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Old 12-30-2016, 01:09 AM   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 208
How long do conversion phases take?

Hey there everyone. I am in the process of planning our conversion. This site has been amazing. We are still in the process of selecting the bus we want. At this time I am leaning toward a 1998-2002 Thomas Activity Bus (the largest one we can find in our budget).

I have been reading through hundreds of threads here and have gathered a lot of research that I will be applying to our build.

But I have one question that I have not found a thread covering: How long does each conversion phase typically take? Here are the major phases I have broken down the conversion into.

If you can provide your gut estimate for low/med/high time estimates in days/half days, I would be most appreciative. Once I have a good number of responses, I will roll all of them up into a spreadsheet and share it with everyone here in the forum.

All of the estimates should assume BASIC or MINIMUM install. I realize there are many factors that can affect estimates, but I am guessing there are a few people on here that have done enough conversions, there is a general time frame allocated for most tasks. I have listed the items in the general order I would attack the work. Please feel free to let me know if I missed anything. Estimates should assume med to advanced level mechanical, welding, woodworking, electrical and plumbing skills (I flip houses for a living).

Phase 1 - Preparation
  1. Gutting Interior - Seat removal, window removal, flooring removal, ceiling removal
  2. Rust repair - fix ceilings, sidewalls or floors that are damaged and rust seal
  3. Raising Roof - 18-24" raise of full roof line
  4. Enclosing Sides - sheet metal install on sides where windows are covered
  5. Framing - Frame out interior walls
  6. Initial Electrical - Install in wall/ceiling electrical
  7. Initial Plumbing - Install in wall plumbing
  8. Insulating - Insulate walls and ceilings with spray insulation, install thermal barrier / vapor shield
  9. Ceiling and Wall Covering - install ceiling and sidewalls
  10. Flooring - Install insulation, subfloor and flooring **Bonus if you know the time to install radiant floor system **
Phase 2 - Systems
  1. Freshwater System - plumbing for kitchen sink and bathroom sink
  2. Greywater System - plumbing for kitchen sink drain, bathroom sink drain, shower drain.
  3. Install Heating and Cooling - install radiant heaters and roof top heat pump.
Phase 3 - Interior Base
  1. Paint Exterior - Includes full exterior and roof
  2. Frame out - Basic walls for bath/shower and rear master
  3. Electrical - 12v lights, 120 outlets, battery system
Phase 4 - Interior Finish
  1. Install Kitchen cabinets and counter
  2. Install appliances - Instant hot water heater, oven/stove, propane fridge
  3. Install overhead cabinets in living/kitchen area
  4. Install queen bed platform in rear with storage
  5. Install two bunk beds with below storage

Thanks to everyone for your input.
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Old 12-30-2016, 05:53 AM   #2
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Location: hills of sw virginia
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Year: 1996
Chassis: thomas
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working with cash on hand, im at just under 2 years. looks like it will be at least 3
living in a bus down by the river.
my build pics
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Old 12-30-2016, 05:55 AM   #3
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Location: Eustis FLORIDA
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Year: 1999
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Chassis: Freighliner FS65
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Originally Posted by superdave View Post
working with cash on hand, im at just under 2 years. looks like it will be at least 3
Bout the same here, only lagging a couple years behind ya!
Roll Your Own Build Thread
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Old 12-30-2016, 07:00 AM   #4
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Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: Danglebury, Tejas
Posts: 310
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH 3800
Engine: Navistar DT466E
Rated Cap: 72 passenger
Getting the seats out took me a short weekend with an air wrench and a willing friend. Easy stuff. Those seats literally flew out of the bus once we got it down to a rhythm.

The rest of the build takes the rest of your life. No kidding. I've never actually seen a skoolie that was ever "done".

