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Old 04-14-2019, 01:13 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 12
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Ford
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3 diesel
Total Novice Build - Ford E-350 Diesel

Honestly, I don't even know how to use a forum like this, let alone convert a school bus by myself.

At any rate, here is the plan I've devised so far, including some current photos and the present state of my floorplan. Just my kid and I wanting to live/travel in this full-time.

Critique away! What am I missing? How do I find/hire someone to help with planning power setup and doing the wiring and plumbing?

  • Remove stop sign/front arm
  • Remove stickers/decals
  • Remove dual passenger door and replace with screen door and security door
  • Drain coolant/remove floor heater
  • Strip walls and ceiling
  • Install two ceiling vents
  • Skin some windows
  • Tint and reseal windows, possibly flip, add screens
  • Seal side handicap access door
  • Insulate walls and ceiling
  • Figure out wiring? (ceiling vents, coffee maker, toaster, wifi extender, lighting, device charging, mini-fridge?)
  • Figure out solar (being given one 100w panel, add more?)
  • Figure out plumbing? (kitchen sink and outdoor shower)
  • Figure out propane? (oven/stovetop, mini-fridge?)
  • Add under-bus storage for propane
  • Install outdoor shower
  • Cover walls and ceiling
  • Look into diesel drip heater
  • Replace driver's seat
  • Add passenger seat
  • Revamp dash area
  • Seal roof
  • Sand,wash,prime,paint exterior
  • Add ladder to back
  • Build bed, storage, kitchen, sofa
  • Install countertop and appliances
Attached Images
File Type: jpg harpa_exterior.jpg (153.9 KB, 49 views)
File Type: jpg harpa_interior.jpg (127.6 KB, 80 views)
File Type: jpg harpa_floorplan.JPG (44.4 KB, 79 views)
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Old 04-14-2019, 08:22 AM   #2
Bus Crazy
 
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Location: Chattanooga, TN
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Year: 2001
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Thomas
Engine: CAT 3126
You may want to consider insulation. And be prepared for many items on your list to expand out with lists of their own. Looks like a nice project!
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Old 04-14-2019, 01:13 PM   #3
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Location: south east BC, close to the Canadian/US border
Posts: 2,262
Year: 1975
Coachwork: Chevy
Chassis: 8 window
Engine: 454 LS7
Rated Cap: 24,500
Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderlustLessons View Post
Honestly, I don't even know how to use a forum like this, let alone convert a school bus by myself.

At any rate, here is the plan I've devised so far, including some current photos and the present state of my floorplan. Just my kid and I wanting to live/travel in this full-time.

Critique away! What am I missing? How do I find/hire someone to help with planning power setup and doing the wiring and plumbing?

  • Remove stop sign/front arm
  • Remove stickers/decals
  • Remove dual passenger door and replace with screen door and security door
  • Drain coolant/remove floor heater
  • Strip walls and ceiling
  • Install two ceiling vents
  • Skin some windows
  • Tint and reseal windows, possibly flip, add screens
  • Seal side handicap access door
  • Insulate walls and ceiling
  • Figure out wiring? (ceiling vents, coffee maker, toaster, wifi extender, lighting, device charging, mini-fridge?)
  • Figure out solar (being given one 100w panel, add more?)
  • Figure out plumbing? (kitchen sink and outdoor shower)
  • Figure out propane? (oven/stovetop, mini-fridge?)
  • Add under-bus storage for propane
  • Install outdoor shower
  • Cover walls and ceiling
  • Look into diesel drip heater
  • Replace driver's seat
  • Add passenger seat
  • Revamp dash area
  • Seal roof
  • Sand,wash,prime,paint exterior
  • Add ladder to back
  • Build bed, storage, kitchen, sofa
  • Install countertop and appliances
keep reading here on the forum and ask lots of questions - there are experts here willing to share their knowledge
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Old 04-14-2019, 03:33 PM   #4
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Damascus, OR
Posts: 606
Year: 2004
Chassis: International
Engine: T444e w/ 2000 Allison Trans
Rated Cap: 35
This looks like a great start. There will inevitably be a list that will continue to grow and change as the build goes. Did you get the bus with the floor already done? Is there insulation under it? like David said, think insulation depending on where you will be (climate speaking). Looking over your list I see a diesel heater. wise choice. I think I may add one as well. They are cheap enough and seem to work good.

flipping windows? upside down? the tabs require only to be pressing in when going down, when returning to the closed position, they can just be slid up. reversing this, they could just close under there own weight (or bump if driving), unless you figured out something different.

