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Old 10-06-2015, 06:52 PM   #1
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Smile Roof raise alternatives

My wife and I recently purchased a 98 Thomas Saf-t-liner from a guy who already started the conversion process. The interior height is 6.5ft, but we would really like to gain some additional inside height. In Texas, the maximum vehicle height is 14ft. We don't plan on driving much.

We are just trying to find a cheaper way to live for a few years so we can save up for a small house, maybe start a family without going into a lot of debt.

I have been reading up about roof raises for several weeks now, and that was our original plan, but then this great bus popped up on craigslist and it was such a good deal, plus a lot of the work was already done, so we snatched it up quick.

The original owner took out the windows, riveted sheet metal in, and insulated the inside quite well, so I no longer want to do a traditional roof raise.

Now I've seen a number of alternatives to a normal roof raise. Some people have welded a mini-bus frame onto the top of their bus, I saw a guy who put a pop-up camper up there, and I have seen a few wooden chimney like additions.

So this got me thinking, what can I do to add additional height and maybe a few windows. My first thought was to weld 3-4 truck caps (also called hard tops, or camper shells) onto the top of the bus. If I found some with well insulated windows, this could add some extra light and make the interior feel more roomy.

Then that got me to thinking, why buy these hard shells, why not make them? I have access to a CNC mill, and I have the original bus windows,

I do a lot of 3D modeling and 3d printing. Perhaps I could design my own additions. Then I thought, why design several small additions, why not one long and wide one?

I have searched on the forums, but I haven't been able to find anyone doing, or even talking about this. If this discussion has already occured, can someone point out the key search phrases? And if not, I would like to start a discussion on additions that could be made to the top of the bus. I would prefer to work with wood since I can have the intricate cuts made on the CNC machine. I might add sheet metal, siding, or plastic to cover the wood for better protection against the elements but that can come later. Right now I would just love to hear any input from the skoolie expects on this site.

I have attached a few rough design ideas below, please let me know what you think.

Notes:
-The drawings are close, but not exactly to scale
-The bus shown in a '91, not a '98, mine looks a little different
-The number and type of windows will likely change
-The wooden braces would as large as possible while still being smaller than 4x8ft (4x8 is easily available and cut-able by the CNC router
-The real bus has 2 long metal ridges going lengthwise down the roof and are not shown in the diagram, but the CNC router can easily cut room for them
-The original bus roof has a number of rounded metal roll over bars all down the roof of the bus. The wooden cross sections would be placed above, and attached to these roll over bars.
-A little over half of the roll over bars would be removed.
-The new upper roof would be covered, sealed, painted, and insulated.
-If I did use the original windows, I would lock them closed for safety and probably insulate them with clear plastic film or double paned glass. Something to keep the hot Texas weather at bay.
-On the rear most wooden brace, I would likely install a window mounted AC unit.
-The lateral bracing, shown in blue, would need to be worked out somehow, again, the CNC router should be able to make something that looks good but still helps distribute forces while driving.
-I will probably build 3 complete sections on the ground, and then assemble them together as one unit after they are hoisted onto the bus.



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Old 10-06-2015, 07:02 PM   #2
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Welcome.

Please don't make a cobbled up mess using truck caps, and other vehicles welded to the top of a bus.

Making messes like that is part of what is causing all the trouble getting converted skoolies insured. They are a motor vehicle accident waiting to happen.

Best would be to just learn to live with the original height of the roof, as many here have.

Also, how can it be insulated well with such a low roof? Good insulation is minimum 2 inches of rigid Styrofoam in the floor, and 2 to3 inches in the ceiling. I have a feeling the bus is not insulated as well as you think.

We all look forward to pictures.

Nat
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Old 10-06-2015, 07:06 PM   #3
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I am having a hard time attaching photos. They are below the size and pixel limits, but I am still getting an 'Upload of file failed' error.
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Old 10-06-2015, 07:10 PM   #4
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Don't try to upload them to this site. That is a bad idea.

Use a third party hosting site like Photobucket.

Instructions can be found here.

http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f10/ho...-op-11846.html

Nat
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Old 10-06-2015, 07:19 PM   #5
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rough draft idea 1

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Old 10-06-2015, 07:20 PM   #6
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bus photo 1

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Old 10-06-2015, 07:21 PM   #7
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Old 10-06-2015, 07:36 PM   #8
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Nice looking bus.

The roof support ribs cannot be cut out to open the ceiling up like that. The whole bus will fold and crumple.

Nat
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Old 10-06-2015, 08:58 PM   #9
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Nat,
Thanks for your quick feedback!
Do you know what percentage of the support ribs can be cut out? I've seen several buses that had one or two removed. I knew that removing most of the support ribs was not feasible, but I was hoping that they functioned more for roll over support perhaps a little less as wall supports.
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Old 10-06-2015, 10:09 PM   #10
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I would not remove any of the supports in the roof section.

Cutting out every second wall support is fine, but the roof will sag real bad with even one support removed.

If you were to add headers up top, you might be ok removing two out of every three supports. However, just like in house construction, for every one removed, they must be replaced at the ends of the headers. If you remove one stud, you need to add one on each side. Remove two, add two on each side. In home wall construction, they call them cripples and king studs.

In all honesty, just demo the entire inside of the bus, raise the roof and start over. Trying to do what your thinking is going to end up more work, time, and the end result will not be nearly as strong as a good roof raise.

For reference, I have never seen anyone on this site remove roof supports. We have done it at the bus shop when tearing buses apart for scrap. That's how I know how bad they sag.

What did they skin over the windows with? Tin, wood?

