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Old 08-31-2014, 03:18 AM   #1
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Altering a ceiling/roof.

Hi,

So we're a little new to the skoolie scene and wanted to ask a technical question for those with a little more know on which buses are made of what.
Our idea is to alter the roof of the bus by building a secondary/loft layer on top. (We'd like to keep the bus below 14" though.) To give an idea of what we are aiming to do I will include a picture of our current 'mock-up'. (Please ignore the funky windows. I was goofing off for the most part. Also the design is obviously not 'exact')-

Generally, we've been looking at either a six window shuttle bus. (The particular one we'd been eyeing is an 2005 Chev-Aero Elite 290 Bus)


Or a four window school bus. (The listing we were eyeing is a 2002 Chevy Mini school bus.)


Now we haven't purchased anything so neither of those are for sure, but I noticed that shuttle buses seemed to be fiberglass while school buses were usually metal?
Would it be probable to make an interior metal frame to brace the upper portion if we went with a shuttle or....?
Does anyone have any suggestions in the way of adding an upper level that is sturdy- we plan on having a loft up there as this is going to be essentially our house for a period of time which is why we would like the extra space. (Though a longer bus is not really an option- we're pretty set on getting a short bus.)
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Old 08-31-2014, 12:02 PM   #2
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Welcome to the asylum! --- sounds like an interesting project. You might check but as I recall, 13' is the height to stay under for the greatest degree of Interstate Highway clearance across the US.

And unless you have really advanced fiberglass skills. a steel or aluminum frame attached to the main frame will likely be the easiest/sturdiest building option. Just remember that additional height also results in additional side loading in winds (and it really doesn't take that much to blow a light rig over) ...as well as a greatly altered center of gravity. I raised the roof on a 40' Blue Bird by 19" and can tell you it made a significant difference in handling, even with about 10 tons of chassis to counter it.

Personally, if I were going to try and max the height on a shorty, I would consult an engineer friend who could calculate the loading & CG considerations on a specific rig before I started doing any drastic cutting.

Just my dos centavos.

Best of luck and keep us up on your plans.
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Old 08-31-2014, 05:25 PM   #3
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Definitely do not get a fiberglass shuttle bus if this is your intention! I'd advise against a one-ton-chassis rig of any sort for this. Too light-duty.
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Old 08-31-2014, 06:35 PM   #4
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Quote:
Tango- You might check but as I recall, 13' is the height to stay under for the greatest degree of Interstate Highway clearance across the US.
I'd looked around online and from what I could tell 14' was the lowest bridge height which is why I said "under" 14'. Preferably we'd like to keep it to 12' but plans have a way of changing.

Quote:
Tango- a steel or aluminum frame attached to the main frame will likely be the easiest/sturdiest building option.
I agree- we just weren't sure how well a smaller bus would take that. We both only have minimal wood and metal skills though so we need to be 100% sure of what is the best course.

Quote:
Tango- Just remember that additional height also results in additional side loading in winds (and it really doesn't take that much to blow a light rig over) ...as well as a greatly altered center of gravity.
Yes, that's one of our fears. We'd like it to be stable as possible while still offering living space though- as we need to travel and this would be our temporarily permanent home.

Quote:
Joe Monstermaker- Definitely do not get a fiberglass shuttle bus if this is your intention! I'd advise against a one-ton-chassis rig of any sort for this. Too light-duty.
Are there any short (26 passenger or less) bus types that you would recommend that are not too light duty?

Quote:
Tango- Best of luck and keep us up on your plans.
We intend to- with lots and lots of pictures. ? We know you guys like pictures.
~~
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Old 08-31-2014, 09:17 PM   #5
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Check out the various Blue Bird shorties. They are about as well built as you will ever find.
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Old 08-31-2014, 10:32 PM   #6
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Twowander
Quote:
Tango- You might check but as I recall, 13' is the height to stay under for the greatest degree of Interstate Highway clearance across the US.
I'd looked around online and from what I could tell 14' was the lowest bridge height which is why I said "under" 14'. Preferably we'd like to keep it to 12' but plans have a way of changing.
Posted this before but here it is again...

Quote:
13'6" is the standard minimum for interstate highway clearance. Once you get off the interstates, that can and does change. I have low clearance POI collections for bridges that are 13'2" & below, 12'9"" & below, 12'6" & below, 12'4" & below. So you need to figure where you are going to travel. Don't forget that repaving can and does change the allowed height and it is not necessarily signed correctly. The POI's do not take into account the rural and not so rural roads with low hanging tree limbs and telephone/power lines.
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Old 08-31-2014, 10:47 PM   #7
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Thanks Lorna for doing that. I was just about to pop an artery over the height thing! While 13' 6" is OK on the interstates, if one begins to look at bridge heights east of the Mississippi one will find MANY MANY that even 12' is too high to pass under-- that could make roughly 1/3 Of America unavailable in this case.

Also, I'd agree with the others that a 1 ton isn't heavy enough to do what you want to do--you'd need a real big bus. Hope this helps.
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Old 09-01-2014, 07:59 AM   #8
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lornaschinske
Posted this before but here it is again...

