Homemade Pontoon Boat





Introduction: Homemade Pontoon Boat

Trash to Treasure

This is an entry in the
Trash to Treasure

This is how to build your very own, functional and free, pontoon boat. We used completely recycled materials that were otherwise trash, but we turned it into an environmentally-friendly party barge.

Step 1: Locate and Acquire Your Materials

Our pontoon boat started from a 7ftx10ft frame of water-treated 2x6's, 2x4's, and 2x2's. We got these from the remains of my old backyard deck which was replaced over the summer (all framework was pressure treated and stained). The pontoons are made out of six 30-gallon barrels, which we found at a recycling center. These barrels were used and weren't approved for catering or agriculture- but were perfect for our boat. We found large pieces of Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and more 2x4's in dumpsters scattered around a new housing development. We used my riding lawn mower and it's homemade trailer to collect the wood out of the dumpsters. The deck was scrap pieces of sub-flouring and were being thrown way- again, who wouldn't build a boat out of it? I should add that in a dumpster we found a leather ottoman, which was instantly deemed as the captain's chair. You can find the necessary lumber where we did, in the trash, or in recycling centers.

Step 2: Check the Barrels for Leaks

Dispose any liquid inside the barrel accordingly, ensure the barrels are clean and safe enough for a marine environment. Fill 1/3 of each barrel with water, tighten their lids, and flip them upside-down. This will show you if any of the barrels would let water leak into them.

Step 3: Completly Empty the Barrels and Seal Lids With Caulk

Tighten each of the lids with a wrench. Evenly caulk each lid and allow 2 hours for it to cure. Rest assured this will keep the inside of the barrels, therefor you, dry.

Step 4: Build the Frame

Cut two 2x6's exactly 10 feet long. Then cut two 2x6's to be seven total feet in length. Cut 45-degree angles on each end to they will fit together and retain original dimensions. We used three 4" screws on each corner to secure them together.

Next you will build supports for the barrels:

Cut two 2x4's to be 11'9" in length. These will run the length of the boat's 10ft side (but inside the existing frame). Use screws to secure each one 15.5" from each side of the boat. This distance will allow the barrels to sink 2.5" upward into the frame. Doing this lowers the entire boat's center-of-gravity as well as directly supporting the deck. Install either a 2x2 or a 2x4 on each side of the three barrels (15 inches away from the front and back of the boat). This will keep the barrels from sliding back and forth.

Building the rest of the frame:

For our deck we used boards that were half an inch thick. This allows up to 4 square feet gaps in your frame. Use mostly 2x4's to construct a rectangular network frame with gaps no more than 4 square feet in area.

Step 5: Secure Your Barrels to the Frame

We used perforated metal hanger straps (galvanized) to secure each barrel to the frame. Cut out 12 42" strips. Use 2 straps per barrel; wrap each strap a little more than halfway around the barrel and attach each side to the 2x4 and to the 2x6 on both sides of the barrel. Use screws and drill at an angle to tighten each strap as you sink the screw. Be cautious to not puncture any barrels doing this- it's an easy mistake to make.

Step 6: Construct the Deck

Use the Oriented Strand Board (OSB) you collected to construct a 70 sqft deck. Use screws to secure each piece to the frame. Place and cut each board so every junction would have frame under it. Try to use the largest pieces and make sure not to puncture any barrels. If you wish to use an outboard motor like we did, leave a small opening in the deck at the back of the boat. Otherwise, your new pontoon is easy to propel with oars.

Step 7: Load and Transport the Boat

For our first launch, we used a cargo trailer to get it to the reservoir. Only use it in bodies of water that are knowing and allowing of you and your pontoon. For our testing, we had permission to launch on a local reservoir. We plan on registering the boat with the state in the future. Make sure you take every legal step to ensure your day of boating doesn't get cut short by the police. The boat is fairly lightweight, therefor it was easy for four high-schoolers to carry the boat on and off the trailer as well as into the water. No boat ramp? No problem.

Step 8: Have Fun on Your New Boat

Have fun on your new boat knowing that you didn't hurt the environment to build it. It is of course necessary to bring lawn chairs, floral-pattern shirts (Tommy Bahama recommended but not required), and a cooler full of cold, age-conscious drinks. Also keep in mind that there is now a possibility your significant other might only want you for your boat. Get ready to receive scores of compliments in appreciation of your masterpiece.



    • Microcontroller Contest

      Microcontroller Contest
    • Spotless Contest

      Spotless Contest
    • Science of Cooking

      Science of Cooking

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.