Ceiling vents.... perhaps one of them should be an a/c unit... (again depending where you will be)

Salvaging parts from a damaged camper or something could save you tons.

"Seal side handicap access door" closing it permanently? or do you still want access?

Also consider holding tanks. Fresh water, Grey water. Not sure what kind of room you have under the bus.

This site has been extremely valuable to me and is filled with wonderful people.

If you need help, you could drive it across town and I might be able to help with a few things. Bring your daughter. I have an 8yo. daughter and they could play together. When did you pick up your bus? was it local?

last current thought. the front door. make sure it is suitable for driving. it will need to have tempered glass. consider an RV door. (I have one that may work for you...)

okay, one more thought..... swivel front seats that can rotate to become an intergrated part of the living area while you are parked?

okay. last one.... awning to have an outside shaded area?

Good luck. have fun. welcome.
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Old 04-15-2019, 01:11 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 12
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Ford
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3 diesel
Thanks! The floor was already done when I bought the bus and I plan to leave that alone. From what I can tell, there's a moisture control layer, plywood, then vinyl plank.

I will be insulating the walls and ceiling. I really don't want to pay for spray insulation, so I'll probably go another route.

Definitely need to research the windows more. I thought I'd heard that flipping them can help diminish leaks. I have a couple small leaks I hope to find once I strip the walls and ceiling.

Good point on the AC unit. I wonder if I could find one to fit above the back center emergency door. Would one AC unit and one vent allow for needed airflow, regardless of the weather, without opening any windows?

I'd love to salvage used parts. I plan to visit a couple Pick n' Pull locations, and I was going to keep my eyes peeled for swivel chairs. Or, I think I understand that I could add my own swivel base to captain's chairs if I find some? I knew I'd also be scanning for an RV door, too - it would be amazing if you had one that worked! I still need to measure the door space, but that's probably a standard size?

Looks like there's a fair amount of room under the bus on the side where the kitchen will be. I imagined under-sink holding tanks in order to avoid more welding/metal building?

Hadn't thought about an awning. Oh, why not.

I agree this site is fantastic. SO MUCH information to read through and digest. It feels like getting a free college degree.

Lastly - my daughter was thrilled at the idea of meeting another 8yo! Great idea. Maybe when it stops drizzling ever darn day.
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Old 04-15-2019, 01:13 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 12
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Ford
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3 diesel
Oh, and I do want to seal the handicap access door. That will be at the foot of the bed and I want to skin over the window and seal the edges.
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Old 04-15-2019, 01:36 PM   #7
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Dawsonville, Ga.
Posts: 8,308
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Genesis
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466/3060
Rated Cap: 77
I would be concerned about the top being on the bottom of the windows, seems they would leak easier at the opening at the bottom now. The top of the window, when closed, slides up into a channel to keep water from getting in. If you turn it upside down all those channels are at the bottom allowing water in.

Here's the proper way to delete a door you don't need.
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Old 04-16-2019, 12:08 PM   #8
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Damascus, OR
Posts: 606
Year: 2004
Chassis: International
Engine: T444e w/ 2000 Allison Trans
Rated Cap: 35
Good old Portland rain....

A/C unit: I am guessing your bus has 1 emergency rooftop exit? I deleted mine. The opening was around 25"x25" give or take. I skinned over it with some steel from a steel yard. For a piece that size you should be able to find a scrap one. Not too spendy. Standard size openings for RV roof vents and A/C units is 14x14" I just cut a hole in the skin I just replaced and installed my a/c unit. Fan was relocated over another section of roof. just need to start gathering the right materials. For the vents, a/c you will need some buytl tape, silicone (many prefer as I do, Dicor Lap Sealant), self tapping screws. (I have several pics on my build page that show the a/c and vent install)

Does your roof have rivets or screws?

Okay, I am at work and better get back to it. Spend a million hours on here. Best resource for all us skoolie folks!

Does your bus have a name?
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Old 04-16-2019, 12:28 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 12
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Ford
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3 diesel
Quote:
Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
I would be concerned about the top being on the bottom of the windows, seems they would leak easier at the opening at the bottom now. The top of the window, when closed, slides up into a channel to keep water from getting in. If you turn it upside down all those channels are at the bottom allowing water in.

Here's the proper way to delete a door you don't need.
That makes sense as far as the windows go. I'll plan on keeping them right side up.

