How Houseboat Systems Work | LakeWizard

A houseboat is a great option for those who want to live close to the water. If you're one of these people, you might want to know how houseboat systems work.

A houseboat works kind of like a regular house except that it's on the water. You get a water supply system, electricity, and living space. All this is powered by the gas you pump into the boat, similar to how we get power from the grid (or solar). 

Suppose you have been thinking about living on a houseboat but have no clue how houseboat systems work. In that case, it pays to do your research beforehand because while a houseboat is just another floating vessel, there are some things that are essential in houseboats that you simply can't do without (and we don't mean cable TV).

For those who are contemplating life on a houseboat, who better to give you the inside scoop than veterans of liveaboards? We have the knowledge and the experience of living on a boat, so sit back and relax, as we tell you all there is to know about how houseboat systems work.

Table of contents


Cruising vs. Non-Cruising Houseboats

One of the main things that you will soon learn about houseboats is that they come in two types: cruising houseboats and non-cruising houseboats. As the name implies, with non-cruising houseboats, don't expect to travel in them out to sea. Non-cruising houseboats are limited in terms of mobility due to the small engine size.

Besides, many non-cruising houseboats are intended to be tied up to a slip at the docks or a marina, making it more of a floating home rather than one you can go cruising in. On the other hand, cruising houseboats, otherwise known as bluewater houseboats, are designed to live in and take out on excursions.

Bluewater houseboats have been fitted with just about everything you need to go out cruising. They also come with a more powerful engine and sails.

Onboard Water System

Every houseboat needs a working water management system. In fact, houseboats may have multiple onboard water systems to make sure that you can be comfortable while living in one. If you are buying a houseboat for the first time, then you might want to engage a houseboat instructor who can review the water system you have installed in the houseboat.

Onboard water systems will make sure you always have enough fresh water for the shower, sink, and dishwasher in your houseboat. The size of the freshwater tank varies depending on the type of houseboat, but you can check the freshwater supply you have stored by looking at the gauge on the helm. The tank has a filter installed, and there are freshwater pumps that control the flow and pressure of the water.

Unlike a normal house, where the wastewater from the sink, toilets, and shower will drain out of your home via pipes into the city's sewage system, in a houseboat, the wastewater is going to drain into a waste holding tank. Again, the size of this tank varies depending on the type and size of the houseboat. The tank is then emptied back in the marina, and there's a gauge that indicates when the wastewater tank has reached its full capacity.

Your houseboat is also going to be fitted with a marine toilet, which is a lot different from the ones you have at home. Marine toilets draw water from an external water source for flushing before being drained out into the wastewater tank. So, that grinding sound you hear whenever you turn the flush in your houseboat is the boat's in-line macerator that's grinding up all the waste before emptying it into the wastewater tank. This way, nothing goes into the lake or marina you're docked in.


The hull length of the boat is the amount of room you can physically walk around in. This figure indicates how much living space you will have onboard the yacht. On the other hand, the length overall (LOA) is the whole length of the boat. This is useful information for a marina owner since it tells him how much room the yacht will take up at the dock.

It's crucial to know the boat's draught or how deep it goes so the bottom doesn't scrape against rocks and cause damage to the house. LOA runs from the very back of the stern to the tip of the bow and tells the owner of the marina where your houseboat will be docked just how much space it will be taking.

Getting a Wet Slide

A wet slide is one of the highlights of owning a houseboat. Many houseboats come equipped with a water slide. This means all you have to do is push a button, and the pump draws in water from the lake to wet the slide.

Living Space

Even when compared to apartment-sized buildings, ordinary houseboats offer small living space at their most basic level. They won't have many of the same amenities as houses on land, such as many floors or a lot of storage space unless they are ultra-modern and extremely pricey. However, every houseboat (even the most basic ones) comes with some basic areas such as the galley or kitchen, the head or bathroom, the stateroom or bedroom, the berth or bed, and cabin or living room, and the cockpit or control room, which is also known as the bridge.


It goes without saying that you're going to need power whether you are in a cruising or a non-cruising houseboat. The Cruising houseboats might use rechargeable batteries or a generator to power the electronics and machinery around the houseboat, while non-cruising houseboats can just hook up to the marina's grid station.

In the end, houseboats are generally constructed with either wood or fiberglass, mainly because they do not rust like metal or aluminum. Out of the two, wood is the cheaper option, so that's another factor to consider if you are in the market for a houseboat.