

Thanks for posting Mimi, been way too long since I visited this blog.
PS: Sorry I missed y'all this summer.

42gibson
08-21-2014, 05:10 PM
42gibson- have you found that its more cost effective to rebuild an existing hull as opposed to starting from scratch with a new hull?

Amelia- Why did you guys decide to build from scratch as opposed to a major remodel of an existing houseboat? Do you have a thread you could send me a link to showing your build?

I'd like to compare the costs of starting from scratch as opposed to doing a major overhaul. For example, for a 12x40 bare hull in aluminum (pontoon or barge), what should I expect to pay?
first of all I wouldn't go for anything but 14 foot or more wider,12 is very small inside,14 is nice and 16 is great.it all depends on what you can get a good hull or pontoons for but at any rate its all expensive even if you do the work yourself and if you hire it out its very expensive.if I had the money I would buy what I want already done.

Amelia
08-21-2014, 08:19 PM
Thanks for posting Mimi, been way too long since I visited this blog.
PS: Sorry I missed y'all this summer.

Hi, Tom,
We will be back, probably sooner than later, and we will make a point of hunting you down. This trip was lovely, water and weather both perfect, but demanding...92 y/o mother in wheelchair to care for, and my bad cold, and obligations.... Heck, I need a vacation after that trip!

easttnboater
08-22-2014, 04:53 AM
How often are you going to move it? Generally speaking, there is not that much difference in the states in moving a 14' wide boat vs a 12' wide boat. Even 16' is not that bad. Move up to 18' and you will be in big money territory concerning permits. I have moved a 12' wide twice, a 14' wide once, and a 18' wide twice.

And, each foot of width is a big change in interior living space.

JTAlberts
08-22-2014, 07:15 PM
i just upgraded from a 40x12 to a 40x14 and the difference is night and day. I am still helping the guy who bought my old boat work on it and it feels so cramped when I am in there. I upgraded to the 12 wide from a 10 wide and that was just as great.

jack88
09-01-2014, 06:44 PM
How often are you going to move it? Generally speaking, there is not that much difference in the states in moving a 14' wide boat vs a 12' wide boat. Even 16' is not that bad. Move up to 18' and you will be in big money territory concerning permits. I have moved a 12' wide twice, a 14' wide once, and a 18' wide twice.

And, each foot of width is a big change in interior living space.

I'm expecting that we will want to move it about once every 2-3 years. Unfortunately, when I say move, I'm talking from Lake of the Woods, in Ontario, Canada to Colorado or somewhere else in the west. (1200 miles or so)

I've looked at buying a modular home in the past, and have always read that 16' is the max unless you want to spend big bucks.

jack88
09-01-2014, 06:48 PM
http://www.u-fabboats.com/

Go at least 14' wide

I got a quote from these guys- a 40' X 14' twin-pontoon hull will cost me around $25 grand. That seems excessively high. Your thoughts? That's one of the reasons I figured buying an existing aluminum hull pontoon houseboat, and then doing a total remodel would be a lot more cost effective.

42gibson
09-02-2014, 06:17 AM
I got a quote from these guys- a 40' X 14' twin-pontoon hull will cost me around $25 grand. That seems excessively high. Your thoughts? That's one of the reasons I figured buying an existing aluminum hull pontoon houseboat, and then doing a total remodel would be a lot more cost effective.

try destination yachts and playcraft for a quote.

OLD HOUSEBOATER
09-02-2014, 08:44 AM
Aqua Chalet seems closest to your specs. Check them out. They might sell you a shell.

Bamby
09-02-2014, 03:39 PM
It sounds as if you're looking to maybe build a floating house? The big obstacle to overcome is going to be waste, how to both store and dispose of it. Even in a marina situation it often necessitates to need to move the boat to the pump-out station to properly dispose of it.

In the event you do decide to build your own designing, and building a functional waste storage and disposal system is in reality a bigger perplexing problem to overcome that will require a lot more thought than it would outwardly seem to get it right.

Maybe consider something suitable for your needs, after all we all soon realize there is enough work involved in cleaning and maintaining them. A couple to maybe consider.

2007 Myacht Pontoon Houseboat 45X15 (http://www.boattrader.com/listing/2007-Myacht-Pontoon-Houseboat-45X15-102318453)

1987 Sumerset 14x60 Houseboat (http://www.boattrader.com/listing/1987-Sumerset-14x60-Houseboat-102077911)

pirate
09-03-2014, 02:18 PM
I think a 44 or 55 ft kingscraft would be ideal as you would have the room to do as you wish. draft is about 24 inch's. You can get them at a reasonable price. Pluckabaum also comes to mind and would fill the bill, I am sure you could find one that need remodeled. I just like a full hulled boat. Good luck in your search.

SinOrSwim
10-03-2014, 06:32 PM
I assume you will be taking this out of the water in the winter? I can't imagine anything holding up to the ice on Lake of the Woods.

also, on such a big body of water, I would go HULL all the way. Pontoons will not handle well in big waves if you ever need to move it. Also, if at all possible go aluminum. Steel will cause you all sorts of trouble.

Moving from Canada to Colorado will be expensive whether it is 12 or 14.

Also, if you are going to have others do it for you, good luck. Will be crazy expensive is my guess. Never done it but I have had a minor remodel done on a boat and it was expensive.