Maintaining a Houseboat 101

What You Should Know About Keeping Your Home in Shipshape


When first buying a houseboat, things may cross your mind like, cost, is there Internet or where do the contents of my toilet go? Where will my clean water come from? And most importantly how do I make sure that I am maintaining the upkeep of my houseboat while also maintaining the resale value? Our recommendation is always to keep aside 15% of your boating budget for maintenance and repairs. Something will break or need to be maintained throughout the year. It is important to have a maintained houseboat so you can continue to sail comfortably. 

Efficient Ways to Keep Your Houseboat in Shipshape 

  There are many things to keep in mind to keep your maintenance efficient. If you are trying to keep your boat up but are practicing methods for different climates or different types of water or even types of boats, you may be wasting your time. Saving your boat from expensive repairs will be a bit of time consuming to preserve its look by spending time taking care of it. These are a few things to keep in mind when keeping your home in shipshape.  


  • Know your water, saltwater is a lot harder on your boat than if you were travelling in fresh water. 
  • Use approved products by either your supplier or a reputable source. Cutting costs by buying an inexpensive maintenance product will only cost you more later. 
  • Maintain your boat for either fiber glass wood, or any other material your boat is made out of. 
  • Prepare your houseboat for the change of seasons before the beginning of each season. 

How Do I Maintain the Deck of My Houseboat?


The deck of most house boats is coated in nonskid surfaces and smooth surfaces. It is important to treat both areas. Using a certified cleaner, one that your marina or reputable source recommends will keep the surface clean. It is important to clean the surface prior to waxing. 

When cleaning the deck of nonskid surfaces, you will have to scrub the deck with cleaner first, wash away any access soap and then dry the boat. Make sure that the entire area is dry prior to doing any buffing. This will remove any haze and significantly reduce buffing time. 

You can always add a non-slip coating to your deck to ensure the safety of all passengers on your boat. If you own a cruising houseboat where people are often swimming, it is in your best interest to add the non-slip coating when you are waxing the boat. If the nonskid area wears down, you can always paint it with a nonskid paint. 

Does My Maintenance Routine Change If I Have a Fiber Glass Houseboat or a Wood Houseboat? 


Having a wood houseboat versus a fiber glass boat will change everything about how you maintain your boat. Fiber glass boats are more durable and will last longer than a wood boat. This is why the maintenance of your wood houseboat is so important. 

When maintaining your wood boat, it is important to oil the boat to keep the water from penetrating the wood. Varnishing your wood and oiling the boat often will create a barrier so that moisture will not get into the wood. Before doing any sanding or painting make sure the wood isn’t dry, this can cause damage because the planks will swell after you’ve finished the project and leave behind cracks. By doing a bit of “pre-swelling” by either a hose or a wet towel, you prevent damage that will have to be fixed by a professional. The reality is if you properly maintain your wooden boat it can be around for 100 years, long enough for your great-grandchildren to enjoy the open waters.

If you are maintaining a fiber glass houseboat you will have to wax your boat often, it is important when you are waxing if you notice any cracks or chips to immediately fix them. This is because a small crack can turn into a big problem, cracks and chips should not be put off. Fiber glass should be washed often to keep it from saltwater build up, sand and algae. Keeping it clean will preserve the fiber glass for years to come. 


What Is the Cost of Maintenance on My Houseboat? 


When maintenance your boat, there are cheap ways to do it—which leads to costlier repairs later—or a quality way to do it that will keep repairs low in the long run. This will help later on when you’re looking at resale value of your houseboat.  

Depending on the size of your houseboat it may be of value to hire a maintenance team that will take care of the exterior of your boat. Ask your local marina if they have any contacts for a company that will do maintenance on your houseboat. 

If you plan to do all maintenance yourself, the recommendation is to set aside 15% of your yearly budget for maintenance. It is important to keep the maintenance up on your boat especially if it is in use for all four seasons and if you plan to cruise. Remember saltwater will always be harder on your boat than if you’re cruising or docked in fresh water. 


How Do I Maintain Water Quality on My Houseboat? 


