The Bus Renovation Journal

Day 3 – Floor’s Up

Day three is here, with great progress! We’re still slowly transitioning from work mode to “bus mode,” but we’re still pretty much on schedule. Either way, things are happening and the bus is evolving into its future self.

Yesterday we finished* the backbreaking work of removing the school bus floor. A lot of people decide not to remove their bus floors because it’s such a pain, but we wanted to make sure to address any corrosion / moisture issues that might be lurking under there before building on top of it, so out it came. Plus, we’d just removed 2000 rivets… how hard could it be?

The existing bus floor was made up of three layers: rubber / linoleum glued to 3/4″ plywood which was nailed into the steel bottom of the bus.

*Well, all except for the driver’s area…

Alyssa peeling up a few layers of floor

Here you can see the different layers: linoleum, plywood, and rusty steel.

My dad has a saying that he likes to use about taking the easy way out: “Pay me now, or pay me later.” This definitely held true with the flooring. The linoleum in the back peeled up easily, like that sticky glue on the back of a gift card. I was excited that it was going so well, until I realized why. The plywood underneath the rubber was completely soaked. We know that there aren’t any leaks coming from above, so that means it must be coming from below. Yikes.

After pulling out most of the linoleum we set to work on prying up the plywood using a variety of levers: super bars, crow bars, and long metal stakes. For each sheet that needed to come up, we worked around the exposed edges hammering a small pry bar under the sheet to loosen it up. After loosening up each of the edges, we would do the same thing with a slightly bigger pry bar before sliding a 5 foot spud bar under and using its leverage to pull up on the sheet. This process varied slightly depending on the quality of the plywood and the nails holding it down. Some sheets came up easily and some were quite a bit more involved.

Prying up the floor with a long crowbar
Prying up the floor with a long crowbar
Prying up the floor with a shorter crowbar

Most of the plywood was wet and tore up easily, breaking apart like soggy cardboard and leaving behind a layer of nasty rust. Much easier in the short term, but harder in the long term because we’ll have to address all of that corrosion. In some places they plywood held up well and was much harder to remove (read: incredibly hard!) Luckily the harder to remove sheets had less rust underneath. Pay me now, pay me later.

After a few hours and some hard work, we were left with the exposed steel floor. Weirdly, since the wood was so rotten, a lot of the nails were still left in the floor. We took a little bit more time to pull up all of the nails that were left behind and sweep up all of the debris.

rusty floor and wheel well

Rusty, rusty floor. We also pulled off the pleather covers on the wheel wells – luckily no rust under there!

more rust on the floor

More rust.

Sweeping rust is a weird thing. The more you sweep, the more dust is created. I felt like I had a bloody nose the entire time from all of the iron in the air.

All in all, it’s not terrible. There is a good amount of rust on the floor of the bus but we think it was created from the myriad of holes in the floor: bolt holes where the seats were connected, nail holes where the floor was connected, and one huge hole where nothing was connected. Luckily each and every one of these holes has a crisp edge, meaning that the corrosion is mostly on the surface and hasn’t eaten through anything completely yet.

Nails sticking up from the floor

Some of the nails & screws sticking up from the floor

Will pulling out nails with a crowbar

Will pulling out nails with a crowbar

Really big hole

One really big hole… no idea what this is for.

The end result, a clean floor!

The end result, a clean floor!

Next Steps

We got most of the grunt work on the floor done yesterday, but still have a few more things to do before we can go onto the next steps.

Remove the floor in the driver’s area

We had some great momentum yesterday, but decided to leave the floor in the driver’s area for another day. It’s a pretty small surface area, but there are a lot of components and panels that go all the way down to the floor. It looks like the floor boards extend all the way under these components so we’re not 100% sure how we are going to handle them yet.

Treat the steel floor

Once we get the last of the subfloor out, we will start on the steel floor treatment. The basic process will be to pressure wash the surface, sand off remaining rust, pressure wash again, treat rusted spots with a rust treatment, fill all of the holes, and then paint over the entire surface with a special sealing paint.

We are still trying to figure out what combination of products to use for rust treatment, filling holes, andsurface paint. If you have any ideas, we’d love to hear them!

Are you thinking about converting a bus?

If so, make sure to check out our Big Bus Materials List! It has everything we used, from appliances to light switches to flooring, to do our conversion. Check it out »

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  • Wayward2

    Hi Alyssa
    I’m really enjoying reading about your conversion, we are in the process of doing a short bus conversion so not only do I ride the short bus I drive it.:) I just wanted to let you know what the large hole in the floor is for, it’s so you can replace the fuel gauge tank sensor so you don’t have to drop the large heavy fuel tank there are four or six small screws you remove and the sensor pulls out. I just wanted to share what little I know to payback for the great Blog. Thank you Robert

    • Thanks Robert! Now I’m glad that we marked its location in case we ever need to replace it.