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Old 05-20-2017, 11:27 AM   #1
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Subfloor layout and insulation ideas?

I'm not quite there yet, still removing the seats. I was wondering if anyone had experience laying a subfloor and what insulation to use, and what they wish they did differently or added more of or less of etc.

I'm also debating on removing the lower tin sides or just drilling wood into it and putting a layer of insulation. Would it be better to just remove the tin?

I'm definitely changing the upper insulation but I'll be honest, I like the metal roofing with the rivets. Does this metal roofing work with better insulation or is like, a wood ceiling better?

Thoughts?
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Old 05-20-2017, 12:30 PM   #2
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Well... most of us have done a subfloor in a bus before. If you've followed any of the threads you can see a variety of ways of treating rust on the steel subfloor. There's any number of ways you could insulate the floor. You're going to get a lot of different opinions on subfloor insulation. Listen to them all and choose what you think fits your needs best.

I don't understand what you mean by tin sides. I'm going to guess that you're talking about the remaining interior wall beneath the chair rail. We don't usually remove that portion of the wall or the chair rail itself because the chair rail is considered integral to the structural integrity of the bus. If that's not what you were talking about please give further details about tin sides.

Pulling all the ceiling and wall panels is what will allow you to insulate. If you expect to experience hot or cold weather, you'll need good insulation to have a chance at being comfortable.

Some people have attempted to put the ceiling panels back up after installing the insulation of their choice. As far as I'm aware nobody has successfully reinstalled their metal ceiling panels. Besides, the sound reverberation changes when you get that metal out to more of a home sound.

If you think about it, putting metal ceiling panels back in the bus is not a good idea considering the thermal conductivity of metal. If it's freezing outside, the temperature will be conducted into the interior of the bus through the ribs and replaced metal ceiling. Most of us insulate between the ribs, then attempt to create a thermal break, either by leaving a small air gap or installing rigid insulation panels so the ribs do not directly contact whatever type of interior ceiling you install. Yes, interior ceilings and walls are frequently wood because it looks so nice. Some use panels and others use boards. Again it's a personal choice about what works best for your circumstances.

It would seem like we all follow the same path toward insulation, but in reality we're all over the board. There are different circumstances for each of us based on location and intended use of the bus. Many of us chase our tails on the subject of insulation trying to decide what works best before beginning the process.

It's good that you want to insulate, and I remember this was about insulating just the floor initially. You won't regret getting good insulation.
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Old 05-20-2017, 01:45 PM   #3
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The tin walls above the seat lip below the windows.

Any advice on the type of flooring? Brand? Foam or rigid for the floors?

I plan on putting some ospho on the floor, paying someone to sandblast the underside, and them putting in rust bullet on both sides. I'm hoping this helps stops the rust or slow it down at least for a few more years. I don't plan on being in a winter setting with this bus, I'll go south around October or November and stay till spring.
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Old 05-20-2017, 02:09 PM   #4
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I'd suggest just cleaning up your floor and treating with ospho followed by a rust inhibitive paint. Beyond that you need to decide how much insulation is necessary for your intended use. If you're putting in deep insulation you'll probably need framing or furring strips to keep the floor firm.

I wouldn't bother spending the money to have someone sandblast underneath the floor. Consider the things the sandblaster could destroy while down there. Some people do have their floors foam insulated from underneath.

My floor is completely uninsulated, even though my walls and ceilings are done. In the sleeping and passenger floor areas of this bus I plan on putting down 1/2" rigid styrofoam insulation followed by 3/4" plywood as a subfloor. I can't afford to lose much height and I'm not convinced I'll need more insulation than that in the lower 48. I also prefer to go south in the near future instead of enduring northern winters.
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Old 05-20-2017, 02:31 PM   #5
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Ok cool, I planned on blasting and treating under because there is a hole in the back left wheel well. It's not big but it is there and why I got the bus cheap. Other than that the under doesn't look half bad, I just don't want to lose the bus to rust holes.
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Old 05-20-2017, 03:58 PM   #6
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If the rust is already there about all you can do is treat and patch it. Even with some rust issues the bus is probably going to last longer than you'll want to keep driving it.