    4 Tips

    In the descriptions, it appears that you are using the term 'particle board' to refer to Oriented Strand Board (OSB). Absolutely NO WAY is Particle Board suitable for damp (much less wet) areas or use out of doors (much less in a lake!).

    OSB, on the other hand, can stand exposure to water provided it has an opportunity to dry. However, if it suffers constant exposure to the elements, it will not survive as long as the two-by Pressure Treated lumber used (you did use pt, right?) for the framing.

    I noticed you pulled the barrels to the center of the platform, leaving the platform over-hanging the barrel ends at each side/end. This is not the most stable configuration. If you want to keep the 10 x 7 dimensions, move the barrels flush to the ends and leave the 'gap' in the center of the craft. Or cut the craft down to fit the barrels tightly all around.

    As to the metal straps, the first tip was correct as the the best way to fasten the strapping. However, I would look for PLASTIC strapping - given the submerged application. The straps are not holding much - the framing keeps the barrels from moving laterally and the water keeps them from falling off the frame (and, when on the lake, the lake holds them up tight!)..

    I would think that the bow and stern should parallel the sides of the barrels as opposed to the ends as (I suspect) the FLAT ends create more drag then would the ROUNDED barrel sides.

    If I can get hold of enough small barrels, I'll copy your basic design to use as a floating platform on my pond.

    Hey, this looks like a lot of fun. If I was still 12 I would love it. To help your boat be a little more seaworthy, if you took those metal straps straight down and fastened them to the side of the 2x4 with two screws it would be much sturdier. Here's why ... when you bend that metal strap like you did you create a breaking point and all the stress is put on that breaking point. Your metal strap will break a lot easier than if you took it down straight. Also you can use two or three screws on the 4 inch side of the board. Ahoy mates!

    I agree with Artskater, OSB is a bad choice for the top deck, you should use pressure treated plywood. That OSB will swell up and fall apart in a matter of days or weeks unless kept perfectly dry.

    Awesome, guys!! But particle board will swell and start to warp/ disintegrate when wet. I would suggest some kind of waterproofing, at least on the bottom side.



    Thank you all for your suggestions. This is our first draft of the trash boat and we look forward to improving it -keep the good ideas coming.

    If you moved the barrels out to the ends and away from the center, you'd still have the same buoyancy but you'd have a more stability on the ends

    On the list of improvements is to do just that, but also split the boat in half. We plan on designing and installing a steel male-to-female type connection to keep the two ends together when in use. Thanks!

    I am always asking myself, how can this be done better. One of the things I did was travel down a thousand Km of the Murray river in Australia, in a kayak, and one of the things I really learned about was hydrodynamic drag.... from putting out a single hand line, with a smallish wobbler spinner behind me - what I did find out what that that SMALL lure, created a small amount of drag, but when I was the one supplying the power to pull the boat forward, that SMALL amount of extra drag in the water, created huge power needs over the longer distances.....
    Blunt fronted and reared hulls, create enormous amounts of resistance to going forward through the water and they create enormous amounts of drag, behind them. OK now there are floating "hulls" and then there are hulls that are or have parts of them, full of water, like the front of a military submarine where all the listening gear is... - so we can call that a water filled cowling....
    If you were to cut 2 drums, at an angle - diagonally from the top of one side, to the bottom of the other side, and perhaps drill them a little to let the water in and out, and then fastened them to the start and end of the hull on row of drums, they would act as rounded tapers at the front and rear of the hulls, significantly lowering your drag in the water.

    This gives you a much better boat, that required much less power to push it, and you can either got for a lot further or a lot longer with the same motor and battery charge.


    Some of the things I'd like to do to that boat is add a solar panel as part of a shade only style of roof, to givepower for the motor and lights, add on a charcoal BBQ, a toilet seat to drop your terds over the side, and a tent and food storage - and of course an anchor, a Jolly Roger flag... and a big sign saying "NO GURLS ALLOWED" - because they spread girl germs and you die.


    We plan on modifying it to have less drag soon. Appreciate the suggestions! - We are currently working on flagpoles and a built-in cooler.

    No need to cut the drums at an angle - just put your bow light to the adjacent side and do the same for your stern - then the craft presents a curved bow and stern to diminish resistance and drag.

    Great job, I bet it's a lot of fun! In my area, the boat has to be registered and then the DNR sends you #'s to attach to the boat. We can use electric trolling motors on all lakes, but some lakes have gas motor restrictions or limits. Thanks, John

    Same goes for my area, making the boat legal in most places is our next step. In this case we had permission to test.

    Great Job!- I love that it's made from recycled stuff that would've ended up in a dump.

    You've got my vote!