Can You Build a Boathouse at Your Cabin?

Many people want a boathouse at their cabin but don’t know the codes, standards, and stipulations surrounding them. For the most part, older, existing boathouses can be repaired based on DNR-specified guidelines. New boathouses have more restrictions, however, and cabin owners should pay close attention to local and state guidelines before beginning construction or moving forward with repairs.  

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It’s actually been more than 30 years since the state of Wisconsin has issued permits for new “wet” boathouses. A “wet” boathouse, for those new to this conversation, is one that’s built below a lake’s OHWM (Ordinary High Water Mark). A “dry” boathouse is one that is constructed above the OHWM and is a good option as long as construction takes place according to DNR standards and local zoning requirements. To find the OHWM for your lake, talk to the DNR and local permit office. They’ll be able to help you determine the right spot for your dry boathouse. 

Cabin owners need to remember that they should pay close attention to local zoning restrictions before they do any construction on a wet or dry boathouse.

The construction of boathouses in Wisconsin is bigger than simply a matter of preferences or budgets. New “wet” boathouses (below a lake’s OHWM) are generally prohibited, and so lake home owners should work closely with the DNR and local zoning guidelines as they move forward.