A Guide to Narrowboat Renovation

If your idea of the good life is gliding your way along sleepy canals, a narrowboat renovation is a great way to achieve the dream. Investing in a narrowboat gives you the opportunity to create your perfect home from home on the water and enjoy it for years to come.

Whether you’re planning to take up residence on your boat, or just to enjoy it when you can, there are a few important points to consider before starting your narrowboat renovation. Our guide to narrowboat renovation may help you turn that dream into a reality…

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Think about your renovation goal

First thing’s first, it’s time to think about the kind of narrowboat you envisage when you think about your renovation. Basically, there are three main types of narrowboat to choose from – and that’s the traditional, the semi-traditional or the cruiser. Still confused? Don’t worry.

If you’re planning on living on your boat full time, or at least spending long periods of time aboard, the traditional style of narrowboat might be best for your renovation. This classic style not only looks beautiful on the outside but offers plenty of living space inside. If you’re going to be staying on the boat with family or friends, you won’t want to be squeezing around one another for day after day, so the spacious design of the traditional choice is probably a sensible option.

If you plan on sharing your boating adventures with your other half, think about the semi-traditional style. A contemporary spin on the classic style, this version tends to have a larger stern deck, so you can both enjoy the view at the same time.

We understand that for many of you, the thrill of your narrowboat will be taking in the views from the deck rather than resting down below. In general, you’ll find the decks on cruiser narrowboats are longer than those on their peers, offering plenty of space for you to sit back and enjoy the journey together.

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Choose the right size narrowboat for your renovation

Before you invest in your narrowboat for renovation, you need to decide which size is best for you. Most narrowboats tend to measure around 6’ 10 in width, but they come in varying lengths – and these will have an impact on any mooring fees you need to pay1.

You’ll find narrowboats for sale in everything from 20 to 70 feet but bear in mind that the longer the length you choose, the higher the costs associated with it. Longer models come with a higher price tag for buying, mooring upkeep and licenses.

If you’re going to be cruising the UK’s waterway system when your narrowboat renovation is complete, you’ll need to ensure that it’s not too long to navigate the canals of England and Wales.

Opting for the maximum 70’ length will mean you get more space onboard, but you’ll be compromising on being able to navigate certain sections of the waterway system. On the other hand, a narrowboat measuring 60’ should mean you’re free to explore almost all waterways2.

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Think about your narrowboat renovation style

Now for the fun part – choosing your preferred style of narrowboat décor. You probably already have an idea of the kind of interior designs you like, so take time to research how they would work on a narrowboat interior. You’re going to be dressing a unique space, and you need to strike a balance between it feeling homely yet spacious for those lazy days on the water.

If you’re in need of a little inspiration, there are a few firm favourites. Firstly, you can keep it modern. An understated, elegant feel works well in the confined space of a narrowboat’s living area, and you can add your own stamp to the look with a feature wall or bold colours to set it off.

For cosy vibes all year round, there’s always the traditional country chic. This look’s all about florals, pastels and patterns, and you’ll be able to accessorise with soft furnishings for added comfort. Plan this look carefully to avoid clashing patterns that can make your space feel busy…you’re going for a relaxing country cottage feel.

If you’re going through the vintage phase, who says it can’t work on your narrowboat as well as in your home? The nice thing about going vintage for your renovation is that it’s a really flexible look, so you’re still free to go for the colours you love. It’s an idea to think about your favourite colour palette and match it to a decade, then you can pick out accessories that fit the era.

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Make sure your budget is flexible

One of the most important aspects of your narrowboat renovation is the budget. The main priority is that you don’t end up overstretched, so make sure you set a budget with leeway for the unexpected.

Think about how much you’re willing to spend on the initial purchase of your narrowboat, and don’t forget to factor in the cost of a pre purchase survey for your boat. You’ll also need to research any licenses you’ll need once you’re the proud owner of a vessel, as well as your insurance and local mooring fees3.

This is a marketing article by Towergate Insurance.


  • 1: Whilton Marina: The different types of narrowboats for sale in the UK explained
  • 2: ABNB Boat Brokerage: 57ft Myth
  • 3: theserollingwaves.com: The true cost of buying a narrowboat

Narrowboat insurance from Towergate:

Boat insurance from Towergate is available for different vessels and with various optional covers, depending on what you use your boat for, from third party cover to personal accident, marina benefits, and racing risks to name a few.

For more information visit our narrowboat insurance page or call us on 0344 892 1987.