Pontoon houseboats can be categorized based on factors such as size, intended use and manufacturing techniques. Many small houseboats are trailerable, which means that they can be taken out of the water and towed over dry land. These pontoon houseboats typically are pleasure craft that are intended primarily for day use. Larger houseboats can actually be lived on for substantial amounts of time, and they can provide a comfortable way to travel from place to place or even act as a primary residence. Many pontoon houseboat designs are commonly available, though it also is possible to custom build one using commercially available plans or a design that is entirely original.
The two factors that all pontoon houseboats share in common are the presence of a deck supported by buoyant pontoons and some type of enclosed area. Unlike single-hulled houseboats, these vessels use either two or three floating tubes to provide buoyancy. Smaller houseboats typically use two pontoons, and larger varieties can have three for an added measure of stability. The specific design of the enclosed space can vary widely, depending on the particular houseboat, though larger vessels tend to have more amenities.
Small pontoon houseboats that range in length from about 20-30 feet (about 6-9 meters) can often be trailered and towed from one body of water to another. These vessels include an enclosed space like other houseboats, though it is often somewhat limited in nature. The fixtures can be similar to those found in cabin cruisers of a similar length or in recreational vehicles such as travel trailers and motor homes. The limited interior space is why these vessels are often used for single-day voyages or weekend trips rather than extended habitation.
Houseboats that are not easily trailered can range in size from 30-70 feet (about 9-21 meters) or even more. These vessels can be used for vacations and for traveling from one location to another, though they are commonly used as full-time residences as well. Pontoon houseboats at the lower end of this scale often have furnishings similar to smaller vessels, but the added interior space also makes it possible to install the same type of full-sized appliances and fixtures that are used in regular homes. To add stability and offset the increased weight found in these vessels, they usually will have a third pontoon installed.
Many boat manufacturers that make cabin cruisers and other vessels also construct pontoon houseboats. It also is possible to build these vessels by hand, though, which can result in a highly customized product and save money. A pre-existing pontoon and deck unit is often used, though that component also can be fabricated from scratch. This type of work can require expertise in carpentry, plumbing and wiring, because building a pontoon houseboat essentially involves constructing a small structure on top of a floating deck.