Can you tell me more about the door deletion? Did you remove the door entirely and skin over the big opening? It's hard for me to even imagine how there was a door there (in your pic) to begin with since the rub rails are intact?
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Old 04-16-2019, 01:16 PM   #10
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Damascus, OR
Posts: 606
Year: 2004
Chassis: International
Engine: T444e w/ 2000 Allison Trans
Rated Cap: 35
https://portland.craigslist.org/clc/...866575496.html

$250, will deliver. wonder what it has inside that works that you can salvage? Can't see if it has A/C. worth looking into...
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Old 04-16-2019, 01:32 PM   #11
Bus Geek
 
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Dawsonville, Ga.
Posts: 8,308
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Genesis
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466/3060
Rated Cap: 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderlustLessons View Post
That makes sense as far as the windows go. I'll plan on keeping them right side up.

Can you tell me more about the door deletion? Did you remove the door entirely and skin over the big opening? It's hard for me to even imagine how there was a door there (in your pic) to begin with since the rub rails are intact?
The rub rails were not intact. If you look at the bunk bed windows you will see where I had to remove a section of rub rail. That section from both sides got used to weld into the gap left from the door removal.
Then I custom fabbed the ends of the rub rails to match the window ends.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg sidedoor.jpg (16.2 KB, 192 views)
File Type: jpg sidedoor1.jpg (18.3 KB, 190 views)
File Type: jpg Rubrail welded.jpg (136.6 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg rubrail end.jpg (105.6 KB, 9 views)
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Old 04-16-2019, 02:09 PM   #12
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 12
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Ford
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3 diesel
Wow! I sent them a message. Thanks for sharing. It's funny - at the start of the month I possessed no vehicle titles. Then my Subaru was paid off and I bought my bus. Seem to be acquiring them as a new hobby.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:59 PM   #13
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 12
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Ford
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3 diesel
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rovobay View Post
Good old Portland rain....

A/C unit: I am guessing your bus has 1 emergency rooftop exit? I deleted mine. The opening was around 25"x25" give or take. I skinned over it with some steel from a steel yard. For a piece that size you should be able to find a scrap one. Not too spendy. Standard size openings for RV roof vents and A/C units is 14x14" I just cut a hole in the skin I just replaced and installed my a/c unit. Fan was relocated over another section of roof. just need to start gathering the right materials. For the vents, a/c you will need some buytl tape, silicone (many prefer as I do, Dicor Lap Sealant), self tapping screws. (I have several pics on my build page that show the a/c and vent install)

Does your roof have rivets or screws?

Okay, I am at work and better get back to it. Spend a million hours on here. Best resource for all us skoolie folks!

Does your bus have a name?
My bus doesn't have any rooftop exits, so I'll have to cut openings. Looks like walls and ceiling are screws, which I'm relieved about.

We decided to name our bus Harpa, after the concert hall in Reykjavik, Iceland. That was the country my daughter chose for her first international trip and we both loved the Harpa building. Look it up - it's gorgeous! Our paint colors are going to be somewhat inspired by it.

Yesterday I spent some time taking off reflective tape and some of the decals. I felt pretty proud of my ingenuity - I used a rubber stamp embossing tool to heat up the tape before scraping it off.

Removing stop sign and front arm this weekend.

Found a reputable mechanic nearby who's going to do a full once-over and I think I'm going to ask him to drain the coolant from the heater and remove it.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:06 PM   #14
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: pa
Posts: 1,521
Year: 98
Coachwork: 1. Corbeil & 2. Thomas
Chassis: 1 ford e350 2 mercedes
Engine: 7.3 powerstroke & MBE906
Our other bus is an e350. You can find the build thread under elf-bus. We did it a couple of years ago.
Good luck j
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Old 04-20-2019, 07:23 PM   #15
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: NC, TN, and CA
Posts: 104
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Eldorado (REV)
Chassis: Chevy Express Cutaway g3500
Engine: Turbo diesel 6.5L
Rated Cap: 14
I have the Chevy version of what you have. And year ago I started the same way you did. This forum is the best forum of all of them for information and support. My son is helping me and some of the things I am having a professional do. Next month I am having someone replace my bi-fold door with either a RV door or a regular house exterior door. I have already stripped out most everything and put in insulation in the flooring. I asked my son what to do with the heater (ugly black box in the back) and he just disconnected the wiring. I am going to have heating put in that works off my diesel fuel tank. I have been using Ross Lukeman's Van conversion program for some of my remodeling. I plan to put in solar power, too. Good luck.
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Old 04-22-2019, 01:26 AM   #16
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Waltham MA
Posts: 483
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Lewis
Chassis: Ford E350
Engine: 7.3L Diesel
Rated Cap: 14
Hey there,

I have a bus that's very similar to yours and am documenting things via my YouTube channel. You have a diesel drip heater on your list - are oyu talking about an air heater? I have one and did a video on it.

