- Written by Brock Butterfield
A leaking skoolie roof is no good especially if you've already invested the time and money into a school bus conversion.
~ Written By: Brock Butterfield ~
For this tips and advice article I'd like to share my experience as well as a few other's experiences on how to prevent water leaks in your skoolie roof from molding or ruining all the work you've put into your school bus conversion. I'll recommend a few products that have been tried and tested by either myself or other skoolies and discuss what common products to avoid if possible.
Step One: Preparing the school bus roof for leak prevention.
You will find a pretty common factor among most school buses with the white roofs. Almost all have the little black dots caused from oxidation. With my first school bus conversion I thought that those little black dots and specs were from a tree dripping sap. I simply used an automotive wash brush to scrub the roof and prepare for paint. I learned later that this was an epic mistake. This little black dots didn't really come off during the scrubbing so I assumed they weren't going anywhere but after time they were able to loosen up causing my paint on the roof to chip and flake away.
To properly prepare for paint or elastomeric paint (which I'll talk about in the following step) you'll need to get out the sandpaper and get rid of any residue that's on the roof. For this task I like to use a sanding pole, 120 grit sandpaper and then my automotive brush with the hose attachment to clean it up.
Step Two: Using the proper caulk on your seams and vents.
I'll refrain from my normal joke making of how everyone likes good caulk to save you some reading time. It's important to mention here that I would at all cost avoid silicone for this part of the job. I used it on my first skoolie and regretted it. I've working in construction since 94 so I'm no newbie to using good product but my guess is that the constant change in heat and cold on metal along with a moving and vibrating vehicle caused the silicone to fail. I began to experience leaks not more than one year after applying silicone to everything. Seams, rivets, around marker lights and vents.
In speaking with other skoolies and dipping into the RV world of repairs I learned about Dicor's 501LSW-1 Lap Sealant. It's got a nice self leveling feature so all you have to do is run it through the caulk gun and let it settle. I like to go overboard however and put on a pair of latex gloves and really smear it around to make sure all seams, rivets, screws, vents and marker lights are completely dialed. Let it cure and dry in the sun or a warm and dry shop for at least 24 hours. It'll be ready for the next step once it's no longer tacky to touch.
Step Three: Using the proper roof coating
After you've finished playing with your caulk (last caulk joke I swear) you're ready to move onto school bus conversion roof sealant. This will be the saving grace of preventing a roof leak on your school bus roof. There are two main roof coatings that skoolies, RV owners and van lifers seem to approve of. The first is Henry's Enviro-White Roof Coating which goes on like frosting and settles into one giant membrane of elastomericand quoting from their website here is what it has to offer:
Henry® 687 100% Acrylic Enviro-White™ Extreme Elastomeric Roof Coating is a premium, high solids white reflective roof coating. It features Dirt Pick-Up Resistance (DPR) technology, which prevents dirt and dust buildup, keeping the roof whiter and more reflective longer. When cured, it forms a permeable membrane, which prevents liquid infiltration, but allows moisture vapor to vent or breathe out of underlying substrate.
- Dirt Pick-Up Resistance (DPR) technology for longest lasting reflectivity
- Waterproofs as part of a Henry® Maintenance System (HMS)
- Bright white with excellent hiding power
- Reflects >80% of sun's heat and UV rays after 3 years; prolongs roof life
- Lowers roof and interior temperatures; reduces air conditioning costs
- Mildew and stain resistant
- 12 year limited warranty with 1-time application
- Approximately 100 sq. ft. per gallon per coat
In speaking with Ryan, Laura and Alysha from Skoolie Nation they said that during the day of applying the first coat in the sun, the internal temperature dropped 22 degrees after the first coat was applied. The walls of the bus were also insulated at that point so keep that in mind. They applied a total of 4 coats to really ensure that all seams, rivets, etc were completely waterproofed. Here is a couple photos from them applying the roof sealant on the school bus conversion.
