This June had to be the most difficult month so far for our school bus conversion project. If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ve probably caught us stating multiple times that our end goal was to leave by the first or second week of July. Yikes – hindsight sure is 20/20, isn’t it? This past month has been incredibly challenging as it’s tested both David and I’s patience.
There’s no surprise here: The project has been moving a bit slower than what we were expecting. Or, maybe we shot our hopes a bit TOO high. After all, what really were we even expecting? Sure, David has construction experience, but neither of us has converted a school bus into an RV before.
David’s been working on the bus full-time throughout this month. As July fast approached, the heat has gone up and the conditions have gotten worse. On top of that, we were getting stressed about not finishing this project on time. To add to our anxieties, I quit my 2nd job as a coach in the middle of the month (which definitely took a nice toll on my monthly income). All work and no play makes us both dull people…we were starting to burn out.
Luckily, David’s birthday came at the right time and we were able to take a few days off to get some much-needed rest and relaxation with family. Plus, we came to the new realization that the bus will get done when it gets done. We don’t need to leave by a certain time, so we’d rather take our time on each step of this project to ensure an amazing and high-quality build.
I love getting a chance to reflect on what we accomplished each month because it really opens our eyes. While we did start to burn out and feel like we haven’t seen any progress, there’s still plenty to feel proud about!
The Actual Updates
We mounted the rest of our solar panels. The solar panels are HEAVY and the top of the bus isn’t the easiest to work on considering it’s slanted and covered with metal supports. We used nuts / bolts and drilled holes through the rack to hold the frame and panels together.
The paneling on the walls and ceiling were finished this month. We chose to do cuts of plywood on the ceiling instead of tongue and groove to save ourselves a few hundred dollars. While tongue and groove may look a bit better and require a lot less work, David did a great job with our ceiling. He made sure to cut each piece of plywood evenly with the table saw. Once the plywood was nailed to the ceiling, we sealed between them with caulk. We also had to use nail filler to patch up every single nail hole (there were A LOT). Finally, we finished it all up by sanding it to make it nice and smooth before we added our first coat of white primer.
We also used sheets of plywood for our walls, but it required a different approach. David took precise measurements to make sure the walls framed out our windows well. Minus a few discrepancies that can be easily fixed with a belt sander and some naily putty, we LOVED the outcome!
Our bathroom is done and ready for tiling, flooring, and a toilet! To make our custom shower pan, we started with installing plywood on an angle so that water flows toward the drain. Then, we topped that with a rubber shower pan liner to make it 100% waterproof. The walls got a cement backerboard and the seams were covered with mortar and fiber mesh tape to reinforce the joints. For the ceiling, we used Cedar that we got for a fantastic deal at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Freehold and filled in any noticeable gaps with clear silicone.
With some much-needed help (shoutout Tyler Bondar), we finished our roof deck. We used pressure treated lumber to complete our 8×11 ft. deck. We further reinforced it by nailing in the wood underneath the deck, next to our metal supports.
The fan and air conditioner were officially installed this month and really couldn’t have come at a better time. With temperatures and humidity rising in NJ, we desperately need the air. We have mixed feelings about our MaxAir exhaust fan. It doesn’t cause a great relief from warm temperatures, but definitely creates a little bit of airflow inside of the bus. We’re most excited about our energy efficient dual inverter smart LG air conditioner. With a variety of different modes, we can get the entire bus at brisk temperatures for the day. On top of that, the dehumidifier quickly gets rid of the 90% humidity that’s constantly around us.
If you’ve been following our social media, you’ve also probably noticed our brand new door! After about a month of searching, we found a great $40 exterior door from Facebook Marketplace. (Thanks Grandma Schmidt for the gift!) It was basically brand new and had an outward swing with hinges on the right side. This is generally an option not found on most doors. We couldn’t use a “normal” door because the weatherproofing would be on the wrong side. We added a drip edge on the top, weather stripping surrounding the door, and sill plate to prevent drafts and water from coming in. On top of that, everything got silicone so the door would be completely watertight.
The propane is 100% done and the electrical, plumbing, and diesel is just about completed. Furthermore, we’ve been making some pretty monumental purchases, including the AirHead composting toilet, 8.1 Cubic ft. UpRight Freezer made by Danby, and our 18 ft. (16 ft. bed) car trailer that we’ll be towing behind the bus.
It wasn’t a completely unproductive month. We are both most excited to get into the aesthetic design of the bus. That’s when we think we’ll start seeing the progress and it all really comes together. We are feeling motivated and ready to tackle the next challenges of this project!