All Posts by Mela & Don

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Mela and Don are sharing their journey as they make conscious decisions to live a more healthy, environmentally friendly life together.

Bus Build: Building Walls for our Bus Conversion – S03E21

By Mela & Don | Bus Conversion , Bus Life , DIY , Lifestyle

With our ceilings prepped, the first layer of insulation and furring strips installed, we needed to make a plan for our side walls in the bus.

We decided to keep the original foam board insulation in the walls as it is in good condition, and chose to use ¼ inch birch plywood to create our walls.  We made a template out of cardboard for the windows and cut out the window shape along 8ft long plywood to fill in the bottom walls. This meant each cut was different but it allowed us to use the whole 8ft of the board and to have fewer seams.

This worked well however it did seem impossible to make the curve at the bottom of the window always fit nice and snug. Perhaps it is due to our inexperience with a jigsaw or perhaps we are asking too much, as the bus is not always symmetrical. We may find a way to fill in those tiny gaps, but we also plan on putting reclaimed wood as a trim over the sides of the windows which may cover this up enough to not worry about it being perfect.

We also found that the top side of the birch plywood would splinter really bad along the cut.  We tried a few different saw blades but even the finest one still splintered the plywood.  However the underneath side had a clean cut, so we turned our plans upside down so that we could have the clean cut facing out and the splintered side hidden.

Above the windows we plan on covering the metal with CeraTex, filling in the triangle shape with our birch plywood and above that we plan on using reclaimed wood as a trim again running all the way down the passenger side of the bus.  We will be able to hide wiring behind this trim. On the drivers side we will be removing a few windows and building furniture/shelves into the walls.

We picked out a paint color and decided to paint all the wood for the walls and ceiling before installing them.

 

Up Next
We have a painting party and install a vapor barrier on our walls.

Some of the links we share are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, Rehabit8 will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that we have experience with all of the products we post and share them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

CeraTex
CeraTex 3170 Ceramic Fiber Paper is an alumino-silicate ceramic fiber based non-woven fabric. It is manufactured through a special paper-making process with high purity washed fibers, suitable for high temperature insulation up to 2300°F. CeraTex 3170 features with low thermal conductivity, excellent corrosion resistance, heat and flame resistance, light weight, good flexibility and handling strength. The material is easy to die-cut or hand cut into custom shaped parts.

 

Contact Cement
We used DAP Weldwood Original Contact Cement to glue the CeraTex. It is a polychlorprene-based contact cement that meets the stringent requirements of the professional user. Its high strength and initial grab make it well suited for most projects. It offers a 15-20 minute (dependent on temperature and humidity) dry time (ready to bond) with a 1-1/2-2 hour assembly/working time. Use to bond decorative laminates, veneers, paneling, wood, rubber, foam or cork to itself, particleboard, medium density fiberboard, drywall, wood, glass, metal or fiberglass. 

 

Bus Build: Installing Furring Strips -S03E20

By Mela & Don | Bus Conversion , Bus Life , DIY , Lifestyle

We are at the stage in the bus build where we find ourselves juggling multiple jobs at the same time. Sometimes we are held up on completing a project because we are waiting for supplies to be shipped to us or waiting for the appropriate weather for the job. While we were waiting for the temperature to rise before installing the CeraTex Insulation, we made our furring strips.  However, we then had to wait for the CeraTex to be installed before we could screw the furring strips into the roof.  It’s a constant juggle now but there is always something that can be done while you wait.

We had leftover ½ inch plywood from our flooring that we wanted to make use of for our furring strips.  Without a roof raise, we also wanted to make sure our ceiling didn’t take away too much height in our bus.  So thin yet secure furring strips made sense for us. 

We also had 1 inch thick foam board insulation that was leftover from a job, so we made use of it too to create a thermal break.

The basic idea is that the insulation stops the heat or cold from conducting through the roof into the ceiling materials.  

For the curved beams that ran from the driver's side to the passenger side, we broke them down into 4 strips as the plywood wouldn’t bend at the corner where the wall and ceiling meet.  We realized that this would also allow us to run wiring through these gaps if needed.

