Boat Houses Construction

Boat Houses Overview

What Are Boat Houses?

As their name suggests, boat houses are structures designed to house and safeguard boats of various sizes. They’re commonly found along the edges of lakes, rivers, bays, and other areas of open water.

Boat houses (not to be confused with houseboats, which are boats that double as dwellings) can be built to accommodate everything from canoes to catamarans. Most water enthusiasts, however, use them to store fishing boats, speed boats, pontoon boats, cabin cruisers, and similar types of pleasure craft.

In this sense, they’re essentially sheltered docks or floating, floorless garages.

Boat houses are covered and have at least two enclosed sides. Some are open on only one end for maximum privacy and protection. Others are open on both ends, making it possible to enter and exit the structure and access the boat from two different directions.

Without a boat house, your beloved vessel will be vulnerable to wind, rain, falling debris, and other dangers that have the potential to decrease its lifespan—and its resale value—considerably.

With one, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you’re covered, literally and figuratively.

What Problems It Solves:

The foremost function of boat houses is to provide boat owners with a place to dock one or more watercraft that keeps them safe from the elements and off-limits to thieves and vandals. A basic boat house may therefore appear to be little more than a dockside shed or carport.

But boat houses can also be built with utility and luxury in mind. Many structures feature built-in storage for equipment and supplies, giving boat owners a convenient place to work on their vessels.

It’s also not uncommon to come across extravagant boat houses with lounges, open-air kitchen setups, and cabins or bunks for sleeping. Some commercial boat houses even look and operate like clubhouses, and count bars, restaurants, locker rooms, and pro shops in their list of amenities.

Much like traditional homes, boat houses can be tailored for any number of needs, uses, and sensibilities.

Images Of Boat Houses


  • Protect boats from damage, deterioration, theft, and other undesirable circumstances
  • Offer convenient centralized storage
  • High customization potential to suit a wide variety of tastes
  • Boats remain on the water for easy launching and docking
  • Can save owners the expense of docking at a public marina


  • Can be costly to build and maintain
  • Involves a fair amount of planning and red tape

Boat Houses Process


If you’re thinking about building a boat house, these are the main steps you’ll need to take to get it done.

Keep in mind that depending on where you live and the exact nature of your project, some of these steps might not apply to you; conversely, others may be necessary that aren’t mentioned here.

Confirm That You Can Build A Boat House

Before you do anything else, you’ll want to make sure that the law allows you to put a boat house where you’re envisioning. You probably won’t run into any issues, but it’s possible that the spot you have in mind is located on private property or has geographical or aquatic features that make it unsuitable for building. Doing your homework now could spare you a serious headache later on.

Apply For A Building Permit

Most municipalities will require you to obtain a building permit, even if you’re building on your own property. The reason for this is that major waterways are typically owned by the local government or commercial entities. A poorly built boat house could constitute a serious liability, so your regional building authority will want to make sure that what goes up is up to snuff.

Seek Out A Contractor To Design And Build Your Boat House

It should be fairly easy to track down a contractor that specializes in boat houses and covered docks if you live near a large body of water. Be sure to request estimates from a few different builders, and take the time to read some testimonials from past clients before you commit to a particular company.


Not all boat houses are made alike. Generally speaking, though, your will contractor will make use of materials like:

  • Piling for establishing a solid underwater foundation.
  • Lumber for framing and enclosing the structure, as well as constructing the connecting boardwalk.
  • Corrugated metal for roofing and sidewalls (optional, but recommended for regions with high average levels of precipitation or humidity).
  • Additional materials for desired amenities, such as finished floors, furniture, and appliances.

Permitting Process

In most cases, permits are required for boat houses; however, the application and approval process will vary depending on the state and municipality you are planning on building in. The contractor you choose to build your boat house will likely be familiar with the permitting process. At minimum, most application processes require a copy of your proposed design, approved or designed by a structural engineer.

Common Problems

In a perfect world, all construction projects would proceed smoothly. But since hiccups are practically inevitable, it can at least be helpful to know what sorts of problems you might end up facing.

Permit Delays. In some cases, it can take a while to get a building permit approved. Such delays could complicate your seasonal

Cost. The most looming and obvious concern for the majority of property owners. Erecting a boat house or covered dock, even a relatively simplistic one, isn’t cheap.

Environmental Uncertainties. Shifting water levels or geographical features could spell trouble for your completed boat house.

Questions To Ask Contractors

Preparing some straightforward questions can help you get a better bid and lock down a contractor you can put your full faith in. For example, you might ask:

  • How much experience do you have building this kind of structure?
  • What other features do you recommend for intended use?
  • How long do you expect construction to take?
  • Am I likely to encounter any unpredicted hang-ups or expenses?

Alternative Solutions To Boat Houses

Of course, a boat house isn’t the only option you have for storing your watercraft. Others include:

  • Using an existing garage stall or carport
  • Covering your boat with a cover or tarp

Boat houses have distinct advantages and disadvantages compared to alternatives.

Boat Houses vs Garage Stall/Carport Boat houses, compared to garage stalls/carport;

  • Are larger
  • Only cater to boats, putting no other vehicles at risk
  • Are conveniently located near bodies of water
Boat houses, compared to garage stalls/carport;

  • Doesn’t offer that much more protection
  • Usually requires construction
Boat Houses vs Boat Cover/Tarp Boat houses, compared to boat covers/tarps;

  • Provides far more protection than covers or tarps
  • Deters theft and vandalism whereas boat covers likely won’t
  • Sturdier than any cover which will protect your investment
Boat houses, compared to boat covers/tarps;

  • Are far more expensive than buying a boat cover or tarp
  • Can be unnecessary in areas with temperate climates and low precipitation, making covers sufficient

Costs Of Boat Houses

Multiple factors will combine to determine the end cost of your new boat house. Some of the biggest are:

  • Square footage
  • Preferred materials (wood, metal, stone, insulation, etc.)
  • Bonus features and amenities
  • Additional equipment, such as lifts and plumbing
  • Labor costs and construction time

All told, seeing the project through will likely cost you somewhere between $10,000 and $50,000. As you can see, you have quite a bit of wiggle room to work with.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I DIY My Boat House?

Unless you are a structural engineer or have a significant amount of time on your hand, it is recommended that you do not build your boat house yourself. However, it is possible!

How Big Can My Boat House Be?

It comes down to specific regulations in your municipality. Some authorities, for instance, mandate that the total footprint area of waterfront storage structures can be no larger than 1,000 square feet. Others are far more lenient when it comes to dimensions.