If you are planning on building your own boat, you probably already know that there are a lot of different parts to the process of building a boat. Different materials, tools, and the time it takes to build all need to be considered before starting a project like this. Because of how complicated building a boat can be, it is essential to know how much it will cost you to build so you can budget the project.
The average price of building a small boat is around $245 per ft. However, depending on the boat size, type, and the materials used, it will cost $185 per ft to $400 per ft or more for small wooden boats like a rowboat, skiff, or Jon boat. And for big boats, it will cost $500 – $2000 per ft or more.
Now that you know how to calculate how much your custom boat project might cost you, it is essential to look into what makes it that price and how to build for a lower price. Keep reading to learn how to estimate the cost of building a boat better.
While every boat build is going to be different, you can estimate the general budget that you will need to build a boat from scratch. We are going to focus on building a small wooden boat like a skiff or a Jon boat which are simpler, more doable boats to build. We will estimate the general price of building one of these boats and compare it to just purchasing one.
Building it Yourself
When it comes to building a boat yourself instead of buying one, there are many more variables that can change its price. On average, building a small wooden skiff costs anywhere from $5,000 to $7,500. The materials you use, the tools you have to buy, where you shop for these things, and the specific size of your boat can all change the total cost of a boat that you build yourself.
Another general rule to follow with pricing is $4-$6 for every pound of displacement on the finished boat. This is overshooting the cost of building a boat by a bit. A generalization like this leaves room for more expensive materials and larger-sized boats, but if you shop smart and cheap, it will only cost $2-$4 for every pound of displacement.
There are some ways of building these small boats that require expensive woods, fiberglass, or epoxy, but you can also build without those materials. Lightweight woods can get expensive, but heavier materials are much cheaper. Building a large boat will cost you quite a bit more, but building a 1-3 person boat will be much more affordable.
When buying a small wooden skiff, prices are more set in stone. You have a lot of choices of materials and sizes, but the labor costs can really raise the overall price of your new boat. A brand new, small wooden skiff, Jon, or rowboat will cost anywhere from $6,500 to $10,000; some are more expensive, and some are less expensive.
If you choose to purchase a small wooden boat instead of building one, it definitely will cost more, but you will not have to spend the time learning how to build it, making mistakes, and actually building the boat. It is already finished when you buy it, many have warranties if something breaks, and they are often higher quality than one that you build yourself.
However, building a boat yourself makes it much more sentimental, and it is something unique that can be passed down through generations. Also, if you want a larger boat than a 12 ft or 14 ft boat, they can be more challenging to build as you might not have the proper space to build or store the materials.
In that case, purchasing a boat might be better if you have no knowledge of boats at all. You can learn about the boat that you purchase and then later on, and after doing the research, you can try your hand at building your own. This is when buying might be better than building. However, if you have the space, expertise, and materials, you can totally build any size or style of boat you like.
When building a boat, the most significant contributor to its cost is the materials you use. The quality of the materials you use directly impacts the quality of the finished product, so you have to be very deliberate and particular about the materials you end up using.
However, being deliberate and specific does not mean that you have to spend too much money on them. Before looking into the different options that you have for materials, it is essential to know what materials you actually need.
For wood, you will need hardwood, like ash or oak, and softwood, like spruce, pine, fir, or cedar. For the sealants, you will need epoxy resin and epoxy putty, and sometimes a build requires fiberglass for sealing the boat better. We will cover the other little materials that you use in the tools section.
When shopping for wood, heavier wood is almost always cheaper than lighter wood. Choosing lighter woods will make the boat displace less water, but it can become super expensive and super fast. When choosing heavier woods, you will save a lot more money even if the finished product is quite heavy.
The good thing about heavier woods is that you don’t have to sacrifice durability and quality while staying within your budget. Some boat designs require fiberglass. While the epoxy products that you need to seal the boat are pretty cheap, if a boat needs fiberglass, that can really drive up the cost of building your boat.