We cut down our wood into strips and used a chalk line to draw a line down the center, so we knew where to glue down the insulation plus a line on the outside so we could line it up with the beam and screw into the center of the beam with Teks Wood to Metal Self-Drilling Screws.

It was helpful to have 3 pairs of hands to bend the wood to the curve of the ceiling as we installed them. There was a rubbery tape on some of the ceiling beams which we had left on thinking it wouldn’t be an issue and wasn’t worth the time of removing.  However, it actually did matter.  Our screws wouldn’t bite into the metal at these areas, they weren’t long enough anymore because of the space this rubber took up. So we ended up cutting it off with a knife. At the very front the beams are actually at a different level, so we had to add an extra insulation so that the furring strips were the same height as the rest of the bus.

The beams that run from front to back were easier as there is no curve. With the help of a floor jack we were able to install long furring strips with just the 2 of us. We installed 98% of the furring strips. We left out a couple at the front of the bus for now as we needed to remove the unnecessary wires from tv’s, speakers and reading lights first.

 

Up Next
We pick out a paint color for our walls and ceiling then begin making our walls.

Some of the links we share are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, Rehabit8 will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that we have experience with all of the products we post and share them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

Chalk Line Reel
We used the chalk line reel to mark off where the center line of the furring strips were to center them on the beams.  It is also useful for measuring out our cut lines ​for various jobs in this project.

TEKS Self Drilling Screws
​It seats flush into the wood. The point has precise cutting edges to improve drill performance with less effort. Wafer head design has a large bearing surface ideal for plywood.

Fact Check

Bus Build: Installing CeraTex for Insulation in our Bus Conversion – S03E19

By Mela & Don | Bus Conversion , Bus Life , DIY , Lifestyle

We chose to use CeraTex, a ceramic fiber paper insulation, as our first layer of insulation.  This is commonly used to insulate kilns and commercial ovens. For our ceiling we chose the ¼ inch thick paper, it comes in a long roll that you just cut down to size.

There is nothing toxic about the paper itself, however as you cut it small ceramic fibers do shed so it’s best to wear a mask as you cut it so not to breathe these in and gloves, long pants and long-sleeved top as it can be itchy on skin.  We chose to wear goggles to protect our eyes too. It was really easy to cut with just regular scissors.

We measured out the spaces between the bus ceiling beams to make a cut list for the CeraTex. Then used Workshop Buddy , a cut optimization diagram generator, to plan how to cut our 3 rolls down and make the most of them. We have found this to be a very helpful free online tool to prevent waste.

We labeled each piece by number and wrote the corresponding numbers on the ceiling to make it easy to find the right size during installation.

We used a Contact Cement to glue the CeraTex to the ceiling. The temperature needs to be above 65 °F for 3 days for the glue to dry properly.  It’s also important to ventilate the space well and make sure there are no open flames nearby as it is highly flammable. We chose to wear masks as you don’t want to be breathing this in plus it is a hot glue so we covered up well.  If it drips on your skin it burns.

First you paint it onto the ceiling, make sure you see a glossy shine over the entire surface and then stick the CeraTex to the ceiling.  They recommended you wait about 15 minutes for it to tacky up before sticking anything to the surface, however we found it was tacky and stuck straight away. Not sure if it was something to do with the temperature or humidity we were working in, but waiting made it less sticky in our environment. We found it best to push it into the center first and then move along to the sides pushing it into the corners of the cavities. Lastly we went over it with a roller to ensure it was well secured all over.

The ceiling at the very front of our bus is actually fiberglass, not aluminum.  So we checked with the glue manufacturer and they said that the contact cement can be used on fiberglass. It took us 3 days of gluing, perhaps 4 hrs each day.

This was a pretty simple job, yet tiring to be looking up and pressing up with your arms for hours. That is just the nature of working on the ceiling, and there is more ceiling work to be done…..

 

Up Next
While we were waiting for the temperature to warm up so we could use the contact cement, we got to making furring strips for our ceiling.  With the first layer of insulation in, we can now screw those furring strips into the beams.

