Couple Rebuilds 1970’s Houseboat Into Floating Tiny Home

Sarah and Brandon, one from Sylva and the other from South Georgia, are a happy couple who owns a Floating Cabin on Lake Fontana, North Carolina. Having met through work, the two gradually fell in love and decided to rebuild a floating cabin out of a dilapidated 1970 houseboat. While renovating, the couple replaced everything but the roof.

The regulations on Lake Fontana are such that you’re no longer allowed to build a new floating cabin, so the couple had to adhere to the choice between buying an existing houseboat or acquiring an old boat only to remove it from the lake, and place a new model in its stead. The latter seemed to be a stupid choice so the couple went forward with the idea of buying and renovating their floating cabin.

Talking to Homecrux, Sarah tells “Brandon was in charge of the marina that this floating cabin was in, he caught wind of it when the previous owner was considering selling. So, when we got the chance to combine our dream of going tiny with our lake-loving lifestyle, it was a no-brainer.” Bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on one side and the Nantahala National Forest on the other, the floating cabin is right in the epicenter of the lake.

“We both agree the peacefulness out here takes the cake. The peace and quiet, the slow way of life, the sunshine and the water is the best part about living inside the boat cabin. It’s all been so good for both our mental and physical health,” Sarah tells us.

But the joys of enjoying your days in a floating cabin come with serious challenges too. The couple had to first spend $23,000 buying the boat and then about the same amount of money on renovating it. Building from scratch, they made space for a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. Despite being a little compact, the couple cleverly incorporated every big to small item inside their tiny floating cabin, from furniture to basic kitchen appliances.

Boasting off–grid living, a city water line runs to the house underwater from the marina, which is responsible for weekly pump-outs for septic. The couple has installed solar panels, so they have no electric costs except a gallon of gasoline every now and again to run a generator to do laundry. Propane fuels their stove, wintertime space heater, and on-demand hot water heater. Once a month, the couple refills the propane tank.

It is indeed a dream house for the two who believe in the mantra, ‘Living big in our tiny home – on the water and off the grid.’ Sarah also shared with us the challenges they had to face while renovating the cabin. The logistics of having to boat in and out every time we come or go from the house is pretty irritating. But above all, it definitely added an extra layer of difficulty and time to the building process,” she tells.

Sarah further tells us, “You can imagine the number of trips it took on a standard pontoon to haul all the materials, equipment, trash, etc. And once we boated into the ramp where our truck is parked, we still had to make another trip from there to the dump and back. That was pretty exhausting. But it’s safe to say it’s all been worth it now.”

Also Read: One-Bedroom, 59ft Modern Boathouse in London is Epitome of Green Living

Nevertheless, the couple still loves their boat cabin to eternity and this way of life. “I also have a  few suggestions for people wanting to live in a home like this or thinking about building one,” tells Sarah. “Dealing with rot and mold is a constant so be prepared with that.”

“The wind has a much longer fetch to pick up speed over water than it does on land. We regularly get 30+ MPH winds, and occasionally gusts up to 55mph, so you have to keep that in mind too. Just make sure that your build is tried and true, strong and sturdy, and you are good to float.” To know more about the couple and their houseboat lifestyle, visit their official Instagram page.

floating cabin on lake fontana
Image: Keeping Afloat with the Joneses
floating cabin on lake fontana
Image: Keeping Afloat with the Joneses
floating cabin on lake fontana
Image: Keeping Afloat with the Joneses
floating cabin on lake fontana
Image: Keeping Afloat with the Joneses
floating cabin on lake fontana
Image: Keeping Afloat with the Joneses


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