Tips for Building a Boathouse at Your Lakefront Property

Adding a boathouse at your lakefront property is a great addition to your home! Having a boathouse makes for a great place for storage to keep your vessel safe and can double for a great place to host events or have a place to relax by the lake! Here are some tips before you add in your boathouse you’ll enjoy next summer…

What is a Boathouse?

First… What is a boathouse?

A boathouse is a structure built on top of the water, near a shoreline, that houses boats inside or underneath.

Most boathouses are designed to accommodate incoming boat traffic from the water and use boat ports and launches to lift and store vessels when they are not being used. Boathouses always have a roof, but sides are optional. Some property owners choose to fully enclose their boathouse and create a residential-like property, while others prefer a simple pavilion design to keep costs low.

Many waterfront property owners, boaters and marinas use boathouses for short-term and long-term storage on rivers, lakes and ocean shores. Part of the appeal is that you can design your boathouse to be as intricate and luxurious or as simple and budget-friendly as you want.

Building a Boathouse-

Choosing the Location and Design- Many places have strict regulations for shoreline construction projects because they can worsen shoreline erosion and be detrimental to marine ecosystems if not done correctly. Consider conducting formal water tests and consulting a professional site planner who can analyze the long-term effects of your boathouse on the shore and account for any predicted changes in water levels. You also want to test that the water is safe and nontoxic in your chosen area if building somewhere new.

Never excavate or otherwise alter the land without consulting your local environmental or building officials. If you share a lake or shoreline with neighbors or public spaces, be careful not to obstruct their use or view of the water in any way. Consider water depth before you choose your building site — it must be deep enough at all times to drive your boat in and out, regardless of tide. Your boathouse and accompanying docks should be careful not to impede the natural water flow beneath the surface and around pilings.

Local building ordinances may also specify whether your boathouse can be placed parallel or perpendicular to the shore.

Get Permits and Approval- Once you know where you want to build, it’s time to seek approval and permits. Most permits will require formal site plans and may request compliance tests. Be prepared to pay additional fees and meet regulations for building permits, HOAs and environmental agency approval.

Get the Materials- Gather all materials per your formal site and building plans. While your contractor will give you an estimated cost for the materials, be aware that this could change if you encounter any issues or building concerns throughout the process. Invest in higher quality building materials so your boathouse and supporting structures will last longer and require minimal repairs. While nontoxic treated lumber is a popular choice for its cost-efficiency, composite wood requires less upkeep and cleaning.

Polyethylene is the best choice for the floating docks surrounding and attached to your boathouse because they are highly durable and require very little upkeep. All EZ Dock floating docks and gangways are made with polyethylene filled with airtight chambers that allow them to float on the water, even on fluctuating water levels.


  1. Building the foundation: Your boathouse’s foundation can be a sturdy dock, a solid wooden crib, pilings or a combination of the three. The site engineer will account for the type of material on the water’s floor, like hard clay or loose sand, as well as your project’s estimated weight and impact. Floating boathouses require buoyancy features in the design but are the least invasive to your surrounding environment. Some crib designs have small, open spaces that welcome marine life to build shelter there. Your crib foundation might be designed as a “false bottom” to further minimize impact.
  2. Assembling the house: Once the foundation is complete, the contractors will begin building the rest of your boathouse, per your design. If you’re going for a pavilion-style boathouse without enclosed walls, this will be a brief part of the process. If you’re designing an entirely enclosed space, complete with residential quarters, expect it to take longer and cost more.
  3. Adding the roof: Determine the best shape roof for your materials and needs. Hip roofs have four sides with a peak and are ideal in windy areas, while gabled roofs with rafters that form a peak in the middle are better for open boathouse designs in low-wind regions. Flat roofs are usually not recommended because they cannot accommodate moisture and weight in the same way that hip and gable designs can. Corrugated metal is a common choice for boathouse roofing, but many materials may be suitable, depending on your budget and environmental needs.

If you’re handling your boathouse project alone, remember to abide by all shoreline building requirements, or you risk fines and irreversible damage to your waterfront property.

Furnish and Complete-

Once construction is finished, it’s time to personalize your boathouse with things like:

  • Accommodations: If you’re using your boathouse as a residence or vacation house, don’t forget to allocate space in your budget and layout for the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, including plumbing and water heating. If space allows it, add built-in shelves and storage closets to optimize your square footage.
  • Decorations: Paint and stain the inside and outside of your boathouse to complement other parts of your waterfront property, like your home or nearby marina. Add personalized fixtures to all doors and cabinets, and include curtains or rugs to add more warmth to the place.
  • Furniture: Invest in indoor and outdoor furniture for your boathouse. Outdoor furniture includes benches, picnic tables, patio furniture and lounging chairs. The indoor furniture you need depends on how you plan to use the extra space, but start with some comfortable chairs, a sofa and a bed if someone will be sleeping there. Don’t forget to arrange furniture so those sitting can enjoy the view.
  • Utilities: Hook your boathouse up to utilities, like water and electricity or solar power, and schedule professional HVAC installation if you want a climate-controlled boathouse. Optional utilities include phone lines, internet lines, satellite television and security systems.
  • Necessities: Enclosed boathouses need lighting, flooring and adequate insulation. Consider adding windows and window treatments to let in natural light and control the temperature.


Once your boathouse is complete, maintenance is similar to what you already do with your docks and your home. Protect your investment and get the most out of your new addition with these tips:

  • Add security features: Keep your boathouse doors locked and use lockers and storage chests to store valuables while you’re away from the property. Install motion sensor lights or timed lights around the boathouse for further security. Never leave your keys in the boat.
  • Prevent pest infestations: Just like your primary home, boathouses are susceptible to the same insects and pests that infiltrate and wreak havoc on wiring, walls and fabrics. Schedule preventive pest inspections and keep the house free of clutter, dirt, debris and food scraps. Keep all garbage sealed and remove it promptly.
  • Inspect it regularly: Inspect your boathouse and docks regularly to ensure all connectors and fasteners are still intact and that there are no signs of damage. Inspections are especially crucial after storm surges or hurricanes and after winter is over. Never ignore seemingly minor damage to pilings or other structural components, as they could create costlier, more hazardous results if left untreated.
  • Keep it clean: Pressure wash your boathouse and docks as needed to maintain a like-new appearance or prepare the property for potential buyers.
  • Be prepared: Equip your boathouse with emergency supplies, like a first aid kit and fire extinguisher, and keep plenty of sunscreen and drinking water on-site for easy access before boating trips.


Now that you have some ideas about how to build and what you want it to look like… its time to start planning and building! You will have so much fun designing and enjoying your new addition to your lakefront home and have a great space to store your boat or hang out and create memories with friends and family.

Posted by Scott Freerksen “The Lake Guy”

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