Buying new or bringing an older pontoon back to life is a decision that many future pontoon owners face. Buying new is quick and easy for the most part, while restoring a pontoon can sometimes be time consuming and requires a degree of mechanical skills and willingness to dedicate yourself to the project. But the rewards can be many if you’re up to the task.
For starters, you can decide just want you want your Pontoon to be without being tied in a pre-packaged deal that most dealers offer now. For example, you can begin with a bare bones deck only platform that you build from the bottom up or buy one that has many of the qualities that you are looking for already installed. Everything you need to build from the ground up is readily available. From new Pontoon logs and structure, to decking, railings, furniture, steering components, lighting and everything else you need to make an old one look like new again. There are so many levels of used Pontoons for sale at all different price ranges, that the right one for you is fairly easy to come by. The satisfaction you get from doing it yourself is well worth the effort for many. Plus you can have a like new Pontoon for a fraction of the cost of buying new. And it will be built the way you want it to be. Layout, Materials, Colors, Amenities and choice of propulsion are all at your discretion.
So just what do you look for when shopping for a used pontoon. The first thing to consider is size and layout. The most common sizes are from 20 to 28 feet and the layout is only limited by space and imagination. Although new models come in lengths that increase every foot, older models generally came in 2 foot increments. In reality, your choice will most likely be either a 20′er or a 24′er. Those were the most prevalent and are likely to be the most popular used ones now. You need to visualize what you want your finished boat to look like, starting with the flooring. If the deck (Plywood) is still in good shape with no soft spots or rot, then you are already way ahead. If the flooring does need to be replaced, you can purchase new and install it yourself. This is one of the main costs when doing a rebuild, but must be done if the existing deck is questionable at all. Consider it the foundation for your Pontoon, much like the foundation of your home. If it’s not solid, everything else will suffer. The only type recommended is CCA treated Marine Plywood. Almost all pontoon boats now use marine grade plywood for the decking (Although some new ones now use aluminum) and it usually has carpet applied over it. Removing the old carpet can be one of the tougher jobs if it’s still solidly adhered, but it must be done if you are keeping the existing plywood. If not, just cut the carpet and take off the plywood with the carpet still attached and dispose of it all.
Once you have your old deck prepared (or have installed a new deck), you can decide if you want to go back with carpeting or one of the new Vinyl products that are popular now, especially on fishing Pontoons. Then you can begin the task of gluing down the new boat carpet or vinyl, which comes in standard widths to fit most pontoon boats and is sold by the running foot. To make buying supplies even easier and simpler, complete kits are now sold that include everything you need to redeck and carpet your Pontoon. Once you have the decking and flooring completed, you can install your railings, new furniture and console. The layout of the furniture is very important and needs to be decided before you consider ordering it. Careful measurments must be made to make sure everthing will fit, allowing for entry/exit gates and general space onboard for the way you plan on using your Pontoon. Typically, a Pontoon that will be used mainly for cruising will have more furniture than one set up for fishing. But the design is limited only by your budget and size of the Pontoon. Many extras can also be added, such as a Bimini top for shade on those hot days on the water or a trolling motor to take you to your favorite fishing spot.
You are not alone if you decide to take on a project boat, as many others have also decided that building it themselves was the way to go. If you are willing to put some time and effort into refurbishing a used pontoon boat, you and your family will be rewarded with years of enjoyable times on the water.