Your job is to prevent water from getting inside the bus through that wheel well. You should be able to clean it up with a wire brush and make some patches to put over the hole.

You'll get a lot more participation on this thread if you post some photos of the issues with your bus.
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Old 05-20-2017, 04:42 PM   #7
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Well my issue sent the hole so much as figuring out how to put a good floor on the bus. I want to do it right =)
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Old 05-20-2017, 05:03 PM   #8
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So clean up the steel floor, treat it with ospho or comparable product, paint it and start laying down a floor.

What you've got to consider is how tall you are compared to the ceiling height in your bus. How much headroom can you afford to lose through insulation in your floor?

My insulated floor thickness will take another 1-1/4". Luckily I'm relatively short.

Keep in mind that when insulating the ceiling you will lose additional headroom, so don't just be thinking about the floor. This has got to do with you not having to duck your head while you walk through your bus after it's insulated.
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Old 05-20-2017, 05:06 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Robin97396 View Post
So clean up the steel floor, treat it with ospho or comparable product, paint it and start laying down a floor.

What you've got to consider is how tall you are compared to the ceiling height in your bus. How much headroom can you afford to lose through insulation in your floor?

My insulated floor thickness will take another 1-1/4". Luckily I'm relatively short.

Keep in mind that when insulating the ceiling you will lose additional headroom, so don't just be thinking about the floor. This has got to do with you not having to duck your head while you walk through your bus after it's insulated.
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Old 05-20-2017, 06:08 PM   #10
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Well I'm only going to insulate the top to where the steel stops so I shouldn't lose hardly any from the top.

The bottom on the other hand...

I'm 5'8 and I have a good bit if stretch before touching the ceiling, so I think I can splurge a little on the flooring I hope.
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Old 05-20-2017, 07:12 PM   #11
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You do loose headroom because the interior you install will be thicker than the sheet of metal currently on the ceiling and walls.

The cavities between the ribs in my bus are completely filled with foam. Because the ribs are thermally conductive you need some type of material against the ribs on the interior of the bus that doesn't conduct heat easily, called a thermal break. I used rigid insulation followed by plywood. It lowers the headroom because it's not possible for that thermal break to exist in the same space as the sheet of interior metal on your ceiling and walls.

We're the same height. As long as we don't go with the meat locker depth of insulation we're fine in these buses. I like to keep the center of gravity low anyway.

So have you been doing a bunch of research on insulation?
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Old 05-20-2017, 07:38 PM   #12
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Well I have watched YouTube videos and seen different insulation but I don't know brand or R value and all that stuff for floor or ceiling etc. I have a general idea but that's about it.

I'll be sure to line that area to keep away the cold!
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Old 05-20-2017, 08:32 PM   #13
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That's the whole point of being here on this site. There are actual build threads of various floor prep and insulation experience, and many times you can ask them questions directly. Spray foam is not a floor insulation choice unless it's going under the floor.

This isn't set up to dish out information. It's just people like you that are already a few years ahead of the position you're in right now. People here will gladly answer your question if they have the right experience to share with you. Many of us are slow readers so we like lots of pictures of progress and problems during your build.

As I've probably said, I haven't insulated my floor. I did rebuild a floor in another bus but I didn't insulate the floor. Currently I seem to be making due using carpeting during the winter, and in the spring the carpet goes away. I have insulated my walls and ceiling with spray foam.

I like to use 1/2" rigid styrofoam insulation. It has mylar on one side and advertising on the other side. I've put this styrofoam insulation everywhere on the walls and ceiling before covering it with plywood. I also used the styrofoam to make panels that fit my windows. My plan for an insulated floor will be of very similar design. A floating floor comprised of rigid insulation covered by plywood. Yeah, it's going to get kind of boring in here with everything covered with plywood.

