Removing the Floor of a Thomas School Bus

This one is mostly about school bus floor removal.

Fluffing Around

The video starts off with a traditional title screen made in physical space on the project. Then I start working on cleaning the rust off a small part of the floor to get an idea for how the process will go.

For some reason I wanted to make the gas cap look really good. I think I was zoning out listening to something and I just kept working on it until it looked great.

Existing School Bus Floor Removal

After fluffing around with the gas cap, I cleaned out the bus so we could remove the floor. The floor was attached with steel nails. We pulled all the black existing school bus material up with the plywood. No need to pull up the rubber first, just go straight to the plywood.

The key is to use what I call a decider.

A decider is a giant prybar. Something like this. It’s really expensive to buy one, so if you don’t have one you can use a giant steel pipe over a more regular sized pry bar. The one I had is a friends who has had it in the family for a long time. It was amazing.

One thing that made a big difference was preparation. Because we took great care to remove all the metal trim from around the plywood, the floor came out with some heavy pry work. If we hadn’t spent much of the day preparing the floor to come out, it would have been a nightmare.

School Bus Floor Removal Process
Once the floor was prepped, it only took a short time to remove all the floorboards from the old school bus

Floor Removal Process:

  1. Remove all metal that overlays the floor
  2. Insert sharper prybar between steel floor and ply wood at the rear of the bus
  3. Use the gap to insert a decider pry bar (meaning a really big one)
  4. Hold it like you’re doing a dead-lift (straight back, lift with hamstrings)
  5. Once flooring is raised to be perpendicular from floor, have someone use a razor knife to cut the black existing bus flooring
  6. Take the floor board out of the bus to maintain a clean working space
  7. Remove all floor boards, then go around cleaning up left behind screws and nails
  8. Shop-vac everything, clean shops are critical to success

Tools and Products Used

  • CLC Mechanic Gloves – These make everything I do better during the conversion
  • Milwaukee Cordless Grinder (Not recommended, get one with a cord)
  • Blaster Penetrating Catalyst – Liquid which helps clean up grimy spots
  • Husky Razor Knife – Disposable blade for cutting gross things
  • Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer – Great for cleaning up rust… not recommended for entire floor.
  • Knot Brush – Put this on a cord grinder and you become a rust killing monster. I used one of these brushes to remove all the rust on the sub-floor of our 40′ 2001 Thomas School Bus
  • Blue tooth head phones – These are way more expensive than normal ear protection, but I love these headphones. They cancel noise, but you can listen to an audiobook or music while doing something super loud
  • Vise  grips – Multi-use, great for removing exposed screws with stripped heads
  • Shop Vac – I like the Ridgid for the lifetime warranty. This one is the perfect size for this small project.

School Bus Conversion Electrical

School Bus Conversion Electrical System

Today was hard to explain. We tested continuity of wires. We wanted to know if a wire runs to a light we didn’t need. If the controls to that wire attached to the fusebox (for lack of a better word) in a way that was no longer necessary, we knew we could take out that component.

The end goal was to wire the bus to run as a vehicle with road legal lights and take out everything else.

school bus conversion electrical system

Two School Bus Home Electrical System

We have two separate electrical systems:

  1. The Vehicles Electrical System – Charged by the engine
  2. The Houses Electrical System – Charged by the solar energy system

Electrical Removal Decision Process

Knowing that the bus’s electrical system would be separate from the vehicle’s system empowered us to take out a lot of wires, relays and other devices. That helped move the project along all day.

“Is that element essential to the bus for regulations or driver comfort?”

If no, get rid of it.

If yes, label it and move on.

Honestly, about 15 pounds of wire was removed after everything was said and done. Some of the wire is this awesome 12 gage copper wire that we can use for lights and whatever else. That’ll save us running a lot of wires later into the build.

school bus conversion floor removal

Moving the Floor

The floor turned out to be pretty easy to start. We just used really big crowbars and razor blade knives to cut the plastic on the top of the existing floor.

We’re ready to have a big day of existing floor removal tomorrow. Please feel free to watch that.

School Bus to Tiny Home – School Bus Electrical Disassembly

School Bus Electrical Disassembly

Today we spent the day removing things that are generally part of a school bus. Things like the kid gate, the stop sign and the internal heaters for the bus.

The back exit (emergency exit) had some sort of a short so we decided to take all the electrical aspects out it. Now the back door doesn’t have running emergency red light or the buzzers if someone opens the emergency door.

