House Boat (Suggestions/ideas/brainstorming/etc. I want everyone's opinion) Answered


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Okay! Summer project time. I've been collecting acid barrels from my dad's work. Each 55 gallon, plastic drum, is 35 inches high and 24 inches in diameter (90 x 60cm) can hold 460 pounds in fresh water. At the moment, I have 9 barrels. I get another every month, so by mid-springtime, I will have 12 barrels. My question to you, is how would you go about making a house boat, or floating platform. I don't have a specific use for it, just a place to get away with friends or by myself. I would like some kind of canopy. I live about 25 minutes away from the river I plan to set my boat on. A friend of mine has a decent sized trailer, and that is what we would haul it on. My other question is, would I have to have my house boat licensed, or 'labeled' to be legal? Thanks in advance, some sketches would be appreciated. :D


A hexagon shaped boat with a hole in the center. 2 barrels per section, possibly a plywood top. Make the sections as thick as you dare, and use the center hole for swimming, drinks cooling (Kiteman style), anchors, or whatnot. Because it will have no definable bow or stern, place motor mounts on all sides and drive with a pair of movable engines placed on adjacent sides. Also because it will have no discernible bow or stern, steering this floating island would be tricky, but who cares! Find rowboats to get to and from it. ____ / \ \____ / (roughly) Definitely register.

ignore the little oddly shaped bit at the bottom.

the 12 barrels, when cleared of the acid they contained, will make for excellent flotation. they should give you about 5,000lbs of displacement. to make it more easily transportable, you could make it in three sections 2 pontoons and an attachable deck. a very good primer on what you are looking to do is 'Handmade Houseboats: Independent Living Afloat' by Russell Conder, McGraw-Hill June 1992 , ISBN 0071580220 most states require registration of water craft usually through the DMV and follow the US Coast Guard safety guidelines.

Then you could just drive a junk car onto it and make a housecar with the car canopy

you could, being sure to secure it to the platform, set the brakes and chock the wheels.
most locals get a mite peevish about petrol machines being dropped in their water.

a van would be more appropriate.

or, with the right framing, an RV/motorhome. : }

ive built a canoo from scratch and it works fine. i drew up the designes on the wood cut it out and glued and screwed it together and it is awsome. i am planing to make a bigger amphibian boat that has its own fold up wheels and is towed by a bike and the bike can fit into the boat as well! it will have a sail and u should be able to live in it for a few days.

Not sure if this is still active or not, but I did this last summer, and am looking to do a similar thing on a smaller scale this summer. I sketched the whole thing up in sketchup, to calculate its weight and added enough barrels so that they would float at about the half line. Our boat was 8' wide and 20ft long, severely overbuilt (2 2x8 frames on top of each other perpendicularly oriented for strength in both directions. Our method of attaching barrels was simple cheap worked fantastically and was very quick to do, and I have never regretted it although it might not be good for long periods of time in salt water: we used this galvanized strapping material that comes in 1" thick rolls with holes drilled all along it we just wrapped it around the barrel and nailed it (you could screw it ) in. The only downfall were some cuts on out hands from the sharp edges. We pushed the whole thing with a 9 horse outboard from 1973, and were severly lugging the motor but managed a good 3ish mph against a 1.5-2mph current. It weighed about 3,000 lbs though. Here is a picture of it as we were leaving it. We did register it, because we had too and there wasn't a boat that we could outrun. The only trouble we had with the process was that they rejected it at first because, on regestration you have to pay taxes on materials that you didn't pay state taxes for and they couldn't believe that we had build an 8x20' boat for as little as we had, although this was only a problem after we had used up our temporary registration, which is good for three months and takes nothing to get, and a few pictures more than convinced them of what we had done. As for a roof we found that blue tarps aren't waterproof at all, and that a good construction grade tarp is well worth the money. And for sleeping we just had a $20 air matress that we would set up under that at night. If you want more info/pictures/tips/sketchupfiles message me, I would be more than happy to help.


Wow! That looks awesome! Have you got a quick estimate on the lumber cost for the whole build? (A good idea would be to make a slideshow of the boat, for everyone to see!) :D

Definitely not license However I would have a pirate flag. I would be a raider on the lake. I would board the other boats on the lake and make off with their grog. remember wood gets real heavy on a large project look for scrap yard aluminum : beams, tube whatever try to use plastic sheet instead of plywood for nonstructural..... frame with wood then cover with "BATHROOM" panel (4'x8' x 1/16"plastic sheet at Menards) A pirate ship must be light and quick or don't bother

Add a stationary bike and paddlewheel configuration out the back.

Coming from someone who HAS a boating license, here in TExas if it doesn't have a motor, you don't need certification. However, if you add a sail, and it's a certain length, you do.

If it was me, I would build a shed-boat.

Acquire a small garden shed, and measure it. Let's pretend it's 10x6 feet.

Build a frame of 2x4 inch timber, 10x20 feet. Fix the shed to one end, and "deck" the rest with (marine-grade) plywood.

Support the whole thing on the drums.

Add sunloungers and a parasol or two. Use plain-coloured parasols, and then stencil or bleach-paste them with images of Robot.

Cut a 2x2 foot hole in an aesthetically-pleasing part of the deck, and line it with a piece of loose netting, stapled to the deck. Fill the net with cans of drink. Possibly consider replacing the cut-out section, fixed with hinges at one side and with a cut-out finger-hole at the other, covering your hoard with a trapdoor.