Some of the links we share are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, Rehabit8 will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that we have experience with all of the products we post and share them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

CeraTex
CeraTex 3170 Ceramic Fiber Paper is an alumino-silicate ceramic fiber based non-woven fabric. It is manufactured through a special paper-making process with high purity washed fibers, suitable for high temperature insulation up to 2300°F. CeraTex 3170 features with low thermal conductivity, excellent corrosion resistance, heat and flame resistance, light weight, good flexibility and handling strength. The material is easy to die-cut or hand cut into custom shaped parts.

 

Contact Cement
DAP Weldwood Original Contact Cement is a polychlorprene-based contact cement that meets the stringent requirements of the professional user. Its high strength and initial grab make it well suited for most projects. It offers a 15-20 minute (dependent on temperature and humidity) dry time (ready to bond) with a 1-1/2-2 hour assembly/working time. Use to bond decorative laminates, veneers, paneling, wood, rubber, foam or cork to itself, particleboard, medium density fiberboard, drywall, wood, glass, metal or fiberglass. 

 

Workshop Buddy
A cut optimization diagram generator. Workshop-buddy is a free online tool designed to make your workshop life a little easier. We're currently in BETA, so you may find a few bugs here and there.

Bus Build: Which Insulation is Right for our Bus Conversion? – S03E18

By Mela & Don | Bus Conversion , Bus Life , DIY , Eco , Lifestyle

Insulating our bus well to ensure it is comfortable to live in is our current priority.  I’m glad we were able to slow down with our build process as this allowed us time to do lots of research. This seems to be a hot topic in the skoolie/bus community and most have very strong opinions that their way is the right way.

We spent time learning how heat will be transferred in our bus to better understand how to insulate effectively.  With our elementary science education we understand that heat transfers through conduction, convection and radiation. At first we thought that simply picking an insulation with the highest R-value was the way to go. However R value only measures conduction and doesn’t consider all the factors involved in temperature exchange.

As one engineer who has converted a bus said "I have followed heat transfer theory a bit over the years, and the more I read, the more confused I get. Bottom line, R-values and K-values are good tools, but my opinion is that it takes more advanced theory to address non-traditional materials for non-traditional uses"

We have already painted our roof with Henry’s Tropicool, a white silicone paint that reflects the sun’s radiant heat.  When we glamped in the bus we used Reflectix under our makeshift curtains and that was really effective so we plan to do something similar but more fashionable for our space. Our next step was to figure out how to insulate our ceiling.

We realized there are 3 ways we could go - the easy way, the cheap way or the eco-friendly way. We decided that we wanted to avoid using toxic products and make sustainable choices wherever possible in our build.  Luckily we knew exactly who to talk to to help us make this choice as our sister-in-law is a Sustainability Administrator at an engineering firm and a Lead AP (Accredited Professional).

We videoed our phone conversation with her discussing different insulations and what factors rate how eco-friendly they are. Here are the resources she shared:

​mindful MATERIALS

Home Free 

After this phone conversation we felt pretty confident that sheep wool made sense for us and aligned with our lifestyle choices as our main insulation.  However there was one more product we wanted to look into - ceramic insulation.

Tiles and blankets made of Ceramic fiber were originally developed for the US Space program. The products are now used for insulating kilns and commercial ovens with a working safe temperature of over 2200 degrees Fahrenheit (1204 Celsius). We found a couple of ceramic papers on the market that high end RV manufacturers and other bus conversion we're using. The reason this hadn't made our radar before is that it is a commercial product not normally used for house insulation.

This would be the first step we take in insulating our bus ceiling.

 

Up Next
We install Ceratex to our ceiling.

Some of the links we share are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, Rehabit8 will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that we have experience with all of the products we post and share them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

Henry’s Tropicool
With Extreme Durability, & Superior Capabilities Of Sealing & Protection from the Sun’s UV Rays, Henry’s Tropicool is a must for all RV’s, Skoolies and Bus Conversions.

 

Reflectix  
A reflective insulation consisting of two outer layers of 96-percent reflective film, bonded to two layers of heavy gauge polyethylene bubbles

 

mindful MATERIALS 
mindful MATERIALS (mM) is a free platform with aggregated information on human health and environmental impacts for products from leading manufacturers, vetted by experts passionate about making it easier to make informed product choices.

During unprecedented times, mM users & industry volunteers have kept driving forward the growth of mM to make the mM Library most valuable to you while the world around us changes and the demands of our work change daily.

