So before I could finish up with the floor (to behind the captain’s chair), I had to place the seats to insure that they’d have supports under them. You may recall that I said that I wanted to use some of the bus seats because they already had DOT approved seat-belt attachments. And DOT approved seat belts, so that was another thing in their favor.
But they also have a whole lot of padding on the back that we wouldn’t need, and would eat into the available living space. So, I went about taking off the padding and getting them down to the structural stuff. I had some hopes that it would be really easy, as other people had described tearing the seats down being a simple matter of loosening the outer vinyl covering at the base and sliding it off, then unscrewing some plywood or metal from the frame and taking it and the affixed padding off. Not so with our seats.
Ahh, the look and feel of safety!
When they built our bus in 1995, Blue Bird meant for those seats to be super-safe and last. So I found that the vinyl wasn’t just sort of stapled and sewn closed at the bottom of the back of the seat, but it was also glued. In some places the glue had adhered to the padding. In other places, the steel. Thus, it didn’t so much slide as tear in taking it off. There was indeed (as you can see in the photo) a nice steel panel in there that the padding was glued to, but it wasn’t screwed to the frame, it was welded. So in order to get to taking the steel off, the padding had to be torn away, and then the grinding, beating with a 3# hammer or hammer and chisel, and prying with a bar could commence.
I had three seats to do this with, and there were casualties. My poor Makita angle-grinder lost some teeth on the gear-disc, and the ages-old Wonderbar lost out on both ends. But, to their credit, they did so on the last of the three chairs, and the hammer and chisel saved the day.
By now, you’re probably asking why I bothered to take the sheets of steel out of the structural frame of the chairs if they were so much trouble? The answer is that I wanted to use the area behind the seat as storage that would be accessed by lifting the seat back, and that the back of the seat with four legs would block half a window in the cabin of the bus if I left it full size. Which meant that I still had work to do before I could figure out where to put the chair supports, because the seat with a lowered back could sit closer to the wall.
A clean frame ready to be shortened.
After the procurement of a new angle grinder, I began surgery. It was pretty simple in theory, just cut the ‘U’ frame above the existing join, remove the extra along the outside, then slide the top down over the inner square supports that come up from the seat’s main frame. Easy!
I’ve heard some of the skoolie guys say that cutting the metal on a skoolie is like getting a tattoo – you’re trepidatious about the first few cuts, but then you’re comfortable and almost itching to cut more. Well, I was certainly trepidatious. What if I cut too much? But if I didn’t cut, nothing could proceed, so I went about the cutting.
Not perfect, but a good fit!
After the initial cuts went well and the top came off, I figured my measures and took off the outside extra and refit things and … it looked fine! Which got me to my first use of my MIG welder.
So, I wire-wheeled things to get a good weld, clamped things up, and got ready to weld. I learned how to weld using a stick welder, so the self-feeding aspect of the MIG was a little odd to get used to. I have a little Lincoln 20 amp unit, and while I didn’t get my ‘sizzling egg’ sounds all the time, I got a decent weld in a fairly short time, and things proceeded apace.
All finished and in place!
With the seat finished, I was able to set it in place and figure out where the supports should go under the plywood sub-floor. Now, under this seat you might note the square steel plate on top of the felt. This covers the sending unit in the fuel tank. If anything ever goes wrong with the fuel gauge, I’ll need to get in there, so I had to plan for access there. Not a perfect place if you note the angled 12 gauge steel panel under the end of the seat. But more on this later.
All the seats in proto-place!
With the other two seats laid out in place, I was able to set the braces under them, and then set the insulation in.
And just like shiny magic it’s done!
And with that done, it was a simple matter to put down two big sheets of plywood to cover it up. Well, except for the 1″ wide steel rail that seats would attach to that runs about 12″ off the floor. One of the problems that arose was when I cut a piece to fit perfectly all the way from side to side. As I was putting it in place, I found that that 1″ was enough to stop the angled piece from sliding down the wall and into shape. Luckily, the 1/2″ plywood was fairly bendy and if I stood on it, I could get it to bend *just* enough that it would snap past the seat rail and into place.
And that put the basic floor down in place for all but the ‘bridge’ and bathroom. More on those later …
(Please note: The title of this post in no way connotates that anyone lost their skin to cover the windows in the bus. 😉 )
I noticed that the pictures of the installation of the subfloor showed several windows which had been ‘skinned’, and realized that I missed the description of those in my timeline, so here goes.
I had hoped that all the walls that I was going to put into the bus would correspond with one of the ribs of the body’s structure – the 1 1/2 x 2 inch steel supports which produce the ‘roll cage’ effect of the body. These are, of course, the sturdiest parts of the body, and are where the sheet steel of the ceiling and wall panels attach. But, when it came to laying things out, it just wasn’t to be. The seats for the forward cabin area needed leg room, but too much would make the bathroom area really cramped, especially if we wanted to be able to use the side emergency door. And if I wanted to have an accessible wet wall behind the shower, and some storage area for a pantry, I couldn’t very well have that eat into the bunks. And nobody would want to look at the back of the refrigerator, and it would need venting and airflow to work properly.
All that said, I knew that we would have to lose some windows. My choice of which ones was aided by the accidental breaking of one while loading all the old seats I’d removed back into the bus for transport. One support went off-balance just a little and the steel foot slammed into the window, shattering it, but leaving the glass shards intact between the plastic laminate (Huzzah for safety glass!). In order to do this, you have to remove the window, which actually isn’t hard on a Blue Bird body like ours. Six screws and some pulling/levering in toward the interior and it’s done.
Some people stop there, bending the steel or aluminum sheeting and screwing it to the steel support ribs, or using angle brackets to do the same. I chose not to do that, since I wanted to be sure that the metal wouldn’t flex, and that we could add insulation to help more with noise and heat/cold.
