Saturday, September 14, 2013



This is a large HOUSEBOAT By law different from a "Floating Home".
See More House Boats and floating Homes at : all about house

By Contrast "Floating Homes" are more like conventional houses built on barges. The more modest ones cost quite a bit less than an "extreme house boat" and are not meant for cruising about on. The true "Floating Home" is used much like a waterfront cottage. Floating Homes are generally permanently moored in special sections of marinas, off of someone's waterfront property, or in specially planned special purpose marinas or "neighborhoods." They can be simple cottages on a barge or very elaborate such as the one pictured below:

10 Amazing Floating Houses Around The Globe
You can tour this and nine other truly amazing floating homes at: around-the-globe:

If you would like to see a beautiful photo essay on floating homes and a floating home "neighborhood" see Judith Nazarewicz's  Photo Essay: FLOATING HOMES OF VANCOUVER ISLAND at:

 So if you are thinking of living with a water view you might want to consider a floating home or extreme houseboat especially given the rising prices for water front and water view property. But you should be aware that neither extreme houseboats nor floating homes are carefree and present some maintenance headaches and design considerations that are quite different from conventional houses of any size. Square foot for square foot we would think that the extreme houseboat option is the most expensive. It must be designed by a naval architect, constructed by skilled professional boat builders, and in addition to the expenses involved in the hull and accommodations construction you have to pay for and maintain the propulsion engine or engines and generator, and all steering and navigation equipment. Operating the extreme house boat will also require some near professional navigational skills. Still, if you have the money and the skills the extreme house boat offers several advantages. First it is legally a vessel and is professionally designed and build by marine professionals. It will be in compliance with all relevant marine safety and environmental protection regulations and good marine practice from day one. Second, it is self propelled, so even if you mostly leave it in the slip and use it like a waterfront cottage it can be relocated without having to hire a tug. The extreme houseboat can also get underway on short notice and relocate to a safer place in the event of a hurricane. The disadvantages include as we mentioned, higher initial costs and much higher maintenance costs including the extra cost of maintaining the propulsion engines and navigation equipment. Virtually all maintenance beyond the do it yourself capabilities of the owner must be performed by highly paid and skilled boat yard craftsmen. We don't recommend the extreme house boat for the majority of our readers. But it could be a preference for some with the right skill set and funds. An owner with a really good skill set of both navigational skills and boat building maintenance and repair skills might overcome the initial price gap by shopping the used boat market, but it will take a bit of luck to find an extreme house boat with in easy relocation distance, there aren't that many around. But some places are better than others. On water bodies where house boating is popular there are more likely to be "extreme houseboats" occasionally turning up on the used market.

 Floating homes by contrast come in a wide variety of prices and sizes, and types of construction. The "house" portion may be build by ordinary carpenters, roofers, cabinet makers, electricians, and plumbers even with no prior floating home construction experience. However you have to remember that the "foundation" is a floating barge or set of pontoons. Stability has to be considered. The house and barge/pontoon arrangement must maintain the center of gravity below the center of buoyancy not only under all conditions when moored, but on those rare occasions when it has to be moved by towboat . Ordinary house or cottage plans may suffice but a naval architect should be consulted on the barge size and configuration or pontoon arrangement that you are going to set your house upon. The naval architect comes in handy also when your plumbing plan gets below the drain in the sink level. Water hates all sorts of sewerage and so does the EPA and state versions of the EPA on the water you are going to need no discharge systems these days. Some floating home "neighborhoods" have hook ups to city sewerage and water services as well as electricity. Some marinas that accept floating homes in the same manner as live aboard yachts provide water and electricity hook ups but no sewerage hook ups. In many cases you are going to need holding tank arrangements. What you don't want is any arrangement where the floating home has to come to the pump out station. If no pump out service is available that comes to your floating home, you haven't found a suitable place to locate it yet.

 If you live anywhere subject to tropical storms you are going to need an elaborate mooring system. Along the Gulf Coast of the United States for example the daily lunar tidal range is only about a foot. But a typical tropical storm surge could add five feet  to the lunar tide effect and a major hurricane could plow a 30 ft tidal wave into a coastal marina or raise the water level in protected back bays by more than 20 feet. You will need a mooring system that can accommodate such conditions. You can't take a floating home and just tie it to some cleat on some dock. This is an expensive investment in a risky environment. You can't skimp on moorings and moving to avoid a hurricane is going to be just about impossible so it has to be able to survive where it is. Having said that, despite sparing no expense in designing and building  your mooring you will not be allowed to ride out the storm aboard. If there is an evacuation order and that is highly likely for low lying areas where marinas are usually found, you have to get out and the floating home has to deal with the storm surge and wind on its own. Consequently your mooring design can't be based on someone being there to slack and tighten lines as needed.

 Most of your repairs on a floating home may be performed by the same craftsman you might call for a house in the suburbs, but hull maintenance is another ball of wax. If you buy new, you will want a hull with a really high quality anti-fouling bottom. Unfortunately such bottoms don't last forever. On an annual basis you will probably need a diver to give the bottom a good scrubbing. This will probably only cost a few hundred dollars and such services are common in areas with big marinas. The other service that you will want to check out in advance of need is towing. Eventually, we hope not more than every five years or so , you will need to have your home towed to a dry dock for hull refurbishing or repair. You don't want more or less boat than what it takes to do the job. Don't just call the local tug company that serves ships in the harbor. You are looking for a smaller boat and crew than that. The type of tug you are looking for is sometimes called a "dinner bucket" tug or tow boat. These are called "dinner bucket because they typically have no crew quarters and do basically day jobs requiring minimal horsepower. Typically you'll want about 450 to 650 hp to move a simple barge mounted floating home. Construction companies that work on bridges and piers often have such boats. Sometime they are referred to as "construction tenders". One advantage to owning a floating home in a "neighborhood" of floating homes is that many of your neighbors will have solved these problems and found these services and can advise and introduce you. Now for the big issue.

 With the floating home you have a "house" on a "hull" under maritime law it is most often not considered a "vessel". That means that standard boat owners insurance won't do . Being on a floating foundation typical "boat owners insurance" won't cover everything and may possibly even be unavailable. You're going to need a custom package from an agent that really knows what he or she is doing.  Again here is another advantage of clustering floating homes into a "neighborhood", your neighbors can help pilot through the shoal waters of floating home insurance.

 We hope that you enjoyed this peak into the world of the extreme houseboat/floating home. We're going to move this post soon to our BOAT BUILDING SECTION where we hope to be able to expand on the concept. We caution all of our back yard boat builders however, that you will need a naval architect's help in designing your floating home even if you are quite capable of building a small cottage and/or a large barge. Stability calculations to help you keep the center of gravity beneath the center of buoyancy in all conditions, and marine plumbing are usually going to require some actual professional help. But as Judith Nazarewicz's beautiful photo essays indicate lots of people have solved all the problems and live aboard floating homes in beautiful "neighborhoods.


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