Quote:
13'6" is the standard minimum for interstate highway clearance. Once you get off the interstates, that can and does change. I have low clearance POI collections for bridges that are 13'2" & below, 12'9"" & below, 12'6" & below, 12'4" & below. So you need to figure where you are going to travel. Don't forget that repaving can and does change the allowed height and it is not necessarily signed correctly. The POI's do not take into account the rural and not so rural roads with low hanging tree limbs and telephone/power lines.
Thanks for that info Lorna, we plan to map out our routes before each trip and this will definitely help. What did you use to work up that image? I'd be curious to see a version that was zoomed in a bit, so there wouldn't be so much overlapping going on with the markers for the eastern half of the country.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ol trunt
Thanks Lorna for doing that. I was just about to pop an artery over the height thing! While 13' 6" is OK on the interstates, if one begins to look at bridge heights east of the Mississippi one will find MANY MANY that even 12' is too high to pass under-- that could make roughly 1/3 Of America unavailable in this case.

Also, I'd agree with the others that a 1 ton isn't heavy enough to do what you want to do--you'd need a real big bus. Hope this helps.
Thanks for the input. The main reason we wanted to go with a shorter bus was that it would be something we would be more familiar and comfortable with driving. We had originally thought of building one of those trailer-mounted houses like the Tumbleweed Cypress, but the headaches of maneuvering (and parking) a trailer or a full size bus didn't seem worth it especially considering how much trouble an accident could be. Another problem is that the space we're going to have to work on this is only so big, and I doubt a full size bus could even make it up the winding roads to the property, let alone fit where we'll need to have it parked while we do the conversion.

We hit upon the idea of putting in the bedroom loft as a way to add a bit more livable space while still keeping the length manageable, but you're right that factors like weight, balance, and wind issues will also affect how it handles.

I think we asked this before, but are there any shorter buses that might work for this? I'm afraid we're not fully versed in the lingo just yet so terms like "1-ton chassis" don't really mean alot by themselves, and most of the listings we've come across so far use stats like length or passenger capacity instead. There does appear to be quite a range of sizes made so it seems like there should be something to fit the bill.
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Old 09-01-2014, 10:00 AM   #9
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

That is actually part of the POI Mega File from Laptop GPS World. It is a vast collection of POI's for various GPS systems that is updated twice a year (freeee!). Mine is used on the recently orphaned MS Streets & Trips (updated to 2013).

Our bus is well under 12 ft and we don't have anything on our roof. Even the black tank vent is about even with the high point of the roof. I do need to measure to get an accurate height to stick on the sun visor. The POI does not include a low bridge in Cleveland, TN (sign and way for truckers to detour around the trestle) so I have to wonder about other places (I know of three all total that are not on the POI but one is to a private neighbourhood, no place for camping). We prefer to run the US and other primary highways as opposed to interstates where possible. The skoolies excel on those types of rural roads since that is what they were designed for, not screaming down the super slabs. We just have to share the road with the truckers who have re-discovered that the old "pre-interstate" routes save them time, fuel and is less tiring on them. The same things we have learned thru actual experience.
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Old 09-01-2014, 02:26 PM   #10
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

one ton chassis--those that have a passenger van front end, Ford or Chevy. Not built as heavy as a dedicated bus platform. The shorter flat nose bluebirds have a tighter turning radius than most full size pickups.

I have thought about putting a pop top on a bus--just the top, not the whole VW van like you see in some pictures. But it is a LOT cheaper to get a bigger bus.

Does anyone have the length limits for some of the scenic mountain roads? I remember Rocky Mountain National Park has size limits on some of their roads, but since I was in a van I didn't bother to worry about it at the time.
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Old 09-01-2014, 07:27 PM   #11
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Yes on the road limits... My wife and I just did a loop through crater lake, and the Newbury Volcanic park in Oregon... Both parls had roads limited to 22' or less.. On the bus. look at Bluedirds, older p-30, (usually around 26 pass), and newer versions... We built one this year!
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Old 09-01-2014, 07:57 PM   #12
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Yikes, my van (standard 15 passenger e350) with the cargo carrier on the back is right at that limit! Probably over by a couple inches if pressed. They really want to keep all RV's off those roads--which makes sense for weight but...

If you are really talented, you can build a small flatnose that slides UP. Go down the road at normal height or slightly taller, then lift the whole roof when parked to be a loft.
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Old 09-01-2014, 09:02 PM   #13
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lornaschinske
That is actually part of the POI Mega File from Laptop GPS World. It is a vast collection of POI's for various GPS systems that is updated twice a year (freeee!). Mine is used on the recently orphaned MS Streets & Trips (updated to 2013).