There were two heaters that warmed up due to the engine coolant running through the bus. To take those out, I got a little dirty crawling under the bus and reconnecting all the coolant hoses. We have a lot of nice coolant hosing now. That was a really dirty afternoon.

School Bus Electrical Disassembly

The New Fuel Pump Problem

It lead to a fuel problem. Now when we start the bus, the fuel filter pours out diesel. So I’m seeking a solution to that problem.

Big Thank You

Big thanks to Erik for being our sparky. We couldn’t have done it without you buddy.

School Bus to Tiny Home – Flooring and Floor Insulation

If you’re reading this, I’m in the process of designing the flooring system. So my notes and ideas are shown in real time in this blog.

Once I commit to a strategy and implement it, this blog will explain of the floor’s design and the implementation process.

Later, once we spend more time in the home, I’ll share my results here. Thank you for reading.

To Remove Existing School Bus Floor or Not to Remove

From the looks of our existing floor, it seems like we might not need to take it out. I can’t see any places where the flooring is in terrible condition.

school bus tiny home conversion floor removal1

school bus tiny home conversion floor removal2

school bus tiny home conversion floor removal3

That said, we’re building something that we want to last for at least 100 years. I can’t make the assumption that everything is fine under there. We’ve decided to take the existing flooring out so that we can seal the existing metal floor with anti-rust paint and rebuild a bulletproof strategy for going forward.

Rust Proofing the Existing School Bus Metal Floor

I’m going to experiment with bondo and epoxy to plug any existing holes in the floor. We want to the bus to be water tight. All the holes made to secure seats will need to be sealed in a bulletproof manner.

Once the floors are all sealed up, we will be using Rust-Oleum 7792 Gloss White paint  to seal the metal school bus floor.

The paint we will use to seal the floor

Flooring Insulation and Finishing

Choosing School Bus Conversion Insulation

We would like this bus to be rated to live in Lake Tahoe in the winter so we are going with the upper range of Zone 5 as recommended by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

School Bus Conversion Insulation Guide
US Department of Energy Insulation Guide – We will build for Zone 5

This means the following insulation ratings for our walls, floor and ceiling if we’re to spend much of our time in the Lake Tahoe area:

  • Floor – (R25 to R30)
  • Ceiling – (R49 to R60)
  • Walls – (R15)

So it turns out that in order for us to get that DOE rated insulation, we will need to extend the roof of the bus. To get simple R15 insulation, the best thing I could find is 3 1/2″ inches deep which is too little insulation in too thick of a space.

I couldn’t find any R50 insulation that is 2 inches or less in thickness. Indeed, we would need another foot in the roof to get close to the reccomendations suggested by the DOE. This doesn’t seem prudent to me.

Also, the DEO is writing these requirements for relatively large homes. The heating expense of this bus will be a fraction of what a normal house would require.

School Bus Roofing Space

School Bus Roofing Space2

The Plan for the Ceiling Insulation

We are very lucky with our bus. The existing insulation is in excellent condition. There isn’t a drop of mold on any of the main parts. The biggest weakness to the existing insulation is that it doesn’t fill the roof cavities entirely.

To solve that, I plan to buy some spray insulation to fill the gaps left from the regular insulation. I’m exploring the following products:

* This spray foam could be used on the bottom of the bus as well as the product brags that it adheres to metal

Floor Material Design

We don’t want to build up with floor height much as there is limited vertical space in the bus. That said, the bus needs to be as comfortable as possible. Here is how I see the plan for floor materials:

  • Vinyl Plank Flooring (1/16″ – 5/16″) – Floor & Ceiling
  • Plywood (3/4″)
  • 1.5″ Insulation (link) + Framing (2×4 s are actually 1.5″ thick)
  • Existing School Bus Steel Painted with Rust-Oleum

I Hope You Found This Useful

Please let me know any thoughts or comments you have in using the links below. I’m done on the computer for the day, it’s time to go out and remove the rest of that floor in the bus.

First Panel – School Bus Conversion

How to Remove a Stripped Screw

When you’ve got a phillips head screw that is stripped beyond repair, what I like to do us use a grinder to cut a slot in the screw. Then that defunct phillips head becomes a straight, fresh metal slot head screw.

Removing Ceiling Panels From a 2001 Thomas School Bus

Then it’s easy to take out with a nice fat flat head screw driver.

How to Take Ceiling Panels out of a 2001 Thomas School Bus

Use the impact drill. In the movie above, you’ll see me using the regular drill almost the whole time. That was a dumb waste of energy. I was also using the impact drill head with the regular drill, which was also a waste of resources.

