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.
Runner Up in the
Trash to Treasure