Tag Archives: floor

Problems with getting things done on the bus …

Every job has its problems.  Some of those on the bus are relatively simple to deal with, like the curved roofline.  To combat that, I made up a template using one of the interior endcaps and some sturdy MDF.  Voila, I can now cut a curve for wall paneling or shelf ends that will fit any section of the interior roof to a shape that will fit pretty well.

But some things are bigger problems.  Like in working on the electrical system, I’m up to the point in blogging where I *should* be installing the DC Circuit Breaker box.  It’s a wonderful thing from Blue Sea marine rated so it’s good with moisture, separate wiring for backlighting, and available in 12 or 24 volts, and you can have all the breakers wired to one power source, or source them separately (which is what I’ll do).  

Blue Sea Systems WeatherDeck 12V DC Waterproof 6-Position Circuit Breaker Panel, Grey (Sports)

List Price: $99.99 USD
New From: $96.92 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

But I can’t put that in the system yet.

The breaker box in place in the frame of the wall between the captain's chair and the rear-facing bench seat in the passenger area.
The breaker box in place in the frame of the wall between the captain’s chair and the rear-facing bench seat in the passenger area.

Why, you ask?  Because it has a cascade of other jobs that need to be done before I can get there, each job hinging on the one before it.  The circuit breaker job, for example, needs to have paneling up before it can be installed in place.

Some nice flat panel wainscoting in the galley/bathroom wall.
Some nice flat panel wainscoting in the galley/bathroom wall.

Now, I’ve been doing some nice flat panel oak wainscoting on the walls, and was planing on doing more of it for the area behind the captain’s chair, so it would need to be built to fit around the existing electrical outlet, captain’s chair back, & AC breaker box.

Just to port of the captain's chair all these lovely toggles connect to what seem like miles of wiring!
Just to port of the captain’s chair all these lovely toggles connect to what seem like miles of wiring!

Oh, and around the housing for the electrical panel and  bus wiring that’s just to the port side of the captain’s chair.  Under the plastic there’s lots of empty space and I need to decide how much needs to be taken up with what and how best I’ll get access to the wiring that will still reside in there.

And of course, I have to build the paneling and enclosure around the vents for the defroster (by the port window) and the vents down by the floor for the driver’s heater outlet.  Oh, and the control for the heater core fluid flow.

Unlike modern school buses that have a dial like your car that opens and closes a vent that allows air to flow through or around the heating core (a miniature radiator), our bus has a 1/4 turn valve that allows or restricts (or stops) the hot coolant from flowing into the core, which is mounted just under the big panel of toggles and switches.  Unfortunately, it’s a little thing with short wings, and is really difficult to turn on or off while driving.  As such, I have the body for an old ratchet that I need to weld to the valve  for better control.  And this needs to be built into the paneling in such a way that the hardware of the valve can be attached to the back so it doesn’t move about.

Battens, insulation, & new subfloor.
Battens, insulation, & new subfloor.

But before I can get to working on this paneling, I need to deal with the floor.  I took apart all the original floor up to the captain’s chair and replaced it with batten strips, insulation, and plywood underlayment. But the floor fore of that, is still the old rubber and marine-grade plywood.

Some of the remaining old flooring, with the edge of the transmission cover plate on the upper left.
Some of the remaining old flooring, with the edge of the transmission cover plate on the upper left.

Which is held in place in the front with metal plates. And there’s also a big plate that covers the opening over the transmission for the shift lever to come through, with a nice rubber boot to seal it all up.  And, of course, the plate needs to come up so that the floor can be replaced.  But to take the plate up, the boot needs to come all the way up the lever and off over the shifter knob.

Five speed manual transmission shifter - steel plate and boot on down at the bottom of the lever.
Five speed manual transmission shifter – steel plate and boot on down at the bottom of the lever.

Said shifter knob needs to be removed so the boot can come off the lever, but has (so far) resisted all my attempts to unscrew it.

