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Old 01-02-2019, 12:57 AM   #1
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Roof raise/Conversion Denver

Hey everyone! I'm still super new and trying to do a ton of reading here and elsewhere, but ready to dive into the Skoolie world full force. My girlfriend and I are buying a bus that we're going to be driving back to Denver from New York (near Poughkeepsie) in about a week. We were already going to visit her mom and got a line on a bus that sounds like a great deal: a 2003 International, 117k miles and zero rust from the pics (still have to check it out in person, of course). DT466E engine, automatic, air brakes, dog nose, about 30ft long.

We want to get started as soon as we get back to Denver, and we're looking into getting a roof raise. Neither of us has ANY experience with construction, but we're both intelligent and willing to work hard. I assume at least the welding is outside our scope, of course, but any ideas how much we could expect to pay for a roof raise if we're willing to help? I've heard some wildly varying figures, like a couple grand if you do 90% yourself, and 10k if you pay someone else to do the entire thing. We have a bit of a nest egg to use, and possibly a bit more we could secure in loan(s), but we don't want to blow our whole wad on a roof and be stuck scrambling to finish the rest. We have 9 months before our current lease is up, but we'd still like to get the ball rolling ASAP.

I've seen the website of a place here called Colorado Custom Coachworks, and saw a video of someone touring their facility, but I haven't heard many direct reviews. I seem to recall reading there was also someone here in South Denver or CO Springs that did roof raises? Anyway, any and all help is super appreciated, and I will continue reading, learning, and sharing my experiences with you all. We're so dang excited!
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:28 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by BakerSage View Post
Hey everyone! I'm still super new and trying to do a ton of reading here and elsewhere, but ready to dive into the Skoolie world full force. My girlfriend and I are buying a bus that we're going to be driving back to Denver from New York (near Poughkeepsie) in about a week. We were already going to visit her mom and got a line on a bus that sounds like a great deal: a 2003 International, 117k miles and zero rust from the pics (still have to check it out in person, of course). DT466E engine, automatic, air brakes, dog nose, about 30ft long.

We want to get started as soon as we get back to Denver, and we're looking into getting a roof raise. Neither of us has ANY experience with construction, but we're both intelligent and willing to work hard. I assume at least the welding is outside our scope, of course, but any ideas how much we could expect to pay for a roof raise if we're willing to help? I've heard some wildly varying figures, like a couple grand if you do 90% yourself, and 10k if you pay someone else to do the entire thing. We have a bit of a nest egg to use, and possibly a bit more we could secure in loan(s), but we don't want to blow our whole wad on a roof and be stuck scrambling to finish the rest. We have 9 months before our current lease is up, but we'd still like to get the ball rolling ASAP.

I've seen the website of a place here called Colorado Custom Coachworks, and saw a video of someone touring their facility, but I haven't heard many direct reviews. I seem to recall reading there was also someone here in South Denver or CO Springs that did roof raises? Anyway, any and all help is super appreciated, and I will continue reading, learning, and sharing my experiences with you all. We're so dang excited!
I would seriously crawl around that bus. Living in the Northeast, I can't believe there is no rust. I hope you found your unicorn! Good luck.
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Old 01-02-2019, 06:35 AM   #3
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Last I heard the place in Denver charges 14 grand for a roof raise.
For 14 grand you can buy a coach with high headroom.
If you live in CO I'd definitely hold off and buy a bus out there. CO buses are high spec.
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Old 01-02-2019, 08:36 AM   #4
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If you live in CO I'd definitely hold off and buy a bus out there. CO buses are high spec.
Absolutely. You'll likely get a secondary braking system like a driveline retarder, which will save wear and tear on your brakes. Rust won't be nearly the issue it can be in buses from upstate NY. I know Chrome Yellow Corp. does bus conversions in the Denver area, but their roof raises start at 8K, which was way outside of our price range. They do other work though too, so if you're in the area you might find it beneficial....they've done many conversions, so they know their way around buses. Is a roof raise really necessary for your build? You might consider a coach or a transit bus too, as they have higher headroom.
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Old 01-02-2019, 09:56 AM   #5
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Roger the Colorado buses being pretty choice. Anytime we get someone looking for a rig that can handle cold and steep grades, we typically say "start looking in Colorado". They are mostly speced to handle just such considerations.


