Convert your boat
The conversion of my boat might give you already an idea. More in debt information can be found here. What can you expect form this article? Mainly some ideas and the way to work them out. Questions can be asked here!
About metal: Remember the following rule: Rust is not good, but don't panic. 1cm of rust is 1mm of steel. Don't paint over the rust unless you know what you are doing.
About maintenance in general: In the interest of the boat, your own and that of many other houseboat owners, it is recommended to have a nice looking boat at the outside.
How to conserve the hull?
There are many arguments and methods of protecting the hull. All of them have positive and negative issues. On the watergeus, tar is used. This tar is no longer allowed these days in the Netherlands, but Belgium for instance is still allowing it. Tar is a cheap product, but very good. it has been used for over 100 years.
These days, since tar is no longer allowed and the Dutch biological alternative doesn't work, many boats are being painted with epoxy paint.
But one thing is for sure, once you've started with one product, keep using it unless you sand blast your hull completely. But then again sand blasting is not recommended for a riveted hull. The heads of the rivets may come loose and cause leaking.
No matter what stuff you put on the hull, don't forget to remove as much rust as possible. In Belgium and the Netherlands, houseboats need to go out of the water every four to five years. This is the perfect moment for chipping rust and cleaning the hull.
Putting epoxy paint on a houseboat
These days there are products available that threaten the rust for you. It depends on your budget to do it yourself or to buy some of those products. Since I've never used any of those products, I can't write any further on it.
Mainly in the Netherlands, there is a tradition of using a fixed colour scheme for every type of barge. For Luxe Motors, a black hull with red bow and red rudders is very common. Tjalks have mostly a brown or green colour. I decided to paint my boat in the same traditional colours.
Red nose and anchor holes, a typical Dutch scheme
I have seen boats in Belgium painted on a non traditional way and I must personally say, they looked amazingly nice. At the other hand I have seen different as well.
Flowers on the boat
It might seem going a bit far, but this topic is more important then you would think. Especially in the Netherlands, but also on other houseboats, a small garden or just a couple of lowers are standing on deck to give a better decoration. There is nothing wrong with this, besides the fact that earth can't touch the deck. Earth contains air, water and can easily attach to your deck. So this can create rust in no time.
Cleaning the bilges
The most important inside job is maintaining the bottom of the ship, the bilges. Water or damp i s not good. It will cause a lot damage in time tot your ship. Also; when there is water, there might be a leak. Cleaning bilges will take some time, depending on the size of the boat and their state.
Rust in the bilges, urgently needs some grease or oil.
How to clean them? Remove all water and rust. Then you can protect your hull with grease or with oil. Both of them have worked for over 100 years.
What to do with holes in the bottom where plates have doubled? Clean the holes out as much as you can. Afterwards, weld a small plate on top of it, so water can't get in or get out of the doubled plate starts leaking.
There isn't much work in engine rooms of barges, certainly not if you are using it as a static house boat. One job that is important is turning the grease pump, so grease gets around the shaft. After a while, water could start leaking, something the grease will prevent.