Now Casting!

Guys, thanks to the great interest shown in our previous appearances, we’re working on a new, conversion series, hosted by Yours Truly 😉

Here’s the pertinent info and contact info. Hope to see you soon!Skoolies Presser Version 3

We’re Cable TV Famous!!

My oh my, if you’ve been asking yourself, “when is that look-at-that-bus-guy going to update his blog?” today is your day!

About 4 months ago, we began filming for an episode of “Tiny House, Big Living” on HGTV to feature me and my bus conversion. It’s been a blast, and the deadlines were a bit stressful, but it was great motivation for getting the bus done and tonight at 7:30 MST our episode will be airing. Who’s to know if we’ll look like geniuses or stupids, but at least we’ll be on tv 😉

In the meantime, I promise to get back to updating this bloggie with all the photos, descriptions, details, and happenings of this bus life.

And now that I’m done with mine, if you would like me to build one for you or help you on your way to a better, smaller life on a bus, you know where to find me!

Thanks for stopping in, CharlieScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 4.18.50 PM

A/C Power Inlet Install

Since the bus will be largely solar-powered, I do not need a typical 30-Amp RV power inlet. For me, a standard, 15 Amp will work, which means I can use standard 3-prong plugs and not rely on adaptors or special outlets when I need power.

I found a nice, metal inlet and it was just a matter of drilling a hole to the outside, carving out a spot in the foam, and running wire.

a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

Here is the box and wire. I am using only plastic boxes for all of my a/c power. I do not want the possibility of the ground touching the metal skin of the bus.

a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

Here is where I want it, right behind the stop sign.

a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

Drilled a hole with a hole-saw and trimmed the foam out

a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

Pulled the wire through the hole and wired up the back of the inlet

a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

Then screwed the plate through into the box behind it

This gets the AC into the bus in a safe and watertight way. Hopefully I’ll rarely use this!

Spray FOAM!!!

One of the most important factors in making any home and especially a tiny one in a bus feel comfortable and live-able is the insulation properties of the structure you inhabit.

I decided that spray foam was the way to go early on, but could only afford to do the ceiling. I was going to be using rigid, poly-iso panels in the walls. Both materials have high R-values, poly-iso at 7.2 per inch thick and closed-cell spray foam at 6.5. My walls are 3″ thick.

Then, I got lucky and was able to get a deal on my spray foam and do the whole bus for the same cost.

I had looked into DIY kits, but I HIGHLY recommend professional installation for best results. The cost of a pro vs diy install isthe same, even without the kind of deal I got. Plus, you don’t have to do the work, they will trim the excess for you.

I am 100% certain there is not a better insulation for a skoolie or tiny home out there than closed-cell spray. It adds an unprecedented amount of structural support. It’s like setting your walls in lightweight concrete that also keeps you warm!

Here’s how mine went.

spray foam insulation, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They masked everything for me, including the view in

spray foam insulation, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They do this all day, everyday, and have remarkable technique

spray foam insulation, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This stuff will expand and clog your lungs if you breathe it in.

spray foam insulation, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

 

It’s very satisfying to watch go on

spray foam insulation, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two installers sprayed and trimmed at the same time

spray foam insulation, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I had to do was watch 🙂

These are the finished product:

spray foam insulation, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school busspray foam insulation, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

spray foam insulation, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus spray foam insulation, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

They even sprayed a couple inches over the wheels and in the gap between the chair rail and the wall of the bus.

Wiring For Solar

I have already installed a small, 100 watt solar panel to keep the bus’s starting battery topped up and run small lights, etc.

The bus will, however, have 1200 watts of solar for the house power also. The power will come from 3 300 watt panels on the roof. Since I want to combine the power from 4 panels, I need a combiner box to bring all their juice into the main positive and negative lines that will run to my charge controller. I found a rooftop unit which will allow me to combine the panels and give me flexibility for changes later. The best part is that once it’s in, I can run the wires to it, and then bury those wires in spray foam.

Marking the hole for the 1″ conduit pass through that will carry the wires. The small 100W panel is visible. The hole was existing from the factory, but I need to enlarge it. The best tool I had for the job on hand was a jigsaw.

solar power, sustainable, electricity, eco-friendly home, green building, a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

solar power, sustainable, electricity, eco-friendly home, green building, a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

Where’s those safety glasses?!

solar power, sustainable, electricity, eco-friendly home, green building, a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

Heres the 1″ conduit pass through into the ceiling of the bus from the inside.

solar power, sustainable, electricity, eco-friendly home, green building, a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

You can see the wires coming into the box from the conduit. There is a set of red and black 8 gauge wires for the 1200W house system and a set of black, 10 gauge wires for the smaller panels. All these wires run together from the box into their respective charge controllers.

solar power, sustainable, electricity, eco-friendly home, green building, a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

I ran the wires in some split-loom inside the ceiling from the conduit and down into the wall.

solar power, sustainable, electricity, eco-friendly home, green building, a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

solar power, sustainable, electricity, eco-friendly home, green building, a/c electrical, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

Here is the panel all wired up and ready for the 4 panels to be tied in. There are 4 fuse blocks and I have the busbars to combine 4 strings up here, but I think I will run 2 strings of 2, with room to add more. I could add another string of 2 if I wanted.

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All buttoned up.

