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Butcher Block Countertop

The most nerve wracking experience of our bus build project to date? Cutting through our beautiful new butcher block countertop! We are under mounting both the sink and the stove top, so the edges need to be clean and nice. But we got it done as a team.

Our sink wasn’t meant to be under mounted, but we did it anyway. We built a frame to support the sink. The difficulty was getting it flush up to where the countertop will sit so there were no gaps. This took four hands and a lot of clamps to hold it into place before gluing and screwing it in.

The stove top was a little easier. It is mounted to a shelf that we fit below the countertop. On top will be a hinged portion of the counter that can open when we need to cook, and close when we need the extra workspace.

Cutting the hinged panel and the block that will rest over the sink was done with just a circular saw and a good old fashioned hack saw. The edges aren’t pretty yet, but once sanded I think everything will look great! To be continued.

Roughed Out Kitchen

It’s a real mess in here, but we have kitchen things happening!

Upper cabinets are roughed out and installed. Lower cabinets are walled in and waiting for the countertop. We agreed on a solution to compensate for that odd corner behind the driver’s seat, by expanding the upper cabinets out and curving the lower cabinets in. It looks kinda neat not having a totally squared off kitchen!

We ordered butcher block counter top and will have it this weekend to cut, stain, and install. Our sink and stove will be recessed below the counter, with a hinged panel over the stove so we can maximize the workspace (for cooking prep or for tuning skis, whatever is needed in the moment). The bed side table doubles as a device charging station for phones, batteries, headlamps, two-way radios… with a control panel on the side for outlets, switches, and audio receiver. It’s all very rough at the moment, but it’s starting to take the shape of a home.

It’s nice to take a step back and really take stock in everything that you’ve accomplished. Coming back home to the bus after five days away was exciting, and I’m totally motivated to get back to work.

Balance is Everything

Took a day off from the bus to go skiing. We’ve been feeling burnt out a bit and need to remind ourselves why we are building out the bus in the first place. It’s to facilitate our lifestyle of climbing mountains and skiing and being happy in the outdoors. Those are our stress relievers, but we’ve created new stress with the bus and not had that outlet. Even a single day skiing some tough runs was enough to get jump started again. Balance is everything!

Kitchen and Flooring

We are getting an idea of our kitchen layout, and how much room the appliances will need. Check out the small (but deep) sink that we found on Amazon! It came with a colander, dish rack, and fitted cover / cutting board. We also want to recess the countertop for the propane stove so that we can have a multi-use workspace for chopping veggies, or for working on skis.

We also dropped by Color Tile in Medford and had a chat with a flooring expert. We learned so much about vinyl vs. laminate, and porcelain vs. ceramic! Super helpful. They let us bring home some samples to view them in the space with natural lighting.

So with our tile picked, we found out that it’s actually “premium pool tile”, and would set us back like $450 just to do the fireplace and modest kitchen backsplash. Ouch! But the owner was super nice and offered us the last 80 tiles for $200. It’s plenty to do the job and a little bit more. It gives us some margin for error to screw up a few.

Walling in the Garage

Walling in the garage was super challenging because (as any bus person knows) there are no right angles in a bus! We also have a hobbit door going from the bedroom to the garage, a small window, and limited stud space.

But creative solutions abound! Brad used the cardboard template idea again, and also cut the wall boards at an angle to catch the most studs. The cuts were perfect! The end product is a strong wall that is primed for our rubber layer and should hold great. Brad also marked the studs with strips of tape so we knew where to put our screws. Simple, but smart. I like this guy (a lot).

Electrical Staging

Just a few months ago we knew absolutely nothing about electrical systems. Now we know nothing, plus a little bit more. 🙂 I’m super proud of us. All of the wiring has been staged and are ready for appliances! We’ll have recessed puck lights, sound system, fan, USB ports, wall outlets, battery charger, pump, and some extras (like a light and fan in the bathroom). Once we start paneling in the walls and ceiling we can cut holes for our lights, speakers, and outlets. I can’t wait!

For some reason, Brad’s little strips of black tape makes my heart happy. It’s the little things.

Blocking Out Windows

Shuttle busses typically have these signature rounded windows. They look nice for a shuttle bus, but we wanted something squared off to look more like a home than a bus. See our earlier post about how we did that.

So now we have window frames that are square, but are very visible from the outside. Not attractive! The solution seems chintzy, but worked out great. I cut inserts of foam board to fit along the sides of the frames and to fill the gaps where we plan to wall over the windows, and painted over with black paint. The result from the outside is perfect. You cannot see the wooden window frames or the foam board at all. It’s like looking into a black hole! Check it out, I’m super pleased:

Bad Window

Whoever cut this window did a terrible job! This is the window in the front of the bus by the entry door, and the only window we hadn’t dealt with yet. There are big gaps around the window, and water from the rain was pooling up at the base. Now I can see why!

