Working on a Houseboat

The Model Remodel Crew for the last two months has been working on a somewhat unusual, albeit quintessentially Seattle, project—a houseboat on the Northwest side of Lake Union.

The Crew is remodeling in the master bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, basement and sleeping loft, and the work includes replacing plumbing fixtures, changing out countertops, installing bamboo floors, adding USB hubs to electrical outlets, dividing the sleeping loft into two separate spaces, turning the basement into an office/media space, and generally making the houseboat a little more modern.

The construction work is fairly straightforward, but there are several challenges of working on a houseboat that the average person might not think about…

  • First, the materials for this houseboat project have necessitated highly deliberate choices. The homeowner and Crew have needed to be mindful of the way weight affects the boat. If it becomes overloaded on one side, the boat leans. This came into play when swapping out the kitchen countertops. The homeowner wisely selected a PaperStone counter, rather than something like a thick granite. This helped distribute the weight more evenly.
  • Second, bringing these selected materials onto and into the houseboat has been a huge challenge. Unlike a house on a residential street, the houseboat doesn’t have easy access. The Crew must walk down the Burke Gillman Trail, go through the dock’s gate, proceed down the dock, and finally go up a stair ladder to enter the home. Try this with huge tools (Or worse—appliances!), and you’ve got quite a different experience than you would find at a regular jobsite.
  • Once the materials are in the houseboat, installing them level and plumb is an added challenge. Because the space has slight movements, it isn’t so easy as pulling out a level. Instead, the Crew must use tools like squares and right angles and use existing surfaces as reference points.
  • Last, completely atypical to a normal Model Remodel project, some of the Crew members have experienced slight sea sickness! No one has gotten severely ill, but several have mentioned feeling slightly motion sick at times, especially in the sleeping loft and basement, where there are low ceilings and limited reference points. Though he hasn’t gotten sick himself, supervisor Jasun Sherman has said he often goes home with sea legs.

Despite the unusual circumstances, Model Remodel has greatly enjoyed this houseboat project. “It’s always fun to work on something that’s different,” Sherman says. “There’s always stuff to learn, right?”

To see how the remodeling is coming along, view the progress photos above.

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