Home Free 
Healthy Building Network’s HomeFree is a national initiative supporting leaders in affordable housing who are improving human health by using less toxic building materials.

The goals of HomeFree are to raise awareness of toxic building materials and their associated health hazards, build the capacity of affordable housing practitioners to make informed decisions, and transform the current practice of affordable housing products specified to healthier options for everyone.

Fact Check

R-Value  - Wikipedia

Bus Build: Custom TV Lift Cabinet • FREE Plans – S03E17

By Mela & Don | Bus Conversion , Bus Life , DIY , Lifestyle , Travel

With the stay at home orders in place for the pandemic, we found ourselves waiting for supplies to arrive by delivery. Not to worry though, while some projects were at a standstill, there are always others to be done.  We decided to tackle a project that we have been excited to get going for a while now - our entertainment center and fireplace cabinet.

We were gifted the Touchstone Recessed Electric Fireplace for our wedding and have been using it inside the house.  It kept us nice and cozy during the cold Midwest winter nights so we have no doubt it will do the same in our tiny house on wheels. We were inspired by other bus conversion/RV renovation designs who had built in an electric fireplace with a TV lift behind it.  This design is perfect for our needs, to hide the TV during the day and not the views out the window yet have a TV accessible for Movie nights or as a monitor for a standing desk.

Big thanks to our friends at Touchstone for collaborating with us and sending us the SRV 32800 Pro TV Lift to make our dream entertainment center in our dream tiny home. It holds up to a 50" TV and up to to 175 lb. It has a safety stop to detect if there is an obstruction, so your TV will never get damaged by accident, and extends just over 55 inches by using I of the 3 remotes provided.

Don used the 3D modeling software Fusion 360 to design our cabinets. It’s definitely not an easy program to learn but very helpful. Using this software, he made a very elaborate document breaking down the cabinet into modular parts and a detailed cut list.  Sign up below to download the Tv Lift and Fireplace Cabinet Blueprint PDF if you’d like to copy our entertainment center.
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We are thrilled with how the cabinet came out and are feeling much more confident now as we plan to make all our kitchen cabinets, murphy bed and wardrobe ourselves too. To finish the cabinet cabinet, we plan to make the face of the entertainment center match our kitchen cabinets. We also plan to have a seemless countertop that expands from our Tv Lift/Fireplace cabinet across our kitchen cabinets as well . Once we have finished our walls in the bus we will bring the cabinet inside, mount it to the bus walls and complete the finished look. So let’s get those walls built!

 

Up Next
In order to get our walls and ceiling built, we need to make some decisions on insulation. The one gift this pandemic has given us, is lots of time to research the options.

Some of the links we share are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, Rehabit8 will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that we have experience with all of the products we post and share them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

Touchstone Pro TV Lift
For 50-inch TVs and smaller. Full extended height: 55.125 inches. Advanced technology including RS232, soft start and stop, safety stop up and down, and 3 remotes (wired & wireless RF and IR). 

 

Touchstone Recessed Electric Fireplace
The Sideline 40 allows you to change the heat, flame intensity and color using your electric fireplace remote. It is simple to set up, easy to use and has kept us warm so far during a Midwest Winter living in a basement!

 

Bus Build: Fan Install on Curved Bus Conversion Roof – S03E16

By Mela & Don | Bus Conversion , Bus Life , DIY , Lifestyle

To help ventilate our bathroom we chose the Maxxfan Deluxe by Maxxair. It has an intake and exhaust fan, an electric lid opener and remote. We chose this model as you can set it to auto function. When the temperature increases past the maximum degree (whatever you choose to set that to) it automatically turns on and begins venting. The lid also has a hood that will keep rain out, so you can use it come rain or shine.

We made a wooden frame for the fan to secure it to the beams on the ceiling of our bus in the same way that we made our skylight frames. Check out this blog for directions on how we made the frames. The only difference was that the fan is 14 x 14 inches which is smaller than our skylights. We made the 14x14 frame but added an extra ladder like piece to secure it to the roof beam.

