Building a retirement houseboat in Shoreham from scratch

Tata roofing system went up in just one day – By Southern Sheeting

The Shoreham Houseboat community has been called “Britain’s wackiest street,” with more than 40 houseboats, ranging from a converted post-war German torpedo boat to a British gunboat which saw action at the D-Day landings, moored on the banks of the River Adur in West Sussex.

Yet its most recent addition built by Lee Bennett, with the help of Southern Sheeting, is far from wacky – instead it’s a future-proof boat designed as an affordable retirement home for a neighbour.

Lee used Tata Composite Insulated Panels for the roofing system. It’s the same roofing system he’s used on all of his previous boat projects which have included a music studio, converting a Royal Naval training barge and rebuilding a Thames Lighter.

He first discovered the roofing system when he was working on building classrooms at a refugee camp in Dunkirk, France, for international humanitarian medical NGO Médecins Sans Frontières and was impressed with the product.

A former resident of Hanover in Brighton, Lee decided to quit this quirky quarter, which is lined with tightly packed Victorian cottages, in search of more open space and uprooted to live on a houseboat in Shoreham, which is blessed with open views of the South Downs National Park and a beautiful tidal river. He’s been using this roofing system, available from Southern Sheeting, ever since he used it on his first boat, which is now his home.

Lee said: “Southern Sheeting have always been fantastic to work with. They have been so helpful and always deliver on time. I supplied them with the dimensions and thickness of panels. They then calculated how many sheets, flashings and fittings were required and talked it through with me on the phone.

 “The removed all the hassle of working out the materials list. I just gave them the outline of the roof and they calculated everything for me, which made it so straight forward.

 “The product is just fantastic. If you need to put up a roof quickly and you want your project to be cost effective, this is the perfect roofing system for you.

 “It took six of us a day to put up the roof on the boat, so it saved a huge amount of money in terms of labour. Also, if you’re eager to move into your new home quickly it means less of a wait before the all-important roof goes on.

 “Tata Composite Insulated Panels are very strong, low maintenance and have a long lifespan. I will definitely be using Southern Sheeting on my next project. I work in live events, usually across Europe, but as we’re still in the middle of the pandemic I can’t travel. Instead I’m already thinking about my next boat project!”

Lee built this boat for his neighbours, who already have a boat but needed a new one which would suit their needs better as they approached retirement. He built the whole boat from scratch for them.

Lee said: “This boat is perfect for their needs. It’s not challenging or artistic as some of the boats in Shoreham are, but a new build is much more affordable than bringing in a hull and converting it, which can be frighteningly expensive. It’s a much easier option and this will make for a great retirement home for them.”

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