Fiberglass is pretty expensive, especially in the large sheets that you will need for a boat. If you want to avoid using fiberglass, there are plenty of small boat designs that are built more old-fashioned without fiberglass that are cheaper and healthier to build.
Finally, there are a lot of little materials that you will need which should not cost you too much at all. You will need paint if you plan on painting your boat. Painting the boat can help be an extra seal for all of the wood you have used, and it can really finish off the look of your boat.
Related Post – What are the types of wood used in boat building? Check this article to know all the wood types used for different boat parts along with their benefits and drawbacks.
On top of the materials that your boat will mostly be made out of, you will also need certain tools to build your boat. The tools that you need to purchase do not make up a ton of the overall cost of building a boat, but you should still factor them into your boat budget.
However, many people already have some of the necessary tools, especially if you do a lot of woodworking otherwise. If this is the case for you, you should not factor in the cost of the tools you already own.
One of the essential tools you will need is screws, a screwdriver, and any other adhering materials like glue and clamps. When building your boat, you should choose screws over nails because screws have more tensile strength and are easier to work with if mistakes are made. Screws can easily be taken out if needed, but taking out nails can damage the expensive wood.
When connecting pieces together, you will use glue and clamps to join them first, and then you will screw them together once the glue has dried. It is essential that you must have an electric belt or rotary sander. Throughout the build, you will be sanding down your wood, and more importantly, you will sand down the epoxy resin and putty.
You can try to sand with pure elbow grease and sandpaper, but it is much faster and easier for such a big project to have an electric sander. Also, there are many surfaces to cover, and it will take so much longer without one.
Finally, you will need an electric circular saw and table to work on. When you need to cut your wood to the proper sizes, you will want a steady and fast saw. You want clean, accurate cuts so that everything will fit nicely.
In addition to the saw, you will need a pencil, a tape measure, a level, and masking or painter’s tape. These small tools will help you measure and mark your wood for cutting and be more accurate about your overall measurements. It would be a shame to buy a new plank of wood because you did not cut it correctly.
The last major factor to consider in the cost of building a boat from scratch is the amount of time that it will take you to build it. Time is very precious, and if you don’t have the time to build your boat, it can really seem like a burden instead of a fun project.
However, for some people, it does not matter the time it will take to build the boat; they just like its sentiment and don’t consider the time a cost. If you do consider time a cost of building the boat, there are some factors to consider.
When building a boat from scratch, there are a lot of different aspects of it that can change the amount of time you spend on it. For example, if you are building a bigger boat, it will cost more time to build one. Likewise, building a boat with extra features will take longer because of the details you need to add and the extra steps involved in the building process.
Time is not always a cost of building a boat. If you want to build the boat to pass it down to the family, then the time it takes to build is not a concern at all. If you have a lot of extra free time and nothing to fill it with, a big, long project like this can really help fill that time, and it will not feel like it is stealing time away from other things.
If time is a concern for you, you can take precautions to ensure that it does not interfere with the main work. One way is to plan out the times you will work on your boat. This might be every weekend for a few hours, every day for an hour, or once a month for nearly a whole day.
No matter the proportion of time you spend building your boat, it will get done without interfering with the rest of your activities if you plan it out accordingly.
The three main costs of building a boat from scratch are materials, tools, and time, but how do you calculate them all together? The best way to do this is with generous estimates.
For example, if you estimate the cost of the materials you want and need to use, the tools you have to buy, and the amount of time it will take you, your budget of time and money will be bigger than you actually need.
Doing this will help you have plenty of financial wiggle room; if some things end up being more expensive than you anticipated or a step takes longer than you thought, you will still be able to stay within your budget. Finally, building your boat should not be a stressful or burdensome project.
This is the kind of thing that you should want to take your time and care on because it is the only one in the world like it and it should be well crafted. Building a boat can be a great experience to share with your kids or grandkids as well. The memories you will have building and using a boat you built yourself will be lovely and impactful for everyone involved.