Framing and Prepping for Spray Foam

With all the windows in (I ended up with 8 instead of the 6 I originally planned) it was time to prep for spray foam. This means finishing up all the framing around the front and rear caps, tucking in all the wiring that you want to bury in the walls, and building in the walls for the bathroom.

spray foam, framing, construction, eco-friendly home, green building, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

I had the help of my good friend and fellow mobile architect Eric on a trip to the store (in a short bus, of course) who was not only there to lend a hand but take some pics. His are the ones that look extra good.

spray foam, framing, construction, eco-friendly home, green building, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

Unloading the wood from good ole #20

spray foam, framing, construction, eco-friendly home, green building, bus conversion, denver, colorado, charles kern, skoolie, tiny house, DIY, build your own home, tiny home, HGTV, dakota hills, international school bus

Makin WALLS!

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Here you can see the walls where they attach to the platform that sits over the wheel well where the bathroom is.

Coming Up, I finish the wiring for the solar panels and spray foam! (or at least pay someone else to)

Photo Cred: Eric Freund

The Back Door Pt. 1

With the help of Chris, the very talented metal fabricator who also did the roof raise, we are elongating the rear door using a section from a second, donor door.

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Getting the second lower window in place from the donor door.

It is a goal of mine to keep this bus feeling as much like a school bus as I can, where I can. The idea to keep the back door as close to stock as possible–just 20″ taller. We will add a 3rd hinge and combine the best parts of both the latch mechanisms to secure not only the side but the top of the door when it is fully closed–almost like a hatch.

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The tools of the trade and the section of door we cut out of the bottom of the donor door.

With the pieces tacked into place, Chris took the door to his shop to finish up. Excited to get a door back!

Special thanks to Eric Freund for the photography!

HOLES

Put in some windows today! Felt amazing and SCARY to cut open the sides of the bus. The holes cut easily with my jigsaw and a Bosch metal cutting blade on it with a bit of oil.

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The flange of the window is backed by butyl rubber for a seal. I will also be caulking over this with some real good looking RV sealant that is highly recommended–it’s called Geocel.

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The windows clamp the skin of the bus between their outside flange and the wooden frame I’ve built around them. I screwed them into the wooden frame through the sides of the windows while clamped or pressed in place. Once the screws go in, the clamping force is set and those windows ain’t going nowhere!

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Of course, I’ve changed my mind on a couple of windows and will be buying 2 new ones to replace 2 I decided won’t work. I’ll put em up on the local CL and see if anyone wants em. Pretty typical.

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Feels good to make such rewarding progress! I’ve got to leave town in a week for a while, but hopefully I’ll get the rest in in the next 2 weeks.

MMMMmmm Ribs

Got some work done the past couple weeks:
Finished screwing the wooden ribs to the metal frame of the bus and build the ‘sashes’ for the rv windows ill be putting in. as soon as I have a window of nice weather, ill cut holes and drop the windows in.

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I decided I should make a general assessment of her mechanical condition since I hadn’t started or driven her in about 3 months. I took the bus out for a bit on the hiway for a run… the girl started up great and runs just so smooth.
I have noticed that the rotary-style injection pump takes more cranking before it starts to deliver fuel and the engine fires up–mostly after sitting more than a couple of days. My inline bosch pump-equipped dt466’s would barely give the starter a chance before the engine would kick on, even in sub-zero temps! Gotta love that.

The lucas oil I added in the last change made a difference in the quietness of the valvetrain and I think its helping the rings and valves seat nicer…maybe im just imagining it. I should check the valve clearances, but I don’t really think I need to. The new fuel and air filters definitely helped with the feel of power and strength off the line. I also replaced the low-profile steer tires with some good used 11r22.5’s off a bus we scrapped. Looks a lot better with more rubber under her, esp after the roof raise. The new chassis batteries are doing great and the 150W solar panel that is hooked to them means I’m always topped up no matter how long it sits for. The belts look dandy. Feeling good on the mechanical status, generally, but there is still more to do.

Before it’s time for regular driving, ill be flushing the coolant changing that filter and refilling using the good CAT stuff. I’ll also be draining the ATF, replacing it’s filter(s), installing a trans temp gauge, and putting in new tranny fluid. I’ll also drain and replace the rear diff oil, install new (used) 11r22.5 rear tires to replace the old low-profiles, and put in a pyrometer and maybe boost gauge for fun–though I can usually hear when I’m not making boost. The mechanical solenoid for the electric retarder sometimes sticks, so I’ll need to clean and get that set up for mountain driving, and then lastly, install new shocks all around.

Someday, I’d like to get her hiway gears, but it’s worth it to be patient for a good used set. Those gears are crazy expensive.

hopefully ill get the walls framed, wired, and prepped for insulation this month.

My band is going to Austin for SXSW so that will take up some time, and of course, I’ve got to work my paying job…geeez… doesn’t anyone know I’ve got a BUS to build??!? The nerve….

Summer in January

I know some of you may be digging out (or preparing to) from a heavy storm, but here in CO, it’s convertible weather

I’ve been meaning to change the oil, repair a visor, and change the plugs on the MGB I’m in a relationship with, so I drove her to the yard today–a SUNNY 67 degrees!!

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Her windshield almost comes up to the headlights on the Queen !

I think they’re in love and I support the relationship.