Marc Even, who frequently has three unique homes bobbing in the water outside of his St. Helens facility on the Columbia River and are all at various levels of completion, advises against using a carpenter’s level to draw a horizontal line when building a floating house.
He claims that if you measure from the flat platform up, everything will line up. Try doing it the traditional method as it is done on land, and your walls can wind up looking like those in a carnival funhouse.
Even if Even Construction, who learnt the tricks of preventing a 500,000-pound structure from sinking 25 years ago, claims that “everything we do is unique.”
Using buoyancy as a guide, decisions are made. Once modest fishing shacks transformed into million-dollar homes with multiple stories, engineering and platform building had to advance to support the weight of amenities like a rooftop garden warmed by a fireplace, a lakeside terrace with a hot tub, as well as a guest house or boat garage.
Around 1,350 floating homes in the Portland area are registered, ranging in style from simple ebbing villas to century-old shacks on the Columbia and Willamette rivers or Multnomah Channel.
A floating concrete platform two-story developed by Even with 2,200 square feet of living space was sold for $1,850,000 in August. also constructed a second contemporary home with a solarium that can be seen through, fluted glass block walls, and a stairway that leads to a top-floor suite with a sitting area and a riverside balcony. It was sold in December 2021 for $1,650,000.
The mechanics of maintaining a heavy thing on top of the water is referred to as the antithesis of gravity by Portland architect Philip Sydnor of Integrate Architecture & Planning, who designed numerous floating homes that Even has built.
Other distinctions between a house on the land and one above water include:
- Unlike homes that are permanently fixed to the ground, floating homes can be moved to a new location by being towed by a boat. Owners purchase a share, not a slip, at the gated Oregon Yacht Club moorage in Southeast Portland, north of the Sellwood Bridge. A seniority-based mechanism permits long-time residents to increase their slip position when a floating house’s ownership changes.
- Most residential lots allow for the expansion of houses into yards that are feet from the property line. More limited moorages exist. The slip must be able to accommodate the platform’s width, which supports the residence. To add a deck or a standalone accessory living unit, smaller platforms known as tenders can be connected to the front or back of the main platform.
- Houses on the lake can be chilly or warm, depending on how they are built, insulated, and heated. Owners stop pipes from freezing and burst by plugging air leaks. The main distinction is that whereas piled snow on roofs and decks can tip a floating house, strong winds can rock one.
- People who live on the river have critter barriers to prevent beavers, nutria, and otters from dwelling under the log platform, but owners on the land endeavour to prevent squirrels and rodents from crawling through basement crevices.
- The majority of the 40 or so floating house communities in the Portland region lack garages, and there are huge waiting lists for carports and storage facilities. It is more difficult to carry groceries down the ramp to the front door and to carry trash back up because parking is on land next to the moorage.
According to Even, who has constructed around 60 floating homes anchored in Oregon and Washington state, people often downsize to live on the water, where they can launch a kayak from their deck and enjoy up-close views of the always-changing landscape.
The moorage neighbours of the house’s owners won’t have to put up with months of sawdust, noise, and nailing activity because the floating house is totally constructed offsite at his facility with workshops, cranes, and barges.
A floating home must first be installed before being connected to the water, electrical, and sewage systems of the moorage.
A floating house is constructed on a platform known as a float that is designed to be attached to a slip, as opposed to a houseboat, which is a live-aboard boat with its own motor to navigate canals.
Depending on the moorage, the location, and whether a garage is included, the slip alone may be as expensive as a condo.
According to real estate professionals, floating homes are classified as personal property and have interest rates that are typically 1.5 to 2 percentage points higher than those for real estate loans.
Mooring maintenance fees and other shared costs are covered by both owners and tenants.
The Oregon Yacht Club was founded in 1900 and is the oldest organised yacht club in the state. Based on share purchase prices and annual moorage fees, it is also the most costly address for a boat in Oregon.
Here, Even has constructed a dozen floating homes.
According to Even, her clients have raised their children, retired from the workforce, and now have the finances to finally build the house of their dreams. They hire me to construct it because they know what they want.
Constructing on water
On October 11, Even watched as a tugboat transported his most recent floating home—a two-story structure that could readily catch the wind—from his St. Helens site to a mooring at the Oregon Yacht Club on the Willamette River’s east bank.
The 1,990-square-foot home was led beneath bridges and over wakes to a parking spot at the end of the moorage, where it may remain for the rest of its days. This slip, which was once occupied by the disco-era Aqua Star floating house, is the one that is most exposed to dynamic water movement and is also the one that is most visible on the river.
According to Even, “the majority of floating homes are quite generic in terms of what slip they will be built in.” The Oregon Yacht Club’s outside dock, which provides complete views of the river to the south and north, was the only location for which this home was specially planned and constructed.
The second-floor terrace and outdoor fireplace are shielded by a standing-seam metal roof that extends 14 feet past the external walls.
The new residence, designed by architect Sydnor and built on a 77-foot-long log platform, shares the most prestigious moorage in the state with other unique residences by Even.
Even’s most well-known building is Robert Oshatz’s Fennell House, which features a copper roof in the form of a cresting wave and whirling cedar shingles. Radius walls that were “a builder’s difficulty, to say the least,” according to Even, are inside along with large glass panels rising to the double-height ceiling.
Two more contemporary homes with glass walls, built by Even, are nearby. They were designed by Sydnor. One has a 10 KV rooftop photovoltaic system in addition to a geothermal heating and cooling system.
Even has constructed floating homes with circular turrets, granite countertops, actual ledge stone, and, in one house, a massive aquarium separating the upstairs bedroom from the bathroom area.
Additionally, he has renovated floating dwellings that had been harmed over the years by water, animals, and wood decay. Land dwellings that require significant repairs are torn down to “the studs.” Everything must be taken out of a floating home in poor condition until only the platform is left.
And that might also need improvement.
A plywood barge or scow float formed from reclaimed wood and metal hulls, a pontoon made of fibreglass, steel, or aluminium, or a boxed float constructed of wood, metal, or Styrofoam could serve as the basis.
Concrete is the most expensive type of platform. According to Even, the long-lasting, low-maintenance base won’t ever require additional floatation to keep it level, doesn’t attract “varmints,” and enables for radiant floor heating to maintain a comfortable inside all year long.
He claims that the concrete platform may continue to float for many generations after the wood-framed home has deteriorated.
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