And then, last but not least, is the captain’s chair itself.  The chair has six bolts holding it down, and the seat belt is held down by two more bolts.  While these really shouldn’t be a problem , there’s a more complex chassis configuration in this area, and it’s rather hard to get to some of the bolts from underneath.  And I’ll actually have to drill up through the new floor in order to put new bolts in the right places to reseat the chair and seat belt hardware.

All to install a DC circuit breaker box …

(That said, I will be getting things done …)




Walls & New Floor (sub-floor) – Part 1

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 …

(Continued in Part 2)


Floors – Subfloor!

So, armed with a plan, the bus floor needed to go.  You might remember school bus floors as being a black … surface, hard, but not totally unyielding.  Generally, that covering is of a black rubber material.  On some buses, it’s right over the metal floor, but on our bus, it was over 3/4″ marine-grade plywood.

But before I could get to removing the floor, there was one last thing to remove, the back heater.  Some people who convert Skoolies leave them in place so that they can use the engine heat to warm the whole bus, some keep them for an extra ‘heat sink’ when climbing long hills and such.  I decided to take ours out, as we were toying with the idea of radiant heating in the floor.  Well, that and the fact that the coolant tubes ran from the front of the bus to the heater in the back along and under the port wall, taking up space.

See all the shiny metal along the floor on the port side wall that just is missing on the starboard side?  Yeah, that’s all covering coolant lines and the helper pump.
And here’s where it goes under the port emergency door, then comes back up.

So, removing the heater unit wasn’t so bad.  Just a couple of bolts on the side (since the top had been fastened to a seat-frame), and it was loose.  But there was all that tubing, and most all of the phillips-head screws on the floor had been heavily rusted.  See, one thing those rubber floors are really good at is being fairly impermeable to liquids.  Like the water from kids’ shoes on rainy days, and the salt and snow (which becomes a brine when it melts) from kids’ boots in the winter.  And of course, that sets up a perfect rusting situation for all those screw heads – but not necessarily the rest of the screw shank.

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the floor tear-up.  It wasn’t very glamorous, and I was more concerned about getting the floor out to think to take pictures. (And, since I still have a little to do, I’ll remember to take some pictures of that later.)  But a quick description will probably tell you what you are wondering about for the floor itself.

First, the rubber had to come out.  Some of it, like the middle ‘walkway’ strip came out pretty much intact, needing a flat pry bar (Wonderbar-type) to get some of the adhesive to let go, and then a whole lot of pulling.  The stuff that was on the sides was a bit tougher, mostly due to where the seats had been bolted to the floor.  The extra cinch of the bolts made those areas adhere really well and cause the rubber to rip, so this was an extremely frustrating exercise.

The next bit was the marine-grade plywood.  I first tried to just pry it up by one of the emergency doors, with a big (almost 4′ long) bar.  The after a whole lot of effort, the plywood started to crack, and I knew that wasn’t going to be the way.  What I found, after the rubber was removed, was that each sheet of the plywood was fastened down to the floor with a generous number of mostly rusted 14 gauge screws (about 1/4″ in diameter for the shank) that were about 1″ long, going right down through the steel under the plywood.  With my impact driver, I was able to get many of these out, allowing me to pry up most of the sheets intact, right up to behind the driver’s seat by the front door, which I didn’t want to tangle with just yet.

Now, some of the screws pulled through, and some of those smaller screws that had rusted heads pulled through too, leaving a dangerous potential for tetanus for the unwary, barefooted walker.  These, though came out with vice grips & patience, or the angle-grinder.  This, you would think, would leave a relatively clean floor, but not so.  There was, of course, adhesive under the plywood, and the seams of the metal floor, and then the seams between the sheets of plywood were actually ‘caulked’ with a bead of butyl sealant, which stays amazingly sticky and resists cleaning.

And then there were all the screw and bolt-holes in the steel, and, since the rubber does a great job of being a water barrier and these holes all lead to the underside of the bus where all the water can spray up, rust.  But most all of the rust was surface rust, and was cleaned up in an afternoon with the angle-grinder set with a wire wheel.  Once clean, the floor got a coat of black Rustoleum with a roller, and when dry, silicon caulk filled the holes.



(more in Floors & Walls)