Homemade Pontoon Boat





Introduction: Homemade Pontoon Boat

Trash to Treasure

This is an entry in the
Trash to Treasure

This is how to build your very own, functional and free, pontoon boat. We used completely recycled materials that were otherwise trash, but we turned it into an environmentally-friendly party barge.

Step 1: Locate and Acquire Your Materials

Our pontoon boat started from a 7ftx10ft frame of water-treated 2x6's, 2x4's, and 2x2's. We got these from the remains of my old backyard deck which was replaced over the summer (all framework was pressure treated and stained). The pontoons are made out of six 30-gallon barrels, which we found at a recycling center. These barrels were used and weren't approved for catering or agriculture- but were perfect for our boat. We found large pieces of Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and more 2x4's in dumpsters scattered around a new housing development. We used my riding lawn mower and it's homemade trailer to collect the wood out of the dumpsters. The deck was scrap pieces of sub-flouring and were being thrown way- again, who wouldn't build a boat out of it? I should add that in a dumpster we found a leather ottoman, which was instantly deemed as the captain's chair. You can find the necessary lumber where we did, in the trash, or in recycling centers.

Step 2: Check the Barrels for Leaks

Dispose any liquid inside the barrel accordingly, ensure the barrels are clean and safe enough for a marine environment. Fill 1/3 of each barrel with water, tighten their lids, and flip them upside-down. This will show you if any of the barrels would let water leak into them.

Step 3: Completly Empty the Barrels and Seal Lids With Caulk

Tighten each of the lids with a wrench. Evenly caulk each lid and allow 2 hours for it to cure. Rest assured this will keep the inside of the barrels, therefor you, dry.

Step 4: Build the Frame

Cut two 2x6's exactly 10 feet long. Then cut two 2x6's to be seven total feet in length. Cut 45-degree angles on each end to they will fit together and retain original dimensions. We used three 4" screws on each corner to secure them together.

Next you will build supports for the barrels:

Cut two 2x4's to be 11'9" in length. These will run the length of the boat's 10ft side (but inside the existing frame). Use screws to secure each one 15.5" from each side of the boat. This distance will allow the barrels to sink 2.5" upward into the frame. Doing this lowers the entire boat's center-of-gravity as well as directly supporting the deck. Install either a 2x2 or a 2x4 on each side of the three barrels (15 inches away from the front and back of the boat). This will keep the barrels from sliding back and forth.

Building the rest of the frame:

For our deck we used boards that were half an inch thick. This allows up to 4 square feet gaps in your frame. Use mostly 2x4's to construct a rectangular network frame with gaps no more than 4 square feet in area.

Step 5: Secure Your Barrels to the Frame

We used perforated metal hanger straps (galvanized) to secure each barrel to the frame. Cut out 12 42" strips. Use 2 straps per barrel; wrap each strap a little more than halfway around the barrel and attach each side to the 2x4 and to the 2x6 on both sides of the barrel. Use screws and drill at an angle to tighten each strap as you sink the screw. Be cautious to not puncture any barrels doing this- it's an easy mistake to make.

Step 6: Construct the Deck

Use the Oriented Strand Board (OSB) you collected to construct a 70 sqft deck. Use screws to secure each piece to the frame. Place and cut each board so every junction would have frame under it. Try to use the largest pieces and make sure not to puncture any barrels. If you wish to use an outboard motor like we did, leave a small opening in the deck at the back of the boat. Otherwise, your new pontoon is easy to propel with oars.

Step 7: Load and Transport the Boat

For our first launch, we used a cargo trailer to get it to the reservoir. Only use it in bodies of water that are knowing and allowing of you and your pontoon. For our testing, we had permission to launch on a local reservoir. We plan on registering the boat with the state in the future. Make sure you take every legal step to ensure your day of boating doesn't get cut short by the police. The boat is fairly lightweight, therefor it was easy for four high-schoolers to carry the boat on and off the trailer as well as into the water. No boat ramp? No problem.

Step 8: Have Fun on Your New Boat

Have fun on your new boat knowing that you didn't hurt the environment to build it. It is of course necessary to bring lawn chairs, floral-pattern shirts (Tommy Bahama recommended but not required), and a cooler full of cold, age-conscious drinks. Also keep in mind that there is now a possibility your significant other might only want you for your boat. Get ready to receive scores of compliments in appreciation of your masterpiece.



    • Space Challenge

      Space Challenge
    • Science of Cooking

      Science of Cooking
    • Pocket-Sized Contest

      Pocket-Sized Contest

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.

    5 Tips

    Good Job Delos and Alex and Weston and Everett and Colton

    In the descriptions, it appears that you are using the term 'particle board' to refer to Oriented Strand Board (OSB). Absolutely NO WAY is Particle Board suitable for damp (much less wet) areas or use out of doors (much less in a lake!).

    OSB, on the other hand, can stand exposure to water provided it has an opportunity to dry. However, if it suffers constant exposure to the elements, it will not survive as long as the two-by Pressure Treated lumber used (you did use pt, right?) for the framing.