We jacked the frame up into the ceiling and marked off where to cut the hole. Used an angle grinder with a diamond blade to cut the hole, then glued and screwed the wood frame into the ceiling. We used a few more screws this time then the skylights needed, as the fan sticks up above the surface and will have to withstand the force of the air as we travel.

Up on top of the roof we used butyl seal tape to secure the fan frame (provided with the Maxxfan) to the roof and a silicone sealant to the bottom and edge of the mount to ensure it was watertight. We used 16 screws to secure the fan mount into the buses aluminium roof and the wooden frame we created.

The Maxxfan frame bends to the slight curve of the bus roof quite easily however once you slide the actual fan into this, it’s a little trickier to get the fan to fit to the curve. It is designed to sit flush with a flat surface. With a little persuasion however we were able to screw the fan in place.  Once again we used a sealant to seal the screws and prevent any leaks.  

It was a fairly simple process to install. We hooked it up to a power source to test it and were very impressed with how quickly it began to cool down the bus.

 

Up Next
Juggling multiple projects and with limited opportunities for getting supplies, thanks to the Covid19 Pandemic, we took the opportunity to learn cabinetry skills and create our TV lift and fireplace cabinet.

Some of the links we share are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, Rehabit8 will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that we have experience with all of the products we post and share them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

Maxxfan Deluxe by Maxxair
Powerful 10-speed intake and exhaust fan. Thermostat to control room temperature. Provides over 900 CFM to keep you cool and comfortable. Fits all standard 14" x 14" roof openings. Electric lid opening with remote control. Fan runs with lid closed to circulate air (Ceiling Fan Mode).

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Rustoleum Primer
Ideal for use on ferrous, non-ferrous metal, wood, concrete, masonry and other such surfaces to prepare surfaces for painting, provide rust protection and a tough finish that withstands weathering. We painted this onto our wooden frame to protect that wood from any moisture.

 

Butyl Tape
Ideal for sealing uniquely shaped joints, in our case - the curve of the buses roof. Apply along unusual patterns. Because the sealant is on a continuous roll, installer can work fast and be virtually assured that there are no skips or runs in the seal

 

Guerilla Glue Silicone Sealant 
Best for sealing gaps or cracks between two surfaces; works on window, door, kitchen, bath, gutters, auto, marine and more.  It dries a translucent clear and won't yellow, shrink or crack.  It is 100 % waterproof, and mold and mildew resistant.  We used this to seal the edge of the fan frame against the roof.

 

OSI QUAD Window, Door and Siding Sealant
OSI QUAD bonds without a primer to most common substrates like cedar, painted or stained woods, fiberglass, vinyl, coated aluminum, steel, metal, brick, masonry and concrete. With resistance to UV and extreme temperatures (20°F to 120°F) and proven wet surface application, OSI QUAD is the versatile and durable choice for professional contractors. We used this to cover the screws and make sure those holes wouldn't leak.

 

Teks 2-3/4" Wood-to-Metal Self-Drilling Screws
For attaching wood to thicker 20-12 gauge metal. Special winged fasteners ream a hole in wood preventing thread engagement during drilling. We used these to secure our wooden frame into the buses ceiling beams.

 

Teks 2-3/4" Wood-to-#9 1-Inch Teks Sharp Point Roofing Screws Metal Self-Drilling Screws
Teks hex washer head sharp point roofing screws with washer provide secure, weather sealing for all metal to wood applications, stable hex head & sharp point allow fast penetration. We used these to secure the fan's frame to the bus roof and into our wooden frame below.

 

Bus Build: Removing the Air Conditioning Unit of our Bus Conversion – S03E15

By Mela & Don | Bus Conversion , Bus Life , DIY , Lifestyle

When you are doing a bus conversion there are a million jobs to be done.  You really want to do the exciting ones, like putting in skylights or building walls, but some of the less exciting jobs still need to happen.  It was time to tackle the demolition of the buses original AC unit as we will be putting in a mini-split instead.

HVAC Removal

Now we couldn’t do this part of the demo earlier, as the aircon contains R22 which if vented is very harmful to the environment and ozone layer. It is important to find a certified professional to remove and dispose of the refrigerant according to the requirements of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

We found an air conditioning company who came and removed the R22, so now we could get to work removing all the air conditioning components.  This took out some considerable weight from the bus, plus it offers us more space to store things under the bus. This bay is closed off with a grate, providing the venting needed for storage of our propane tanks. In tiny living every space must be considered!

