How to Frame a Houseboat on a Floating Base

  • 6-60 hours
  • Advanced
  • 250-2,000
What You'll Need
2x4 lumber
A helper
Deck hardware
Trex decking
Screws (galvanized)

A houseboat is something the do-it-yourself person that has some basic knowledge and the right tools can build. Basically this is a small house built on top of a flat boat or pontoon type of floating base. Let your imagination and budget dictate what windows, doors, and other accessories you want to incorporate. It can be as fancy or plain as you want.

Step 1 – Check the Foundation

Before starting any work make sure that the hull of the boat or pontoons are water tight. You wouldn’t want to find out later that you have some leaks. Next make sure you stay within the code for marine houseboats, contact you local boating association.

Step 2 – Build the Frame

Build this structure (frame) on top of the hull (deck). You can use 2x4 studs, usually spruce, with 16” on center spacing for strength. Allow for door openings or windows. The frame is built with the stud edges facing up on the deck then when you have finished it can be tilted up into place and secured to the deck(in other words you are building the wall lying down on the deck). Use fasteners that are made for marine use and brace the ends of the frames until you have built the others that will tie into each other for support and strength. You may need to have someone help raise the frames in place as they will be heavy and you don’t want them to twist out of shape, possibly loosening the fasteners and compromising its strength and rigidity.

Step 3 – Build a Low Wall

At the houseboats stern build a low wall to be able to mount an outboard motor. Stud framing with marine plywood on both sides will work as a transom for the motor. When you have finished the framing cover the exterior of it with marine plywood caulking all the cracks with waterproof sealant. Remember to add any fittings to support a canopy or to form a front or back porch.

Extend the walls up high enough for your boat and your internal living quarters.

Step 4 - Construct the Decking

The first floor of your houseboat should be made of decking. Purchase something that will weather well with age. If you can afford it, purchase trex deck. Cut the deck to size and lay it over the plywood framing. Attach it with screws.

Step 5 - Construct the Walls

Purchase sections of walls for houseboats, that are not already framed or purchase material that is suitable for exterior walls of your houseboat (such as any metal material). They can be purchased at your local home improvement center or boathouse supply store.

Screw each exterior wall surface to the framing that you have already constructed.

Step 6 - Build Window Frames

It is always nice to have windows as part of your houseboat. As you begin to frame your walls, create spaces for your windows. Take a saw and cut through sections of your framing to make a window opening. Add a header to provide additional stability and support. Remember to use galvanized screws as you build your frames to minimize corrosion.

After the frames have been constructed, insert the windows. Build the sills around the windows to size.

Step 7 – Construct the Roof

Any type of roof can be used from a flat one to a sloped one. Construct the roof rafters the way you would for a roof for a residence. Remember to tie all the frames together for strength using joist supports and hangers.