    I noticed you pulled the barrels to the center of the platform, leaving the platform over-hanging the barrel ends at each side/end. This is not the most stable configuration. If you want to keep the 10 x 7 dimensions, move the barrels flush to the ends and leave the 'gap' in the center of the craft. Or cut the craft down to fit the barrels tightly all around.

    As to the metal straps, the first tip was correct as the the best way to fasten the strapping. However, I would look for PLASTIC strapping - given the submerged application. The straps are not holding much - the framing keeps the barrels from moving laterally and the water keeps them from falling off the frame (and, when on the lake, the lake holds them up tight!)..

    I would think that the bow and stern should parallel the sides of the barrels as opposed to the ends as (I suspect) the FLAT ends create more drag then would the ROUNDED barrel sides.

    If I can get hold of enough small barrels, I'll copy your basic design to use as a floating platform on my pond.

    Hey, this looks like a lot of fun. If I was still 12 I would love it. To help your boat be a little more seaworthy, if you took those metal straps straight down and fastened them to the side of the 2x4 with two screws it would be much sturdier. Here's why ... when you bend that metal strap like you did you create a breaking point and all the stress is put on that breaking point. Your metal strap will break a lot easier than if you took it down straight. Also you can use two or three screws on the 4 inch side of the board. Ahoy mates!

    I agree with Artskater, OSB is a bad choice for the top deck, you should use pressure treated plywood. That OSB will swell up and fall apart in a matter of days or weeks unless kept perfectly dry.

    Awesome, guys!! But particle board will swell and start to warp/ disintegrate when wet. I would suggest some kind of waterproofing, at least on the bottom side.

    1 Questions



    Marine spar varnish


    Thank you! It is really fun and not that hard to do.

    Be prepared to replace the metallic hanger straps often. Would be nice to replace them with something plastic, less prone to corrosion.

    We made sure that they were galvanized.

    That will only make them rust later. But not very much later. Plus, you don't need much surface rust for a strap to break - and surface rust is what the nickel or chrome layer protects from. Rust in depth in a microscopic crack, or along a scratch caused by rubbing against pebbles or left behind by a screw driver, which is even more likely to develop under stress, can result in an unexpectedly broken strap.

    What you can look for: oftentimes, ware on pallets is strapped in place with a sort of woven and then impregnated synthetic straps. Boxes of fridges, cooking stoves, cloth washers or similar are also tied with such straps. These are never reused. You should be able to get tons of them for free from bigger stores, or any kind of shop that gets things delivered in bulk. That thing is so strong and wear resistant that I've heard of people splitting it into strands then braid it into bow strings.

    Alright, we will consider this. Thanks!


    Though this is a very admirable project, beware as it may get you a visit from the coastguard, or even the local lake patrol fuzz. In many states including Oregon you have to have boat numbers when you have those little trolling motors. Just an FYI

    The US Coastguard enforces Maritime Law on Navigable Waterways and the open ocean. To have them bother you, you'd have to be on a body of water or river that can be navigated directly from and to the ocean.

    For those waterways that are under Coast Guard control, you might need flares or an emergency signaling device and some approved life jackets for everybody aboard.

    Flotation cushions may be sufficient too, but don't count on them as real protection. They HELP - but should not be used as first line......

    If the craft is human powered (oars) or wind powered (yours doesn't qualify on both counts) -- then it does not have to have a hull number.

    Since you are running an electric trolling motor, you most likely will have to get a hull number at least. Your local motor vehicle department should be able to handle that for you.

    +1 on moving the barrels out to the outermost area to provide more pitch and roll stability. You might all be able to be on one side at the same time if you did that - depending on your body weight and the buoyancy of the barrels of course.

    I personally don't think much is to be gained by streamlining the barrels other that making them all point the same way. As they are - they might help you hold a position instead of having the wind shove you all around the water.

    Get a couple of gallons of Patio & Deck Sealer -- preferably an oil based one -- to help keep your deck from dissolving. Mix some sand into it for the top of the deck for added traction. Seal the top, bottom and all sides.

    Add a few 4"x4"x4" blocks to the inside corners of your 45-degree joints to add some stability and strength to them!

    Now -- add a couple of deck cleats for other boats to tie up to you, add a BBQ and a large cooler and a pop-up tent for some shade and you've got a great party platform 'way out in the lake.

    I like it.

    Thanks for the heads up! The reservoir that we tested on gave us permission for just that, testing. We plan on using the boat on other bodies, therefor we are looking to getting it in the state of Colorado registry.

    Hello, we are not looking to join the Navy right now, but we do enjoy your comment whether it was a joke or not. We got permission to sail our boat one time on a lake by the owner. If we continue using the boat we will probably have to license it to our state. When Alex said "Captain's Chair", he meant it as a joke. We found the ottoman on the side of the road for free so we used it as a special pilots chair. Thank you for the effort on your comment though!