It's worse than that. I'm stalling on progress because I can't figure out if I can put hydronic floor heat in my floating floor. Could be a Webasto coolant heater in my future.

We're supposed to have good weather for a few days here so I'm going to be focusing on slapping a coat of paint on the bus. It's about to become an ominus dark bus.

Scan through some threads and see how people did their insulation. There are choices.
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Old 05-21-2017, 10:03 AM   #14
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Was the spray foam expensive for your roof and sides? My idea is similar to yours, I'd like to spray foam the top, the sides above the windows, and below the windows. Then I'd like to put down some rigid foam on the bottom with wood holding it in, and wood on top. I like all the windows so I'd like to keep em, I have thermal curtains that should help in extreme weather.

I'm curious about the carpet idea though, I'm surprised the cold doesn't radiate through that metal flooring!
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Old 05-21-2017, 11:54 AM   #15
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We do seem to have similar thoughts on bus builds.

My spray foam was $800. One of the things that I believe lowered the price of my spray foam was I did all the taping myself, which took me about four days. Most people report much higher spray foam costs. This foam guy doesn't do any trimming or cleanup. He just walked in and sprayed.

I'm also planning to make a floating floor with just a 1/2" of rigid insulation under the plywood. You've mentioned using curtains to help keep your bus warm or cool. I cut rigid insulation panels so they would fit into the window, and I swear they work better than curtains. I put the mylar side of the window insulation panels toward the outside. With tinted windows the insulation panels just looks dark from the outside.

You've got the same basic idea for insulating your floor. I'm finding that a small amount of insulation does very well instead of inches of thick insulation. Seal up all the holes in the bus body to stop airflow to maintain thermal energy.

I've also kept all my window. I do cover the majority of them with rigid insulation during cold weather. I like to be able to see out all the way around the bus when I'm out in the boonies. I also bought thermal curtains but haven't used them.

The issue with a cold floors during the winter is more of a moisture problem. These buses are generally sealed up so tight that our own breathing causes condensation on cold surfaces, including the floor. I actually have trouble with water pooling on the floor during the winter.

I'm not on a cold metal floor. This bus has L-track throughout the entire floor. There are eight aluminum strips of L-track on the floor the length of the bus. The aluminum L-track is in direct contact with the steel subfloor, which allows them to conduct outside temperatures into the bus during the winter. Without carpet stepping on the L-track is like stepping on ice. The carpet also seems to be just enough insulation to nearly stop condensation from gathering on the floor, not to mention it's much nicer to walk on. This recent winter I was actually able to walk around in socks and bare feet. I still had a cold floor this winter, but nothing like last year.

With insulation in the ceilings and walls there was a notable improvement in heat retention. As the weather got colder it became clear I needed to cover the windows to retain heat. As mentioned I cut rigid styrofoam insulation panels that fit in the windows. Those panels works well for stopping the sun on hot days too, not to mention adding privacy.

I owe my success with insulation to a series of accidental happenstance. My spray foam was supposed to be a couple inches deep to bring it up to rib level, but the guy sprayed in 4 or 5 inches of foam. It took 8 full days to trim the foam down to rib level. I was so angry at the amount of foam and that I wouldn't be able to leave an air gap for a thermal break.

My theory is take what you've got and make due. Roll with it. Things didn't work the way I expected with the foam guy. All I could do was make something up, so I trimmed the foam down to rib level, put up rigid 1/2" styrofoam, as the thermal break, then plywood. I chose to use thicker plywood for the ceiling and walls so I could attach walls or partitions without tying directly into the ribs. It's like a subfloor on the ceiling and walls and I can attach anything to the plywood because of its strength.

You've got to remember, I'm not allowed to make this bus into a motorhome. Well, I can but I wouldn't be able to get insurance as a self converted motorhome. This bus is titled as a van, so I figure I can do all the van stuff legitimately. I just can't have plumbing or permanently mounted propane tanks. Stuff like that. So I've created a big van with pretty good insulation. I wasn't planning on being this much of a minimalist when this project started. Just rolling with it.