So: time to completion is infinity plus one weekend.
"You can finally say you have enough horsepower when you leave two black streaks from corner to corner"
(Mark Donohue, famed TransAm driver)
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Old 12-30-2016, 08:18 AM   #5
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Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 11,359
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
those that have ever built a classic car will tell you that you will likely get the bug to use your bus / vehicle and will work hard to get there as funds and time allow..

then youll thuink you are done only to find another way to do something and will end up re-doing, adding, etc.. .. perhaps as long as you have it..

two things are for sure. one or both will likely apply.

1. youll always wish for more time to work on it
2. youll always wish for more money to work on it..

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Old 12-30-2016, 08:51 AM   #6
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Location: Colorado
Posts: 1,594
Year: 1993
Coachwork: bluebird
Engine: 5.9 Cummins, Allison AT1545
Rated Cap: 2
my conversion was about 4 years. it was limited by money more than time. i think i spent around $5k per year. its done and usable, but just like Grey Coyote posted, its never really done (it does get cheaper). now i'm dumping some more money on my electrical system. maybe one day i'll get a solar and an inverter,.... like he said, they are never really finished.
this summer i may try my first remodel to improve my storage area.
Turfmobile Build Thread
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Old 12-30-2016, 09:50 AM   #7
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Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 208
I feel like I should maybe explain a little bit why I am asking such detailed questions.

We are in the process of ditching the American Dream, living full time on the road with our family of 4 + 3 cats.

Our house goes on the market in 2 weeks. Here in Nashville, we expect it to take about 1 week for the house to sell and about 4-5 weeks to close (Nashville real estate is crazy hot and we have a desirable property). After this point, we will relocate to temp housing for about 2 weeks while we secure our bus.

We plan to move the bus to a friends property in FL where we will park and I will begin the conversion process. I will have approximately 3-4 weeks to get what I can of the conversion done before we jump to TX where we will establish residency and then begin our adventure. I will be working 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week (200-300 hours). We have about $15-20K to spend on the conversion.

Given this information, how much do you think I can get done in 200-300 hours? I have a strong background in carpentry and metal work. Decent experience in plumbing and electrical.

Thanks to everyone for the help!
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Old 12-30-2016, 10:55 AM   #8
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Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Cuyahoga Falls Ohio
Posts: 515
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Startrans
Chassis: Ford e-350 single wheel
Engine: 5.4 litre
Rated Cap: 12
Keep it simple and you should be able to meet your deadline. My build was very minimalist. Flooring and 2 futons. About 3 hours of work. Of course I have more I want to do but for now its operational.
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Old 12-30-2016, 12:18 PM   #9
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Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Picton,Ont, Can.
Posts: 1,616
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: GMC
Engine: Cat 3116
Rated Cap: 72
I am going on 4 years and would say it is a custom build but very practical. I didn't even begin to convert till I fully understood the bus mechanically and electrically and was sure it was worth doing. hours? I couldn't even estimate as there are snags at each project which effect the next job you intend to do if you don't have plans set in stone. I built piece meal areas to my liking and made everything somehow fit and blend in to my liking.
I wouldn't say it cost much money at all as I had all the necessary skills without having to get advice or hire anyone. Mechanical parts are expensive as is towing etc and why I went with my plan of getting to know the mechanics of the whole bus.
Sorry, I garnered a lot of ideas in this forum so thanks to all who contributed.
Question everything!
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Old 12-30-2016, 04:23 PM   #10
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Location: Minnesota
Posts: 502
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Engine: DTA360 5.9L
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if you worked every day for those weeks doing 10-12 hours a day you should get it done but not sure. if you do every single thing in those phases it''ll be quite a bit. Me and my girlfriend pretty much gutted the interior in a single week (seats out, linoleum up, plywood up, interior side panels out, interior roof panels out as well as rear and forward interior caps, insulation, heaters, dash equipment, and what not. then if you keep on it, fix the rust and convert it and paint it the next week, prep for raise, and so on. just gotta keep on it or it'll seem like its dragging on forever!
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conversion, estimate, estimation, time

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