I removed the window frame and installed some Sponge Window Seal tape around it (the same as what we used for the other windows) and pressure fit back into place. I don’t think we will have any problem with this window again, that stuff is so simple and amazing.

Special Delivery!

The UPS guy brought this box today. I’ve never seen a box delivered in such bad shape. It looks like it’s been to China and back! We couldn’t remember what we ordered (we have been ordering a lot of stuff lately). It turns out it was the mounting arm for the propane tank, thankfully undamaged. Lol.

Rubber Flooring Water Test

Rubber flooring water test! We plan to line the garage space (walls and floor) with rubber to waterproof it from drippy skis and snow melt. I ordered some rubber flooring samples online so we could physically compare the qualities and run some water tests. I didn’t expect the rubber gym mat to perform well. I thought it may have been too porous and actually absorb water, but all three samples did great! Water beaded up and poured off. I left the samples with water on them overnight, and it all evaporated without sinking into the material.

Even though the other samples performed better, we decided to go with the gym mat because it’s thin and pliable and should be easy to mount. Order has been placed and comes on Tuesday, then we can finish off the garage!

Building Wooden Window Frames For Rounded Windows

Today we tackled a big project that’s been lurking in the backs of our minds: building wooden window frames. We weren’t quite sure how we were going to do it. We knew we wanted squared off windows with sills to make it feel less like a bus and more like a real home…

So we came up with an idea to build out the frames first with 1 x 2 boards using wood glue and staples, pressure fit them into the window with foam, then staple the whole thing into place. I measured and cut boards, Brad assembled the frames, then we installed them into the windows together. They are surprisingly sturdy! Even though there were a few mishaps with measuring (*cough*), it was a fun and productive day building wooden window frames.

When the time comes, we’ll wall around the windows with tongue-and-groove paneling, and install sills. Check out the results from today’s work:

Water Pump and Regulator Installation

Brad put together a little mounting platform for the water pump and regulator. It lives right next to the fresh water tank, which is now under the bed. Our original plan was to install it in the undercarriage of the bus. Here is the story of why the original plan is a challenge right now. True, it equals lost space for storage, but will be something that we can change out this summer. There are positives to this compromise, however. We can keep our water from freezing over, plus the floor of the bus provides structure that a heavy tank needs!

For weight distribution we are keeping both our fresh and gray water tanks on one side of the bus. As the fresh water tank empties into the grey water tank, we shouldn’t notice any weight shift.

(Math moment: one gallon of water weighs 8.34 lbs, multiplied by 26 gallons = 217 lbs. That’s heavy!)

Water pump and regulator are mounted by RV water tank
The water pump and regulator have been mounted to the frame under the bed, next to the fresh water tank.

Tankless Water Heater – Hours of Showers

Our tankless water heater arrived, and it is really big and heavy! The product photo on Amazon made it look half the size. But honestly, I’m not worried about having hot water now, this should do the job. (Ok, certainly not “hours of showers”, but long enough to suds up and rinse off.)

We added some extra support to the garage wall and did a test fit. The tankless water heater will sit just to the side of the little hobbit hatch from the main cabin, and on the other side of the wall to the right (not walled in yet) is the shower, so the lines don’t have to run far. Hooray for hot showers!

Deep Cycle Batteries Storage Box

Ok, deep cycle batteries are really heavy! We are keeping them under the bed, but needed to keep them from shifting while driving, so we built a frame around the base and strapped them down. They aren’t going anywhere. The fact that lithium batteries don’t need any special venting was one of the draws for purchasing them over flooded batteries, so we can store them safely under the bed. It’s really fun to see them charging now that the solar is all set up, even on a dreary, rainy day!

(I want to peel the protective film off the charge controller so bad, but Brad won’t let me…)

Insulation Done! No More Ugly Orange

The insulation is completely done! We don’t have to look at that awful orange stuff anymore. Everything looks so nice and clean inside. It’s really starting to come together.

We used 1″ polyiso rigid foam board for the walls, ceiling, and the floor. This is over the top of the existing orange insulation that was already in the bus. There’s no such thing as too much! The bus is starting to look like a space station with all of the reflective silver everywhere…

Alien Octopod

The function of the alien octopod explained: solar comes with a mess of cables and adapters and extenders. Because we are using flexible panels that tape down, there’s no room to tuck the cables underneath to keep them tidy. So Brad came up with a solution using a waterproof electrical box. All of the excess cabling fits nicely inside! He did a great job. And now we officially have solar installed! 

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