If you look back to the floorplan I posted before, you might note that three of the windows are in black as opposed to grey or red. Those are the ones that needed to be skinned, and you can see why – either there are walls that go across them, or a fridge.
Oh! There it is …
So, the first step was to take the window frames and remove the glass. Now, the frames are aluminum and they are screwed together, so this was actually far easier than I had expected it to be. On the outside of these I put 16 gauge steel that was painted green on the outside and brown on the inside (just because I had the brown to use). The steel was screwed to the aluminum frame right on the edges of the frame where it would be hidden by the outside steel of the window supports, but inside the raised lip that helped to seal the windows in tight. The paint on the outside made them match the rest of the green on the bus, but on the inside it was just to avoid future rust. Next went in 1″ thick pink polystyrene insulation, with some ‘Great Stuff’ expanding foam to fill the gaps and keep the polystyrene from sliding about or squeaking, and then some nice, 1/2″ pressure-treated plywood filled in the rest of the window area, and that was screwed to the aluminum frame.
This gave me (potentially removable or swapable with most other windows on the bus) skins that didn’t need any special treatment to get them to fit in the window spaces. A quick, generous bead of silicone sealant went on the raised ridge of the window supports of the bus and in went the skinned windows.
And they look like this from the outside …
And like this from the inside, if you can see past the wall studs (which we haven’t go to yet) …
Some skoolies, once they have their floor prepped (as per my last post), go about putting a uniform flooring over the whole of the open area and then building walls and such atop that. I chose not to go that route for a couple of reasons.
First, I wanted to make sure that the walls were anchored as securely as possible to the floor. In order to do that, I wanted to lay out the ‘sole plate’ of the wall right on the metal floor and secure it so it wouldn’t ‘float’ or come loose from the vibrations and bumps of travelling. If they were just affixed to the sub-floor, the wood might slowly wear or give way and cause a loose wall. Even if I ran longer screws through the subfloor, there was the risk of them bending with stresses and again giving a wobbly wall.
Second, I needed to economize with my subflooring. The costs involved at that point were more than our finances were comfortable with, so I didn’t want to invest in quite so much plywood and other supplies. Once I had laid out where certain walls and other fixed elements were going, I could put the good quality subfloor where I needed, and use other stuff in places where it wouldn’t matter or wouldn’t be noticed.
And third, we wanted to tile in the bathroom, and that was going to take a different quality of subfloor to pull off. And, of course, we’d have to lay out drains and holes for water lines, and it would be easier to do that closer to the actual build/tiling time.
So, the first step was to lay out the walls. I had done this in blue painter’s tape (unfortuantely no pics), and then cut some nice pine 2×3 (the smaller cousin of the 2×4) to be the ‘sole plates’ for the walls. These were laid out atop some of the underlayment felt paper that I had leftover from installing a tongue & groove maple floor the summer before. (And yes, the leftover maple will be making a flooring debut on the bus floor when all the walls are done.)
The reason for the layer of felt paper is in order to take care of any moisture that might get in from under the bus, or even from a leak. It will help to absorb and dissipate the moisture before it really concentrates in one area and causes lots of damage.
Here are the walls for the bathroom, the bunks and the master bedroom. The blue tape on the wheelwells shows where walls will be later …
You might note here that there’s some stray 1×2 laying about on the floor. That’s actually part of the base for the subfloor, because the floor that I was putting in wasn’t simply laying out more clean plywood. To help keep the floor warmer in the spring and fall, and cooler when traveling over the roads in summer, and quieter overall, I wanted to put in insulation, but didn’t want to take up too much space, since the ceiling was a pretty firm limit of available height.
What I ended up with was a polystyrene insulation that’s sheathed in reflective mylar (or some such thin material), which has an R5 rating while being only 3/4″ thick. While an R-value of 5 doesn’t sound so great, realize that the 3/4″ plywood I took up only had about a R-value of 0.94, so it’s a huge improvement. The 1/2″ plywood I was putting down atop it would have another 0.62 of a rating, and the maple tongue & groove should have another 0.90. When finished the wood floor should have a combined R-value of about 6.5 which is a huge improvement over what it had. (And since it’s been done, it is MUCH quieter while driving.)
Ooooh … Shiny insulation in big 4 x 8 panels!
The trick with putting down the insulation is to not have it get squashed. Once it gets crushed, the polystyrene loses a lot of it’s ability to hold in (or keep out) heat, so I wanted to keep it safe. I also wanted to be able to make the plywood atop the insulation stay as stable as possible to keep the hardwood flooring from moving a lot and developing squeaks. This is where those 1×2″ battens came in. By placing these at least every 16″ on center, I could mimic the floor joists in a regular house, and have something more to affix the plywood, and later the maple floor, down to.
And the shiny stuff goes into place.
As you can see from the pictures, the felt goes down first, then the battens were screwed down, then the insulation, then the plywood got screwed down – at least for the floors that will have the maple on them. In the places where benches, beds, or cabinets will go, I just decided to reuse the old 3/4″ plywood flooring that was in the bus originally. The plywood was (overall) in great structural shape, so I just used long screws to hold it all down.
Completed subfloor up to the fore bathroom wall and under the kitchen cabinets/appliances.
This involved so piecing of insulation and fun fitting of plywood, but gave a very satisfactory result. Up until I got to the forward ‘cabin’ area where the seats would be placed and bolted down. Here I had to pause and work on the seats before I could place the flooring supports to bolt though so I could be sure they’d be really secure, since they’d have the seat belts attached.
So, we’ll finish up the subflooring another day, after the seats got dealt with …