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Planning to build a narrowboat
Steel shell details for a narrowboat or canal boat
Selecting an engine for a narrowboat or canal boat
interior design of a narrowboat or canal boat
designing the galley in a canal boat or narrowboat
canal boat electrical system
domestic water system for a narrowboat or canal boat.
canal boat or narrowboat toilet systems
Heating systems for a new narrowboat or canal boat.
Painting the outside of a narrowboat, barge or canal boat
resources about narrowboats
narrowboat and canal boat building

Narrowboat Building

Planning your new Narrowboat Layout



Planning Your Boat

Possibly the most crucial stage in the building of your boat is the planning stage! There are many questions you need to ask yourself, as well as a huge amount of thought and concideration that must go into every narrowboats design. This section of the website is designed to highlight some of the most important points you should concider before you start building.

Can you do it yourself?
Although the task may seem daunting initially, anyone who is reasonably skilled in DIY can at least fit out the interior of their barge. There is little diffrence between the woodworking skills required in the home, and those needed on a barge. Remember though, you will not find "Flat Pack" canal boat interiors, and so you will need to complete nearly all of the work yourself.

There are areas of the building in which you will need particular skills, and in these cases it is recommended that you do rely on specialist Tradesmen or surveyer to at least inspect the finished work, if not conduct it for you. Gas, Water and Electricity, as well as the marine Diesel engine will all require professional help to install. In the case of the Gas fitting, it must be carried out or inspected by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

The building of the hull is probably the most extensive task, so unless you have the time and welding and plating skills required by such a job, we recommend you contact a company who can supply you with a finished hull to work from.

How long do you want/need it to be?
Assuming you are designing a Narrow beam boat (which will be able to cruise the majority of Britains inland waterways) you are limited to a Width of 6'10", so the only real question when deciding the size is how long?

An Approximate range for the length of narrowboats is between 20 and 70 feet, as this is the maximum length which can be accomodated by the locks and other canal machinary you will encounter. An approximate length for canal boats these days is around 50 feet, but you should take in to account all of your needs before choosing a hull length.

Remember the longer the boat, the more space and "home comforts" you will be able to accomodate, but the cost will increase conciderably. Proffessional boat builders charge by the foot, so adding a few feet for an office or utility room can run to several thousand pounds.

One thing you must remember to take into acount when deciding your length is the dividing walls between cabins. if each bulkhead is around one inch thick, then over the length of the boat this can add up to 6 or 7 inches, which you will not easily be able to recover by reducing cabin sizes.

How long is it going to take?

This is one of the more often overlooked points, but one of the most important. Looking at the interior of a narrowboat, many people have often assumed there to be only a few weeks worth of work to do a full fit out, and then been suprised to find several thousand man hours of work to be required.

Professionals often quote between 650 and 1050 hours to complete a fit out of a shell, whereas a skilled amateur will require around half this time again. Someone with limited experiance could need twice this, adding up to around 2100 hours worth of hard work! thats around 2 years working evenings and one weekend per week!

How much is it going to cost?
Yet another vital question that must be answered before you start your project. Builders will often quote a price per foot, varying between £700 and £1300 inclusive of VAT. This means a 50 foot boat will cost somewhere in the region of between 35 and 65 thousand pounds.

This large variation is caused by several factors that should be expected - The quality of materials, Time invested in the project, Amount and sophistication of the equipment fitted on board. Although helpfull, the "price per foot" measure is not always helpfull, as certain costs will be the same whatever the length, such as the engine, heating, Galley and bathroom fittings.

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