Ask Warren: Maintenance Q&A

Published in the March 2019 Issue April 2019 Multimedia Warren Childers, Sunstar Yacht Sales & Brokerage

Question:

I recently bought a 1977 Masterfab houseboat and the boat is wired with one outlet and power to the two AC units. I’m in the process of a complete remodel and have already gutted the interior. I installed a shore power outlet, but used a basic 10-gauge Romex to transfer the switch to a couple outlets using a regular 14-gauge Romex. None of the wiring I used was marine-grade. Does that make a difference? If it does, can you please give me an idea of what wiring, what gauge, and what conduit I need to use? Also, do you have any recommendations on a good breaker panel?

Submitted by Brian Russell, Gainesville, Ga.

Warren:

I highly advise using marine-grade wiring. Romex can break due to vibration and can corrode in the marine environment. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) requires all boats to be wired with marine-grade wiring. Marine-grade wiring is a stranded cable with a tin coating to prevent corrosion. 

Older boats from back in the ‘70s may not have marine-grade wiring, but if I were doing a remodel on the scale that it sounds like you are, I would want to bring the boat up to code. A 50-amp shore power application should have 6/4 marine-grade cable from the shore power inlet to the ship/shore switch and from the ship/shore switch to the panel. Outlets should be 12/3 marine-grade cable. Paneltronics offers some great options for marine-grade electric panels for both AC and DC. I hope this is helpful to you. If you have some more detailed questions, please let us know.

 

Question:

My 1989 42-foot Aqua Cruiser’s roof is slightly sloped from the center to the outside edges, which means going up top provides an unbalanced feeling. Should I use something such as plywood to level the surface? We are considering building a complete plywood deck which would be topped with carpet. What are your ideas and suggestions?

Submitted by Harold and Susie Muller, Las Vegas, Nev.

Warren:  

The slight pitch is there to allow water to drain off the roof properly and to prevent standing puddles of water which can cause rot. I would not advise adding a flat platform as it could cause water intrusion into the roof structure of your houseboat. Even the larger new houseboats have a slight pitch built into the roof structure. It’s just not as noticeable due to the larger surface area. Typically a houseboat will have a 2-inch pitch to the outside edge of the roof line and a 4- to 6-inch pitch from the bow to the stern of the roof. This allows water to drain to the outside of the roof then drain to the back of the boat where it is directed over board through a drain system. The bow-to-stern pitch is achieved due to the fact that a houseboat typically sits lower in the stern due to the weight of the engines, generator and fuel tanks.

 

Question:

I’m playing with the idea of putting wood floors in my 75-foot Fantasy houseboat. Have you ever put wood floors in a houseboat before? I’m wondering if it would be best to use laminate or solid. I also want to know if I should float the floor, glue the floor, or nail it. What are your thoughts?

Submitted by Todd Winslow, Celina, Tenn.

Warren:

Hardwood floors have really come into fashion over the last few years. There isn’t a correct answer as to what type to use. They all have their pros and cons and rely on the look you’re going for.

Solid hardwood is probably the least advisable as it doesn’t deal well with moisture. I’ve seen it used and it looks great, but you just really need to be careful with wet foot traffic through the boat.

Laminates seem to work best. There are a lot of options, so picking the right one can be a little overwhelming. My personal favorites are the waterproof laminates. Most of these don’t require an underlayment and are locked together so they’re easy to install. Whatever you choose to use, make sure the manufacturer offers options for trim pieces as you’ll need them to trim things such as hatches and steps. The bull nose for stair treads look great around hatches to give it a nice finished look.

You can go to the larger home improvement stores and look at the options. Most offer samples so you can get a feel for what it will look like on your boat. Don’t be afraid to buy a box and spread it out over your existing floor just to make sure you like it before you dive into the project.

 

If you have a question about houseboating, shoot Warren an email at warren@houseboatmagazine.com.

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