And...a Retarder is worth its' weight in gold on steep hills.
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Old 01-02-2019, 02:40 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies, guys! We plan to inspect any bus very thoroughly inside and out. We've been looking around Colorado for a bit and hadn't seen anything that quite fit our needs. This one may not pan out either, of course, but whatever happens I'll make sure it is thoroughly checked out before I try to build a home within it. ;)

Still debating whether the roof raise will be 100% necessary, and I think if we do, we can try to do as much of the work ourselves as possible, and it won't be half our budget. I seem to recall hearing about a fellow here named turf that was in CO? I would love to just pay someone here to help instead of a big overpriced shop
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Old 01-02-2019, 02:52 PM   #7
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I just watched a few unicorns go to auction in Eagle Colorado.
Where are you looking? Try the auction sites. CL and Ebay are just hopeful flippers.
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Old 01-13-2019, 05:25 PM   #8
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We ended up buying it and driving it home to Denver. There was a little bit of surface rust here and there, but nothing I can't fix. ;) The bus was $3850, not counting the fuel to drive 1900 miles home. Good lord diesel is expensive on the east coast! (Like everything else there, I suppose...)

We dropped it off at a mechanic to have them give it a once over, then we'll be taking it to Colorado Custom Coach works to figure out how much they'll charge for some of the more important structural stuff we don't feel confident doing ourselves (plumbing/electrical), and then how much it'll be to rent space and tools to do the rest ourselves. We decided against the roof raise, due to the potential expense and the fact that, since we won't have a loft, it won't really be necessary. I also don't want to worry too much going under bridges. We already plan to add solar panels and a chimney for the wood stove, which is going to make it tall enough.

We were both really nervous at first driving it, but by the end it was pretty fun! It definitely feels weird driving a regular car now. ��

Not much else to update, still got a TON of reading and learning to do...
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:09 PM   #9
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We ended up buying it and driving it home to Denver. There was a little bit of surface rust here and there, but nothing I can't fix. ;) The bus was $3850, not counting the fuel to drive 1900 miles home. Good lord diesel is expensive on the east coast! (Like everything else there, I suppose...)

We dropped it off at a mechanic to have them give it a once over, then we'll be taking it to Colorado Custom Coach works to figure out how much they'll charge for some of the more important structural stuff we don't feel confident doing ourselves (plumbing/electrical), and then how much it'll be to rent space and tools to do the rest ourselves. We decided against the roof raise, due to the potential expense and the fact that, since we won't have a loft, it won't really be necessary. I also don't want to worry too much going under bridges. We already plan to add solar panels and a chimney for the wood stove, which is going to make it tall enough.


We were both really nervous at first driving it, but by the end it was pretty fun! It definitely feels weird driving a regular car now. ��

Not much else to update, still got a TON of reading and learning to do...
Diesel fuel here in Ga. is cheaper than Colo. What are you paying there and what did it cost on your trip?
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:27 PM   #10
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3 to 3.50 on the east coast, about 2.50-2.75 in the Midwest
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:33 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by BakerSage View Post
We ended up buying it and driving it home to Denver. There was a little bit of surface rust here and there, but nothing I can't fix. ;) The bus was $3850, not counting the fuel to drive 1900 miles home. Good lord diesel is expensive on the east coast! (Like everything else there, I suppose...)

We dropped it off at a mechanic to have them give it a once over, then we'll be taking it to Colorado Custom Coach works to figure out how much they'll charge for some of the more important structural stuff we don't feel confident doing ourselves (plumbing/electrical), and then how much it'll be to rent space and tools to do the rest ourselves. We decided against the roof raise, due to the potential expense and the fact that, since we won't have a loft, it won't really be necessary. I also don't want to worry too much going under bridges. We already plan to add solar panels and a chimney for the wood stove, which is going to make it tall enough.

