I have seen a lot of people struggle with the tear down portion, but I actually seem to enjoy it! What is better than gearing up and using grinders, hammers and saws? That’s right, I said “gearing up”. You absolutely must wear appropriate safety equipment during this process, maybe more than any other. Metal flakes hotter than the fires of hell will be flying everywhere, and getting everywhere! EVERYWHERE. So do yourself a favor and be safe. (photo below just used as an example)
Secondly, there are heaps of bus brands and designs, this is just the way mine was set up. To remove the seats in Felicia, I mostly used a socket set to remove the bolts on the floor and against the rail on the walls. When I say that I mostly used the socket, that’s in regards to quantity, not time. I spent the next hour grinding the bolts off the floor that didn’t like my idea of removing them. 20+ years of rust, gunk, and anything else kids drop on the floor, created a permanent glue. I recommend saving the seats and covers in case you decide to reuse them later. *Note: I suggest this for most everything you remove in case you shouldn’t have removed the said item, can sell it, or reuse it later.* I was lucky enough to have a good friend take them away for me so he can use it to build a train. Yep, he said a train.
When it comes to bus flooring, it’s very important to rip up the old first. Not only will you most always find rust, but you may find holes in the metal. You will also find it is much easier to keep a nice and level surface to work with. If you peek at the photo above, you will see 2 metal boxes. These are cores that were tied into the bus’s cooling system, which means they are heaters. A lot of folks out there choose to keep these as a way to warm the whole bus. This is an excellent idea if you live in a cold climate and/or don’t want to mess with them. Being in the HVAC industry my whole life, I had other ideas of how I wanted to accomplish heating and cooling. Plus, it was a simple task for me to remove them with my experience. I’m not going to go into detail on how to accomplish this, but I recommend you do your research or have a professional remove them. Definitely do not attempt while the bus engine is hot! Unless you like the hospital, then do it!
Once the heater cores were out, I tore out the old rubber mat. You may find it possible to remove the mat and the wood sub floor in one go, but I went one step at a time. There was a lot of caulking and trim pieces with screws around the whole outer edges of the bus. Probably took me more time to remove them than to remove the wood. Having access to tools was a large benefit for me. I was able to use a floor scraper to tear up the wooden planks, as well as with a crowbar. Again, use safety equipment such as glasses, gloves and a respiratory mask. You don’t want to breath that stuff. Once the entire sub floor is removed, grind off any remaining bolts, nails, or what have you. Now comes my least favorite part: Cleaning the rust off. 😦
Fortunately, with all the rust seen in this photo, none if it had gone through to the other side. After research, I found some different ways to remove the rust that worked well. Check out some of the ways: http://www.wikihow.com/Remove-Rust-from-Metal . I used a combination of vinegar and water, and a few extra coats of industrial grade remover from Home Depot. This took many, many hours of scouring the metal with heavy brushes and even tried power tools. With either of these processes, WEAR YOUR DAMN SAFETY GLASSES. Okay? Thanks. Wash the floor with water completely and then dry. It will take a day or so depending on the weather conditions. Make sure it’s dry before the next step.
Apologies for the small photo, but it’s all I have of this step being completed. You will need to fill any unnecessary holes in the floor, including where the seats were. You will likely find a larger hole as in the photo. Do not cover this! It must remain accessible for emissions testing and repair. I chose to first fill the other spots with silicone and then Bondo. Sure there are better ways to permanently fill them, but I didn’t want to spend my life doing so. When everything is dry, and I mean completely dry, you can move on to the next step: Rust stopper paint. I believe I went with Rust-olium as my coating. Using a roller saves time in your life you can later use for having a beer or lemonade, if you rather. There is nothing wrong with doing too many coats, and 2 cans for me ended up covering the space three times. Let it dry for at least 24 hours regardless of weather. I later went through and sealed the edges with a silicone based sealant. Now the last step!
I wish I could find my good photo of the blank slate with the sub floor down, but I can’t seem to locate it. Photos of the floor will ‘surface’ in later posts.
This section causes a lot of contention among bus builders. That is because insulation is very important, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time on the skoolie. There are two common ways to lay the floor:
One is to lay 1×2’s in a grid pattern, gluing and screwing them to the metal floor. Later filling in the gaps with an insulation of your choice. The floor will be very secure, but it causes what is called a ‘thermal bridge’. This means the temperature difference from the outside will more easily travel through the wood than it will with an insulation. That being said, I have used a thermal camera on buses built this way, and it’s not a major problem. Anyway, going this route, you will need to decide how much height you are willing to lose in exchange for insulation. Take that into account when purchasing the wood height and insulation value.
You will also need to decide on head room when going the Second route: Laying down adhesive and then your foam insulation straight to the metal floor. Follow the instructions to keep the glue the right temperature. You will need to be sure you get a good seal by adding weight on the top of the foam while it drys. If you have friends willing to sleep over and never move, they would help create an amazing seal. However, using heavy objects is more recommended. BOTH systems work well and both can then have the wood sub floor laid down in place after appropriate cuts are made. DO NOT screw down the wood for the floating system, or it defeats the purpose of floating. You can again seal around the edges with caulking and then prime the wood if so desired.
You can now move onto the planning stages!