Now that the seats are out, the next step in the skoolie conversion process is to remove the skoolie floor.
Why Remove the Skoolie Floor?
I often see people debating the pros and cons of school bus floor removal. To each his (or her!) own. Some say that the floor looks perfectly fine: “My Thomas school bus came from Georgia, there’s no rust on it anywhere!”
But there are a lot of rusty floors out there.
And I want to know what’s under the subfloor before I invest time and money beginning my bus life on top of it.
Skill Saw: for cutting up the old plywood and rubber mat into manageable pieces
Sawzall: for those hard to reach spots
24″ pry bar: for getting the pieces started
36″ pry bar: for more leverage
Angle Grinder: for cutting off remaining screws, nails, and bolts.
Safety googles: Protect yourself from flying metal!
Removing Edging and Metal Strips
Your bus may have seam sealer around the edge. You don’t HAVE to remove it first because it’ll come out when you rip up the subfloor. It’s resilient stuff and hard to scrape out of there! But, prying the plywood out will be easier if it’s gone. Either use a 5-in-1 painting scraper or a multi-tool to remove it. (The multi-tool also comes in handy for removing those hellacious reflective strips on the outside, too!)
Your bus may also have strips screwed to the floor along the edges and along the aisles.
While you could try to unscrew them, so much dirt gets into the heads of the screws that it’s impossible to get them out without stripping the heads.
So just rip them out.
Use a 24″ pry bar (that has a thin edge) to bend the metal up and get it started. With a small gap opened up, insert the bent end of the 36″ pry bar under there and rip away!
Be sure to wear eye protection because those screws come rocketing out of the floor like missiles!
Chunk the School Bus Floor
Once the metal strips are out of there, cut up the old plywood school bus floor. The plywood is 3/4 ” with a rubber covering on top. I made the mistake on my first bus to rip it up…totally unnecessary (and hard!). Just cut it!
Put an old framing blade into a circular saw and set the depth to just under 3/4 of an inch. This will allow you to cut down the metal floor without cutting through it. If you have any rust holes in the steel floor they are perfect spots for checking to make sure the blade isn’t set too deep! Make your initial cut, then go underneath the school bus to check the depth.
Once the blade is set, make a long cut down the center of the aisle. Then make cross cuts from side to side every four feet or so. (Cutting right through the rubber mat saves hours of agony!)
When you get to those areas that are hard to reach with the skill saw (like the wheel wells and next to the walls) use a sawzall to finish the cuts.
Pry it Up
Start at the rear door and work my way forward. Tap the smaller, thinner pry bar, under the flooring at the rear exit, then pry upwards. Once you have a large enough gap for the 36″ pry bar to fit under, place the curved edge under and pry. This should rip up the nearest screws and nails and get the edge started.
Next, work your way under the piece prying the flooring up. Putting a wood block underneath the flooring and pry bar helps maintain leverage.
At times that you hit a seam in the plywood subfloor, but the rubber mat holds the plywood together. In those cases, simply use a utility knife to cut the rubber mat and free up the plywood.
Caution! I’ve been on job sites where someone has been prying up old plywood and it slipped out of their hands and snapped back down onto their foot. So be careful during this step!
Rust and Fastener Removal
Once you’re down to the metal floor of the bus, you can see all the rust you are going to want to remove. Put a cutting wheel on your angle grinder and cut off all the remaining nails and bolts. (You will most likely need to cut them because they won’t pull out easily!)
Once you’re done cutting, put a grinding wheel on the angle grinder and start grinding! You’ll want to get down pretty to bare metal in order for a rust converter to penetrate effectively.
Once you’re done, it’s time to patch holes and then paint!
School bus floor removal is a necessary step in any school bus conversion process, in my humble opinion.
Because, inevitably, you’ll find rust and will need to remediate it to protect your investment. You can see the rust conversion process here.
You can watch our video with all the details on the removing skoolie floor process on youtube here