The second roof coating that people tend to talk a lot about and recommend is Pro Guard's Liquid Roof RV Coating and Repair. While it's significantly more expensive, it's been tried and tested by RV owners and RV repair shops for years. You have to use a drill and mixer to combine the two components before applying and once you activate the two components it's game on and you better be prepared to apply it. It also can't be used later for another application unless you put it in your freezer. Here's a little info from their website:
Seals and protects your RV from water damage and expensive fuel loss due to drafts. No other product can match the
durability of EPDM Rubber and LIQUID ROOF® is backed by a 5-year warranty. LIQUID ROOF® is available in white.
Each gallon covers approximately 42 square feet.
All these features in a single product
* Chemical resistant * Ease of application * Long-term durability * UV and Ozone resistance *
* Produces a seamless membrane * Excellent flexibility and elongation *
* Outstanding ponding water resistance *
* Temperature resistance from –60°F to 300°F *
TO LEAK PROOF:
FLASHINGS – RIPS – TEARS
CRACKS – DELAMINATED SEAMS
CAN BE USED OVER:
METAL – FABRIC – RUBBER
FIBERGLASS – FOAM – CONCRETE
Regardless of what roof coating you decide to use for your school bus conversion I'd recommend applying it all the way to the rain gutter on the sides of your skoolie as well as the slanted marker light section in the front and back if your bus has that style. Avoid slathering silicone all over if you can. I hit every seam and rivet on my school bus conversion and ended up scraping it all off later as it wasn't good enough.
Overall it'll probably take you 3-7 days to complete depending on drying time, weather and humidity so plan accordingly. Below are the tools and products to consider for the task at hand. If you're anything like me Amazon Prime is a life and time saver!
Products Recommended For Preventing Roof Leaks
- Written by Brock Butterfield
You've prepared yourself for bus life and are ready to hit the open road but have you helped your dog prepare as well?
~Guest Blogger: Aurora James
We all know home is where the heart is, and for some, that home changes with each passing mile. For those that live on the road full-time, the beauty is in the fact that your home is where you lay your head each night, not your destination. Whether you travel by car, bus, or RV, there will be some days where you might set up camp to enjoy the fresh air and stretch your legs a bit. Your pooch will surely enjoy it, but there are some safety precautions that you need to be aware of to ensure your dog is happy and safe both on and off the road. Check out this infographic for helpful tips to keep your dog safe, then sit back and enjoy the ride.
The best part about traveling the open road with your dog is that he is always ready for an adventure, whether it is at the crack of dawn or when the stars are shining bright. Keep your companion safe with these helpful tips so that the two of you can enjoy many more adventures to come.
- Written by Brock Butterfield
~ 4 Tips for Buying Land in Alaska ~
Article and Images By: Ryan Tollefsen ~
Buying land in Alaska is the ideal location for those interested in living off the grid. Clean air, an abundance of natural resources and untamed land as far as the eye can see are just a few of the many advantages that Alaska holds for adventures like this. The following tips can help focus the search for land that is likely to meet the goals of those who want to live off the grid.
1. Check the Local Zoning and Planning Ordinances
Depending on where in Alaska the land is located, there might be certain restrictions that dictate what the owner can do with and on the property. For example, some localities require that homes measure a certain square footage. If a tiny house is desired, the county could prohibit it. The same thing applies if the owner wants to camp on the property on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. Many jurisdictions restrict the amount of time that a person can camp on their own property. They often tie the occurrence to an event such as the building of a permanent home.
2. Research for Covenants
Covenants and other restrictions are often put into place by the land developers to ensure that the property follows the same rules that were originally intended. Some examples of common covenants include those that restrict the size and type of structures and other buildings that can be placed there as well as those that limit or prohibit gardening or raising livestock.
