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Old 04-22-2017, 06:01 AM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 10
Some Dilemmas but tons of fun!

My husband and I have a 2002 40' Thomas school bus. I fall more in love with it every day! Going into this conversion, was sort of a hope for the best, expect the worst situation, since we bought our bus over the phone, from a dealership while we were in a different state, on vacation. Thankfully, we are stoked with our purchase!! The bus has been very well maintained both inside and out. Mechanically and otherwise.

Got the bus home, removed the seats. So far so good.
Took out the rubber on the floor. The 3/4" plywood we found underneath looks amazing. No rot, mold, or water damage to be seen! No rust around the wheel wells that we can see, and the screws we pulled out of the floor, came out clean. We've been contemplating taking the original plywood out, but for now, we decided to leave it in, apply primer, seal up the holes from seat removal, add furring strips, 1" blue board, then new plywood on top. There is no apparent rust from underneath the bus, but the fact that we don't know what may be lurking under the wood, makes me wonder if we should take it out, as was our first intention. It's in such good shape that I'm questioning what to do now.

All of our panels (walls and ceiling) are attached with screws instead of rivets. I'm digging that part! Under the ceiling we found 1" insulation that looked pretty good, however, there's lots of space in there to put better insulation, and the inside of the panels felt damp up toward the front of the bus (but not toward the back).. so, we are taking all of the ceiling panels down, and replacing the insulation with 2" blue board, then covering that with some sort of prettier ceiling panels.

When we looked behind the walls, we found 2" insulation that was very clean, no trace of moisture within or behind on the walls. It was super clean in there. I was shocked! So as of now, we've screwed the wall panels back down and decided to cover over them with 1" blue board and some kind of paneling. We will also be covering some of the windows with insulation and paneling, after painting them black on the inside, so from the outside they look tinted, and inside they just look like part of the wall.

Speaking of windows.. none of them leak, and they are all sealed up very well, with some sort of black sealant. Originally, we planned on removing them so we could clean and reseal them, but now we're not so sure. They seem to be pretty well sealed up as they are.

Overall, we seem to have lucked out with the cleanliness of our bus.

For anyone who has read this far.. I have a couple questions..

#1- Does it seem that we are cutting corners, by leaving the original plywood, walls/insulation, and windows intact & insulating over them (even though they are all in great shape)??

#2- If it were your bus, what would you do?

Our main intention is to not cut corners, but also not to do more than necessary. We want a great finished product, and are willing to put in the work to achieve it. All opinions and advice are appreciated!
Thanks for reading!!
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Old 04-22-2017, 06:06 AM   #2
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 19,287
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
I'd either gut it and do it all, or just leave it be and enjoy it as a metal tent. I have two buses and am using both approaches.
It all depends on what YOU want. I don't want a forty foot tin can. I'm willing to live with a 20 foot tin can though.

To each their own, and best of luck to yall!
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Old 04-22-2017, 08:29 AM   #3
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Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 1,497
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: Bluebird
Engine: 5.9 Cummins 24v
Rated Cap: 72 pax
I am making a camper.
I don't plan on removing the wall or ceiling panels.
I also don't plan on living in it.
I am able to see into the ceiling through speaker and light holes to see that the insulation that's up there is in perfect condition.

Bottom line: it's your bus. Do as much or as little as you need to

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Old 04-22-2017, 09:27 AM   #4
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Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: State College,PA
Posts: 69
Year: 1998
Chassis: ford e350
Engine: 7.3 powerstroke
If you an unscrew the plywood and have enough head room why don't you pull the plywood up, inspect the floor, apply some paint if required, put 3/4 or more insulation and drop the same plywood back in. If the wood is good I would probably paint it both sides with Killz or so to be one step ahead.
Even if it is just a camper, insulation will help you to enjoy better.
Good luck,
Later J
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Old 04-22-2017, 12:00 PM   #5
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Location: Willamina, Oregon
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Coachwork: 97 Bluebird TC1000 5.9
Sounds like a nice bus. Now that you're aware of the basic two types of conversion, how are you going to be using your bus in the future? Is it a camper or a live-in? Part of your stripping the interior sounds like you're making a live-in, but replacing some of the panels and leaving the old insulation sounds more like a camper.

The point is if you want to be warm in your bus during cold weather you're going to want to do the insulation right. The old fiberglass insulation really doesn't do diddly. I've got stacks of fiberglass from my bus that looks fine. A little of the insulation was not bright yellow. Is that just dust on one location, or is it black mold starting to form on the 20 year old fiberglass? I removed it all and tossed out all the old metal panels.

I've spent two winters in this bus. The first winter this was an all natural bus, and it was cold. This second winter I was spray foam insulated and my heating needs were about one third as much as the previous year. That's payback for the foam insulation. Just in heating costs alone the foam insulation will pay for itself within three years, just from heating costs.

If you plan to travel to warm locations, the same is true for the insulation. You won't be able to air condition your bus effectively if you can't keep the heat out.

Insulation is a personal choice for each of us. It depends on what you expect to do with your bus in the future.

Good to hear you're into the bus. At some point you're going to start getting burned out from working on the bus. Just keep plodding away on it and it'll get there. You're lucky to have a bus with screws in the ceiling and wall panels. That's considered a good thing not to have to deal with thousands of rivet.

Have fun with it.
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Old 04-22-2017, 03:07 PM   #6
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 10
Decisions are made! Those metal panels are coming out. Thanks again for all the input. I'm stoked!!
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