Narrowboat Welding

Narrowboat welding in London, Essex and Hertfordshire

The vast majority of narrowboats and widebeams on London’s inland waterways are made from mild steel. Repairs to the boat’s structure are often beyond the skill of most boat owners.  This is why the Floating Boatyard offers narrowboat welding as part of our boat repair services.

Welding is in many cases the only way to make permanent repairs or alterations to the structure of your boat. It is often possible to make short-term repairs with various fillers and glues. However, these don’t solve the problem but just mask it. This article shows you why you should contact us for your boat welding needs and gives some examples of previous projects.

For bookings and consultations call 07886388689, or use the contact form on this website.

Narrowboat Welding – Why the Floating Boatyard?

When we carry out narrowboat welding, we make sure our work is as good as, if not better than, the original boat builder’s work – see below for examples of our work. When you book a boat welding job with the Floating Boatyard, you can be assured that we will take care of the logistics for you. We have several steel supply contacts inside and outside of London who will deliver to the waterway, meaning no more worrying about carrying steel on the 308 bus.

Hull repairs or any project which will require welding below the waterline should be carried out when the boat is out of the water. Above the waterline, the Floating Boatyard can carry out welding from our workboat, Perch.

Narrowboat Welding – Safety and Legal Concerns

The key to a successful narrowboat welding project is ensuring that you find the right welder. It is vital you find a welder who has experience on boats. They must also have the right insurance in place and they must risk assess every project. There is a fire risk with all narrowboat welding works due to the construction of most narrowboats. The insulation used on older fit outs and wood-lined cabins are flammable materials. As experienced narrowboat welders, the Floating Boatyard is able to take steps to mitigate these risks.

Whether your boat is moored on the towpath or in a private marina, you will need the landowner’s and local waterway authority’s permission to carry out hotworks such as welding on your boat. From our many conversations with CRT, it is extremely unlikely that they will allow welding from the towpath, citing concerns for the safety of the public. Our workboat is licensed for hotworks and narrowboat welding. If the person welding is acting without the landowner’s permission or the correct commercial waterways license, it will most likely void their insurance.

Make sure your welder has written permission from CRT or your local waterway authority, before booking any work with them. You do not want to ask these questions of the welder once something has already gone wrong.

Narrowboat Welding – Some of Our Past Projects

Narrowboat Welding – Repairing a Stove Collar fitting

Narrowboat Welding - Roof collar hole - Floating Boatyard London

When roof collars have been fitted and not regularly resealed, water quite often gets between the collar and the cabin roof itself. This trapped water causes corrosion around the hole made to fit the collar. The corrosion causes leaks around the stove collar when this is very bad. You will often not discover the corrosion until you move the collar.

Narrowboat Welding - Roof collar cut out - Floating Boatyard London.

Our aim was to do a clean repair that would be completely unnoticeable once painted. We cut a rectangular section of the roof out. Then we fitted a plate of new steel flush with the cabin roof. We often see patched roofs where the welder has not bothered to cut out the old, uneven hole and has applied a sheet of steel over the top. This leaves an obvious and unsightly patch. It is not a great deal more effort to do things correctly as in this example. Fitting a flush new sheet of steel gives a much better result.

Narrowboat Welding - Roof collar complete - Floating Boatyard London

This image shows the primer coat, once fully painted the new steel plate will be indistinguishable from the original cabin roof. This a permanent repair to a leak which will last the lifetime of the boat with the proper maintenance

Narrowboat Welding – Diesel Tank Repair

Narrowboat Welding - diesel tank cut out - Floating Boatyard London

After 30+years of use, the bottom of this diesel tank had badly corroded inside and out. As we removed rust, we saw holes appear in the steel itself. These holes could have developed at any time inside the bilge as vibration shakes loose the rust. This would have lead to 100l of diesel inside the cabin bilge and a potentially very costly bilge cleaning job.

Water in the diesel has caused the corrosion on the interior. If the tank has not been cleaned out in a long time then water from condensation will build up. This is a diesel bug risk factor as well as a cause of corrosion that can be avoided with regular diesel polishing. The bilge that this particular tank was sat in was also in poor repair. Water and dirt was sitting on the exterior of the tank as well.

Narrowboat Welding - diesel tank repaired - Floating Boatyard London.

We welded a new strip of steel onto the side of the tank and replaced the bottom. The old steel in this part of the tank was very badly damaged. It was more cost effective to overplate than to repair the holes individually, or build a new tank. This is a long-term fix to the tank. It will get many more years of use before it needs to be repaired or replaced once more.

Narrowboat Welding – Stern Deck Drainage

Narrowboat Welding - Bilge after cut out - Floating Boatyard London

This is an example of a larger narrowboat welding project. This boat had a cruiser-style stern with poor deck drainage. This made it impossible to keep the engine bilge dry and clean. The owner had spent a large amount of time and money trying to keep the engine bilge in good condition. This boat also a had disused tank built into the stern, which was impossible to maintain and had already badly corroded.

Narrowboat Welding - Stern deck drainage - Floating Boatyard LondonRather than risk any further damage to the boat, the owner asked us to overhaul the engine bilge and stern drainage. Floating Boatyard removed the old tank and the old drainage. We then welded new deck drainage from steel channel to keep water out of the engine bilge.

Narrowboat Welding - Bilge after painting - Floating Boatyard London

We also fabricated new stairs with a well for an automated bilge pump to sit in. The previous stairs allowed water to pool on the bottom step, which then flowed into the cabin of the boat.  We also painted the bilge to give it protection from ambient moisture and diesel/oil spills.

Narrowboat Welding - stern deck covers fitted - Floating Boatyard London

Finally, we fitted marine ply deck covers. We custom built these to match the drainage o the stern deck. The owner wanted to paint these herself. We were more than happy to advise her on how to get the best finish and best longevity on her work. We offer multiple trades at the Floating Boatyard. This spares you the hassle of managing the logistics of more than one trader for your boat repairs.

For narrowboat welding consultations and bookings call 07886388689, or contact us here.


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