Floating Home Design: Are the Dutch on to Something?


Floating homes. Wait…aren’t they just houseboats? Actually, no. Although they share some similarities to houseboats and boats in general, floating homes are actually quite different.

  • So what makes floating homes unique?
  • How are floating homes built?
  • And why are they becoming more popular?

In this 5-minute read, you’ll get everything you need to know. Let’s start with that last question.

Why are floating homes gaining traction worldwide?

Floating homes are gaining traction for two main reasons.

  • Rising sea levels caused by climate change
  • Overcrowding and housing shortages, especially in urban areas

Rising Sea Level Caused By Climate Change

According to NOAA, 2021 set a new record for ocean heating. Warmer oceans mean more ice melting, which means higher sea levels. In fact, sea levels are projected to rise a foot by 2050.

That’s a big deal for low-lying countries — like the Maldives and Kiribati — as well as densely populated coastal areas like New York City, Jakarta, Lagos, Bangkok and others.

So with over 200 million people and their homes being affected by rising sea levels in the coming decades, it’s no wonder that floating homes are growing in popularity.

As sea levels start to encroach on populated areas, having a house that can rise and lower with the tides will become a necessity and not just a novelty. And as buyers plan on investing in real estate in those areas, it’ll be more and more important that the homes be climate change resistant.

That’s one reason floating homes are growing in popularity. What’s the other?

Overcrowding and Housing Shortages

In 1950, about 750 million people lived in urban areas across the globe. Right now, several billion people live in cities and that number is projected to grow to over 6 billion by 2050.

As a result, many cities are facing an epic housing shortage as well as skyrocketing rent and home prices. But where can cities turn to for housing if they’ve already used up every square inch of land?

What about the water?

While some large cities don’t have anywhere else to expand on land, many are right next to lakes, rivers and the ocean. That’s why some cities are planning on expanding their floating infrastructure to offset overcrowding.

So where are floating homes gaining traction? Places like Amsterdam might come to mind first, but even in the U.S. floating homes are gaining traction.

The most popular area in the U.S. for floating homes is Portland, Oregon which currently has an estimated 3,500 floating homes. Other cities in the northwest are following Portland’s trend like Seattle, San Fransisco and Vancouver, each with about 500 floating homes. And that trend is likely to spread to others.

But how are floating homes built? Find out in the next section.

Floating house designed with Cedreo
Floating house designed with Cedreo

How floating homes are built

When you first think of a floating home, something like a houseboat probably comes to mind — basically a rectangular boat made with a wood or fiberglass hull. But a floating home is actually much more like a normal home on dry land.

Think of it like this…

A floating home is like a regular home with a different type of foundation — a floating one. From the water level up, you probably can’t even tell the difference between a floating home and a normal one.

So what is the floating foundation made of? There are two basic methods used to create a floating home.

Logs and Floats

In the past, floating homes were commonly built on a floating base of large diameter logs. Then barrels filled with air or other types of floats would be positioned underneath the logs to help level the entire house if needed.

Concrete (and Sometimes Styrofoam)

Floating concrete bases are common to see on modern floating homes. Sometimes the concrete is poured around large blocks of styrofoam for buoyancy. However, the most popular method is the “tub” base.

Imagine a large concrete bathtub. Although the concrete is heavy, the “tub” or hull displaces water and floats, giving a stable platform on which to build a structure.

The bathtub method is popular since it creates a durable, long-lasting and maintenance-free foundation. Plus the weight of the concrete creates a very low center of gravity that helps stabilize the entire home.

Floating home companies usually fabricate the concrete tub on dry land and then place it in the water and tow it to the building location with a tug boat (like these ones from Dirk Marine). And if there’s available space on land close to where the home will be located, many companies can even build the hull on location.

With either method — logs or concrete — there are large metal or wood piers that keep the house in place as it rises and lowers with the tides.

Check out the next section for some floating home design tips.

Floating Home Design

Floating homes come in all kinds of different styles from industrial and modern to cozy and cabin-like. Whichever you or your clients go with, here are three quick design tips you should keep in mind.

Take full advantage of the waterways. Most floating homeowners enjoy watersports like boating, kayaking or just relaxing in a lounge chair next to the water. So make sure to include outdoor deck areas, places for storing canoes and kayaks with easy access to the water, and even a dock or boathouse for a larger boat.

You’ve got waterfront property, so enjoy the views. Take a look at a couple of floating home designs and you’ll see lots of windows. So on the side of the home that’s open to the water, be sure to provide plenty of glass to create a strong connection to the surrounding waterway.

Keep kids safe. A backyard swimming pool can be a dangerous place for young children. Imagine a house surrounded on all four sides by water! So if you’re designing a house for a family with kids, be sure to implement safety features so little ones aren’t able to wander out and fall in the water.

Want an easy way to create floating home designs? Why not try Cedro?

Cedreo is easy-to-use home design software that is user-friendly yet powerful enough to create custom home designs to help you sell floating homes.

Create a complete floor plan in as little as two hours. Decorate and furnish the plan in 3D according to your client’s tastes. Then download photorealistic renderings of the interior that help you close more deals.


Between rising sea levels and overcrowded cities, the floating home market is set to skyrocket in the coming decades. So why not jump on the trend now to get ahead of the curve?

What can you do to get started?

  • Check out some floating homes in your area.
  • Learn about local floating home regulations
  • Get in contact with companies that make and deliver concrete hulls

And don’t forget to sign up for Cedreo home design software.

  • Create custom 3D home designs in hours not days
  • Close deals faster with photorealistic renderings

Sign up for FREE today!

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