Ask Warren—Maintenance Q&A

September 2016 Feature

In almost 23 years of being involved in the houseboat industry, Warren Childers of Sunstar Yacht Sales & Brokerage has traveled 28,000 miles on the inland rivers and Intracoastal Waterway and from Canada to Key West, Fla., by houseboat. He’s seen and fixed about anything you could ask about. Here are some questions folks have asked him recently.

Question: Would you recommend getting an epoxy coating or a gel coat to repair thin cracks in the roof? I’ve heard good arguments for both sides.

Submitted by Quinn Murphy, Albany, Ky.

Warren: By epoxy I assume you are referring to urethane. If you are spot repairing a place on your roof, I would suggest using the same product already on your roof. However, if you are repainting your roof, I think the urethane coatings offer a longer life than gel coat. There are several yacht manufacturers that have been using urethane paint systems for decades so this isn’t a new product to the marine industry. The drawback to an epoxy coating is it tends to be more slippery than a gel coat when wet. This can be solved by using micro beads in the paint to offer some nonskid. Be warned: if you do change to urethane, you will not be able to change back to gel coat unless you remove all the urethane coating from the roof.

Question: How often should I replace our outdrive boots?

Submitted by John Willecombe, Salida, Calif.

Warren: This is a tough question to answer. MerCruiser recommends servicing an outdrive every season. However, this may not be practical on a houseboat due to the cost of haul out. Also, the environment the boat is sitting in affects the life of boots, anodes and such. Marine growth in the lake in which your boat is moored would have a lot to do with the life of the boots. For example, a lake with zebra mussels could result in growth on the boots and premature failure. My estimate for a houseboat would be every three to five years. I would have the boots and stern drive inspected using a dive mask once a season at a minimum.  

Question: Is there a bilge alarm brand that you think is the most reliable?

Submitted by Dee Hower, Branson, Mo.

Warren: I would prefer to not get into product endorsement. However, I will say this. Bilge alarms are a must. If I had an older boat that was not equipped with a bilge alarm, it would be one of the first things I added. A bilge alarm can save your boat and possibly even your life in the event it begins to take on water!

Question: What was the worst springtime disaster you’ve seen happen?

Submitted by Lacy Baldwin, Jamestown, Ky.

Warren: I can’t remember anything horrible happening to me personally other than weather incidents and such. I am sure there are some good stories out there though. I would say the most common mistake we see is people not going over their boat before start up. Not opening seacocks, starting engines with hoses disconnected or low and in some cases even empty on fluids.

If you have a question about houseboat maintenance, shoot Warren an email at

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