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Old 01-21-2019, 12:52 PM   #1
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Floor plan and plumbing thoughts on our 6-window shortie

We ended up getting an '03 6-window van cutaway skoolie with a wheelchair lift in the back, the bus I mentioned in another thread. While it still needs to be gutted, I started thinking through floor plans while reading through all these forums. Our goal in the bus is to have a couch for my wife to relax on (she loves to stretch out!), a seat for her to ride on near or behind the driver seat, and a place where I can work with my laptop while my wife relaxes on the couch or works in the kitchen when we're not on the road. As we're thinking to be on-the-road for a week or so at a time, we'd really like a shower, as well. We came up with the attached floor plan, and was wondering what others thought. Are we missing anything critical?

The sink would be on the counter near the shower, with the water pump, expansion tank, and on-demand hot water heater below the counter near the sink, specifically for the shower. I was thinking of running a water line from a freshwater tank under the bed along the outside wall to the water pump, so all the plumbing and mechanical parts are easy to get to under the sink, and none of the lines would be pressurized except right there. The shower and sink would drain into a gray water tank, and we would use a compost toilet, so no black water. As we're looking to have as little electric as possible while on the road, we're also thinking that the sink would be cold only, with a hand pump, so we have water even if no batteries/power. If we need hot water, we can always get some from the shower when we have power, or heat on a stovetop.

Specific to the freshwater tank, have others decided to waterproof the enclosure they put them in, or is it pretty safe to simply secure the tank on the subflooring? I assume if best to waterproof, we'd need to move the water pump at least back into the waterproofed area under the bed (instead of under the sink) so it can pump the water out of whatever basin is used.

For now, we're thinking a good cooler instead of refrigerator, like a Yeti, which would slide out under the bed in front of the shower (which we could replace with a chest fridge later if we want).

For a stove, we're starting with a basic propane or butane camp stove, of which we have a couple.

The bed will be raised about 2.5 feet so that we have a "garage" under it, accessible from the side door and from the rear door, and we could put the bed on a hinge so we could access from inside as well if needed.

The couch/bed will convert to a table and two seats as needed so we have a place to eat. We'll have storage under the two seats, as well as behind each backrest. We're thinking small ceiling shelves above the couch and counter, and along the back wall above the rear door.

The front three windows on each side would be usable, and the rear window on the drivers side would be as well, and we'd simply build a wall over the others. It may not be the most efficient thermally, but having a lot of natural light will be important.

Thoughts? Hoping to get started on this build when the weather gets a little warmer! Thanks!!

Chris
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Old 01-27-2019, 04:17 PM   #2
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My 2c. Why not plumb hot water to sink as well? Wouldnít be hard. Also, in our travels we found that a bathroom is 10x more important than a shower. Shower is nice, but toilet is a must, so make sure that your setup accommodates it well. Also, if you are in a campground or have access to rest areas with dump stations, a traditional black tank setup is much easier to deal with, and is cheaper. More work to install though...
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Old 01-28-2019, 09:25 AM   #3
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Thanks for the response! I've been debating hooking in the sink to the hot water heater for some time, and in the long term, definitely! In the short term, I'm not certain, as we're trying to use the water pump as little as possible as we're not going to have any sort of solar in the short term. The thinking was for the little time we'd need hot water for showers, we can simply hook the pump to the main batteries for now, and when we get solar, we can do the plumbing a bit better. In retrospect, though, it wouldn't hurt to plumb in the hot water now, though!

As for the bathroom, we'll have a portable compost toilet that will live in the shower stall, and simply be removed for the 5 minutes we need the shower. We're trying to avoid the black tank, and like everything we've seen on compost toilets so far.