When planning to make your boat your full-time home, it may be a concern to you to have drinkable water. Most boaters don’t use the water on the boat for drinking purposes, but it is possible to create clean water flowing through your houseboat. 

If you don’t need a lot of potable water the simplest way to do this is to boil water. This may be time consuming if you need a lot of drinking water. If you’re not interested investing money or time into creating free flowing drinking water, you can always invest in an electric distiller in your houseboat. 

If you are limited on space on your houseboat, you can invest in a water filtration system. This will eliminate the need for the electric distiller. This will filter the water for you so you can have drinking water coming out of your kitchen taps. The filter will need to be changed, but this is just a quick purchase off of amazon.


How Do I Maintain My Sewage on a Houseboat?

Maintaining sewage on your houseboat may not have been something you have thought about. It is illegal to dump your waste into the water and can come with a hefty dumping fine if you do so. 

When it comes to disposable, you can find garbage disposal around many marinas. It would be an investment to have a compost on board that will hold in any scents from food. Having garbage disposal installed on the boat will keep it from having a foul smell. You would hate to have invested a lot of money into the upkeep of your houseboat only for it to smell like a giant garbage dump. 

It is important to pump your toilet based on the number of people are on the boat. As an example, for a family of six it is a best practice to pump the waste about once a week. When you are pumping your waste from the berth, it is important to pump away from your houseboat. This will keep the scent away. Do not flush any feminine hygiene products in the toilet of the boat. 

Is Roof Maintenance Important on a Houseboat?


Your houseboat roof will see many different types of weather especially if you are using your houseboat through the four seasons. This is why it is so important, the typical life span to a non-winterized houseboat that experience four seasons is about four to seven years. If you preserve it properly, it will last you a lot longer. 

One thing you should never use when you are doing maintenance on your houseboat roof is the use of isopropyl. This is because the alcohol substance will break down the layers of your roof and will cause you to replace your roof earlier than you may have expected. 

How Do I Get Power on My Cruising or Docked Houseboat? 


Depending on whether your houseboat is docked, or cruising will change how you get power. Many docked boats get their power from marinas while cruising boats get their power from a generator.

If you plan to keep your houseboat permanently docked, you can look into your marina offering power supply for you. This may be included in the cost of your marina docking fees or may be an extra cost to you. If this is the case, you may want to look into getting a generator. Generators pricing depends on what kind of power supply you will be using for your houseboat. Cost for generators typically start at around $1200. 

If you plan to cruise with your houseboat, the best way to get power is to have a generator on board with you. Make sure prior to cruising that your generator is in working order so that you don’t run into problems while enjoy the water. 

Top List of Marine Generators


  • Kohler

  • Firman

  • Honda

  • Westinghouse

  • Generac


Do’s and Don’ts of Houseboat Maintenance and Checklist 


Boating Checklist 


  • Check engine and gas/diesel level.
  • Verify that there are no cracks or chips along the boat
  • Oil the wood of the houseboat
  • Check generator if it will be used
  • Extra lines and anchor 
  • Check for any minor damage and create list of repairs (do these ASAP)


Do’s and Don’ts of Houseboat Maintenance

Do’s Don’ts
Do use recommended maintenance products from either your manufacturer, marina or a trusted source. Don’t use isopropyl on the roof of your boat to clean it. 
Do a once-over to check for any damage and fix it immediately Don’t leave cracks and chips to be fixed later.
Do hire a boat maintenance company to take care of the exterior of your boat from.  Don’t dump sewage into lakes, rivers and oceans. 
Do clean your water prior to drinking.  Don’t flush feminine hygiene products.


Once you choose your houseboat, it’s important to maintain the quality of your boat. Especially if you want it to last you for years to come. Houseboats are a great investment and can change your quality of life. Find the best way to keep your boat afloat, whether that be by keeping it docked at a marina or cruising. As long as you follow the correct directions for the upkeep of the type and use of the boat, you will be able to save yourself time and money. Keep up on the preservation of your boat and you will be smooth sailing. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top