Happy to have you here! It’s about that time for another bus build blog!
It’s been awesome sharing our bus build with you! Writing these makes us realize just how much work was put into the bus!
We left off last time talking about our subfloor build and preparing for our 1,000 mile drive down to South Carolina! Now it’s time to dive in!
As we began our trek down to South Carolina, we began getting excited about what was to come with our bus build and travels. The trip down south really helped us visualize and feel out what we wanted our bus to end up looking like. Our air mattress popped our first night on the road, and it left us with some comfy nights sleeping on the plywood floor for the rest of the way ;).
When we arrived to South Carolina we were greeted with welcome arms from our friends David and Amanda. We had met David and Amanda during our Walk Across America, and guess what?! David is an aluminum welder! David, with Carolina Aluminum, specializes in custom fishing rod holders, and he’s pretty good at it! The dude is the best of the best! Without him, our bus wouldn’t look anything like it does today!
While David had never done a bus roof raise, we had full trust in him and his abilities and talked over what we wanted to do next.
We ended up getting several projects done while in South Carolina. For this blog's sake we will talk about:
Top Deck/ Ladder
Raise the Roof! What What!
This part of the bus build worried us the most. We needed to raise the roof because both of us are so tall (Matt is 6’ 4”!). Researching “roof raise" for a bus, told us a couple things. One, it’s expensive, definitely more than we had to spend. And two, there aren’t a lot of people who offer the service.
David offering his help on this relieved so much stress for us. Remember when I said the guy was the best of the best? He didn’t even make us pay a cent (This was huge in the financial side of things)!
When you look up bus roof raises you’ll notice most people raise the entire roof up. Instead, we decided on a 9’ x 2.5” foot cutout of the the bus. This would save us time on the whole roof, while still giving us headspace where we tend to stand the most.
Before we could begin, we had to remove all ceiling panels and the insulation underneath it. After a little sweat, we were left looking at the bare metal of our roof.
You see the middle section in the first picture below? That's where we started cutting away. We tried a couple different kind of tools before finally utilizing the band saw. I had never seen or used this prior, but man did it do the job.
After cutting our first section out of the top, we could see the sky (middle picture).
The next step after we made way for our sunroof was making our new frame section. We left this up to the professional and let David go to work! He used pretty heavy duty metal beams for this section (far right picture). Our brace beams were cut to length to give us a solid 8 inch lift, leaving plenty of head space without jeopardizing the new roof's durability and strength.
Once our new frame was welded on to the existing bus frame we ordered some custom white metal pieces and waited until they were made. The new metal pieces had both a lower lip and upper lip (z shape).
When we received the metal, we cut it to size and then began pop riveting the metal to our original top.
Next, we waited for David's buddy to cut a piece of acrylic glass top to fit our hole. This stuff can get pricey, so we were very grateful to have it donated to us to use! The glass piece came with laser cut holes for us to attach it to the top of our metal frame.
If you were to get on top of our bus you would see all of our attempts to get the glass sealed. After a rain storm, we had several puddles in our bus. It took several attempts, and a lot of different caulk tubes to get the job done! It's not pretty up there, but as of now, no leaks either! (Also important to note we had to add a one foot section of metal to run up against the glass because the glass didn't come in 9 foot sections).
Once the top was sealed, it was time to get cracking on the roof rack!
Top Deck/ Ladder
With some of his left over aluminum material, David began welding our top deck frame. The frame was essentially created as a rectangle with an inner rectangle support to go around our sun roof. He added several side support beams as well as a weight relief beam to help provide enough sturdiness to support our weight up top.
You'll also notice the base beams attached to our rectangular frame (left picture). Those would end up attaching to the side of our bus where the beams of the original bus body ran down.
When the frame was screwed and secured to the bus, we got cracking on the ladder! Again David used some aluminum material from around the shop. Here is what our frame ended up looking like!
For our decking we decided to go with normal decking boards from Lowe's. Overall it took about 12 boards with a total cost of around $400.
To secure the decking boards to the aluminum frame we used Power Pro Exterior Trim Screws. Each Board ended up getting about 6 screws (no problems so far!). This project in the humid South Carolina sun was a blast!
Still reading along? Let's go! Lastly for this section of our bus build, we put on a back deck. We knew we needed some exterior storage space, and David had just the plan.
Using left over aluminum, David designed first our base of the deck and then a handle/support beam going from the bus back to the deck base.
Once the base and handle were attached to the bus bumper and back we took some cedar wood and cut them to size. The cedar is a nice visual look and really makes the bumper. We made sure to sand and stain the wood before screwing them into the back base!
Here was our final product! We now currently have a 15 pound propane tank, generator, and a 5 gallon jerry can attached! The perfect off-grid setup!
This a majority of the work we got done while in South Carolina. We can't thank David and Carolina Aluminum enough! Our bus would not be the same without him!
Next time on our Bus Build Blog we will talk about the last couple of things we worked on during our time in South Carolina, and taking off on another long distance 2,300 mile road trip back to Boise, ID!
As always, thank you for reading along and we hope you learned a little something that you can take away with you!