You seem to be planning a much more ambitious build than I've done but you might get something out of taking a look. If not, no worries. Here's a link to the channel:

https://MaxMini.TV

and here's the diesel heater video:
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Old 04-22-2019, 08:18 AM   #17
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: NC, TN, and CA
Posts: 104
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Eldorado (REV)
Chassis: Chevy Express Cutaway g3500
Engine: Turbo diesel 6.5L
Rated Cap: 14
This is the one I am planning. I have a complete video instruction with hard copy back up. Espar (Eberspächer) Airtronic Heater. Probably the D2. Yes, warm air. I am planning to run it in the bottom of a cabinet venting thru the toe kick. That way I won't stub my toe and trip over anything sticking out. Ross Lukeman teaches this course. He does an excellent job.
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:02 AM   #18
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Waltham MA
Posts: 483
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Lewis
Chassis: Ford E350
Engine: 7.3L Diesel
Rated Cap: 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharee100 View Post
Ross Lukeman teaches this course. He does an excellent job.
Hmm, I didn't know there was a course! I will check him out.

Good luck with everything!
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:07 AM   #19
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Waltham MA
Posts: 483
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Lewis
Chassis: Ford E350
Engine: 7.3L Diesel
Rated Cap: 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderlustLessons View Post

We decided to name our bus Harpa, after the concert hall in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Great name, and super unique! You are the first person I've heard of naming your bus after a building. Of course if I'd heard it without the back story I would have thought it was a female version of Harpo Marx but nothing wrong with that!

Good luck with everything, it sounds like you are really tackling this head-on! You will find a lot of support here.
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Old 04-22-2019, 05:18 PM   #20
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: NorCal
Posts: 131
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Girardin
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
I also have a 1995 E350 7.3L, and here's what I've learned:



The big things to take care of right away, in my personal and unprofessional opinion, are the following:
  • Remove all references to it being a school bus, including painting it a different color (this may vary by state, but CA requires you to paint it a different color if not driving it as a school bus--I doubt you'd get pulled over though)
  • Bring it to the mechanic ASAP to give it a one over, especially for oil and transmission service (you could also have them reroute the coolant lines for the heater up by the engine--don't just cut the lines!)
  • Get it registered and titled and insured
Once those three things are taken care of, you can drive around safe and legal to pick up supplies for the conversion.


The next few things to take care of from your list, in order (again in my unprofessional opinion), are:

  • Install the passenger seat so your daughter can ride with you. I encourage you to throw an air mattress in the back and go on a trip so you can figure out what you need vs what you want. I highly recommend https://shop4seats.com/ but they do take like 4-6 weeks to deliver. Or you could go to a pick n pull, but either way, make sure you get a good seat belt and secure it (I used https://www.seatbeltsplus.com/product/CH300.html, you can also let your kid pick the seat belt color which is fun)
  • Remove the heater and its lines. Again, don't just cut the lines, otherwise the next time you start your engine you'll just pump all your coolant out. I had the mechanic loop the lines together up by the engine.
  • Strip the walls and the ceiling. You're lucky your floor is already done, that was a huge pain to remove for me.
  • Remove/seal the handicap door, others around here will have a better idea of what to do there
  • If you really want to get rid of the bus door, this would be a good time to do it.
The point is you want to demo and remove everything that needs to be demo'd/removed first, then build up from there. The very first thing I would add, other than what I put above, is the bed so you guys have a comfortable place to sleep.


Also, make sure all the bus wiring is good. If your right blinker doesn't work, you'll want to take care of that wiring before you build a wall over it.



Then, before cutting any holes in the ceiling or walls or whatever, make sure you have a solid plan. My plan has changed like four times since I finished the demo, and I'm really glad I didn't already cut a hole in the ceiling for an air conditioner, because now I'm planning on no air conditioner. Same thing with the electrical--I'm glad I didn't already buy that fancy inverter, because now I'm planning on no inverter and no generator too.



Finally, I think it's useful to go bottom up, that is, install all your below floor things first, then build the furniture, then do the ceiling accessories.


Also, simpler is better! Good luck, this forum is a great resource and I'll be looking for updates.
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