Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


Seasick and Sleepless in Seattle!

      As a builder I have worked on houseboats, and as an inspector I have Seattle Floating Homesinspected a few.  They are an interesting Seattle phenomenon----you may remember them in the movie “Sleepless in Seattle.”  The “boat” part is a bit of a misnomer however, and “floating home” or “rafts” comes a bit closer to describing them.  Very few---if any have an actual hull like a boat---and even fewer resemble a boat.  In the early days, some of them looked like boats and probably were boats.

     They represent a very Niche Market in the Real Estate world and are typically VERY EXPEN$IVE and hard to come by under almost any market condition----most costing more than a million dollars.  Most people assume there is a moratorium on adding to the roughly 500 existing floating homes existing on Lake Union and Portage Bay.  That is only true relative to the huge hurdles to overcome in terms of getting permits to build new ones.  Having enough land to provide parking for the structures to be built is perhaps one of the biggest hurdles.

     The Seattle Times did a great article that discusses these floating homes and I won’t attempt to duplicate that information here.  For more information please check out the article: “New houseboat development on Lake Union is buoyed by demand.”  

      From an inspector’s point of view, they represent a whole world of Seattle Floating Homesdisclaimers and modifications of standard inspection protocols.  After all, what percentage of normal homes can sink (actually very difficult) or float away in the middle of the night?

      Another thing about them----especially the ones built prior to more modern standards----is that nothing is level or square, doors don’t stay open or closed, and some are only accessible to inspection underneath by scuba divers or kayak.  All Houseboat connectionsfloating homes must have flexible connections for the sewage, waterlines, gas lines and electric lines that run to them----plus the building itself must be pretty well attached to the dock structures with flexible connections to allow for movement of the building on the water as well as for changing water levels.  The picture at the right shows one of the flexible brackets that connect the structure to the dock.  Above this connection one can see the flexible electrical connection.  Beyond that connection is the flexible gas connection.  The structures on these small lakes are less vulnerable to storms than they are to the large wakes from passing boats.

     They are kind of fun to inspect being on the water---with great views of the water, boats and surroundings.

Seattle floating home view

       It is a little weird inspecting the roof and thinking about falling in water instead of on land.  On one I dropped the cap of my moisture meter and got to watch it sink to the bottom.  To know where the cap is and not be able to get it, is way worse than having no idea where you lost it.

     Originally, some of these floating structures were built on giant old growth cedar logs as much as 6 feet in diameter---most of those have been replaced----but some remain.  The modern ones are build on floating concrete structures filled with foam.  Yesterday’s post discusses one with a crawl space.  Many have no crawl space at all and are built much like a house on land that has been built on a concrete slab.  In fact, these slabs on land are often called “floating slabs.”  The ones on land are poured as monolithic reinforced concrete slabs and float on a bed of crushed stone-----a little bit different that the floating homes of Seattle.  The concept is similar though----the foam element replaces the gravel.

     So take your Dramamine and hop aboard!



Charles Buell



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Comment balloon 37 commentsCharles Buell • February 27 2009 09:06AM
Seasick and Sleepless in Seattle!
As a builder I have worked on houseboats, and as an inspector I have inspected a few. They are an interesting Seattle phenomenon----you may remember them in the movie “Sleepless in Seattle. ” The “boat” part is a bit of a misnomer… more
The Inspector as Rodent!
Everyone can relate to how “inhospitable” crawl spaces can be, and I am not going to delight you with more horror stories typical of those places. This is more about what contortions your inspector will endure to get him or her… more
Homemade LOVE----in the middle of the night!
I LOVE homemade pie. I LOVE homemade fresh baked bread. I LOVE homemade rice pudding. I do NOT love homemade roof trusses. That is not to say that they can not be made properly. In… more
Wordless Wednesday (not) in Seattle
When the inspector foams at the mouth…..
Welcome to the, “Twilight Zone”…….. It is a great feeling when we as home inspectors call for repairs by qualified repair persons, that we can go to sleep that night after we send out the report, knowing that the repairs… more
"Head-plant" planters!
With the exception of a missing handrail for the stairs, this installation meets “code” requirements. The platform outside of the door is 29-3/4” above the patio surface. If it was over 30” a guard rail would… more
Dear Diary my passion is passion!
Dear Diary, Passion is a fickle task master. It seems that as we master one thing in our lives it transforms itself into something else that is equally worth giving up everything else for. It seems that the only… more
Why enamel steel tubs are not a steal!
As is indicated by the “bluish” highlighted areas in the picture, these are areas of enamel steel type tubs that the moisture meter often finds indications of moisture behind the wall covering. … more
I need to want to need you to want you to need me!
THAT hurts my brain to read----it most likely hurts yours too----though that is not really my intention. Do you ever think about the difference between “need” and “want? ” Most people throw them both around interchangeably---… more
Safety issues stairing at me!
I have done posts to my blog in the past about the stairs, and how as a component in the home, they are perhaps one of the most difficult things to get right. There is tread width, riser height, riser/tread ratios,… more