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Last active Jan 26, 2020
What would you like to do?
My best guess for bus conversion steps...Work in Progress

Conversion Steps

Obviously things will come up during any of one these steps requiring reordering of steps, step removal, or step additions. What I'm trying to figure out is if I've got the high level things right...

As I figure it there are three main "areas" of a conversion that can sort of, not really, happen in parallel: Paperwork, Interior, and Exterior. They're obviously highly interconnected since it's one giant beast of a project.

Paper Work/Skills

There are a few things needed to make this sucker street legal: insurance, taxes, fees, registration. We also want to pick up some knowledge/skills. Some of this may simply be reading.

  • Insurance. This is as simple as (hahahahaha) finding a company that will insure your conversion. Near as I can tell AIS is the best for this since they already deal with it. AIS won't insure double deckers, many companies think they can't. Working with a small local agent is important here. Persistence is important. Ultimately we got it through our own insurance company after letting them know we knew other people who insured their conversions through them.
  • Taxes and Fees. I'll have to pay NYS sales tax, registration fee, inspection fee, etc. I'll be keeping this receipt since I can deduct it.
  • Registration. Fill out forms, hand in title and paperwork.
  • Inspection. Bring the bus to inspection station. Nearest one to my location is about 15 miles away in Syracuse.
  • Learn Diesel Basics. (Optional). Neither me or my wife is terribly mechnically intuitive. We want to take a "Diesel 101 class if such a thing exists...
  • Air Brakes. (Optional). These are a pretty core part of this bus, and while there's no special cert required for using them in an RV, we'd like to keep ourselves and our children alive. We'll do some basic learning on safe usage and servicing.

Exterior Work

There's not a ton to do here, but some of it blocks work in the Interior section.

  • Seal the seams. Each panel of the roofing was joined by rivets and was very leaky. I needed to seal the seam with automotive seam sealer. I chose one that was sandable and paintable from NAPA.
  • Adding tow hitch. My bus has some metal beams that are perfectly located for a tow hitch. This should be very straightfoward with bolts, a good drill and a good welder.
  • Install platform for mini-split outdoor unit and generator. In my case this will be a sturdy platform on the rear of the bus; can't be on top due to height. Still need to find the right frame pieces to attach to.
  • Create utility room in upstairs rear for generator and Minisplit A/C. Seal (well) from main area, add doors and ladder for access and servicing.
  • Cut vent holes in side engine bay access pieces (fiber glass) replace with aluminum grate.
  • Install leveling jacks.
  • Paint.
  • Install backup and side-view cameras.
  • Install Awning for Solar on both upper rear parts of the bus. A frame around a set of 5 400W panels on either side on a hinge with lifeter.
  • Install exterior lighting.
  • Install exterior door bell. (Re-purposing the call-for-stop button and bell from the bus).

Interior Work

This is the nuts and bolt I've been able to discern from reading through some build threads. It's more detailed than I've been able to find in any actual checklist.

  • Design Initial Floor Plan.
    • List requirements.
    • Do a best effort floor plan that meets those requirements.
    • Let your floor plan guide the next step.
  • Demolition.
    • Remove seats, store ones you'll use.
    • Remove wall panels.
    • Remove ceiling panels.
    • Remove floor.
    • Remove security cameras, interior lights, etc.
    • Clean, clean, clean.
      • Vaccum, wipe, and clear all surfaces.
      • Wire brush on any rust in frame (floor/ceiling/etc.)
      • Use rust converter on rust spots not removed by wire brush.
      • Paint with protective sealant.
      • If any large holes patch and weld new steel on top.
  • Re-design floor plan.
    • You've now discovered a million reasons why your bed has to be shorter, and that kitchen sink just won't work.
    • Re-design the floor plan in light of the problems you found during demo.
    • Let your floor plan guide the next step.
  • Frame and Insulate.
    • Attach dimensional lumber to ribs to give yourself extra depth for insulation and to make the metal ribs less of a thermal bridge from the inside of your climate controlled bus to the exterior harsh unforgiving world.
    • Spray foam.
    • If you're installing electric in the foam, dig out a channel where you'll want wires/junction boxes/outlets.
    • Insulate the floor. (Spray foam or foam board).
    • Install subfloor.
  • Re-design floor plan.
    • Boy, that insulation sure stole a lot more space than expected, huh? Or maybe it left you with more headroom than you thought. Either way, you now have new dimensions to work around.
    • Narrow in on your floor plan now that you actually have the real dimensions of your interior, pre-walls and ceiling.
    • Try taping out your floor plan, and maybe even mocking up your space with cardboard, matresses, etc.
  • Rough-in.
    • Place your interior tanks (fresh, gray, black if using).
    • Place any large interior furnishings or appliances that will be easier without walls and won't be damaged in a construction zone.
    • Frame your walls. I'd like to use steel studs as they're lighter and less prone to catchign fire. Attach these to whatever ribbing or framing you left exposed during the frame and insulate step.
    • Run your Water and Electric. PEX and Braided I plan on making sure everythign's super accessible even after walls are installed...I hate how drywall makes wiring inaccessible. Either panels that open, or just running wires in a conduit of some sort.
    • Install electric system. We'd really like to be able to dry camp for about 4 days.
      • Desired appliances (whether electric or not):
        • Slightly oversized Mini-Split Heat Pump with at least 2 zones. It'd be awesome if it had 4... (Or two single zone mini-splits? That seems to be how most people handle this?).
        • Drawer fridges (I've already converted two before to make a keezer).
        • Small Dishwasher drawer (for occasional use off-grid, mostly on-grid).
        • Washer-Dryer combo.
        • LED lighting Inside and Out.
        • 4 sound machines during naps and bedtime.
        • Computer and Phone charging.
        • Modem/Router.
        • Tankless Water heater (propane).
        • Water pump.
        • Stove (propane).
        • Fans (possibly including a range hood over stove).
        • Extra capacity expected.
      • Intended electric setup:
        • Shore power.
        • LiFeMnPO4 Battery Bank.
        • Inverter.
        • Direct Connection to Alternator
        • Solar (can be added later depending on effectiveness of alternator/ generator)
        • Backup Generator.
    • Install Water. We plan on going composting, so no black tank needed.
      • 100g Fresh Tank.
      • 100g Gray Tank.
      • Water pump or city valve for delivery side, gravity for waste.
      • PEX for in and out.
      • Gravity feed for filling.
      • Drain for cleaning/clearing/emptying.
  • Finish:
    • Close the walls.
    • Seal shower.
    • Carpentry and Cabinets.
    • Paint.
    • Floors.
    • Hang Doors.
    • Hang curtains.
    • Decorate.
    • Use.
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