Buying a shell or hull only is an ambitious option for those wishing to fit out a narrowboat from scratch. Generally there will not even be an engine installed. If you have the skills, trade contacts and time on your side, this may be the best option for you to realise your narrow boat dream.

Narrowboat shells or hull only can be purchased from boat builders
Buying a narrowboat shell or hull only is an ambitious project
A narrow boat shell or hull only is unlikely to even have an engine fitted

Buying A Shell / Hull Only… Is It The Right Choice For You?

Exactly what it says on the tin! You are purchasing the narrow boat hull structure with no engine. It will probably include at least a diesel tank, and probably a water/waste tank if you require them, gas lockers and weed hatch. A rudder and tiller with the associated bearings and possibly a propeller will be included by some narrow boat builders. Always check with the builder what is included in their hull only specification as this can vary extensively between builders.

If you are having the narrow boat shell built from scratch, the narrow boat builder will be looking for your instruction regarding the location of doors, windows, portholes, side hatches and any houdini hatches.

You will also need to provide the positions of the roof vents (aka mushroom vents) and possibly if you specify, the chimney cut-out for your multi-fuel stove. It’s worth asking what type of dimensions the boat builders work with as many boat builders still work in imperial rather than metric.

When it comes to working out these apertures we recommend you plan out the entire internal layout this might come a surprise but unless you know where bulkheads are going and items such as sinks / beds how can you centralise windows to them? Spend time on this as it’s relatively easy to make a hole but not so easy to fill it in again if it’s wrong! Use our Canal Boat Design Service to help you plan your layout.

It is worth quickly mentioning that if you are going to panel the interior yourself do confirm that the knees (the vertical upright strengtheners from floor to gunwale to which you attach batons to carry the panels) are the correct centres for your choice of panel. On most veneered sheet of the standard size of 2440mm x 1220mm the grain runs parallel to the longer length. The most cost effective way of lining is to fix the sheets with this longer length, and consequently the grain, running horizontal to the floor. However if you want the grain to run vertical on the sheet, the batons will have to be set to accommodate this. Likewise with the stringers (horizontal strengtheners laid front to rear along the cabin sides) and the roof bearers.

Ask for testimonials and to speak to previous customers. Not all will be happy, but that’s human nature and so long as you can justify to yourself that you can work with a narrow boat builder then that’s all that matters.

Buying A Shell / Hull Only

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