How To Build A Houseboat Cheaply

Living the dream life is everyone’s wish but to fulfill this wish, sometimes people have to do some things that other people might feel is a little crazy!

It is a great feeling to get the house you always wanted but if you are among the ones who have the dream of living on a houseboat then you are in the right place. 

Houseboats are quite easy to build if you have some construction experience and even if you don’t they can of course be bought too. For most people building a houseboat from scratch would be too much work for them and would honestly be too expensive as well but is there a way to build a houseboat cheaper? 

Can you build a houseboat without spending a fortune and a long time doing it? 

If you want to build your houseboat from nothing the only way to make it cheaper is for you to do a lot of the work yourself. Another way to build a houseboat cheap is to get an older cheap houseboat that is rundown and completely remodel it. 

Many people prefer building a brand new boat because then the know its is done right but not only can that be very time consuming but it can also be more expensive than remodeling an existing houseboat. 

Just like it is cheaper to update or remodel a house that is in disrepair than building a brand new one the same holds true with houseboats. 

However, if you are dead set on building a houseboat and want to know how to do it properly and as cheaply as possible then you will want to read the rest of this article. 

How to build a houseboat

While building your own houseboat, it is important that you follow the following steps correctly. These will act as the perfect guide for you to get the perfection that you desire in your dream houseboat. 

A brief guide of how to build a houseboat is given below which we hope will help you out with your build. We will discuss some tips on how to save money when building a houseboat in a later section. 

Get a Plan 

It may sound obvious but it is a basic requirement when you are building a houseboat. By getting or making a plan, you can have a detailed guide of how to build and the process for building as well. 

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You can also make changes to the plan as well according to your requirements so just because it says your houseboat should or shouldn’t have something doesn’t mean you can’t add or take it away.

Build the base 

This part has to be completed on the land. While building the base, it is important to make sure that it is strong enough to carry all the weight of the houseboat as well as everything that you will have on board. That includes the furniture, passengers, fuel, appliances, and more. 

Do make sure to add the buoyancy aids too. Once you are done, test it by putting the base into water. This is the most important part so if you aren’t 100% sure on how to do this properly hiring someone to do it or buying a premade pontoon or barge base would be a good idea.

Add the floor and structure 

Once the base has successfully passed the buoyancy test, the next step is to add the floor/deck to it. After that, start building the basic structure. You can do this by building the parts separately and joining them all later on.

Add the walls and other details 

If the base is built properly it should be strong enough to easily support the rest of your houseboat. 

It is now the time to add the walls, windows, upper deck, etc. You can choose whichever material you like for each of these but often people will choose aluminum frames for the walls as they are more lightweight than wood and also more water resistant. 

Some people prefer to use fiberglass or composite panels as well so just decide what you want before starting.

Building the inside 

It is important that you make smart use of the small space available to you. You can go for sliding doors, bunk beds, storage space in or under the stairs, and many more similar things.

Do make sure that you don’t use lightweight material like plywood for the deck if you are planning on living in humid areas.

Finishing touches 

Well, now you will see that all the things have been done as planned. You can add finishing touches to your houseboat like curtains, tiny furniture, plants or anything else of your choice. 

Finally, load it up and lower it into the water (if it’s out) and take it for a test drive. 

These step by step details can come in quite handy but it is far from an exhaustive list. Do make sure that the buoyancy aids being used are of high quality as they will support your houseboat properly. 

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Also, you should invest in a good engine and steering if you don’t plan on it being a stationary houseboat. 

Important factors to be considered when building a houseboat 

On top of the steps mentioned above there are a bunch of decisions that you have to make when building your own houseboat. All of these decisions are important as they will affect your finished product quite a bit. 

What kind of hull would you like to have? 

The hull matters a lot. You can choose among the various designs available and get the best one for yourself. You just have to look up on the internet what kind of design suits your requirements the best and then choose accordingly.

Materials like steel, aluminium, wood and fiberglass are usually used these days for the construction. Each of these has its own pros and cons. You can opt for wood if you want a strong one and a cheaper option but it does come with many cons such as not being as water resistant.

If you want to stay within the budget, then choosing simple wooden walls is a good option. If possible, you can go for strong glass walls followed by curtains for privacy. 

You can also go something right in the middle depending on your budget.

The cabin of your houseboat should be lightweight. Although the houseboat must meet all of your requirements you shouldn’t forget the fact that it is a houseboat and it is better to keep the furniture to the minimum or opt for lightweight items instead. 

This will be safer as well as help in keeping the price under budget.

One of the more basic yet important things is that you need to keep yourself motivated during the building process. It takes a lot of efforts and time to build a houseboat and it is important that you don’t lose hope if things don’t fall into place the way you want them to.

How to build a cheap houseboat?

It takes a lot of money to build a houseboat. Not only the basic necessities but also the finishing touches all require a lot of money.

The first thing that you should do when trying to build a houseboat cheaply is to make a budget. By doing so, your chances of spending extra or recklessly will decrease to a certain extent. If you make a budget and stick with it then you will know for certain exactly what your houseboat build will cost. 

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Another thing you can do is before starting the project, make sure to consult with a few people who have experience in the field. 

You can often get some valuable tips by consulting them and they will be able to steer you away from some money pits and also help point you in the rig  direction. 

People who have built a houseboat before are invaluable when you are trying to save money and build cheaply. 

Go through all the different kinds of designs and options available for a houseboat. By doing this, you can make an informed decision regarding the structure of your new houseboat. You can choose the one which is the cheapest and suits all your requirements as well. 

To avoid any mishaps, make sure that you don’t settle for poor quality just to try and save a few bucks. 

Unfortunately there is no magic wand that you can wave that will make your houseboat build cheap. For most people remodeling an older houseboat will be considerably cheaper than building from scratch as often the hull and frame will still be in good shape. 

You can then tear everything back that is old, outdated, or damaged and start fresh from there. 

I recently did a renovation on the entire main floor of my house including kitchen, bathroom and flooring throughout. By careful budgeting and only hiring out the necessary parts we were able to get the entire thing done for about $15,000 which was far less than most full bids we were getting at 25-30k! 

If you are careful when building or remodeling a houseboat you can also save tons of money on your project. 


All in all, there are many things to be considered while building a houseboat. It is important to take care of even the tiniest of things to get the perfect finish and to have the boat of your dreams. 

To avoid unnecessary expenses, you can ask for help from your family members or friends which will save you some money on labor costs. 

Patience is the key and it is important that you be patient and the reward will pay off eventually. 

I hope that you found this article helpful and have a great time building your new houseboat!

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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