3. Double Check for Access
The right parcel of land allows the owner to enjoy access to everything that is desired and needed. The following are just a few necessities:
- Property access
A property can have what appears to be all the right features at an attractive price but it might not allow the owner to easily access it. If there is no way to legally access the property -- by foot, four-wheeler, snowmobile, vehicle or some other method -- it's going to be useless to someone who wants to live off the grid. Consider, too, whether the property is accessible year round. Does the snow cut off access during the winter?
- Access to solar power
Access to solar power is considered a vital component of their success to many people who want to live off the grid. A parcel of land should provide a location that is large enough and positioned well to allow southern exposure after allowing for the slope of the land, shade and the land's other natural elements. This is a bit more difficult as far north as Alaska, but it is still extremely viable.
- Water access
As beautiful and remote as a property might be, if it lacks a nearby source of potable water, it could make living off the grid difficult. A clean and natural source of water that is dependable year round and located within a reasonable distance ensures that the land is sustainable. Too much energy, time and fuel is required in order to haul water in from afar for daily use.
- Access to natural materials
A property that has a natural source of trees, stone, clay, rock and other building materials helps make a life of living off the grid more smooth and sustainable. Ideally, a parcel of land should contain any building materials that are necessary for living off the grid in order to save time and money.
4. Consider Agricultural Land
Land that is zoned for agricultural use in Alaska is likely going to support all the ventures that a person living off the grid would require. Depending on how off the grid you plan to live, being able to raise animals or put in a suitable garden can help immensely.
Alaska offers a plethora of opportunities for those who want to live off the grid. By following the above tips, those interested in property in Alaska can find expansive plots of land with access to numerous natural resources that meet their needs.
- Written by Brock Butterfield
~Dreaming of the perfect floor plan for your bus conversion can be the most exciting part of the build. Here are a few ways other skoolies have accomplished the task.
~Written by: Brock Butterfield
Like most good and fun ideas it starts as a simple sketch on a napkin or scratch piece of paper. In this article I'll touch on a few methods skoolie owners used to plan their school bus conversion floor plan.
There's just something about drawing a tiny living space that takes me back to being a kid and drawing tree houses when I was supposed to be paying attention in class. Suzie Moreland sent us a hand sketched pencil drawing on graph paper, all drawn to scale (except for her 6 yr olds additions), erased and rearranged many times, rained on, milk spilled on, torn, and now cut by scissors (the 6 yr old again).
Beth Hodges from @the198bus demonstrates the use of graph paper for their floor plans in their 35 foot long school bus conversion.
Emily Sehl of @ineffablestitch shows that you can also accomplish the same task without graph paper. These are the floor plans for her 5 window short school bus.
3D Modeling Software
A simple but complex 3D modeling software, Sketch Up is free to download for "personal" use. If you take measurements of everything, and I mean everything in your bus then you can recreate the interior or exterior of your bus and start building the floor plan by adding walls, sinks, wood stoves, beds, etc. It takes time to learn and lots of time to measure every little thing from the wheel wells to the curve of the ceiling but it can get you a very precise floor plan to build off of.
Below we have a great example of a school bus conversion floor plan from Andy Yauger of @burlbus
Another method I just learned about is using Grid in Notability on an iPad so that you can hand sketch and alter as needed. Ronni Hall from @artfulfaithjournaling sent us her bus conversion floor plan sketch for an example.
I personally used a combination of hand sketch on grid paper and then took measurements and laid out the floor plans for my second school bus conversion in Adobe Photoshop as I'm more familiar with that program and was already paying for it.
There is no right or wrong way for laying out the floor plans for your skoolie. Realistically it's going to change many times before and during the build as you start to get a feel for the space. One pro tip I can offer is once you have a floor plan that you're pretty set on, grab some masking tape (see below) and use it to mimic the lines of your floor plan to get a feel it. With my first bus conversion I had totally forgot about the wheel wells and had to start over to work around them. In my second skoolie I realized my door to my bathroom was way too small to fit through even sideways so that forced me to rethink my kitchen in order to gain four more inches.