Unusual Houseboat Question

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by dondelmundo, Jan 4, 2007.

  1. dondelmundo
    Joined: Jan 2007
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    dondelmundo Junior Member

    As a first time poster I'll try to be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible, but I do need advice/opinions from those in the know. I'm a 61 y.o. who needs to return to the saltwater. Pirata doesn't care where we live as long as he gets fed.

    I plan to build a 14' X 30' "studio apartment" retirement home on a 14' X 44' floating platform built using propane tanks welded together end to end with sheet steel shaped and welded to form pointed bows.

    The less expensive alternative is to buy several aluminum pontoon fishing boats and weld those together (the pontoons only) but all that are available within a reasonable distance seem to be only 24" in diameter.

    The plan is for a 3/4" marine plywood deck, 2" X2" bulkheads, heavy vinyl exterior siding, 2" X 2" flat roof trusses, carpeted deck in the cabin, over 7' headroom.

    I'll live aboard, tied to a floating dock on the South Texas Gulf Coast. Cruising will be minimal. Six years in the Navy and five years roaming Mexico have pretty well cured this country boy of long distance wanderlust.

    The little question is: What minimum diameter tanks will I need? The big question is: Will this even work?

    Thank you for your assistance and courtesy. I read the responses to another poster who felt some replies are a bit rude. I don't see much of that compared to some forums I've read.
  2. Ike
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    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

  3. dondelmundo
    Joined: Jan 2007
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    dondelmundo Junior Member

    Thanks Ike

    I posted here because most of the folks on the other forum seem to prefer ready builts. I was hoping someone with design experience or hands-on building experience on this designers forum could offer advice.

    I'll try the others anyway. You can never tell.

    Thanks for your reply.
  4. Poida
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Location: Australia

    Poida Senior Member

    G'day Don

    I would suggest that if you want to retire on a houseboat that you look for a maintenance free construction as far as possible. You'll probably live to 125 with the healthy outdoor environment. It's obvious that you are looking at an inexpensive construction as you mentioned propane tanks. I don't know if the tanks in America look like ours but they have a cylindrical can like shape at the top and bottom so the tanks stand up.

    If you weld these end to end there will be an area that is difficult to get to and maintain and I would think they would rust out eventually.

    We only have steel tanks here so if yours are aluminium forget what I said if you haven't already done so.

    If they are steel like ours may I suggest that you devise a way of strapping them on to the underside of your pontoon and that way you can release them for inspection or replacement.

    Incidently we would be prosecuted here for using propane cylinders here in such a manner.

    Also if you don't know, sorry if I am insulting your intelligence if you do, try and learn something about flotation so you will know what volume of cylinder will support what weight.

    Have a look at some houseboats and see if you can find one you want to build and take the measurements.

    Honestly if I was going to build a houseboat I would buy some plans.

    All the best on your retirement.

  5. CDBarry
    Joined: Nov 2002
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    CDBarry Senior Member

    If you look around, you may find a variety of commercial used barges and similar items that might work for you. LASH barges used to be all over the place, and for a while they were giving them away if you promised to take them quickly. Look for "boats and harbors" magazine.

    Barges or floats like this are also one of the areas where ferrocement makes sense, since you could build a mold that would turn out a bunch of similar parts.
  6. Eric Sponberg
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    Eric Sponberg Senior Member

    For the Flagler Floating Homes we built plywood barges and covered them with fiberglass. Here is the link to my website.


    The green one in the first photo is 16.5' x 40' and has a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. The pink home behind in later photos is 20' x 44'. Accommodation plans of both homes are shown in the story.

    You have to be careful of stability, particularly in the stormy Gulf Coast. A single-story home is not too much of a problem, but a two-story home is. We need to ballast these homes with lead ballast. They do not have installed engines, so they are not boats.