After we stopped filming for the day, I started using the impact drill and it worked great. I actually removed more than 50% of the ceiling panel screws. It goes fast when you know how.

Contemplating the Future of the Bus

Aside from a general design idea, I don’t have a specific plan for the build. So today I started working with SketchUp to do some accurate drawings of the bus. More design ideas will come. For now, we’ve got this Pinterest board which contains a lot of ideas for what we’re thinking will guide the aesthetics of what we’re building.

Final Seats and Spray Painting the Tools Gold

So one of my favorite YouTubbers is a guy named Jimmy DiResta. In one of his videos he talks about how he uses white spray paint on many of his tools as a way for him to engage his audience. I think this is genius.

My Favorite Gold Spray Paint

Rust-Oleum 1910830 Metallic Spray, Gold, 11-Ounce

Can I Spray Pain My Cordless Drills

Also, I’ve never been a big fan of rocking brands. No matter if it’s skiing, running, programming, fashion or anything else. At the end of the day, I like having no logos on my stuff.

Finally, I think having golden tools will inspire some more interested YouTube audience people who like the idea or hate it.

So in this video we spray-paint the tools gold and cut out the rest of the seats in the bus.

Gold Spray Painted Grinder

Thank you for watching, I hope you enjoyed it.

Even More Seats

School bus seat removal is harder than you might think…

Today was the big seat day. We were able to take out 12 seats which is half of the total seats. We expect one more day of seat removal for your viewing pleasure.

Penetrating Oils to Undo Rusty Bolts

We used two types of penetrating oils to increase the chance that we would be able to unscrew the bolts rather than grind them out. The two penetrating oils are:

I think blaster is the better product for this project. Their oil would be the first thing I would order when deciding to embark on a new bus conversion experience.

If at all possible, I think it makes sense to unscrew the bolts. It’s just cleaner.

High Leverage Wrench + Pipe Trick

If you get a really heavy pipe, you can use it to create a lot of torque with less arm power. To do this you just insert your wrench inside the pipe and pull on the pipe to turn your bolts.

Torque Wrench using a Heavy Pipe - bus seat removal

In the video above, I use an angle grinder to cut an old pipe I found laying around the land. Then we use that old pipe as a torque wrench in our bus seat removal effort.

Grinder Blades Get Destroyed During Bus Seat Removal

I killed two grinder blades today… but I’m not worried about it. That’s what they are for.

Thanks for watching. Please share this series with someone you know who would appreciate it. It helps more than you know.

More Seat Removal

School bus seat removal is actually a lot tougher than you might initially think. Many of the bolts that we removed from our bus had lug nuts that were basically welded with rust. Despite using penetrating oil and wicked strong leverage, we found ourselves unable to remove the stripped bolts and lug nuts. So we used a grinder to remove the immovable bolts.

Seat Removal Gets Serious

Today we get far more serious about the seat removal.  We start by getting the easy stuff out of the way. The part of the seats that you sit on is easy to take out because they have a mechanism that you just turn and you pull the seats up.

The bolts that are inside the bus never experience a whole lot of rust so it’s easy to pull those bolts.

The Tough Bolts

We used WD-40 to lubricate the bolts that went through the floor and connected with lug nuts below the bus. These bolts were the ones that have had the last 16 years worth of water, dirt and salt sprayed on them.

Not to mention, the lug nuts were hard to reach. I’m assuming that the body of the bus was lowered onto the chassis after it was assembled.

We made a mistake by using a ratchet wrench while removing these bolts. By the end of the day, we had destroyed the ratchet. I wish we hadn’t killed it. But it’s gone.

Bon Voyage. 

Thomas Bus Seat Removal

Bolt Removal Tips

First off, I start this video doing the work by myself. I rapidly learned that this would be far to slow. Asking for help is a valuable thing in all aspects of life. When building a house out of a school bus, this is especially true.

Another lesson learned quickly – most of the bolts on this bus were welded together with rust. Though we started this process on the easiest seats to take out, we would spend the rest of our time fighting with really, really difficult bolt situations.

Removing Seats from a Thomas Bus

With bus seats, the part o f the seat where you sit on, well that comes off very easily. Just rotate the metal lock that connects the heel of the seat to the frame. Once you get them up, the clips that hold the front of the seats can be lifted up and carried away.

Do this first when removing the seats from a Thomas Bus. It allows you to have a far greater range of motion for when you do battle with the more challenging bolts. If you want a demonstration of that, check out the next video.

Check out the next post for lessons on removing the more challenging bolts.