Building a houseboat from recycled materials.

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by jgonda27, Jun 25, 2013.

  1. jgonda27
    Joined: Jun 2013
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    Location: Kentucky

    jgonda27 New Member

    Hello all!

    I am looking to build a small-medium sized house boat that will sleep 2-4 people & 2 cats :)
    I have been devoting my time to come up with ways to be more self-sustainable and to recycle more and I would love to build my boat using these materials.
    The 2 houseboat plans that I am deciding between are here:

    If anyone has any ideas on materials to use---keep in mind I will be building this from the ground up---let me know!

    Peace & Boats <3
  2. Richard Woods
    Joined: Jun 2006
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    Richard Woods Woods Designs

    I would think buying an old used boat and renovating it would be quicker, cheaper and certainly more "recyclable"

    But it looks like your two options are very different boats? Surely one is a static house boat, the other a river cruiser?

    Richard Woods of Woods Designs
  3. jgonda27
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    Location: Kentucky

    jgonda27 New Member

    Well I have a few people I know that own junk yards so I could get materials very cheaply, plus I am just wanting to build something from scratch. I'm leaning more towards the Cape Codder as it would be more comfortable for my cats.
  4. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    I love that Cape Codder! the only issue is in windy areas it might get pushed around a lot more than the other. But that upper floor sleeping room is the best way to have privacy for your sleeping are when you have guests, it also seems the most roomy.

    building with salvage materials is a fun thing to do, I build many smaller boats this way. It does take longer to gather the materials, and you have to be selective on where you use the different timbers, use the best and clearest lumber on the highest loaded parts, and save the members with grain run-out and knots for trim, fillers or blocking or other non-crticical applications. You also might consider salvaging some logs or heavy timbers from old buildings being demolished and resaw them to the size you need. This means getting a portable mill and power planers (I would hate to have to do that by hand!). But it would save a lot of money and get you some quality lumber.
  5. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

    Go for it. Google 'Brent Swain' for inspiration on building from salvaged materials.
  6. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Restoring an old boat is the most self-sustainable option. You would be recycling a huge volume of material that would otherwise end up in a landfill. If you are set on building a new boat from materials that are easily recyclable, hence they are in a salvage yard for sale, it is not what will keep the most material from the landfill. The question is which is you primary mission: to keep the landfill from filling, or to pursue a desire to build a boat.
  7. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    I see that you are in Kentucky. We can guess that you would be on the Tennessee or maybe Kentucky lake. You can go from either of these bodies of water all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The Cape Cod version is not it if you decide to change the scenery. The Bateau is sufficiently mobile and also has more potential for resale when, or if, you get enough of that lifestyle.
  8. jgonda27
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    jgonda27 New Member

    My main goal is to (re)build a boat that will do these things:
    -be comfortable for my cats
    -be compatible in rough weather
    -take me through any waters I want to go in (besides the middle of the ocean obviously!)
    -will use minimal costs while reusing materials
    It seems like the Bateau is more for that and the Cape Codder is more for picking a spot and staying.
  9. Skyak
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    Skyak Senior Member

    It seems there are two very different directions represented in your examples -a 'houseboat', and a 'house barge'. Your house barge example reminds me of my own concept of putting a modified mobile home on a concrete barge boat. The layout of the capecodder is a bigger, less efficient version of what's known as a "park model". Park model mobiles are a standardized, tax advantaged design -you might learn from them.

    The reason I planned to use a concrete base was for low cost, maintenance and high stability due to the heavy weight down low. Boats are designed to a comfortable natural frequency -you might check your plan. The capecodder may seem appealing, but give some consideration to maintenance and resale. You can't ship it, and it may have serious 'building code' style issues when you try to sell. You might save a lot on paperwork by building a "boat" as opposed to a "home".

    About recycled materials -I think habitat for humanity has "stores" around the country with donated building materials (new stuff that stores and manufacturers make more on donating than discounting).

    Take a look and see what you think you could build, how much it would cost, where it could go, and how much it could sell for. Remember maintenance, title, codes, insurance, finance, and environmental considerations. Then consider my plan for a park model on a concrete boat bottom with money to spend on eco-upgrades like composting head, solar&wind power, and heat pump/co-generation. If you value your time at least at minimum wage I think you will find my plan vastly superior.
  10. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

    Yes, you are quite right about the two purposes.

    I bought the plans for the Bateau 'houseboat', and i think it would suit you a lot better.

    It has the advantage of 'simple' build, you can build the hull from the plans, and just about go freeform for the superstructure. The base hull will support a lot of variation.

    I had these superstructure designs done for me because I wanted a bit more modern look, but equally, you could go quite 'homemade' without affecting the integrity of the hull.

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  11. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Even with the Bateau design, you'll be limited in the sea state conditions you'll want to be out in. As a rule, houseboats just have way too much windage to get caught in SCA conditions. The Bateau hull form will be fine for protected waters, with occasional bouts with some chop, but semi protected and open water will quickly overwhelm this type of hull form (with assumed superstructure).

    You must remember it's a houseboat, not a passagemaker or cruising yacht. The GT Cruiser 27 has a pretty bluff entry, even with it's Garvey V. The very quick volume increase in these forward sections will produce undesirable sensations underway in a rough slosh, to say the least.

    Lastly, don't go much taller with your home made deck structures, than shown on the plans. A few inches is fine, but don't even consider a "second story". Windage is a real issue with this boat type and one of the major reasons they must remain in protected waters. The Kentucky Lake can provide areas where you'll feel over powered by winds, contrary currents, etc., but mostly it's a fine place to "putter" around in a boat like this.

    The CapCodder isn't a boat, but a floating home, so don't even consider trying to power this around, unless moving from one slip to the next or bouncing along a shore (at great expense) in very calm weather.

    Simply put, you can't have your cake and eat it too, generally, but some are much better suited than others. I have a riverboat series that are better suited to cruising, but these are boats, designed to move well, that just happen to have large accommodations and aren't Winnebago's on a barge or oversize Jon or Garvey hulls with a big box on their decks.
  12. kapnD
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    kapnD Senior Member

    If you are really interested in a hull that will be "compatible in rough weather", I would strongly suggest using a recycled hull from a junked fiberglass or aluminum boat of appropriate size to carry the load, which you need to calculate as a first step in selection.
    I think you may find this to be quite enough challenge to satisfy your creative cravings.
    Then to complete the total recycle effort, figure out how to power it with catshit!

  13. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

    You could also go the ultimate recycled route of Spiral Island

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