Consider adding a low railing around most of the deck.

Solar calls on the roof of the shed can run battery chargers so that your retreat will always have music and charged cell phones. Or power for a laptop, so that you can post to here from there.

Add a padlock to the shed, and use it to store the loungers, plus a workben and small selection of hand-tools to allow you to continue to Make whilst Retreating.

Oh, I forgot to add, each drum will probably be able to support around 150kg, and don't forget to include you and your friends when working out the weight of your eventual design.

As for licensing, that really depends on who owns the waterway and who is responsible for its maintenance. It is really something you need to check locally (around here, you need to get a licence (from the Broads Authority) to float it on the water, and then permission to moor it from whoever owns the exact piece of bank you tie up to, and the access between public highway and bank, which may require the payment of rent).

You may also want to add rowlocks to the railing, just in case.

In the US, all navigable waters are open to everyone, however the shore and even the bed can be privately owned, also states reserve the right to register boats, but that varies by location, in Florida under 16 foot and unpowered needs not be registered.


who owns the river?

Yep, same deal in AR. Unpowered boats get a pass. But even a troling motor means you have to register it.

On a serious note, I'd not heard them called "rowlocks" in years. I always hear "oarlocks".

It's even better when you realise that, over here, it's pronounced rollocks.

I'd rather have dreadlocks. Ooh, or even Warlocks! I'm sure Skunkson #1 will be trying to get a certain little miss Goldie Locks on his boat this summer:-)

Seriously! *double shudder, twitch, cringe, shudder*

In that case, you'll need limpet mines.

. I come up with closer to 200kg (assuming barrel is fully submerged - not uncommon for DIY rafts): 8.3 lb H2O/US gal × 55 gal = 456 lb ÷ 2.2 lb/kg = 207 kg.
. I guess using 150kg would give you some margin of safety.

12 barrels are mega overkill for a raft with few teens but (most of) them have to be placed along the outmost edge of the platform so itll be stable

Firstly, I forgot US gallons were different to proper gallons. Secondly, I was giving a generous allowance for the weight of the barrel itself (some of those things are heavier than they look). Mainly, though, I was building in a safety margin to stop the launch party suddenly needing snorkels.

. I'm confused. US gallons = proper gallons. :P
. IIRC, the densest polyethylenes/polypropylenes weigh in at around 0.95 g/cm3 (I hope that's the right metric units, I think in specific gravity). Ie, slightly buoyant.
. Yeah, I suppose 25% is not overkill, especially for a DIY project.

heck nooooooo ! you need licences from here up to new notice only to raft in the stream ????? is it amazing that the new generation is killing time online instead of tomsawyering outside ?

Great ideas Kite! We were thinking about a shed idea, need some windows, or netting. Seating definitely. The solar cells on the roof is a bit overkill, I don't have that kind of money. :D

I didn't mean roof the whole thing with cells, it's just a convenient location for enough cells to top up a bunch of AA batteries in between visits. If you're buying a shed, they often (in the UK) come with windows attached - they're just a pack of six flat panels to fix together in the right orientation.

I've seen those barrels at my work too! You wouldn't believe what they use on apples. If you are trying to build something light, try a pvc frame with tarp for the walls and roof.

I've tried building a barrel raft, and it's a real pain. They tend to be very unstable. So your first step should be figuring out how to tie them down really tight.

I guess you could look in a real boating forum. Do you have a name to christen the boat already, if not, post for suggestions. I did see a pic with a slide attached to the roof. Good way to enter the water for fun.

Cut a square panel out of the edge of the deck, replace it with one of those small exercise trampolines...

...attach a long elastic yoga band across the handrails on either side of the boat, get an unwitting subject to stand in front of it, tell them to step back and lean back as far as they can go, then lightly spring up and watch the fun...or rig up a trebouchet...

Building the part above the water is simple framing - ancient technology. Getting the part below the water will be more or less improvised. I would start with that. You're building a pontoon deck boat and then you're building an almost normal house on top of that.

Below the water I would build something very simple to contain the drums and keep them from detaching and floating away. Then set the deck on top of that structure. I would butt the drums up so you have two pontoons that are 6 drums long each. One on the port side and one on the starboard side. That makes the barrel part 17.5 feet long. You could extend the top above that but it would be safer to keep the top to 17.5 feet. It is probably possible to make something creative from rope and stainless eye bolts to contain the drums. I would probably fiddle around with rope until I was completely frustrated and then try making an upside down barrel bin out of pressure treated wood. I have a lot of experience tying rope tight, so that's why I would start with rope.

Unless you want to engineer some light weight joists, I would probably use cross braced 2x6's to form floor joists, 3/4-inch 4x8-foot plywood deck over top of that, and then regular 2x4 bottom plates for the walls. for at least part of each wall I would use 1/4-inch plywood for a web type structural strength. You could probably use luan (a little thinner than 1/4-inch) and save a few pounds.

Many SCA members have made gypsy vardos to live in when they go to their events. Do a search for "gypsy vardo sca" (no quotes) and you'll see what I'm talking about. Look at those for ideas as to how to fix up the interior. Here's one link

I built a building inside my garage a couple years ago for a fraction of the cost of a store-bought shed. It was fully carpeted, Internet and phone ready, sheet rocked, lights, and had an air conditioner and didn't come close to the cost of a shed from Home Depot.

In a discussion with Wburg, a wood stove would be a great addition.

Comment posted as a reminder.