We were both really nervous at first driving it, but by the end it was pretty fun! It definitely feels weird driving a regular car now. ��

Not much else to update, still got a TON of reading and learning to do...
I've seen some high dollar estimates for roof raises at that place, but no one has been able to clear up how much work is done for the money. How much just to do the raise and leave the skinning and finish to the customer. How much will they complete, I guess with the right budget they will complete turn key one. But what do you get for their $6K roof raise?
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:35 PM   #12
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Last I heard the place in Denver charges 14 grand for a roof raise.
For 14 grand you can buy a coach with high headroom.
If you live in CO I'd definitely hold off and buy a bus out there. CO buses are high spec.
What state of finish is this raise? The number alone does not tell me if that's a bad price, though it surely is.
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Old 01-13-2019, 09:07 PM   #13
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We actually decided not to do the roof raise for the reasons I mentioned earlier, but I will definitely ask them some questions about how much it costs for a given service and let you guys know.
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Old 01-14-2019, 09:52 AM   #14
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Diesel in Dayton this morning $3.59
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Old 01-14-2019, 10:16 AM   #15
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My last top off in central FL was a little less than $3/gal.
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Old 01-14-2019, 10:23 AM   #16
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Where I fuel up right now is $2.79. And for every $100 of groceries I buy I get another $.10/g off
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Old 01-14-2019, 11:58 PM   #17
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Where I fuel up right now is $2.79. And for every $100 of groceries I buy I get another $.10/g off

Sounds like Krogers.


Our local Walmart has it for $2.349 per gallon. [Dallas/Fort Worth area]
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Old 01-19-2019, 03:53 PM   #18
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Denver Roof Raise

Hey there! I live in Denver, and I just had a 2' raise done on my 37 ft IC3800. I went to Chrome Yellow, Inc, and they allowed me to do as much of the prep work as I was willing/able to do, while they did the hard stuff. I ended up paying around $14k for my raise. I saved around $1000 by doing some of it myself. Also note that they did a bunch of fabrication-installing a residential-sized side door, and completely covering all the rear door/windows, as well as where the driver's side emergency exit door was. The work done was absolutely phenomenal, and it's clear they know what they are doing. If you want to PM me, I'm happy to send you some pictures of the work they did, or if you're already in Denver and want to swing by to look in person, I'm happy to let you. I'm very satisfied with the work done.
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Old 01-19-2019, 03:54 PM   #19
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We ended up buying it and driving it home to Denver. There was a little bit of surface rust here and there, but nothing I can't fix. ;) The bus was $3850, not counting the fuel to drive 1900 miles home. Good lord diesel is expensive on the east coast! (Like everything else there, I suppose...)

We dropped it off at a mechanic to have them give it a once over, then we'll be taking it to Colorado Custom Coach works to figure out how much they'll charge for some of the more important structural stuff we don't feel confident doing ourselves (plumbing/electrical), and then how much it'll be to rent space and tools to do the rest ourselves. We decided against the roof raise, due to the potential expense and the fact that, since we won't have a loft, it won't really be necessary. I also don't want to worry too much going under bridges. We already plan to add solar panels and a chimney for the wood stove, which is going to make it tall enough.

We were both really nervous at first driving it, but by the end it was pretty fun! It definitely feels weird driving a regular car now. ��

Not much else to update, still got a TON of reading and learning to do...
We are in Littleton, co by Columbine highschool doing our bus conversion on a 1999 international 3000 40' bus. Let me know if you want to exchange info. We have it buttoned up and 2"of foam below subfloor and are about to have it spray foamed in 1.5 weeks.

On another note our bus is from AZ which means almost no rust but I was wondering if anybody could tell me if you can install an engine brake (or whatever it's called) aftermarket, and roughly how much it costs on a re pusher. I am a bit intimidated with the mountian passes here. Thanks.!
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Old 01-19-2019, 04:07 PM   #20
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There are a number of different types of "retarders" and I am not sure what options work with a rear engine. Many are the "driveline" type meant for rigs with fairly long or multi-part driveshafts. Maybe someone else here can speak to the RE situation


Another option is an old fashioned Jake Brake (compression release) that mounts on the engine. Noisy, but effective.
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