Fitting Out A Liveaboard We Tell You How And The Costs Involved
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Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 11:23am

Fitting Out A Narrow Boat 

Have you ever wondered how much it would cost to fit out a narrowboat? Well we have put a pricing example together to give you a rough guideline of what it would cost. (Please note - we do not fit out boats at the marina)


We have based the costings on a 57 foot shell which is an average sized narrowboat, and used a mid range of products and fittings. You will need to factor in your own time and any professional help for a contractor.


A very basic second hand boat which needs work; sometimes known as a project boat will cost;

Prices in the region of;

  • 35 foot £15,000
  • 57 foot £26,000
  • 70 foot £35,000

New Shell/Sailaway:

Alternatively you can buy a new shell, known as a sailaway (57 foot) for as little as £18,000 +VAT see here or £29,250 +VAT see here and fit it out yourself.

There are a number of different skills needed to fit out a shell. The key ones are, woodwork, plumbing, electrical, painting and gas fitting. Consider if you have the skills to carry out these jobs and also the time to complete the project. 

You will need to add the costs for any labour needed, as well as the cost of the fittings to the total project cost.

For a 57ft boat you should allow around 120 working days (that is roughly 60 weekends)  spending around 8hrs per day working on the boat. Additional time will be needed for research and shopping!

Pricing example of fitting out a 57 foot shell

These costs are estimates based on a 57 foot narrow boat and are only a guide to give you an idea of approximate cost. We have picked a shell priced mid way between the two guide prices discussed earlier.

Of course the quality of the fittings you purchase will have an affect on the overall cost, in this example. We have used mid range products to give a estimated price for this exercise. You can upgrade, or go cheaper depending on your own budget.

 57 foot Boat Shell
 Basic Sailaway
 Engine (38HP)
 Spray foam
 Delivery  £1000 £32,800

 Cost  Sub Cost For This Section
 Upper lining 
 Lower lining  £660  
 £90  £1870
 Wiring  £950  
 Fixtures (Light fittings etc)  £275  
 Consumer unit / Fuses  £120  £1345
 Hot water system & calorifier
 Cold water supply
 Pump etc
 Waste  £60  £1505
 MFI Unit Assy / doors  £190  
 Oven & Hob  £359  
 Fridge  £369  
 Sink & taps  £95  
 Work Top Tiles  £155  £1,168
 Bulkheads / partitioning and doors
 Shower (Tray, tiles taps etc)  £300  
 Hand basin
 Toilet  £260  
 Accessories  £150  £930
 Framework for bed
 Mattress  £180  £480
 Table  £180  
 Cushions  £340  £520
 Carpet Tiles  £225  
 Vinyl tiles (bathroom)  £90  £315
 Curtain Tracks
 Curtain Material
 Shelves / Overhead cupboards
 Outside paint top
 Outside Paint (bottom - black)


 Other misc (screws, fittings etc)  £400  
 Brass vents
 Battery (domestic)
 Inverter  £425  
 Fenders  £300  
 Wood trim around inside windows   £600  £5,080
 Total Fit-Out
 Grand Total Completed Boat

If fitting out a shell isn't for you, and you would prefer to buy a boat that is already fitted out and ready for living on, check out the used boats for sale at our marina.

We have boats of various styles, lengths and prices to suit all budgets available for sale! Take a look at our Narrowboats for sale


