Renovation of a northwoods boathouse located in Oneida County, WI

When we purchased our vacation home we knew the first project we had to tackle was stabilizing the boathouse.   The cabin was build in the mid-1950’s and the boathouse was constructed not long after that.  The boathouse was definitely a major bonus on our list of desired cabin features and certainly something we weren’t expecting.  The state of Wisconsin no longer allows the construction of over-the-water boathouses.  Even renovation of the existing structure was tricky.  Super clubs and boat houses….you know you are in Wisconsin.

Sometimes you can DIY, but sometimes professional help and skill is required.  Our boathouse renovation definitely required expert help to manage the permitting with the city, county, and Department of Natural Resources.  It is nearly impossible to tackle or coordinate these efforts when you work full-time and live in a different state.  Money well spent, as our contractor did a fantastic job negotiating to get the permits required for the project to commence.  We had no idea of how to tackle this structural project and clearly special skills and tools were going to be required to prevent this delicate structure from ending up at the bottom of the lake.

Freeze-thaw cycles had really done a number on the poor old boathouse.  It was so off-level and looked so unstable, we were afraid to let anyone walk on the roof deck.  The contractor had to basically detach the back wall, which was anchored on-shore while everything else was in the lake bed.  Once this was completed, the sand around the pilings was jetted to sink the boathouse until everything was level.  During the process, the boathouse was tied off to trees for support.  After leveling, braces were installed to minimize movement and shifting of the structure.

The scary before. This was a great time to be in another state. I would have held my breath for hours on end.


Strengthened back wall and braces and side wall.,

The Department of Natural Resources limits the amount of money you can spend on boathouse renovation.  We were only allowed to spend a small percentage of the appraised value, so we reworked material where possible in order to save money for the critical materials and labor.  The entry door and garage doors were removed and painted indoors.  Money saved!  We also salvaged the railing, adding additional brackets to ensure it would not collapse with weight against it.  The windows and trim were also painted.  Once spring arrived, the doors were reinstalled and when temperatures were warm enough the boathouse received a fresh coat of stain.   We decided to stick with the original red color.  I think it has a very nostalgic look.

Several of the dock pilings had to be replaced. Repainted garage doors look great!

Here are the after pictures.  The boathouse looks fantastic and the flags add a nice finishing touch.  I’m in the market for some fun flags to rotate for special occasions.  First on the list…. a pirate flag.  Then maybe a mermaid flag.  The rooftop deck is a wonderful place to unwind after a busy day on and in the water.  Fishing off the deck is pretty good too.  Nice bass!  This project was such a great investment in our family.  I can’t tell you how many hours we have spent on the dock and boathouse telling stories and spending great family time together.  No electronics, just fresh air, family, and friends.  Life is good!


Enjoying a great day of fishing at the cabin.

The renovated boathouse looks fantastic!

The best place to relax after a busy day of fishing, swimming, and kayaking. Paradise!

Do you have a special place you like to relax and unwind?  Would love to hear your vacation stories and certainly others will benefit from your travel tips.

Take care,