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Start with the Floaters

What are the Floaters?

The floaters are the foundations of a houseboat. Since it is floating on water, a houseboat is never steady. Indeed, it moves in 3 dimensions : height, width and depth.

  • Floaters/ Schwimmer/Flotteurs
    Floaters/ Schwimmer/Flotteurs

Because they are constantly in motions,  the floaters must be able to resist the water current. Meanwhile, it must carry the houseboat entire weight, through various types of movements.

Remember Archimede ?

As explained in the Archimede Principle : the upward buoyant force that is exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially submerged, is equal to the weight  of the fluid that the body displaces and acts in the upward direction at the center of the mass of the displaced fluid.

Here is a quick outline of the Archimede Principle (please click on his name in order to open a popup)

Which type of Floaters for our type of Houseboat ?

When researching for a suitable base for the boat, it became clear that the professionally manufactured floaters of this size (20x5m) would cost at least € 50,000 or more. Looking for a more cost-effective alternative, the blog of Matthias Westphal (pop-up) gave me better answers.

The idea is to use  IBC containers (pictured above) as floaters. In order to float, it is necessary to use and attach 20 containers below the boat platform. Each IBC container holds 1000 liters and thus offers 1000kg carrying capacity (minus the dead weight). This would then result in approximately 20 tons load capacity. However, the Berlin Shipping Authority no longer issues permits for open structures like these. Indeed, in case of damage, it could pollute the waters.

How are the floaters built?

The revised plans is to build a wooden base, which carries the IBC containers. This wooden structure is watertightly sealed and shock-resistant with multiple layers of a glass fiber-resin mixture. This way it provides high resistance to storm, waves and ice. Moreover, this structure allows a payload of more than 40 tons. The gap between IBC and wooden walls will later be stiffened with a new method used in houseboat construction. I will explain it all in a later post!

  • Floaters Construction side

The basic structure of the floaters

For this construction I decided to use wood. Mainly because it is a renewable raw material. Moreover, I just like to work with wood. In order to be fully waterproofed and because wood is not really good friend with water, the whole construction had to be sealed. Here I use special glass fiber fabric and a resin mixture. Above all, this technic gives  a maximum strength to the float.

A beam frame made of solid construction timber is screwed together solidly and protected against condensation with a double bituminous coating. Then the outer wooden panels – also sealed on one side with bitumen – is attached to this beam framework

The houseboat is carried by four floaters. The front ones include a 45 degrees wedge to provide less resistance in water. I also stiffen the front part of these floaters with crossbeams. The corners are rounded off with the router, so that the glass fiber mat fits tightly at all corners and edges. Then sanding, sanding, and sanding all over again, so that the epoxy resin finds a good grip. As you can see in the picture below , sanding is not really one of my favorite pastimes …

Holger's Mask
Holger’s Mask

Protective seal with glass fiber and resin

During my research on sealing  wood, I learned that it is important not to use (cheaper) polyester. Water-resistant epoxy resin is the best solution. Luckily, near Berlin, a local boat supply company – mainly managed by  women –  offers epoxy and fiberglass fabric at a fair price. All info on bootsservice-behnke (pop up)

Soon on YouTube, you will see the complete work in progress…. Here is a first idea of how it looks like :

What’s next for the floaters?

In the next chapter, I’ll show you how to connect these floaters to a solid platform.


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