Bus Build: What we Learned Building the Shell of our Bus Conversion – S03E46

Having completed the basic shell of our bus, we were able to reflect back on what we have done. As first time builders who trained at “YouTube University”, we have learned a lot through our experience and knowing what we know now, there are a few things we would do differently if we could start all over again.

Order of the Shell Build

In our initial plan we did not intend to take out all the original bus windows, reskin the bus and install RV Windows.  We are so glad we did though!  We highly recommend installing double pane windows with slides, it has already helped so much with temperature and moisture control inside the bus. However, because we changed our plans in the middle of the shell build, it was challenging to protect the work (CeraTex insulation, wiring, skylights etc)  we had already done inside the bus. Reskinning the bus siding and adding RV Windows is a messy job and I highly recommend that you do this right after the demolition.

The Floor

The original bus floors were ½ inch plywood. So we used ½ inch plywood for our subfloors.  It was immediately apparent that this was not going to be strong enough, particularly over areas where there were not support beams close by.  We then just added ¾ inch plywood on top  of the ½ inch plywood. We had not learned about CeraTex as an insulation yet so at that point we were not able to sandwich the CeraTex as between the plywood. The hassle of ripping up floors did not seem worth it as the first ½ inch plywood was already glued and screwed down. In the end, we rolled our CeraTex out on top of our top layer of plywood, so it acts as an underlayment for our vinyl plank floors.

While what we did works, if we could do it again we would have put down the ¾ inch plywood at the bottom, then rolled out the CeraTex, layed the ¼ inch luan on top of that and then the vinyl planks.  The manufacturer recommended having a smooth surface under your planks for best results, but that using an underlayment was ok.

Walls and Ceiling

We had copied another YouTube channel in their application of CeraTex - glueing it directly to the metal shell of the bus on both the ceiling and the wall.  What we did works, there’s nothing wrong with this application, however, after we saw our friends at LaCroix Cruiser install their walls and ceiling we realized this would be an easier, less time consuming way.  They installed their main insulation first, then sandwiched the CeraTex between 2 pieces of luan in the walls and ceiling. This saves you from cutting and glueing many small pieces of CeraTex. We bet it would also be a better way to insulate the bus as the CeraTex is a continuous sheet across the entire wall and ceiling surfaces.

Furring Strips

If we had changed up where we put the CeraTex in our ceiling, as mentioned above, we would eliminate the need for using a thermal break (we used foam board) between the metal beams and the furring strip as the CeraTex would have become the thermal break. Our furring strips worked out great, however we do wish we had run a long strip from front to back on either end of the bus where the ceiling and walls meet.  You have to bend your luan or plywood into the curve and having a solid strip to attach to would have been better.

12 Volt Wiring

Don had decided to use 2 strand insulated Marine Grade wiring for our 12 Volt lighting. His reasoning behind this was that with all the movement in the vehicle, the extra coating of insulation these wires have would protect them from the friction they will experience.  This wiring was hard to work with though.  It made for extra stripping work, plus you could not fit many of them through conduit. Later into the project we switched to single strand 12 gauge wire for many of our light attachments and it was much easier to work with. Perhaps next time he would use a combination of these types of wires with the Marine grade to run power across the bus but the single strand gauge to connect all the ceiling lights.

Start with a Gutted Bus

I’m sure we have said this before, but in an ideal world, it would be great to buy a bus that has already been gutted.  This way you have the best of both worlds.  You get to skip the hard work of demolition, but you also start fresh and can really make the bus your own rather than trying to change up a previously converted bus to suit you. Many people burn out after the demolition or run into financial problems. So look out for these buses!

Working with the Weather

Coming from California where the weather is always great, we were unprepared for just how much the weather would dictate what we could and couldn’t work on. We are very grateful to be in the Midwest as it has provided us the opportunities to be able to do this conversion with family support, but we are also very envious of those who are able to work inside a barn and be protected from the elements. The one bonus of having our bus outside all the time, is we were able to find all the leaks and problems. Sometimes it would just depend if the wind was blowing the rain in a particular direction to cause a leak.  So if you are so lucky as to convert your bus inside a barn, I highly recommend taking the bus outside when it rains.  This is the best time to find the leaks before your seal up your walls and ceiling.

The Clothes and Rags you’ll go through

Man have we go through a ton of clothes and rags so far!  Save up all your old sheets, towels and clothes.  You’ll need them, especially if you are changing the body of your bus.  It is some dirty work!

What things would we not change?

We are thrilled with our Havelock Wool insulation and use of CeraTex as a thermal break, we have been very comfortable working in the bus this winter. The skylights have let in so much light, we are even thinking about adding another one in the bedroom.  We highly recommend changing your windows out to double pane RV Windows with slides even though it's a lot of work - it's worth it!  Now we are eager to start bringing our furniture and appliances into the bus and make it feel like home.


Up Next
We are wrapping up Season 3 here, taking a short break and will be back shortly with Season 4 and the interior build.

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.

Havelock Wool
We are very happy with our choice to go with Havelock Wool.  Our bus was immediately warmer and it was very easy to install.  If you are interested in buying wool for your build, please consider using this link to make your purchase.  At no cost to you, we will earn a small commission which will help us to keep making videos and sharing in this blog. Learn more about how we installed the wool here.

We have used CeraTex throughout our bus build. This is a High Temperature Insulation made from Ceramic Fiber Paper. Ceramic blankets and papers are used in high-end RVs and motorhomes. 

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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