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

  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Newbie seeking advice on which old houseboat to buy for major renovation/modern home

    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!

  2. #2
    Super Moderator OLD HOUSEBOATER's Avatar
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    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/for...D-THIS-WARNING

    Check this out: http://texascoastyachts.com/2006_cat...e_houston.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.
    Last edited by OLD HOUSEBOATER; 08-17-2014 at 07:48 PM.
    The fries are cold so we gave you extra.

  3. #3
    Senior Member 42gibson's Avatar
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    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.
    44 gibson executive
    on the muskingum river & ohio river
    marietta,ohio

  4. #4
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    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.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator OLD HOUSEBOATER's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 42gibson View Post
    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.
    Last edited by OLD HOUSEBOATER; 08-18-2014 at 08:26 AM.
    The fries are cold so we gave you extra.

  6. #6
    Senior Member 42gibson's Avatar
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    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.
    Last edited by 42gibson; 08-18-2014 at 12:38 PM.
    44 gibson executive
    on the muskingum river & ohio river
    marietta,ohio

  7. #7
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    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.
    Last edited by Amelia; 08-18-2014 at 02:14 PM.

  8. #8
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    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?
    Last edited by jack88; 08-18-2014 at 07:09 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    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.

  10. #10
    Senior Member easttnboater's Avatar
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    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.

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