    Poida makes a good point about maintenance after the home is built. In your suggested method of construction, you would have to pressure test all the welded cylinders to make sure they are water and air tight. With a lot of welds, that may be hard to achieve. In the plywood barges of the Flagler homes, we have access from inside the home into every watertight space in the barge. The exterior fiberglass is vinylester resin and mat, and the inside is coated all over with copper wood preservative. Homes built in a similar manner are known to have lasted at least 40+ years so far, and look as new as the day they were built.

    I hope that helps.

  7. messabout
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    messabout Senior Member

    CDBarry has a practical solution with his barge suggestion. Get a barge, buy a travel trailer and fasten it down to the barge deck. If you get tired of the waterborne life, take the trailer off and dispose of the barge. Now you can still have a place to sleep, and/or sell the trailer to retrieve a little bit of your original cost.

    Your barge will need some sort of propulsion even though you do not intend to cruise. All kinds of pesky local government regulations can make you want to move. Also if you do not like your neighbors you can move away at will. Further than that, if you want to get uninvolved with some demanding local woman you can steal away in the dark of night. I have seen sizeable barges moved by a modest sized Yamaha 4 stroke outboard that swings a humongous wheel. Apparently there are such motors designed with the heavy workboat in mind.
  8. safewalrus
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    safewalrus Ancient Marriner


    Like the guys said I to would go for a barge as a base, makes more sense both from a stability point of view and one of maintainance! And believe you me you gotta do a little bit of maintainance no matter where you are with a floating thingy (barge/boat/whatever). Plus of course with a barge and the house built ontop you have a cellar for want of a better description (hold?) to stow stuff - useful or what?!

    Of course you can build it out of propane cylinders, blow yourself up to if you don't 'gas free' the bloody things but hell that's a lot of hard work! Get a barge and build your bungalow on top of that, put some ballast inside, water tanks, effluant tanks etc to keep her upright and your laughing; easier too

    Oh yes and welcome to the forum - well somebody has got to say it! Suprised nobody has yet they are normally a lot more polite (probably still hung over from the New Years party!!)
  9. ted655
    Joined: May 2003
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    ted655 Senior Member

    Here is where you ask as many questions as you may have

    Now.... I don't know how really serious you are, OR where in N. Texas you live, BUT.... I just happen to have a 14' X 44' X 4' deep barge hull for sale. (almost free) Cheap! We found a really good deal & the wife didn't want to take time (I work slow) for me to build the topsides. We bought turnkey HB.
    If you are past the "dreamong" stage, it is well worth you're while to contact me.
    But regardless, welcome and I will help you all I can.:)
  10. RAWRF
    Joined: Dec 2006
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    RAWRF Junior Member

    Propane cylinders are heavy wall steel and they would be dangerous to start cutting and welding on, just as old gas barrels are, which is why you chisel a lid off and not go to torching or cutting with an abrasive wheel. You could probably buy 2 24foot aluminum pontoon boats on Ebay for less than 5k each, or get the barge from Ted655, but propane cylinders would not be wise and require a ton of work. the only safe and accurate way to cut the ends off would be to get a stationary horizontal bandsaw with a liquid cooled blade, and it would have to be a big one.
  11. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    SamSam Senior Member

    Here is a houseboat made using 4-1000 gal. propane tanks as flotation. It's from a series of pictures in the Yahoo Group "Houseboatbuilding" posted in a discussion from May 10th, 2004. Sam

    Attached Files:

  12. dumbjarhead
    Joined: Jan 2007
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    dumbjarhead Junior Member

    Its nice to see them actually being helpful instead of making you feel like an idiot
  13. george allard
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    Location: kentucky

    george allard Junior Member

  14. george allard
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    george allard Junior Member

    For some reason, you can't just click on the site www,pithpontoons.com. Go to your search engine and type it in. They have a section on capacities and diameters. Look on E-bay, They usually have some good prices on used houseboats in the Michigan area.

  15. kerosene
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    kerosene Senior Member

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