Ask Uncle Ricky: Prepare for Summer

January 2014 Feature Rick Lauper, Houseboats A to Z

With a busy summer season on it's way,  instead of focusing on just one specific area of your houseboat, I'd like to take a look at several. Let's start with your party top that at times can feel like an oven when you're on the top deck.  

If you have a canvas party top, you know it can get very hot under it in the summer sun. And on top of that you might even notice that it leaks water at times. I got to thinking about a way to beat the heat and stop the water from seeping through and came up with an idea.

I went online and ordered a pair of white tarps that were the same width as our party top. I had to overlap them so they would cover the entire length. We removed the original canvas and laid the new white tarp over the structure. We then used zip ties to secure it in place, down both sides. Special care was taken to assure we had no folds.

We overlapped the second tarp approximately 12 inches and continued on to the front of the party top structure. You can overlap it more if needed, but I wouldn't go less. Note: the tarp will shrink so don't over stretch it. 

We then re-installed the canvas back to its original position. Wow, this made such a nice addition to the underside of the party top! It's nice and clean looking and it greatly reduces the heat, plus no more water can seep through it. Since my wife Merri and I did this upgrade, several others on our dock have done the same with fantastic results. I took an infrared thermometer and checked the temperature inside the canvas before and after and the result was an over 20 degree difference.

This unfortunately will only last a few years depending on the quality of the tarp and the installation, but when hanging out on the top deck on a hot summer day it's worth it. 

Cost for this should be roughly $80 to $100, depending on the size. Your top most likely is roped on, but could be zip tied. I recommend use ropes and re-using your rope if it's still in good shape.  If you want new rope contact me and I will give you a place to purchase a roll. Time to complete certainly depends on size and help, but should easily be done in a half day. This is a very inexpensive upgrade and it will make a big difference.

Houseboat Mildew

Each of us has this ongoing issue with mildew and possibly mold. It just comes with the territory of being on the water. Our canvas, outdoor carpet and basically anywhere water can accumulate becomes a target. I was at the hardware store and asked if they had anything that would address this issue. They directed me to a product that is used on roofs, vinyl, brick, etc. to attack mildew and mold. The brand they carried was Spray & Forget. There is another brand called Wet & Forget and I can only assume they're competitors. 

They assured me it would take care of the problem. I followed the instruction to the letter and applied the solution using a basic garden sprayer. So far so good I have to say. The product costs between $40 and $50 a gallon. It has to be diluted and makes enough to do everything around your houseboat with plenty left over for your neighbors. Remember as the name implies, you just spray it and then forget it, no rinsing required. 


This tip actually come from Merri since she hates spiders and their webs. Take a trip to your local home store and ask for a simple pump-style garden sprayer. Also ask for a pesticide that will prevent spiders. Using the instructions, mix in your new sprayer and then start from the top of your boat and work down. Spray under and around everything and don't forget the fly bridge. Also spray all the deck soffit areas too because they tend to hide in these areas.  Don't forget to spray around the spot lights. They seem to love these for some reason. Now that you have done that, go down beside the boat and spray the tie off dock ropes because that's how the little varmints get onboard in the first place. It may take several times of doing this to get the results you want, but it will take care of the problem.


Screened enclosures not only add a nice look to your houseboat, they add much more. Consider the unseen benefits of a good enclosure such as adding to the time that you can comfortably spend sitting outside. Your deck will be considerably cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter when designed correctly. 

You can have an enclosure designed that will enable you to have a UV-protecting screen in the summer months and clear vinyl in the winter that utilizes the greenhouse effect. Most of us have a condenser unit sitting on the aft deck. In the summer months these units will run you off the rear deck with the heat transfer coming off them. You can design a rear enclosure that will separate you and your family from that heat discharge, making time spent back there much more enjoyable.  

Some other value added benefits are prolonged deck carpet life and protection for your patio furniture, not to mention the flying pests. So when considering an enclosure, take into consideration the design and the benefits as well as how to make them fit your lifestyle.

Holding Tank Deodorizers

It's summertime and the traffic to the restrooms are high. If your houseboat utilizes black water holding tanks this tip is for you. With the heat also comes that odor outside your houseboat when a head gets flushed. What's going on here is when a gallon of water is flushed into the holding tank a gallon of air is forced out through the tank's venting system. This is the source of that pungent odor. After a lot of searching, Merri and I found a simple yet cost effective cure for this smelly issue. As seen in the not so attractive picture is a small plastic vile. You simply tear off the end and squeeze the contents into the head and flush. This will effectively treat 100 gallons of waste water. Do this at each head after every pump out. Throw the empty vile in the waste basket and it keeps on working by deodorizing the restroom itself. The cost of these tubes are around $1 each. Write to us and we'll be happy to tell you where and how to get them.

Uncle Ricky

"Ask Uncle Ricky" was a recurring column in Houseboat magazine. For other houseboat maintenance tips please visit


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