The Bus Renovation Journal

Update 6

It’s been a while since our last update! Will (the true mastermind of this whole thing) was in Colorado last week participating in the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, a 40 mile ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen. He and his partner Sam finished in about 12 hours, and we are super proud of them! I’m trying to convince him to write a post about the experience, but these photos will have to do for now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Will and Sam, pre-race! Aerial shot of Star Pass, photo by Cecily Runge

RIGHT: Aerial shot of Starr Pass, photo by Cecily Runge. Will and Sam skiied over this pass a few hours before this photo was shot, right before dawn.

Back to the bus – we’re still busy prepping for spray foam. Here’s what we’ve done since last time!

1. Finished the subfloor in the driver’s area

This was my first big project on my own. I got it maybe 80% of the way completed before Will had to come in to help… a success, I think! The driver’s area is full of weird shapes and cutouts, so I used a cardboard template to transfer the shape to a plywood sheet. Then I used a saber saw to cut everything out. It was tough to fit because we were sandwiching it up against some old plywood that we had cut from the previous floor, but after a few tries we got it in there. It’s nice not to have to worry about stepping on that black roofing tar any more!

Outside Found Bus Project

2. Finished the solar mounts

In the last update I mentioned that we started on the mounts for the solar panels, since they needed to be bolted to the metal roof before spray foaming. Will and his grandpa devised a way to cut the 2×4’s at an angle that would allow us to set the panels up level. We painted everything and bolted them to the roof – a perfect setup for our panels!

Outside Found Bus Project
Outside Found Bus Project
Outside Found Bus Project
Outside Found Bus Project

3. Removed and rearranged some windows

Originally we had planned on keeping all of our windows, but after meeting with the RV contractor we decided to panel over three of them:

  • Behind the fridge, because it would be impossible to cut a vent through the glass
  • Behind the closet area, because we won’t be able to see that window anyway.
  • Next to the shower, because if it were to “pop down” a peg in transit it would be impossible to close
Outside Found Bus Project
Outside Found Bus Project

I was worried that it would look a little too “redneck,” but we were able to arrange them in a pattern so hopefully once we paint they will look like they were supposed to be there all along. (That’s another thing – doing these windows committed us to painting the exterior, something we were on the fence about before.)

Removing the windows was easy enough, we just unscrewed the fasteners inside, ran a box cutter around the caulking outside, and used a superbar to pry them loose. We ordered pre-cut sheet metal from a shop in Auburn, and added some notches at the top so that they would fit nicely below the bus’s “eyebrows.” Finally, we held the sheet metal in place and used a pop riveter to secure it to the bus. The riveter took a little trial and error, but in the end I think it turned out really well! After everything was riveted in place we used caulk and expanding foam to seal the insides. We’ll also use Bondo on the rivets outside to keep them from leaking through the center.

Outside Found Bus Project
Outside Found Bus Project
Outside Found Bus Project

Once we had the windows removed I decided I wanted to replace some of our (many!) emergency windows with the regular windows we removed. The emergency windows have significantly more metal surrounding the glass and a bright red handle on the inside that would take some extra considerations to build around. We pulled the three front emergency exits out the same way we did the others and popped the regular windows in in their place.

Outside Found Bus Project

4. Ordered the water tanks

This seems like it should have been an easy task, but it was our hardest yet! The RV tank industry is tough to navigate if you aren’t replacing existing tanks. I spent countless hours on the phone trying to explain what we were doing and why I didn’t know exactly what I needed. Not to mention, they’re expensive! After a few weeks of frustration we found a company that had what we needed for a reasonable price. $500 later, we have two matching 60 gallon tanks, one for fresh water and one for gray water. We don’t need a blackwater tank because we have a composting toilet!

Speaking of composting toilets, I wanted to share this short video from a blog we like called Gone with the Wynns. We’ve been getting a lot of flak for the composting toilet (Hitchcocks, I’m looking at you!) but we think it’s going to be much easier than dealing with a black tank. If you have a second, check it out and let us know what you think!

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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  • Tegan DeBolt

    Hey there! You mentioned you have 3 solar panels mounted on your roof to power your lights, computers etc. I’m very curious to know the wattage of each panel. Thanks!

    • Hi Tegan! Our solar setup is a Go Power kit: three 160 watt panels tied to four 125 amp hour batteries. We power everything we need comfortably, with the exception of the fridge which runs on propane when we’re stationary. So far the solar kit has been absolutely wonderful โ€“ hasn’t needed any tweaking or fixing, which is more than I can say for some of our other systems!

      Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions!

      • Tegan DeBolt

        Thanks!

  • Adam Kunes

    Hey guys. Do you have the make and model of the water tanks you ended up purchasing? Thanks!

  • Brooke Marshall

    This is seriously so helpful! I have a question about the watertanks… Where did you put them?? And how did you plumb them through the floor (assuming they went under the bus)? We’re concerned about colder temperatures and we’re not sure where to put our tanks. Thanks in advance!

    • Hey Brooke,

      We put the tanks under the bus, directly before and after the rear wheels on the passenger side. We hung them using custom designed straps from our local ironworks company. We don’t ever plan on using the bus in sub-freezing weather so we weren’t worried about plumbing underneath, but the only pipes on the exterior are the two lines running to/from the tank and the city water line. We drilled holes just larger than the pipes and insulated / water sealed them using spray foam and caulk. Hope that helps!