Our bus is well under 12 ft and we don't have anything on our roof. Even the black tank vent is about even with the high point of the roof. I do need to measure to get an accurate height to stick on the sun visor. The POI does not include a low bridge in Cleveland, TN (sign and way for truckers to detour around the trestle) so I have to wonder about other places (I know of three all total that are not on the POI but one is to a private neighbourhood, no place for camping). We prefer to run the US and other primary highways as opposed to interstates where possible. The skoolies excel on those types of rural roads since that is what they were designed for, not screaming down the super slabs. We just have to share the road with the truckers who have re-discovered that the old "pre-interstate" routes save them time, fuel and is less tiring on them. The same things we have learned thru actual experience.
Wow, thanks alot for that link--should be super helpful when planning out our routes. Also thanks for the advice about sticking to the highways rather than the interstates.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wooftfd
Yes on the road limits... My wife and I just did a loop through crater lake, and the Newbury Volcanic park in Oregon... Both parls had roads limited to 22' or less.. On the bus. look at Bluedirds, older p-30, (usually around 26 pass), and newer versions... We built one this year!
Good to know. Haven't really traveled a lot before this so we didn't realize that roads with official length restrictions were a thing. That said, we're going to be doing the conversion up at my in-laws' (Mitzy's parents) ranch, and the private road leading up to the property is narrow and twisty enough that getting a full sized bus up there would be impossible. It's basically a bunch of sharp turns going along a cliff, so we're well aware of some of the practical length limits we'll be dealing with.

26 passenger is about the size we were looking at, so I guess we'll stick with that for now and see what we can find. Definitely been impressed with the Bluebird models so far, and heard some good things about them as far as sturdiness and reliability.

Quote:
Originally Posted by r_w
Yikes, my van (standard 15 passenger e350) with the cargo carrier on the back is right at that limit! Probably over by a couple inches if pressed. They really want to keep all RV's off those roads--which makes sense for weight but...

If you are really talented, you can build a small flatnose that slides UP. Go down the road at normal height or slightly taller, then lift the whole roof when parked to be a loft.
That was another thing we were thinking about, though we'd prefer to have a fixed loft so we could include bedside shelving for books and whatnot. My wife and I are both pretty avid readers, and paring down the collection is going to be hard enough as it is.
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Old 09-02-2014, 10:07 AM   #14
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Twowander
That was another thing we were thinking about, though we'd prefer to have a fixed loft so we could include bedside shelving for books and whatnot. My wife and I are both pretty avid readers, and paring down the collection is going to be hard enough as it is.
Kindle Or keep the books LOW as ballast.
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Old 09-02-2014, 07:31 PM   #15
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Quote:
Originally Posted by r_w
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twowander
That was another thing we were thinking about, though we'd prefer to have a fixed loft so we could include bedside shelving for books and whatnot. My wife and I are both pretty avid readers, and paring down the collection is going to be hard enough as it is.
Kindle Or keep the books LOW as ballast.
Pardon my 2 cents, but Kindle is a poor replacement for actual books--especially when living in a Skoolie/RV where your supply of electricity is finite. That, and it wouldn't help with any of the other reasons we'd like to have bedside shelving. Storage space is at a premium with designs like this, and every extra bit helps.

Keeping the heavier items low is a good idea though, should help with balance and reduce the chances of tipping over.
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Old 09-02-2014, 09:00 PM   #16
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

Quote:
Originally Posted by r_w
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twowander
That was another thing we were thinking about, though we'd prefer to have a fixed loft so we could include bedside shelving for books and whatnot. My wife and I are both pretty avid readers, and paring down the collection is going to be hard enough as it is.
Kindle Or keep the books LOW as ballast.
But I dropped my tablet and broke the screen. Can't afford to replace it yet because I was STUPID and forgot to buy the bloody insurance.

I've never broken a book.
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Old 09-02-2014, 10:26 PM   #17
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

[quote=Das Mel]
Quote:
Originally Posted by "r_w":2eo6suay
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twowander
That was another thing we were thinking about, though we'd prefer to have a fixed loft so we could include bedside shelving for books and whatnot. My wife and I are both pretty avid readers, and paring down the collection is going to be hard enough as it is.
Kindle Or keep the books LOW as ballast.
But I dropped my tablet and broke the screen. Can't afford to replace it yet because I was STUPID and forgot to buy the bloody insurance.

I've never broken a book.[/quote:2eo6suay]

Not just that, but why pay all that money for a reader and digital copies of books I already own? Shelves are a lot cheaper. We're going to be dumping thousands into this project already, no need to make it any worse.

Besides, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the books in our collection aren't available in e-book format.
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Old 09-03-2014, 06:40 PM   #18
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

I dumped most of my books over the years leading up to leaving NC. I have a Kindle paperwhite. I do miss the ability to read other stuff, read at night in the dark (but not in the sun that I can do now), the colour and internet I had with the Pandigital ereader I had. That said, it was a $40 ereader and I might get another CHEAP internet reader (I love Cowboom). I did keep my leatherbound books. I have some hard copy reference books as well. SO I am not completely digital. I get freebie Kindle books (daily email) via www.ereaderiq.com which saves me LOTS of money. I also get lots of recipe books this way too. Very handy. No it is not the same as reading a hard copy "real" book. But now I can carry hundreds of books in my hip pocket.
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Old 09-04-2014, 02:17 PM   #19
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Re: Altering a ceiling/roof.

I didn't mean it was a 100% either/or solution. There are books that I will always want as books, but the kindle gives me access to all kinds of old classics and reference materials that simply are not available in print. I have been collecting free ebooks for a LOT longer than I have had a reader.
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