Initial Conversion Work: Summer and Fall 2010
I took possession of the bus in April 2010. The Bus Whisperer delivered it 'as is' but removed most of the seats - probably the worst job of any conversion. Next I packed up my belongings and drove to Colorado where I started the conversion work while parked in front of my friends' Matt and Phi's place. (Phi is a name that rhymes with 'eye'). Who says you need a garage or place to park the bus while working on it? I did all of the initial conversions while parked on the city streets of Longmont, CO. Only a few neighbors complained...
Initial Conversion Work:
1. Removed the rubber flooring and wood sub-floor.
2. Located and mitigated rust, which was almost non-existent, and prepped for painting.
3. Painted the interior and exterior of the bus with high-gloss enamel paint infused with billions of ceramic micro-beads that insulate and deaden sound.
I particularly liked the 'ZEN' phase (above) just after the interior paint job! For the exterior, we were very clever and waited for the hottest day of the summer to do the work (not). I had a great posse of friends who helped (and sweated)! As you can see it was a roller and brush operation using Rustoleum white.
4. Added 1-inch poly-iso insulation, plywood sub-floor and walls, blanked-out several windows and built walls. I opted not to insulate the ceiling. [[Note: Not the best move for energy efficiency but headroom was already limited and I didn't want to lose any more. Besides, the bus had about 3 inches of fiberglass batting in the overhead already... not great R-value but better than nothing.]]
5. Began building the interior before designing the electrical and water systems. [[NOTE: This was the exact opposite sequence that any experienced person/contractor would do. But it's what I did. See Lessons Learned for a discussion about this.]]
Like I said, some neighbors weren't too thrilled about the bus, so I had to move it around, even though I hadn't reinstalled the driver's seat yet. The cooler doubled as a handy driver's seat. Note: Do not attempt this trick at home.
The very first thing I built!
The very first thing I built was my closet. I know, it makes no sense, but I was eager to finish 'something'. Turns out building a box with right angles was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Plumb lines and levels don't work unless you are parked perfectly level, which I never was. I finished the closet with re-purposed cedar siding & cork flooring. The whole thing sits on top of the rear-wheel well.
I used more cork flooring to line the bedroom walls, used re-purposed mahogany for a 'chair rail', and used old oak flooring to make the slats in my bed platform. I found a couple of leather captain's chairs on Craigslist for the driver and passenger seats. I trimmed out the windows with 1x2-inch oak. Below: building the bed platform using re-purposed 2x4s.
I picked up some used kitchen cabinets and then cut a section of maple plywood as a temporary counter top. The wood was then finished with a whey-based varnish. I love my dining table. It was made by a local mill out of two 'book leaf' pieces of Colorado Juniper (Cedar) harvested locally. The table is hinged and can be folded up and the leg tucked away.
6. Installed the wood-burning stove, a cast iron Jötul 602 made in Norway. I re-purposed an old kitchen cabinet to use as the base for the stove. I also installed some of the electric system underneath it. I used 1/2" cement board for insulation and eventually lined the wall next to the stove with re-purposed corrugated sheet metal. I would change this out to sheet metal in a later remodel. I also made a custom hearth, with Phi's help. Great artistic teamwork. Sadly, the hearth had to be destroyed a couple of years later in order to do some repairs to the subfloor. Note: building a stone hearth on cement board in a kitchen is not a good idea... it was very heavy to move into the bus. Jeff Charlebois (aka Boulder County Chimney Sweep) did an amazing job installing the flue and chimney. The story of the installation even ended up in the October 2011 edition of the "Chimney Sweep News". What's even more remarkable is that the magazine is published monthly. ;-)
Repairs and Remodeling 2012-13
I continued to make changes and improvements to the design and function of the skoolie over the next couple of years. I discovered where I wanted to store certain things and how to balance the desire for a comfortable home with the limitations of a rolling home. I built custom cabinets with cubby holes that provided exact fits for my belongings (My architect friends would say 'bespoke construction'... I think). I did more finishing work, upgraded my cooking stove two more times, and added shelving for more kitchen storage.
Due to a small leak, I had to pull out the stove, destroy the hearth, remove the sub-flooring and rebuild my port-side storage area. I took this opportunity to relocate my toilet and refrigerator. In the pictures you can see how I added new insulation over the wheel well, and how I constructed the sub-flooring. The steel deck still looked awesome without any rust! Each needed repair became an opportunity to re-design the interior. Today it looks a lot different!