Anyway, the seats have been removed, and I started taking down the wall panels so I can get to the ceiling panels to remove them. Thank goodness this is mostly screws and not rivets! The only major chunk of rivets I need to worry about is the bar above the windows that the wheelchair belts hooked to. It's riveted every 6 inches, though I think I only need to worry about the rivets right at the frame uprights. Time to start drilling...
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Old 02-09-2019, 11:32 PM   #4
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Like your initial floor plan. We're also converting a 6 window shortie, a '91 dog nose International. We are finding every bit of space to be at a premium, and have made similar choices as you. We are also doing a raised bed across the back with a garage, water tanks, and pump under it. We are going with a black tank and toilet, as I helped a friend empty his compost toilet once, and that was enough for me. But whichever works for you. One thing you will want to keep in mind when installing your cabinetry and appliances/cooler is balancing the weight side to side. Your suspension is more civilized than some buses, and weight is critical. I will be very curious to see how you lay out your wiring. I am on our 3rd revision of the wiring, and it could change again. Keep us posted & photos.
John
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Old 02-10-2019, 10:40 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david.dgeorge07 View Post
My 2c. Why not plumb hot water to sink as well? Wouldnít be hard. Also, in our travels we found that a bathroom is 10x more important than a shower. Shower is nice, but toilet is a must, so make sure that your setup accommodates it well. Also, if you are in a campground or have access to rest areas with dump stations, a traditional black tank setup is much easier to deal with, and is cheaper. More work to install though...
I have to agree with David. If I had to choose between a toilet or a shower I would take the shower.

I see mention of a toilet in your post but don't see it in the layout?

I do disagree regarding ease of use/maintenance of black tank vs composting toilet. I have full timed in RV's and buses for ten years. The last two years I had a composting toilet.

I would not even consider putting a conventional RV toilet in my new bus.


That is what is great about the whole skoolie process. We each get to choose what works best for each of us individually and build it to suit.
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Old 02-10-2019, 11:54 AM   #6
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Hi Steve,
Now you have me curious about composting toilets. I have had RVs for 17 years, all with black tanks, so just got used to the 'stinky slinky' hookup. You have had full-time experience with both, so why the preference for composting toilets? Was my bad experience with emptying a compost a rare situation? I was full-time for the last 2 years, and am always looking for a better solution to make life easier. I would really appreciate your insight.
John
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Old 02-10-2019, 12:40 PM   #7
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Composting toilets work by keeping the #1 & #2 separated. Their mixing is what causes the stench. With a regular toilet you are limited where you can empty it legally. I would say you negative experience with that is not unusual. Some have gone as long as a month without emptying the bucket of #2. When it's time , you just bag the contents and deposit them in an appropriate manner. No water plumbed for flushing, no drain plumbing to black tank. You can make your own very cost effectively. Here is mine, I have about $45 in it, just need to build a cabinet around it. Manufactured compost toilets are in the $1K range.
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Old 02-10-2019, 01:05 PM   #8
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Very ingenious! This might work for FAROK (Chris) as well. You should market your design plans for this portable unit.
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Old 02-10-2019, 06:20 PM   #9
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I'm thinking in my head of designing a toilet very much like that! I don't see spending $1K on a compost toilet for a vacation bus. When I get it figured out, I'll post it. The goal is to use gallon jugs for #1. So far I have about $15 in parts, but haven't assembled it yet.

Chris
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Old 02-11-2019, 10:11 AM   #10
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I splurged on mine and bought a commercially made urine diverter. Total cost: $86.
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Old 02-11-2019, 03:56 PM   #11
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Full disclosure: I havenít had a composting toilet, but when I was planning my build I remember reading in various places that people who did DIY often had problems with odor - sometimes not that bad so they wouldnít notice but guests might.

Iím sure that some donít, but fear of that is part of what drove my decision.

I came away with the conclusion that that was the main reason natures head could ask the price they do.

Again, not my experience, but my research assessment from 1.5 years ago

It also depends a lot on how much time boondocking vs campground. If you spend a lot of time in a campground hooked up for your gray water, it just makes sense to empty black through your existing hook up. If boondocking mostly I agree composting would be the way to go.
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Old 02-11-2019, 04:08 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david.dgeorge07 View Post
Full disclosure: I havenít had a composting toilet, but when I was planning my build I remember reading in various places that people who did DIY often had problems with odor - sometimes not that bad so they wouldnít notice but guests might.

