Top tips for self fitting out a sailaway narrowboat shell
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Mon Jun 24, 2019 at 11:22am

Top Tips for Fitting Out A Sailaway Narrowboat

You will need a number of different skills to fit out a narrow boat shell. The key ones are carpentry, plumbing, gas fitting, electrical and painting. You will also need plenty of time to complete the project, you should allow at least 120 working days to fit out a 57ft narrowboat. Additional time will be required for planning, research and shopping for the project. You should take all of this into consideration before starting out on a self fit out. In our time selling narrowboats we have come across many part completed boats, where the owner has started fitting it out, but for whatever reason, be it cost or lack of time has never completed the project! 

There are areas of the building in which you will need particular skills, and in these cases it is recommended that you do rely on specialist Tradesmen or a surveyor to at least inspect the finished work, if not conduct it for you. Gas, Water and Electricity, as well as the marine Diesel engine will all require professional help to install.

Tip 1. Our biggest tip by far!

If you're not a competent carpenter - don't try fitting out your own boat! A badly fitted out boat can seriously effect the value of the boat when you want to sell it on. You might be happy with it, but others won't and you simply won't achieve it's top price at re-sale if it's badly fitted out! If you are an amateur, we would advise you to get the fit out overseen by a qualified surveyor (charges will apply) That said -  we have seen owner fit outs completed to a standard which is as good as some of the professionals, most owners manage to produce a very acceptable boat while making substantial savings over the commercial prices of a fully fitted boat.

Tip 2.

Look inside as many boats as possible to get ideas before starting out.

Tip 3.

Plan your fit out first. Draw up a scale drawing, plotting where you want everything to go.

Tip 4.

If using ply to line the boat, varnish the ply both sides to achieve a more professional finish.

Tip 5.

Use the right materials and tools

Tip 6.

Use the best materials you can afford. The cost of solid wood is very high, but you may be able to stretch the budget when using ply - by trimming with solid wood trim.

Tip 7.

Use the correct wiring, or contract a professional electrician to do the electrical works.

Tip 8.

Use the back and front door frames of the boat as your levels.

Tip 9.

Contact your local Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) surveyor as all work has to be carried out in accordance with the BSS. If you try and short-cut your installations without referencing the BSS it could work out very expensive for remedial work.


If you do go on to seriously consider fitting out your own boat as a project suitable for you, we suggest that the next step is to talk to as many self fitters as possible and read as many articles and fit out " blogs" online as you can find. Many boaters are happy to talk, and will often provide you with advice and help with tools, suppliers,and other contacts.

Good Luck! and if you do complete your very own fit out, we'd love to hear from you and hear how it went,feel free to comment below!