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Old 05-18-2015, 07:35 PM   #1
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 14
26' Box truck tiny home conversion project

I have been wanting to remove myself from the shackles and idiocricy of renting, roomates, and all of the facets and consequences of relying on an unsustainable energy grid and an enslaving monetary system. My goal is to create a mobile efficient and sustainable vessel that will sustain it's residents in simple comfort, yet engineered with redundant life support systems such as propane, solar thermal, and wood fired hot water. Incorporate a 500-1000 amp hour battery bank rechargeable by either 2, 400watt solar panels, and or by using the engine and alternator as a generator. Interior heating could also be achieved by wood fire / oil burner, propane heated water circulated through floors, or using hot engine coolant to circulate through the floor or route through a heat exchange to heat water circulated through the floor.

I have considered many base vehicle platforms for my ideal application including various school busses, e-350 shuttle busses, enclosed car trailers and various box trucks. I am 6'5 and cannot stand comfortably in many school busses and RV'S, so I wanted to maximize space, light, and comfort, while allowing room and weight for expansion, and the ability to tow a car or load. I also wanted one of the most powerful and reliable and efficient medium duty diesel truck engines that was not burdened by electronic and emissions controls, as well as simplicity of maintenance. I ended up deciding on the Navistar / International Harvester DT466 7.6l turbo diesel with a manual Bosch injection pump for easy power modifications and rebuildability. My ideal year range for these requirements was 1993-1995, as in 1996 Navistar introduced the DT466E with electronic control.

After looking for a truck with these requirements for four months I finally came across a bread company that was upgrading their delivery fleet and had some 20 International 4900 box trucks for sale. After a quick test drive and walk around, I ended up purchasing one of the rougher looking trucks for $4,000.uploadfromtaptalk1431994104766.jpg
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Old 05-18-2015, 07:48 PM   #2
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 14
After doing some design in Sketch Up, here is my preliminary design layout. I have a lofted queen size bed area, with liquid storage, energy and all control systems underneath the loft. The loft is just high enough so that while in the loft on my knees, I have head room, and my cat has an extended climbing space and elevated nook. Just aft of the loft is the bathroom with composting toilet, sink, and shower. My liquid waste will be grey water as the solids will be separated and composted. Behind the bathroom is the kitchen area and fireplace, with a fold down bunk bed and desk on one side, and fold out table and bed on the other side. I have decided to flip/mirror the layout so the bathroom is on the left side and i can install a door to the curb side nexto the fireplace. More pictures and updates coming soon!
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Old 05-18-2015, 07:56 PM   #3
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 5,865
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Ward/AmTran
Chassis: International
Engine: dt466
Rated Cap: 78
One of my neighbors has a box truck thats partially converted to an rv. Its pretty cool.
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Old 05-18-2015, 08:15 PM   #4
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 14
The box of the truck is constructed from wood composite sides with aluminum adjoining corners an aluminum roof supported by galvanized cross beams. The floor has a 2x6 wood plank base with 1/8" metal floor bolted on top of the wood planks. I plan to frame the left side of the wall with 2x4's on edge to run piping and electrical, then 2x4's flat on the right wall. I will also be framing the front half portion of the box floor, and leaving the rear half unframed metal. The roof will also be framed with 2x4's flat with spray in foam insulation with plywood over.

I noticed a few spots on the metal floor that have rust deposits indicating recurring leaks from the roof. I want to make this tiny home last for a while and thus my first project is demoing the interior and removing all old cracked sealant from the interior and exterior, and reapplying new sealant to all seams and potential areas for leaks. I began removing all the old sealant with a dremel and got each seam cleaned up for a fresh application of flash mate clear sealant. I want to use a material that is somewhat flexible with good adhesion properties while being UV and water proof. if anyone has any recommendations for interior and exterior sealant for the roof and seams, I am all ears. I feel like there has to be a paint on product instead of one in a caulk tube. I removed some corrosion and rust from the corner reinforcements and filled in any holes with JB weld, then flash mate. More updates on this soon!uploadfromtaptalk1431998059704.jpguploadfromtaptalk1431998104905.jpguploadfromtaptalk1431998138715.jpg
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Old 05-18-2015, 08:40 PM   #5
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Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: Florida
Posts: 584
Year: 1988
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: I.H.
Engine: DT360
Nice and great layup work.
The box even came with a tilt out porch! I envy that.
If you plan highway traffic, consider potential damage to the solar panels from wind, fly up debri, birds, etc.
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Old 05-18-2015, 08:52 PM   #6
Join Date: Sep 2014
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Thanks HolyBus! I can see the solar panel location as being problematic for highway travel, and the potential to be blocked by the box's shadow depending on the orientation. I am considering installing some unirack strut across the middle area of the roof to relocate the solar panels to the roof, so they could be folded down flat during transportation, while still retaining the < 14ft height clearance. Yes, the liftgate will make a nice porch
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Old 05-18-2015, 09:13 PM   #7
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Location: MNT CITY TN
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This should be cool as hell!!

Keep pics coming
Our build La Tortuga
Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.
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Old 05-18-2015, 09:44 PM   #8
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Currently in Appalachia.
Posts: 146
Bzbussin- what is your transmission? I ask because a bread truck doesn't usually carry a lot of weight (relatively speaking) and if it's geared for local deliveries, it might not handle a lot of extra weight without some decline in performance. It won't do much good to crank up your engine if your tranny isn't up to the task.

"The roof will also be framed with 2x4's flat with spray in foam insulation with plywood over."
- if you are using spray in foam, I don't think you need to frame it first, unless it is necessary to attach the ply/covering of your insulation. I'm assuming the box is structurally sound? You do want to eliminate as many thermal bridges as you can. I believe you also said the roof was aluminum. Make sure you choose a spray that will adhere to it, will tolerate the heat of direct sun, and will be ok with the high expansion factor of the aluminum when it gets hot.

There are a couple different rubberized "paints" one brand is Bus Kote. It requires two coats and recommends a clear coat. Coverage (one layer)is about 125 sq ft per gal at about $40/ gal. I have no idea if it works on aluminum. I think it's considered a rubberized polymer? Time to google. Lol there are Utube videos with application instructions. Bonus- this product is also a reflective coating and with keep your box noticably cooler in direct sunlight.

I'm not sure where you plan to travel, but over 12' tall will eliminate a lot of routes for you. Consider getting a trucker's atlas/GPS to avoid low bridges.

Good luck with your build, and welcome!
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Old 05-18-2015, 09:49 PM   #9
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Location: Farmington Hills, Mi (Detroit area)
Posts: 1,340
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Eldorado Aerotech 24'
Chassis: Ford E-450 Cutaway Bus
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Much easier to build in a nice rectangular space. Will you have access to the back from the drivers cabin?
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Old 05-18-2015, 10:00 PM   #10
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 14
SassyLass, the IH 4900 has a gvwr of 31,000 lbs, and has the Dana Spicer 6+ 6sp manual transmission. I will have to check the gear ratio of the rear diff. When I have taken it for a spin, I got it up to 55mph at about 2500 rpm in 5th gear. I like the benefits of the reflective sealer paint.

I don't plan on having cab to box access roach711
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