I seem to be long winded this morning. Yes, still morning here on the west coast.

Good luck with whatever you decide.
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Old 05-21-2017, 12:14 PM   #16
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I recommnd a floating floor / rigid foam insulation like some of the other commenters. It's very easy. But what I wish I had done on my own build ...

Do you have heaters in the bus? If so I'm assuming they are fed by a hose of hot radiator fluid from your engine, with a shut off somewhere under the dashboard. Take my advice and buy 50 feet of PEX tubing. Cut a nice track for it in the rigid foam that you put on your floor, running the tubing port side to starboard side and bak to complete the loop. Hook that up to the shut off under your dash.. then lay down your plywood like you normally would. It will take you less than half a day and you will have heated floors in your bus should you so choose when the bus is running. This is a mod I wish I had done and takes just a little extra time but the rewards are great.
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Old 05-21-2017, 12:15 PM   #17
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You sad u used plywood for the ceiling...how did you get it to curve without bending? How thick was it? Do you haz a picture of it? I wanted to reuse the metal because I like the look and also the fact you can stick magnets to it, but it would conduct, sad day.
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Old 05-21-2017, 12:57 PM   #18
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I used 19/32nds plywood, which I affectionately call 2/3rds. Yes it has to be bent to conform to the ceiling, or you can cut the plywood in panels to conform to the curves, which is what I did at the top of the wall.

A video of putting up this plywood would have made a good comedy. It's a real job for one guy to put full sheets of plywood up onto the ceiling. I made a couple of jack studs, which is simply a 2x4 made into a "T" to hold the plywood against the ceiling while I got everything lined up in the right location.

You're right, it doesn't bend very easily. I used a third 2x4 and a high-lift jack to push the panels up tight against the ceiling before screwing them to the ribs. I use lots of screws, more or less like a sheet of sheetrock.

I put full sheets of plywood down the center of my ceiling, followed by strips of plywood attached to the ribs to better match the curves nearer the walls.

I had bought some self tapping screws, but it was taking about three screws to penetrate the ribs. Beyond that it takes a lot of energy to push up hard enough to get a screw to penetrate the ribs. I went back to the store and got different screws, then used the two drill method of drilling and screwing things in place. Two drills was the discovery that saved an extreme amount of time.

I don't have any photos of actually doing the work but there are lots of pics of foam trimming and plywood progress in my thread.

Yes, I'd put thick plywood on my ceiling again. That part was totally worth it. It's a bit of a learning process to get the plywood to conform, but it stays up very well and adds strength.

Incidentally the rather thick plywood presses hard against the styrofoam and the spray foam, which is what I attribute to the remarkable sound reduction while driving this bus. The noise levels are actually like being in a pickup truck now.
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Old 05-21-2017, 03:27 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by warewolff View Post

Do you have heaters in the bus? If so I'm assuming they are fed by a hose of hot radiator fluid from your engine, with a shut off somewhere under the dashboard.
I Do! It's a heater called a hurri-hot, it runs along the left side of the bus behind the driver's seat and stops at the heater near the back. Should I keep the actual heater or just run the tube along the sides? Should I put it along the edge or loop more near the middle? I think the heater is very ugly but I could put it under a bed or something idk.
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Old 05-21-2017, 03:34 PM   #20
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I pulled my heater but thats your decision. It has nothing to do with the radiant floor heating we are talking about. Youll probably want to find a better source of heat than that though. Most of us pull the heaters. Find where the hose connects under your dash board and connect your PEX tubing to there. I believe you have a looped system which means you have to run a return line too so it can recirculate through the engine. You could run them side by side like a giant wave from the front to the back of your bus, zig zagging the whole way with a loop in the rear. Ill sketch it out for you if youre having trouble following. This is the only mod I really regret not doing. I was lazy. It'd be SO worth it to have nice toasty floors in the winter. Some of the folks on the forum even connect the same design to a boiler to turn on as they please.
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