Welcome to The World School Bus Project daily blog! We’re a traveling, world schooling family of five who sold everything we owned to live life outside the box. Currently, we’re converting an old school bus into a tiny house on wheels for an amazing, open-ended road trip around the United States! Follow along by bookmarking this blog and liking us on Facebook and Instagram!
OUR FLOOR IS FINISHED!!! ALL THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!
The first few weeks of our bus project was all about ripping things apart. Tearing out the seats, getting rid of all the old insulation, pulling down the metal ceiling, grinding out a bazillion stubborn screws, and on and on and on. For a while it felt like we were basically ruining this thing that we had just spend thousands of dollars to buy and were supposed to be “fixing up.” The more we took out, the worse it looked. If you missed all our “before” pictures, click here! Finally, the demolition phase ended, and we got to work building ourselves a brand new floor!
The old floor (when it was still a school bus) was rubber glued to metal. Before we could start making a new floor, we had to tear out all the rubber, scrape up as much of the old glue as we could, convert all the rusted spots on the metal and then seal it with a coat of Rustoleum. Once all that was done, we started planning out what kind of floor we wanted to put down. Most RVs and “skoolie” conversions (school buses turned RV) use laminate flooring that looks like wood. We like the look of laminate, but it felt a little too boring and expected, so we decided to go with a painted plywood floor. Since the floor is metal, we knew we needed to put down a layer of insulation under the flooring, so we bought big sheets of rigid foam insulation and cut it to fit, the same way we would be cutting our plywood sheets to fit.
Once the insulation was down, we decided we didn’t like the way the big panel pieces looked very much and worried that we’d hate the plywood seams once they were down. When we put some of the plywood down, we realized we not only hated the seams, but it also bowed up at the ends – A LOT – which meant we’d have to screw into the metal floor to hold the panels down, something we definitely didn’t want to do. Luckily I’ve spent a ridiculous number of hours on Pinterest lately, looking for ideas for our conversion, and remembered seeing a tutorial for how to make a floor using plywood cut into long, wide slats. I showed Henry some photos and it didn’t take much convincing. We both loved the look of gappy plywood slats, painted and sealed, like the photo below (taken from the blog where I found the tutorial!)
Since we couldn’t put the slats directly over the insulation, we had to go back to Home Depot and buy ourselves some subfloor. We went with a cheaper, thinner, unsanded plywood than we were using for the slats, brought it back to the bus and cut it to fit over the insulation.
Once that was done, we got to work cutting our thicker, sanded plywood into 6″ slats. It took HOURS to measure and cut all the slats and I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single straight edge on any of them, but when we took them to the bus and laid them down, they looked AMAZING! I immediately knew this was the perfect floor for our bus and couldn’t wait to get them all nailed down!
First things first, though, each slat had to be sanded down on the edges and corners. Cut plywood has lots of splinters before you sand it down, so it’s not a step that can be skipped. The kids started sanding by hand, but got pretty bored after 15 minutes or so. That’s when Henry jumped in and finished them off with an electric sander.
To speed things along, I started nailing slats down as soon as Henry was finished sanding them. We started in the front of the bus and worked our way back. Because we’re cheap and didn’t want to spend money renting a nail gun, I used a plain ol’ hammer and nearly a thousand nails (seriously!) By the middle of the bus, my hammering hand was SO SORE, but I kept on going. (I also had two butt cheeks full of splinters from scooting around on the wood floors all day, but sorry, I totally forgot to take a butt photo. Damn!)
Things were going great until we got all the way to the back of the bus. That’s when I realized two of our subfloor boards had shifted and were wedged under the subfloor boards in front of them. The shift was tiny – only about a quarter of an inch – but since I had nailed about 20 boards to the subfloor pieces they were underneath, we couldn’t get them out without pulling up every single board in the back. I was exhausted, Henry was exhausted, we were so close to finishing and now we were having to pull up our amazing floor?! UGH. We were so tired and frustrated by this point, we decided to quit for the night and come back the next day.
This morning we showed up, ready to get this damn floor finished, and FINISH WE DID! It took a while to get all the bent and broken nails out of the boards we pulled up, but once that was done, it was smooth sailing. We fixed the shifted subfloor, nailed all the boards back down, did a quick trim job on one board that was sticking out a bit too far, and then … WE WERE DONE! (Well, except for painting and sealing. That stuff will happen after we’ve finished framing and building all our furniture!)
Three days, four achy hands and knees, lots of splinters and sore thumbs (from our super-impressive hammering skills) … all for one handmade, perfectly imperfect, exactly-as-we-wanted, character-filled wood slat floor. I love it so much and I’m so excited to build our home on top of it!
Oh, and just because before and afters are THE BEST. Here’s a side-by-side of what our floor looked like last week and what it looks like today! I’d say that’s a pretty bad ass upgrade!!