Planning our Lighting

Inside the bus, we began planning out our 12 Volt Electrical wiring and how to run conduit piping across the ceiling and where we can hide wiring in cabinets or behind decor. We have decided to go with a different variety of LED lights: dimmable flush mount lights overhead throughout the bus, touch lights under the overhead kitchen counters, string lights to run down the side of our bus for mood lighting and 2 light fixtures over the couch area for reading.

Simple Wiring Diagram

This allows us to plan out how many lights we will run per circuit and plan out which groups of lights are on the same circuits.

Will We Ever Complete our Bus Parking Pad?

If you’ve been following our journey from the beginning you will remember that we dug a big hole in the ground and framed out a pad for a level parking space. However with the rain and icy weather we have not been able to pour the concrete and it has just been a muddy swimming pool or ice rink for the squirrels!  Well, it finally dried up enough for us to fill the pad with gravel in preparation for the concrete.  We also used some of this gravel to fill in the muddy hole left in the garden from where we recently pulled the bus out the mud.

Thinking we were about to complete this project, things took a turn as we found out that our State would be going into a Safe at Home Order due to the coronavirus and our concrete contractor would not be able to come over.  So once again the parking pad will be put on hold but in the meantime there is still plenty of work we can do on the bus while staying safe at home.

 

Up Next
We rethink our bathroom design and install a Maxxfan Deluxe Roof Vent and a skylight over the shower.

Some of the links we share are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, Rehabit8 will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that we have experience with all of the products we post and share them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

Dimmable Flush Mount Lights 
These 12V LED lights offer super slim space saving recessed design for a camper/motorhome/boat. Durable, delicate and easy to install.

 

Touch Lights  
We chose these RV 12V LED lights to place under the kitchen cabinets to provide a little extra light when cooking that can be controlled by their simple touch switch. They are dimmable so you can control how much light you need.

 

Fact Check

Bus Build: How we made Custom Skylights for $72 Each for our Bus Conversion – S03E14

By Mela & Don | Bus Conversion , Bus Life , DIY , Lifestyle

We looked into various options for skylights and decided to try our hand at a very inexpensive DIY approach using a wooden frame and polycarbonate.  The first skylight turned out fantastic, so we are putting in more! 

For only $72/skylight in material costs, we were able to build and secure our DIY custom skylights in place. And how are they holding up? We have experienced some pretty severe storms since we put them in with a tornado ripping through our local area and hurray - no leaks!

Here’s the steps and materials we used for our Skylight:

Plan out Where the Skylight Will  Go

We planned where to attach the skylights between the beams of our bus and checked for obstructions on both the ceiling and on the roof being careful to account for where seams and rivets were mounted.

Make Wooden Frame

We cut down 2x4’s into 4 pieces. As with most buses, our ceiling is curved so we followed this curve by tracing it off the beam of the bus. We then cut out notches where there were obstructions (rivets and seams) so the wooden frame would sit nice and snug up against the ceiling. We used corner clamps, wood glue and screws to secure the frame together.

COST $2.84 for the 2X4 lumber

Paint Frame for Protection

We chose to spray Rustoleum primer onto the frame to help protect the wood from any moisture.  

COST for Rustoleum primer $4.16

Cut Polycarbonate to Size of Frame

For our skylights we choose AmeriLux polycarbonate that is rated at 100X stronger than glass. We got ours from Menards. We were advised to use a blade with a carbide tip on the table saw to cut the Polycarbonate to the  size of the frame, keeping the protective film on.

COST for Polycarbonate $44.49

Drill Pilot Holes in Polycarbonate & Frame

We removed the polycarbonate protective film only from the sides where we made the pilot holes to continue to protect the skylight from getting scratches. First we made pilot holes about  2 inches apart through both the polycarbonate and the frame with the drill bit, then we removed the polycarbonate from the frame and used a bigger sized bit to make larger holes in the polycarbonate.  This is important as you want the screws to bite into the wood, but you don’t want the polycarbonate to splinter and web out from the screw.  We checked with the manufacturer to find the recommended size drill bit for our polycarbonate.

