Bus Build: Best Method For Skinning Our Bus Conversion With Sheet Metal – S03E33

By installing our sheet metal on the passenger side first, we learned a few things. We had taken all our ideas from other YouTube videos, but once we actually put it into practice we fine tuned a few things to work better. So in this video we share what we found was the best method for us. I’ve already talked about some of the changes we made and why in Sheet Metal Part 1 and Sheet Metal Part 2.  I highly recommend you read those blog posts too if you are doing research for your conversion.

We had realized while skinning the passenger side that we could have gotten our sheet metal cut taller. For the driver’s side we were luckily able to exchange the metal we originally bought for a taller/longer cut.  This way the metal could sit under the roof a good 1.5 inches and rest all the way down on the rub rail below the window.  

This meant 2 things for us: 

1) we had plenty of space for our rivets to fit (whereas on the other side our sheet metal was just barely covering the bus frame).

2) we could do without using the 3M Tape.

The 3M Tape was necessary on the other side as it would have been impossible to hold the metal up in place while we riveted.  The 3M tape immediately bonded the sheets to the frame, which was great but we wondered if the thickness of the tape was preventing us from getting a good seal. 

We also got our panels cut to cover 2 window spaces for this side. We figured that less seams meant less chance of leaks.  We started installing the panels from the back to the front (overlapping them) to work with the aerodynamics of the bus taking into account where rain would run as you are traveling down the highway.

An advantage of doing the entire side is that we could remove the trim in between the windows, again helping us get a better seal to the frame of the bus. Whereas on the other side because we left some of the original windows in, the trim goes under these windows and has to stay in.

The back panel was tricky, we had to manipulate the outer bus body paneling so we could slide the sheet metal between the existing panel and our bus frame. Similarly in the front we tucked our sheet metal under the trim of the bus (as this trim goes under the drivers side window which is obviously staying in).

Another change we made on this side was we applied the sikaflex sealant directly to the bus frame. We would rivet in 3 sides only, and use clamps temporarily to secure the front side to the bus frame since the next piece of metal would overlap it. This allowed us to squeeze the sealant tightly between the beams and the sheet metal while we riveted in the other 3 sides securely. Once the sheet metal was in place, we sealed the interior corners as well with sikaflex.

We had had some leaks on the passenger side (the first side we did). The leaks all came from the drip rails, mostly the screws that hold them in place.  So we realized we had to do a better job of sealing them up on this side. We spent more time cleaning the original sealant off to make sure the surface was smooth before resealing to the roof metal.  We cleaned the drip rails with an oscillating multi-tool first to get the big chunks off. Then used a wire brush drill bit to get in between the grooves in the metal so that our fresh sealant would sit in these grooves. Lastly we cleaned the surface with mineral spirits. We ended up cutting open our tube of sikaflex and applying big thick strips of sikaflex onto the rails with a putty knife. This has worked much better.

Sikaflex is a wonderful sealant for a moving vehicle, but it just ends up getting on everything during this job. So be prepared!  Wear clothes you don’t mind throwing away and have plenty of rags available.

Now we actually have to start figuring out how to build metal frames for our RV Windows to sit in.  We played with the idea of reusing some of the aluminum beams that we took out of the bus, however we quickly changed our mind once we realized we didn’t have the right tools or experience to cut them.  Buying new metal that is the correct size will be much easier.


Up Next
We finally move the bus onto the concrete pad and get to work prepping our RV windows to go in.

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Dual Suction Cups
This dual cup suction lifter can lift up to 125 lb. of non-porous materials, making it strong enough to pull out dents in auto body panels or move plate glass. The two pliable rubber suction cups on the suction lifter grab and hold fast without letting go.


Ryobi Battery Powered Caulk Gun
Ryobi has this tried and tested workhorse power sealer. It has the power you can trust from any Ryobi 18 volt battery product with the onboard features that allow you the finesse a hand operated tool offers. The ergonomically designed handle, built with slip resistant polymers, is cleverly constructed to balance the tool weight across its center, improving accuracy. Right next to the handle are two switches that lock the gun and adjust your speed. You do not even need to use both hands to access them. When a tube is finished for those larger jobs, you can replace it in a snap thanks to the hooked end piece. Simply pull it off, and you are ready to load up the next. There is even a puncturing tool.


3M VHB Acrylic Foam Tape 5952
3M VHB Tape consists of a durable acrylic adhesive with viscoelastic properties. This provides an extraordinarily strong double sided foam tape that adheres to a broad range of substrates, including aluminum, stainless steel, galvanized steel, composites, plastics, acrylic, polycarbonate, ABS and painted or sealed wood and concrete. This bonding tape provides excellent shear strength, conformability, surface adhesion and temperature resistance. They are commonly used in applications across a variety of markets including transportation, appliance, electronics, construction, sign and display and general industrial. Reliably bonds a variety of materials with strength and speed for permanent applications. Can replace mechanical fasteners (rivets, welding, screws) or liquid adhesives.


Sikaflex 252
The original elastic bonding adhesive, Sikaflex-252 offers great adhesive strength coupled with elasticity. This combination bonds and seals at the same time, offers excellent gap filling capabilities and compensates for loose tolerances in the building process. Strong enough to hold sharply reduce or even completely eliminate traditional fastening systems such as weld, rivets, screw and bolts. Excellent Green Strength means reduced clamping time. Bonds to a wide variety of substrates. Some surface prep is generally recommended. Sandable, paintable and NSF approved for incidental food contact. 10 oz. tube.


Panel Rivets
Panel Rivets , Diameter: 3/16", Grip: 1/4" - 3/8", Flange: 5/8" , Rivet Length (Excluding Flange): 9/16" , All Aluminum


1/4 In. Air Hydraulic Riveter
This powerful air hydraulic riveter is fast and rugged enough for production work. The air riveter’s nosepieces are constructed of chrome plated steel for maximum durability. Features include a safety cap to collect spent rivet pins and an air relief valve to prevent overloading.


Oil based paint with Stops Rust formula provides rust resistant base coat for cars, trucks and other vehicles. Corrosion resistant spray paint provides more than twice the rust protection of enamels alone.


By Mela & Don

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

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