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The Skoolie Home Series: How to Gut Your Bus

Gut A Bus

Gutting Your bus is no easy project. You bought a school bus to convert into a home on wheels! Yay, your skoolie dream is getting started. But wait. Are you asking yourself, “Now that I have a bus, where do I start?” How to Gut Your Bus will help you out.
Discouraged conversion owners will email me about how overwhelming it is to get the conversion moving at more than a turtle’s pace due to not knowing what to do first, second, and so on.
So, if you are one of those people, don’t throw down that grinder and walk off just yet. Keep reading about the first step our Skoolie Homes Series: How to Gut Your Bus. Then, check back because we are starting a Conversion Series. Each month, we will go over part of a school bus conversion.

How to Gut Your Bus:

Let me say that as tempting as it is to just sit on a bus seat dreaming about your bus conversion and the endless adventures you are going to have, it is time to get your butt in gear. Get off the bus and find the tools needed to remove the seats. It’s time to get this dream started!

How to Gut Your Bus starts with seat removal

Step 1– Gather your grinding tools, safety wear, and a bottle of water.
Check out our resource page for the tools needed to get this job done.
Step 2 – Grind off the seats, unbolt them from the frame, and get rid of them out the back door.
Now that might sound easy, but it isn’t! There are a few ways to get the seats out. We think the easiest is to use a reciprocating saw and cut the legs of each seat. Next, unbolt them from the frame. Once all the seats are out, come back and remove the rest of the mounting brackets/seat bases that are left on the floor. This way you have more room to move around between the seats.
Another tool you could use is the impact drill. Sometimes, it just will not work and you have to use an angle grinder. Keeping a pry bar handy makes things go quicker. After you grind off the head of the bolt, place the pry bar under the seat base and pry it up.
Step 3 – Recycle the metal from the seats to make underbelly storage boxes or take it to the scrap yard for a little extra cash.
At times people have asked, “Can I sell the seats?” Our response is most of the time, NO. Sometimes, we are able to give a few away. Taking the metal to the recycling center saves time and gives you a little cash for your hard work.

How to Gut Your Bus: Floor Removal

Step 1 – Start at the back door and try to pry up the floor. We use a long pry bar (“railroad” bar). At first, it is going to come up in small pieces, but just keep working at it.
Some buses only have the rubber mat with no plywood floor. In this case, you might want to pull out a heat gun. The adhesive that is holding that rubber mat down is like a kid who refuses to give up a sucker. There is sticky stuff everywhere. Grab a chisel, some pliers, a pry bar or scraper and get to pulling it up. Keep working at it and little by little you will see the metal floor.
Step 2 – Once the floor is up, sweep the bus out really well.
Gutting a bus doesn’t stop with the seat and floor removal. Now it is the time to decide if you are going to remove the heaters or leave them in.

Heater Removal

Keep in mind these heaters only work while you are driving the bus or the bus is running.

ProTip: Do not rush in and remove these without knowing what you are doing.
Step 1 – Turn off the valve to the heater.
Most buses have two valves.
Step 2 – Grab a bucket to catch the coolant.
Please do not leave this sitting around. Remember your pets. Oh, and don’t drain it in a container that a child would think that it is green or red Koolaid. Safety first!
Step 3 – Cut the line and drain the coolant.
Also, pick up the heater and drain the heater into the bucket.
Step 4 – Remove the heaters and reconnect the hoses.
You can reposition a heater if you would like to put one back in the bus later. Just be sure to leave enough hose.
Step 5 – Fill up the coolant in the bus.
You can recycle the coolant.
Once the seats, floor, and heaters are removed you have 2 other options when gutting a bus. Check out this video before you decide to remove the ceiling and walls.
Check out this video: “Gut Your Bus: Walls, Ceiling, and Floor”
 
Have you wondered,  “Do I have to remove the ceiling and walls?” Our answer is to decide on your budget, your time, and your purpose for your bus. If you have to choose the floor, ceiling or walls to remove, ALWAYS remove the floor.
Still not sure about whether to remove the ceiling or walls?

Here is a Pro/Con list that may help you decide.

Pros

Cons

  • Make sure there is no mold
  • Difficult to remove
  • Seal up any places that may have a leak
  • An extreme amount of work for chance of rust
  • Treat, grind, and prime rust
  • Insulation is messy and itchy to remove
  • Insulate with better insulation
  • A new ceiling can be placed over the existing one
  • Put in a different ceiling
  • Will have the added expense of new insulation
  • Makes running wire for lights easier
  • Will have the added expense of tools
  • You can repair the top of the bus if leaking
Gutting your bus is no easy task but YOU CAN DO THIS! Here is a checklist to help you out.
After removing the seats, what are your plans? Do you have a question? Pop it in the comments and let’s chat.
12 Comments
  • Daisy
    Posted at 17:37h, 02 September Reply

    On the heaters..once you’ve decided to drain the coolant from them, is there any way that you could possible use them again, say for a propane heater? Just a thought.

    • discoveringus
      Posted at 17:43h, 08 October Reply

      Daisy, I am not sure. It would be great if this could be done. When you find out, please let me know. I will say these heaters are big and bulky so maybe not the best at space saving. But hey, if it works then it would be an option. Thanks for stopping by the blog. – Missy

  • Sherry
    Posted at 19:34h, 24 February Reply

    These heaters that you are discussing. They work only when the bus is running. Would these not be the heaters one would need to stay warm while driving the bus? I am totally new at this and figuring it out as I go. My seats are out and getting ready to take out the floor, so before I remove these heaters I need to make sure they are not necessary to stay warm while driving the bus. Thank you!

  • Bracel Aurther
    Posted at 01:27h, 12 June Reply

    Nice post.

  • Windy Sky Wind-Hogue
    Posted at 12:12h, 03 July Reply

    Why couldn’t someone sell the seats?

  • Aaron Smith
    Posted at 12:58h, 17 July Reply

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kim teraki
      Posted at 19:33h, 29 September Reply

      Just took up the vinyl yesterday…now for the floorboards…i made the first 2 mistakes with my bus lol…first bus i saw i bought…lol..lots of problems with kingpins shackles etc…we didn’t have the opportunity to lift it up before we bought it…originally we were going to leave the floors in but now im following you guys it had to come out…cheers for all your advice.

  • Kim DeLaney-Surratt
    Posted at 16:17h, 10 October Reply

    Working on the floor. Having trouble removing the tracks. Killed the blade. Any advice? Leave it and go ontop?

  • JOEL
    Posted at 05:01h, 16 October Reply

    Hi

    I have read out your article. Really it’s awesome because you have discussed it step by step. Thanks

  • Cheap Travel Project
    Posted at 19:50h, 16 October Reply

    Thanks for the tips.

    Is it possible to remove the seats without cutting the legs first? Just thinking of saving on Tools.

    Also, I’m looking at building in stages while travelling. The first trip will be coming into summer so hopefully, I don’t need to remove the floor or roof during the first build. I will only be putting a bed and probably table and chairs that are easy to remove at this point so when I get time to rip up the floor it’s easy to get the stuff out. Your thoughts?

  • Shawn
    Posted at 13:05h, 21 October Reply

    I have been thinking about this. I think I already have most of the tools for the gutting but not sure about the remodelling part. I’m thinking you could us a plasma cutter to speed the removal of the seats.

  • Marvin G. Woodard
    Posted at 01:57h, 09 November Reply

    I like to do things by myself and this is the reason why I spend a lot of time with power tools in my garage. Handling them safely is must. Your tips will help me to use them with care. My wife will feel much more relief when I am going to use them.

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