Mark then Cut Roof Metal Flush with Frame

We mounted the wooden frame up against the ceiling with a couple jacks so we could mark the inside of the frame onto the ceiling.  Then took the frame down and used an angle grinder with a Diamond edge blade to cut the hole for the skylight.

Mount Frame to Bus Ceiling Beams

First, we drilled pilot holes through the wood frame and metal beams.  Then applied Loctite Polyurethane Construction Adhesive to secure the wood frame to the metal ceiling and Teks 2-3/4" Wood-to-Metal Self-Drilling Screws to secure the frame to the beams.

COST for the Polyurethane Adhesive $4.68

COST for Wood-to-Metal Self-Drilling Screws $7.46

Sand Roof Metal Flush with Frame

We used the angle grinder with a 36 grit sandpaper face to buff and smooth the edge flush with the frame.

Align Polycarbonate to make Pilot Poles in Roof Metal

Next we cleaned off the area around the skylight hole, then aligned the polycarbonate in place and marked off the holes to make the pilot holes into the roof and wood frame.

Glue Polycarbonate to Roof

We applied Henry’s Roof Sealant to the roof (the same silicone sealant we used to paint the entire roof) and placed the polycarbonate on top, being sure not to get the glue too close to the edge because as you screw the polycarbonate down the glue will spread.

COST for Henry’s Roof Sealant $11.97

Screw Polycarbonate to Roof

We used #9 1-Inch Teks Sharp Point Roofing Screws to secure the Polycarbonate through the metal of the roof and into our wooden frame.

COST for Teks Roofing Screws  $9.33 for a 110 CT

Seal Polycarbonate Edges to Roof

We used Henry’s Roof Sealant all along the edge of the polycarbonate. Silicone sealants do not degrade in sunlight.

Glue Over Screws

We covered the screws with OSI QUAD Window, Door and Siding Sealant as an extra precaution to prevent any leaks around the screws.

COST for QUAD Window, Door and Siding Sealant $6.25

Remove Polycarbonate Protective Film

And finally, now that we are done we remove the protective film to reveal our beautiful skylight!

We are so in love with our skylights, they make a huge difference to our space. One of the reasons this is such an economical way to install skylights is that once you have purchased the screws and sealants your only remaining costs are the polycarbonate and wood for each additional skylight. Once we have built our ceilings we will add a metal frame to the inside of the skylight to finish it and are considering adhering a ceramic tint film to the polycarbonate to ease the heat transferred through the skylights and to protect our furniture and floors from the sun damage.  We’ll keep you posted on progress for tinting and finishing the interior of the skylights when it happens.

 

Up Next
While all we want to do is get to the big exciting steps, there are a ton of little jobs and lots of preplanning that must take place beforehand.  We remove the buses original AC, make an electrical plan, get a little further along with our bus pad and more!

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Rustoleum Primer
Ideal for use on ferrous, non-ferrous metal, wood, concrete, masonry and other such surfaces to prepare surfaces for painting, provide rust protection and a tough finish that withstands weathering

 

Amerilux Polycarbonate
Virtually unbreakable, lightweight, and transparent, polycarbonate is the premium replacement option for glass.  It can be used in applications such as garage door windows, safety shields, and other home repair applications.

 

Loctite Polyurethane Construction Adhesive
Premium quality commercial grade sealant developed especially for forming permanent, water and weather resistant seals in most exterior gaps and joints. Outstanding durability, tear resistance and a movement capability of +/- 25% which accommodates construction material movement to protect the original seal

 

Henry's Roof Sealant
For best results on your roof use Henry 884 Tropi-Cool 100% Silicone Roof Sealant. It provides strong adhesion to many different building materials. Features of the sealant include UV resistance and weathering characteristics with no hardening, chalking, crazing or cracking. It's also mold and mildew resistant.

 

OSI QUAD Window, Door and Siding Sealant
OSI QUAD bonds without a primer to most common substrates like cedar, painted or stained woods, fiberglass, vinyl, coated aluminum, steel, metal, brick, masonry and concrete. With resistance to UV and extreme temperatures (20°F to 120°F) and proven wet surface application, OSI QUAD is the versatile and durable choice for professional contractors. 