Nat
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Old 10-07-2015, 12:45 PM   #11
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The previous owner took all of the windows out, riveted sheet metal to the frame, installed insulation inside, added furring strips, and then wood panels. I know I will be replacing the wood panels inside, but the sheet metal work looked well done, and he even used expanding foam to seal up the wall insulation tight. He added a few RV windows, and there are two more that come with the bus, but have not been installed yet.

Now that I know more about insulation, and it's importance, I will double check the previous insulation work. I have an infrared thermometer, and I should be able to get access to a thermal camera, so I will check for hot spots and thermal bridges. Also, I'm not sure I will add the extra windows. I've lived in Texas most of my life and I know how much a difference air conditioning makes. If it breaks for even one day, life suddenly feels unbearable. In every apartment I've lived in, I have always done thermal insulation projects. I add Mylar to the windows to reflect light out, I add clear plastic film to the window bays to cut down convection currents, I put up black out curtains, and I even put foam inserts into the wall and light sockets. I am usually able to cut my electric bill in half. On top of that, I have free energy at nights, so by timeshifting activities, and using lots of timers, having a window AC unit that only runs at night, I have been able to offload 59% of my energy usage to the nightime when it is free. (I pay above average rates during the day, but I use as little as possible, so I come out way ahead).
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Old 08-24-2020, 02:28 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nat_ster View Post
Nice looking bus.

The roof support ribs cannot be cut out to open the ceiling up like that. The whole bus will fold and crumple.

Nat
Hey nat. When you say sag, where do you mean? I've seen a few people do trolley style raises similar to this but smaller and they were fine. We are about to do one in the middle of our bus that will span between 4 ribs. And be roughly 4.5 ft wide. we will be either welding or bolting a new box like steel frame to the cut ribs to rebuild the strength as well as allow a frame for a mini split unit to attach. I'm curious about what sag to watch out for? Do you mean the cut ribs will lean in? If so wouldn't a new raised frame stop that from happening. Thanks ahead for any insight
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Old 08-24-2020, 03:29 PM   #13
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Nat has not been on the forum for some years now so you will probably not get a reply.

Your "box" idea should work out OK especially if you include several replacement bows in the raised portion. I got lucky because my bus came with the "box" from the factory which allowed me to install a 3' wide by 9' long tent style pop up.

The above is assuming your bus body rests on a standard frame and is not of the unibody design.
Jack

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Old 08-24-2020, 03:32 PM   #14
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Nat has not been on the forum for some years now so you will probably not get a reply.

Your "box" idea should work out OK especially if you include several replacement bows in the raised portion. I got lucky because my bus came with the "box" from the factory which allowed me to install a 3' wide by 9' long tent style pop up.

The above is assuming your bus body rests on a standard frame and is not of the unibody design.
Jack

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Super awesome!!! We plan to reuse the ribs we cut out as the top portion and add in uprights . I had felt great about it until reading that sag comment . Thanks for the input
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Old 08-24-2020, 05:53 PM   #15
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Super awesome!!! We plan to reuse the ribs we cut out as the top portion and add in uprights . I had felt great about it until reading that sag comment . Thanks for the input
If I were to try something like you are planning, here is how I would do it.
Use some jacks to support the ribs you are planning to cut out. I would leave the roof skin in place and cut out the pieces that need to come out. Then I would weld in the frame support of the hole you are going to cut. Then I would get the roof skin riveted to the new framework underneath before I cut the hole in the roof skin. I think if you do it that way, you shouldn't have any issues.
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Old 08-24-2020, 07:09 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garebare View Post
I've seen a few people do trolley style raises similar to this but smaller and they were fine. We are about to do one in the middle of our bus that will span between 4 ribs. And be roughly 4.5 ft wide. we will be either welding or bolting a new box like steel frame to the cut ribs to rebuild the strength as well as allow a frame for a mini split unit to attach.

...

We plan to reuse the ribs we cut out as the top portion and add in uprights . I had felt great about it until reading that sag comment . Thanks for the input
I had originally planned to do almost exactly the same thing as what you're planning (circumstances led me to drop the floor instead). One thing I had considered doing was to keep the center roof section entirely intact (ribs and sheet), excising 2" wide sections from the ribs on each side and cutting the sheet in the middle of these gaps. I would have then lifted the center section a foot or so, and fabricated S-brackets to reconnect the raised center section with the cut ends of the ribs on the original roof line.

The vertical part would angle inwards slightly this way, but the original sheet could be bent into 1" flanges which would then be riveted to the sheet that fills the gap (I'll add a drawing of this in a bit, my explanation probably doesn't make much sense). I was going to make the front and back edges entirely vertical, and mount a cargo carrier in front of the raised part for aerodynamics. I still kind of regret not getting to do it, I think it would have been fun and relatively easy - but only for a short section like what you're contemplating.

That being said, a lot of people would argue that a conventional roof raise is easier and cheaper (and ultimately stronger) and they're not necessarily wrong, especially when there are so many examples of it to draw guidance from and not many examples of the trolley style (I saw one that the guy made out of wood, which was interesting).

Edit:

trolleyraise.png

Blue here is the S-bracket, red lines are where the ribs are cut, green is where the new 1' high piece of siding goes. The 1" flange on the original roof bends up under the new siding which assists waterproofing, as does the 1" flange of the raised part, which bends down over the new siding.
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Old 08-24-2020, 07:24 PM   #17
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The first layout, IMHO, has too much roof structure removed, compromising the structure of the whole box cage.
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Old 08-24-2020, 08:43 PM   #18
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This showed up in a storage lot near me though it is now gone. all steel fabed.
Jack

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Old 08-30-2020, 02:26 PM   #19
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Love the skills that went into that. I wanted to do a rear deck on mine but with a rear engine, that wouldn't work. I also want a trailer hitch back there. At this point, I too, don't want to make a cobbled up mess that would give skoolies a bad rep at RV parks. My wife is short so the 78" height will be fine for us.
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