Where it all began
Sept. 22, 2017 – Today I added some 110vac LED string lighting to the inside of the bus. Even though I have several fluorescent light fixtures on the ceiling of the garage very little light actually comes inside the bus. This makes it very difficult to work when making precise measurements.
Each light string is 48 ft. long and has 15 light sockets. The LED bulbs are 2 watts each, therefore the entire string is only 30 watts. I placed a string on each side of the bus for nice even lighting.
After the bus conversion is complete I won’t be using them inside any longer as I will be installing all 12vdc LED lighting. The good thing about the string lights is that they are indoor/outdoor so I’ll be able to place them on the outside of the bus and have some great night time lighting for wherever we are boondocking at.
Here is a before shot:
And the after shot:
Sept. 6th, 2017 – Well, we survived the great Houston, Texas floods that hurricane Harvey brought with it. Our area did not flood at all and we only lost power for a day and a half. All in all we fared pretty well compared to others. My heart goes out to those affected by the storm.
Today I got all the framing done that will be needed to put up the side walls. On the bottom near the floor I used 2×2 lumber as it is actually 1 1/2 inchs in width as is the chair rail above it. Notice that I screwed into the side of the 2×2 and into the bus wall, and that I did not also screw down into the plywood. This allows the plywood to shrink and expand underneath the 2×2 with any climate changes.
Then on top of the chair rail I screwed down 2×4’s that I placed on edge, as once again it is the exact same thickness as the chair rail.
I attached the 2×4’s with Tek screws that are made for attaching wood to metal.
First I drilled a pilot hole through the wood and also through the metal ribbing where I was attaching it to, using a drill bit made for #12 screws.
Then I screwed in the Tek screw to just below the surface of the wood with a #3 phillips head bit.
There will be a slight gap at the top of the 2×4 caused by the thickness of the chair rail metal. To keep from having the 2×4 slant inwards I used a wood shim just the right thickness so that it would be attached perfectly perpendicular.
Once I attach a 2×4 at the bottom of each window sill it will give me a perpendicular surface all the way down to the floor to attach the side walls. Also, as a side benefit, the 2×2’s at the bottom and 2×4’s above it give you places to anchor your floor cabinets. Here is a completed shot without the 2×4 under the windows.
Lots of people want to remove the side chair rail. In my opinion it is a bad idea. It is an integral part of the bus that helps with side impacts if you ever get into an accident. Also, by using it to your advantage with the framing it creates a 1 1/2″ gap that you can use to run your electrical wiring behind the walls and out of sight. Making for a much cleaner look.
June 24th, 2017 – My apologies for not posting lately. Real life has gotten in the way and what little I managed to do on the bus did not warrant it’s own separate post. But I have made a little progress so I’ll update you on what’s been done lately.
I finally managed to remove all the unneeded wiring that went to the rear flashers. That included the wire loom (black tubing) that ran down the passenger side of the bus. I now no longer have to try and hide that when completing the build.
I also started the framing to box in the wheel wells. I’ll attach 1/2 inch plywood to the sides and then also to the top. The construction of the box’s do not have to be perfect as 3 of them will be covered up by cabinets anyway. Except for the front passenger wheel well box which has to look perfect and nice as it will have a Captain’s chair mounted on the top for the miss’s to sit in when traveling.
I also managed to remove all the lettering on the outside of the bus. This included the AmTran logo as well as all the Emergency Exit lettering. My bus will be completely de-badged as I think it makes for a much cleaner look.
Last, I finally received my new LED brake, turn indicatior, and backup lights. Once I install them I’ll provide before and after pics in a separate post.
May 1st, 2017 – I picked up all the supplies to start the subfloor today. I’ll be using Dow Styrofoam XPS (Extruded Polystyrene) insulation. It comes in 4×8 ft. sheets and I’m using 1/2 inch thickness. The XPS is much denser and sturdier than the poly-iso type of foam board and holds up much better for using it on the floor. On top of that I’ll be using 1/2 inch plywood to help disperse the weight of cabinets, appliances, and us walking on it. Then on top of the plywood we’ll be putting Pergo laminate flooring.
The width inside the bus is exactly 7 ft. 6 in. I’m cutting the insulation at exactly 7 ft. 5 1/2 in. This leaves me with 1/4 inch on each end for expansion and contraction. I’m cutting the plywood at 7 ft. 4 1/2 in. so that it will clear the seat ledge. This will give me a 3/4 in. gap on each end of the plywood which I will cover up with 2×2’s at the bottom. I’ll speak more about this and include photos in my next post. I’m not putting down any framing to hold the insulation and plywood in place. Lots of people do that but it’s completely unnecessary. If you cut the insulation and plywood so that it only has a slight gap on each end then it’s not going to move and shift around. This way is called a “floating floor”. And once I attach the floor cabinets to the plywood and also to the side wall studs then the floor really won’t be floating anymore anyway. So once again the framing is not needed.
Some people lay the insulation horizontally and then the plywood vertically so that there are no matching seams between the pieces. That is not a bad way to do it but I chose to lay all of mine horizontally but to have the plywood overlap the insulation seams. This solved itself because of the 3 ft. storage/electrical room that I’m putting at the very back of the bus where only the insulation was laid down, and then the rubber mat. The rubber flooring was a steal at Costco for only $9.99.
April 11th, 2017 – Ok, so today I removed a lot of the excess wiring that was associated with the rear and midship heaters. The cleaner I can get my electrical panel the better.
One very important point to remember is that if you are cutting and removing wires that may have anything to do with the engine safety disconnect then only cut 1 or 2 wires at the most and then try and start the bus. If it does not start then you’ll only have to repair the few wires that you cut. This will save you hours of troubleshooting instead of removing a bunch of them and then trying to figure out which ones are needed to get the bus running again.
I also removed my rear bulkhead to get at the rear flasher wiring that needs to be removed as well. Once I had the bulkhead down I thought, what the heck, cut the end off and use it as a template to determine the curvature of the roof for when I’m installing cabinets and walls.
March 26th, 2017 – Finally got all of the windows out. Now it’s time to clean 18 years of dirt off of them and then paint them. The insides will be rustoleum satin nutmeg and the outside of the frames will be rustoleum gloss black. There is a lot of extra work and time that goes into this but I hate the way the regular aluminum frames look. The whole reason for painting them is to not have the finished bus look like a school bus.
As far as the new man cave goes we scored a little bigger storage unit that includes 50 amp electric service at no extra charge, $100 cheaper, and only 3 miles from where we live. We really lucked out on finding this.
Feb. 25th, 2017 – Got some great granite countertops from my daughter and her husband after they remodeled their kitchen. They were just going to toss it out so we paid them a little for it and we’ll spend a little to have it cut for our purposes. All in all a win win for everyone.
We also settled on our paint and color scheme. Valspar Armor is the same paint as Rustoleum, just a different label. We decided to go with a black cherry look with black trim and a white roof. The great thing about going with Valspar is that it is tintable in any color you want, just like house paint.
I also started taking out the windows to re-caulk them to make sure they don’t leak anymore.