The Bus Renovation Journal

Update 5

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Welcome to Update 5! We’ve made a ton of progress since Update 4. Last week we met with an RV jack of all trades who was incredibly helpful. Initially we thought he would only be looking at our plans for wiring, but he ended up walking us through every step of building the bus and had a ton of insightful advice for us.

Outside Found | Project Bus: Update 5

Our new layout. It’s similar to the old one, but takes a few specifics into account.

First, and most concerning, was that our fridge was in an impossible spot. We had it on an interior “wall,” which wouldn’t work because it needs to be vented directly outside… big problem. We spent a few afternoons last week reworking the layout to move the fridge, include a “normal” square fiberglass shower, and add a bit more storage space.

We ended up moving the fridge to the corner space underneath the counter, which will mean that the door will open underneath the little island. Not ideal, but we have to work with what we’ve got.

We also downsized from a queen sized bed to a full size bed to fit in our square 32″x32″ shower. I think this is actually a really good choice. We had put the queen in there originally because we already have the mattress, but we’ve lived happily with a full in the past and could really use the extra inches.

Though a lot of our time last week was tied up in planning, we did make some good progress on the projects we had already started! Keep reading for more info.

1. Filled the holes in the metal floor

In my last update I mentioned that we were planning on using silicon caulking to fill the holes in the floor. At the recommendation of our local hardware store we ended up using “Henry’s Rubberized Wet Patch Roof Leak Repair” instead. This stuff was sticky and covered all of the little holes easily. For the bigger holes we added some grid tape to give some extra structure to the putty, so it didn’t fall through.

Outside Found | Project Bus: Update 5

Here you can see the Henry’s and the grid tape that we used for a bigger hole.

2. Installed the subfloor

Installing the subfloor was a little trickier than we thought. For stability we decided to run 2×4’s down the sides and the middle of the bus, screwing them directly into the metal floor. We used sheet metal screws but it was still very difficult to get them in. Eventually we started pre-drilling the holes, but the bits kept breaking, which led to many trips to the hardware store.

Outside Found | Project Bus: Update 5

2×4’s Added!

Once we had the 2×4’s installed we added 1 3/4″ rigid foam board insulation to the spaces between the boards. Fitting and cutting the insulation was much easier than installing the 2×4’s!

The last step for the subfloor was installing the 3/4″ plywood cover. These were pretty simple as well, and they went down smoothly.

The subfloor in the driver’s section was a little trickier. We decided not to insulate with foam board around the driver’s area because it had so many weird shapes and is partially open to the engine. We are also planning on using a different type of flooring up front that should (hopefully) make it easier to skin the areas underneath the pedals and around the stairs. For now, the driver’s area has a layer of new 3/4″ plywood. Cutting the shape was an adventure!

3. Removed the heater hoses

Though the previous owners shortened the heater hoses a little bit, we needed to shorten them much more to work with our layout. I started working on them without doing much research – never a good idea. Surprise, they were full of coolant fluid! Luckily I was able to seal them back up before they leaked all over the bus. We weren’t sure how much was in there but we let them drain overnight and ended up with over 5 gallons of coolant. Once they were empty we trimmed the hoses down and reattached the connector. They’re not totally gone, but they’re much more manageable now.

Unfortunately, we didn’t drain the coolant into a clean bucket so we had to buy some replacement fluid for the engine. The NAPA guys were quite confused when I asked for coolant for a Caterpillar 3126… after looking at the computer for a few minutes one of them said “miss, are you sure you’ve got these numbers right? That’s an awful big engine.” Yes, it’s a school bus! Anyway, got three gallons of coolant for a cool $60.

Outside Found | Project Bus: Update 5

Coolant draining. This stuff is nasty and SUPER poisonous to dogs, so we were really careful with it.

4. Installed the FAN-Tastic Fan vent

We’re trying to finish up all of the exterior stuff that needs to happen before the spray foamers come (hopefully next week!) and the fan was one of those things. We’d ordered it a few weeks ago after hearing some great recommendations and are pretty excited about it.

Will used a drill and a saber saw to cut a hole in the roof, then we popped the fan in with a layer of butyl tape in between the roof and the plastic to hopefully keep it from leaking. We added some plywood around the edges on the inside of the bus so that the screws would have something more than the metal to grab on to, and screwed it down. Then we caulked over everything with some 2-in-1 sealant that I found at Home Depot. We haven’t tested the waterproofing yet… here’s hoping that it holds!

Outside Found | Project Bus: Update 5

Fan from the inside of the bus

5. Made a plan for Solar

We also realized that if we’re going to bolt our solar panels to the roof, they need to be done before spray foaming as well. Unfortunately, the brackets that came with them are too short to use on our curved roof, so we had to improvise.

First, I went to Home Depot looking for some large, “C” shaped brackets. The guys didn’t understand what I was asking for for a good 15 minutes until I held up two “L” brackets to show them the shape I needed. It was a lightbulb moment: “OH! You want a U bracket!” We were finally speaking the same language, but I was still out of luck.

After not being able to find a large U bracket anywhere, we came up with a new plan. We are going to build a plywood frame that we can bolt to the curved part of the roof that will make it the right heigt for the smaller brackets that came with the panels. So, I bought the 2×4’s, Will and his grandpa Bob cut them to the appropriate lengths and angles, and I painted them white so they won’t rot. We haven’t installed them yet, but I’ll let you know how it goes!

Outside Found | Project Bus: Update 5

Will moving a panel up to the roof to see how it will fit

Outside Found | Project Bus: Update 5

Will & Bob cutting a 2×4 at an angle to fit to the curvature of the roof

6. Puppy time!

OK, this isn’t really an update, but I can’t not share it. We only put in 3/4 of a day on Saturday because our friends Scott & Taryn came over with their new pup, Sierra! So adorable.

Outside Found | Project Bus: Update 5

Hilde and Sierra. Adorable!

Finally, I just realized that this update is too long on text and too short on photos. It’s tough to update when we’re smack in the middle of things, but I’m going to find a way to do it. Thanks for reading!

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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  • Timo Johann

    Hi again!
    So I just drove home my bus last night and things are looking pretty great. Im working on pricing my house power/solar set up. Did you use a ready to order kit or come up with your own?

    Thanks again,
    -Timo

  • CJ Sugita-Jackson

    Would you happen to have a measured out floorplan for the final bus design? I’m working on our layout for our bus and we’d like to use your initial floorplan to get things started. Thanks so much. We love your bus design!!