Iím sure that some donít, but fear of that is part of what drove my decision.

I came away with the conclusion that that was the main reason natures head could ask the price they do.

Again, not my experience, but my research assessment from 1.5 years ago

It also depends a lot on how much time boondocking vs campground. If you spend a lot of time in a campground hooked up for your gray water, it just makes sense to empty black through your existing hook up. If boondocking mostly I agree composting would be the way to go.
I bet those who had problems with odors probably didn't vent properly or cover the #2 properly after going. I have 2 cat litter boxes and a 5g Homer bucket. When they go I just scoop it into the bucket, it's half full and doesn't smell unless you stick your head down there. I'm lucky that they will go #2 in the litter box, but will always go outside to pee.
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Old 02-11-2019, 04:18 PM   #13
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I bet those who had problems with odors probably didn't vent properly or cover the #2 properly after going.
Exactly! A small pancake fan or computer fan venting to outside takes very little power and eliminates pretty much all smells.
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:50 AM   #14
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Composting toilets work by keeping the #1 & #2 separated. Their mixing is what causes the stench. With a regular toilet you are limited where you can empty it legally. I would say you negative experience with that is not unusual. Some have gone as long as a month without emptying the bucket of #2. When it's time , you just bag the contents and deposit them in an appropriate manner. No water plumbed for flushing, no drain plumbing to black tank. You can make your own very cost effectively. Here is mine, I have about $45 in it, just need to build a cabinet around it. Manufactured compost toilets are in the $1K range.
I know this was from awhile ago, but do you have how you made this toilet posted anywhere?
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Old 02-23-2019, 01:51 AM   #15
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altho it is difficult to ignore motorhomes as the model for conversion, I would suggest just camping in it for awhile. Obviously you don't want things flying thru the air, but many want the house experience with running water, hot water, showers, bedrooms with door and closets and built in drawers, full galley, dining area and of course a living room or just camp out for awhile. I live in the seattle/tacoma area and lived on board for seven yrs then lived in my shuttle bus often with the girlfriend now wife for an additional 7 yrs. I did put an expensive interior in my first shuttle bus, but there is a point of no return in maintance and it became more cost effective to dump that bus with its expensive interior and have had my current short bus for about 7 yrs. I learned. When you are full time, it is nice to switch things around. Fabric is your cheapest decorating material. Your biggest heat loss will be your windows. A little buddy heater uses less propane than your rv heater. Being able to move furniture around makes the small space more fun. Do not compromise on safety. Seats used while driving are made for vehicles and have seatbelts. Use led lighting, instead of building in entertainment use tablets, headphones instead of expensive tv and sound system. Don't have anything that people want to steal, when they do steal just replace it. Live outdoors, cook outdoors every chance you get, stay away from wood stoves which results in dirt, soot, critters, bad air, fire and really poor air quality, just because you think you are healthy, do a search really bad for you and the enviornment. Propane, burns clean, almost 100% and gives off a little moisture. You need air exchanges inside for health, breathing each others air with or without wood smoke is not good, make sure outside air gets inside even in very cold weather, just crank up the heat to compensate. Learn new ways of doing things, if you have access to electricity, cuddle up in your seat with an electric blanket, low electricty draw it heats you alot, but not the space. Blankets are great insulation as are insulated clothing. See it all as an adventure, not something to endure. Now in time when the new has worn off, you will find it nice to build something in, that is the time to make some plans, maybe a little cooking area or an area to use a computer. Make room for art, even small tiny art, you can even make it yourself. I take showers at the ymca or atheletic club, I avoid all the storage tanks for water and waste water and the need for dumping and electrical pumps and pipes that freeze and break or rodents eat. Take your time and repurpose stuff for your use at garage sales, habit for H, thrift stores, good luck
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