Fred | Mon Dec 1, 2014 at 10:40am
Hi, just read through your blog and I have to say you give a lot of very useful tips and information. You didn't mention heating in your lists (other than the hot water system), and I'm told this is really important in the winter. Also I understand you are required to have VHF radio and Navigation lights fitted for Tidal sections, is this true, and how much should I budget for?
Whilton Marina | Mon Dec 1, 2014 at 2:18pm
Yes there is a protocol for tidal waters; VHF radio is required; costs between £99- £300, depending on specification. You would need to do a VHF Marine radio course - online RYA courses cost £65 see the RYA website for more details: Navigation lights are required to be fitted to the port & starboard of the boat on tidal waters and cost from £12.50 each.
Justin | Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 3:21am
thank you. One of hardest parts so far has been trying to find a builder with a view on costs. This is made even more difficult as I live overseas- people seem either incapable or reluctant to deal with me.
Lydia | Sat Apr 29, 2017 at 8:07pm
Hello, I am fitting out my boat this year and I don't know what kind of water heater I should be look g for to do shower, sink and basin? Any suggestions and pros and cons to gas or electric water heaters
Whilton Marina | Tue May 2, 2017 at 2:50pm
Hello LydiaYou can still get gas water heaters, but we seem to see more diesel systems, such as Webasto & Eberspacher in conjunction with a calorifier on narrowboats these days.
Mr N Harris | Thu Mar 29, 2018 at 8:44am
Please could you forward an estimate for a shell and basic fit out of a Dutch barge?Thank you,RegardsNick Harris
Whilton Marina | Tue Apr 3, 2018 at 12:53pm
Hello Mr Harris, unfortunately we don't take on fitting out narrowboat shells for customers, as we are too busy with repairs and maintenance. Best to find a specialist company who builds and fits out narrowboats.
Steve | Wed May 2, 2018 at 10:44am
How much would the fitting out cost be for a 60x12 wide beam..
Whilton Marina | Tue May 22, 2018 at 3:57pm
Hello Steve, A difficult question to answer (how much it would cost to fit out a 60x12ft wide beam boat) It just depends on what you want fitting into the boat and what specification and quality you use. Fitting out a widebeam could cost up to 40% more than a narrowboat of the same length and specification. Best advice would be to ask a boat fitter for a quotation.
David Reynolds | Tue Jun 19, 2018 at 4:14am
I’m looking into buying a narrow boat to live on I’m thinking the 60 to 70 foot because I would like to be able to get a motorbike on it
Whilton Marina | Tue Jun 19, 2018 at 2:42pm
Hello David, you have come to the right place to buy a narrowboat for liveaboard. If you register your details by clicking on the 'register for boat updates' button at the top of our website you will receive email updates when boats come in for sale that match your specification. Good luck!
Michael Grain | Sat Jul 20, 2019 at 5:07am
I am building a 65ft dutch cruiser barge designed by andrew wolstenholme. i am building it to the sailaway stage and would be interested in a budget cost for the full fit out. i would require this to a high spec luxury standard.thanks
Whilton Marina | Mon Jul 22, 2019 at 11:38am
Hello Michael, Unfortunately we don't fit out narrowboat shells at our marina. We suggest that you speak to Colecraft who build and fit out canal boats to a high standard, they may be able to help you with your project.
Jeanette Durie | Wed Sep 4, 2019 at 3:02pm
Hi there, I am thinking of buying a boat and would like to know if they can be made to accommodate someone elderly who would be unable to manage the steps?
Whilton Marina | Mon Sep 9, 2019 at 2:23pm
Hello Jeanette, The main problem with living on a narrow boat as an elderly or disabled person is the getting on and off bit. You could use gang planks for a wheelchair, but would need help getting along them. It would be a struggle and you'd have to take care not to fall off or land in the water or get hurt. It really depends on the person and their abilities. Whether elderly or disabled the person it is possible to live on a boat, depending on capabilities, but not easily on their own. There are problems with mooring up, changing gas bottles, and lifting anything off the roof i.e. bags of coal or wood. It might be possible to have facilities installed such a lift to get on the boat with a wheelchair, but this would depend on the boat and could be expensive, and remember most narrowboats are under 7ft wide so won't easily accommodate a wheelchir. Hope this helps.
Peter | Mon May 4, 2020 at 12:40am
I appreciate your posting. Have you updated the numbers since first writing the blog? If not - for 2020 - what might be a reasonable inflation factor to use?Also, any estimated costs for central heating and either an additional multi-fuel stove or diesel stove?Separately, when I look at your site you rarely seem to have project boats for self-fit. Do you have (or recommend) a separate site to find those types?Many thanks for your interesting blogs.
David | Sun May 10, 2020 at 12:08pm
Hi, Nice honest article, how easy is it to find a yard to build your boat "sailaway" say hull only and store at what average price... Obviously looking at 1 to 2 years time dependent.. Thanks
Whilton Marina | Sat May 16, 2020 at 2:17pm
Hello David, There are still a few boat manufacturers that build sailaway narrowboats, Colecraft in Warwickshire is one of them. It would be best to research online for other manufacturers, and do your research so that you know what boat type fittings you want.
Whilton Marina | Sun May 17, 2020 at 9:45pm
Hello Peter, (a couple of questions above) This blog hasn't been updated to reflect the costs since it was written in 2014. The prices are going to have increased substantially since then by as much as 25%. We suggest you do your research and find out costings before embarking on doing a self fit out. We do occasionally have project boats for sale, it's best to register for boat updates which can be done via our website if you copy the following link into your web browser:
Nicky | Mon Jul 13, 2020 at 9:28am
Hi iam thinking about buying a 23ft barge, but it has no plug sockets etc as the previous owner used it as a day boat but I would like to live on it, can you give me a rough estimate on how much it would cost to make it so I can live on it, for example fridge /sockets etc. Thankyou
Whilton Marina | Thu Jul 16, 2020 at 3:12pm
Hello Nicky, It is difficult to give an exact price but you are looking around £1000 - £1500 as you need a landline socket, RCD, cabling and plug sockets plus fitting. A fridge will typically cost £500.Hope this helps. | Thu Feb 4, 2021 at 7:22pm
Cannot read costs of fitting out 57ft narrow boat please send details
Whilton Marina | Mon Feb 8, 2021 at 2:53pm
These costs are estimates based on a 57 foot narrow boat and are only a guide to give you an idea of approximate cost. We have picked a shell priced mid way between the two guide prices discussed earlier.Of course the quality of the fittings you purchase will have an affect on the overall cost, in this example. We have used mid range products to give a estimated price for this exercise. You can upgrade, or go cheaper depending on your own budget.57 foot Boat Shell Basic Sailaway £12,400 Engine (38HP) £6,000 Spray foam £1800 Delivery £1000Total - £32,800
Shirley Ann Lindsay | Thu Mar 25, 2021 at 11:09pm
I'm looking to give the interior of my 45ft narrowboat a face lift. It's currently fitted out in varnished ply, which I want to paint over. I know it will need to be sanded down quite a bit - no problem but what type of paint should I use. Will the usual household emulsion be ok or should I be looking for something more suitable for painting over wood. I don't want anything that looks glossy but more of a matt finish. HELP PLEASE. Thanks - Shirley
Stan Winfield | Sat Apr 10, 2021 at 5:16pm
Hi, great information thanks. Were do folks site the narrow boat during fit out. I assume on dry land. Do you have such facilities.RegardsStan
Whilton Marina | Wed May 5, 2021 at 12:08pm
Hi Stan, We have a workshop specifically for our welding team so they can work on the boats undercover. Many Thanks
Whilton Marina | Wed May 5, 2021 at 12:14pm
Hi Shirley, a standard matt emulsion would be fine, although make sure you sand off the varnish. Alternatively you could use a specific wood paint. Many ThanksWhilton Marina
Vicky Gallacher | Sun May 15, 2022 at 12:06pm
Hi I just wanted to offer a suggestion to Shirley.Have you tried chalk paints, for example Annie Sloan. Great thing is you don't have to sand and can obtain different finishes. Hope all goes well with your revamped interior! :-)

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