 

Teks 2-3/4" Wood-to-Metal Self-Drilling Screws
For attaching wood to thicker 20-12 gauge metal. Special winged fasteners ream a hole in wood preventing thread engagement during drilling

 

Teks 2-3/4" Wood-to-#9 1-Inch Teks Sharp Point Roofing Screws Metal Self-Drilling Screws
Teks hex washer head sharp point roofing screws with washer provide secure, weather sealing for all metal to wood applications, stable hex head & sharp point allow fast penetration.

 

Bus Build: Creating a Skylight in Our Bus Conversion – S03E13

By Mela & Don | Bus Conversion , Bus Life , DIY , Lifestyle

We were quite nervous about cutting holes in our roof, especially since we have been dealing with leaks over the past week, but it was time to face our fears. 

There are different ways to install a skylight and after much research we found an option that was both affordable and matched our skill level. We are absolutely thrilled with how the skylight turned out and of course it rained shortly afterwards. Success - no leaks! Cutting a hole in the roof turned out to not be as scary as we thought. We love our tinted side windows, as no one can see in the bus, but it does make it dark so the skylight really helps to bring in natural light.

This whole journey is a BIG learning curve for us. When we started we dived in before we really knew what we were doing, but that hasn’t always been a great method.  So now, even if we are itching to get started on a project, we take the time to research, then research a little more and then even some more.  This may mean things take longer but it is the best way to have a well built home. We now always read the instructions/directions/warnings (even if we think you know what you are doing), and carefully plan out the order and steps we must take to complete the project. 

After such success with our first skylight, we look forward to sharing the details with you as we put our 2nd skylight in.

Up Next

As we put in our 2nd skylight we break down the steps into a “How To Install a Skylight” video.

Bus Build: Virtual Bus Conversion Tour of our Working Floor Plan – S03E12

By Mela & Don | Bus Conversion , Bus Life , DIY , Lifestyle

Having spent a month traveling, we were excited to get back into the bus and get down to work.  We revised our layout on the computer. Having visited the RV Expo we had gathered more ideas on design and it had helped us figure out what kind of bathroom design will feel comfortable for us without taking up too much valuable square footage.

We went into the bus ready to tape out our new design only to find there had been a slow leak through the ceiling and onto our new floors!  We were gutted.  It wasn’t a lot of water but it had rained and snowed a lot over the month we had been away and this slow leak over time, that never (or rarely) was able to dry, had begun to mold the wood.  We were confused why it hadn’t leaked previously and why it began to leak while we were away, but later that afternoon it began to rain again and we could see where the leak was coming from.  As we suspected, the leak was through the old antenna in the bus ceiling.  So as a temporary fix, until we can take it out and seal it properly, Don’s dad covered it with plumber’s putty, which worked well.

We took out the floorboard that was moldy, we will probably be able to cut out the moldy area and use the rest of it somewhere else in the build.  We bought and cut a new piece of plywood and we really hope that our floors 3.0 will have no further problems!

In the meantime, we needed to change over our Bus Registration to a new State.  We needed to get the bus weighed to complete the necessary paperwork. Problem was that with all the rain and moisture, the bus had sunk into the mud.  Yup, we were stuck in the mud!  

Don first had to reconnect all the lights (as during demolition some marker light wires needed to be snipped in order to take out the luggage bins), check that all lights were working (headlights, brake lights etc.) and then Don and his dad spent a good ½ hr trying to get the bus out the mud. This was no easy task but eventually we did succeed.  All went well getting the bus out of the long muddy driveway, we got the bus weighed (we had taken out about 15,000 lbs in the demolition!) and back onto the property to park in the driveway this time.  We really needed to get our bus pad filled in with cement, but with all the rain it was looking unlikely.

So much time has been spent just solving problems. These are things you just don’t think to account for but are a reality of doing a bus conversion. Finished with addressing issues, we taped out our new floor layout and created a virtual tour to share with you. We are feeling very confident with our design choices and hope you enjoy the video tour.

Up Next

Post leaks, we were very nervous about cutting holes in our ceiling. But we did it!  Stay tuned to see our skylights.

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