Real Estate

Don’t believe the hype. Demo ain’t easy

After: It only took three weekends, but the inside of our bus is finally cleared.
After: It only took three weekends, but the inside of our bus is finally cleared. Submitted

Buy a bus, they said.

Watch the YouTube tutorials, they said.

It’ll be fun, they said.

If you’re interested in converting a bus into a home you can find the answer to almost every question you have on the Internet. Most of those answers come in the form of a YouTube tutorial.

However, every bus is built different. Some buses have bench seats that are attached to the floor with four legs. Our seats are bolted to the wall on one side with legs on the other.

Some buses have walls that attach to the frame with screws. Our walls are connected to the frame with a few hundred rivets. I tried counting them all but the anxiety got to me after 50.

Then there is rubber flooring to remove (it hides rust) so you can fill in the holes in the floor that are left by the bolts from the benches. According to all the tutorials, all of this should take — on average — about a weekend.

Removing the seats

Several tutorials suggest using an angle grinder to — you guessed it — grind off the tops of the bolts that connect the benches to the floor. I chose to use a cordless angle grinder. And with a fully charged battery I took first crack at removing the benches.

No problem, I thought, as I started on the first bolt.

In about five minutes I had one leg free and a dead battery.

It was time to reassess and head back to the big-box home improvement store (something I’d be getting used to). I returned with a corded grinder and it was off to the races (very slow, riddled-with-problems races). It took some acrobatic moves on my part to reach some of the bolts on the wall. And by the time I got all the seats out, the first weekend of demo had come to an end.

Not a great start.

Do you know what you can do with used bus seats? Yeah, that was a tricky one for my wife, Jenn, and I to answer too. We could pay someone to take them, but the whole point of this renovation is to keep costs low. Instead, Jenn used a box cutter and peeled off the cushions, which were filled with generations of dust, gum and broken pencils. We dumped the upholstery in the trash and gave the metal frames to a steel recycling center — and even got some money back.

Removing the flooring

Every tutorial said this would be the difficult part. However, this proved to be the easiest because our rubber floor was attached to the metal. It came off with ease in about 30 minutes. Things were finally going our way!


Removing the walls and ceiling

Tutorials recommended drilling out the center of each rivet which would allow me to pop each one out of the wall. So I loaded my drill with a metal 10 mm drill bit.

First rivet bites the dust. Then a second. Then a third. I was on a roll.

Overly confident, I started on the fourth rivet. SNAP. The drill bit bites the dust. Time for another trip to the store. I returned with a more expensive drill bit and got to rivet five before it broke. Time to reassess. YouTube suggested I try an air hammer with a pick and chisel. So I did. The air hammer and pick worked wonders, the chisel did not. So I reassessed.

I grabbed my grandfather’s hammer and chisel that I inherited, struck the 50-year-old chisel with the hammer, and the rivet head flew off. I repeated this process until the ceiling and walls were off of the frame.

The demo that was supposed to take one weekend took us three.

Now it’s time to build.

Next time on Redefining the American Dream: Why won’t my knee bend?! This is supposed to be the fun part? Where are we going to put everything? All these answers and more, same bus time, same bus article.

Steve Dassatti is a husband, father, film school graduate and now bus renovator. Despite his best efforts he has not lost his mind, or an appendage, yet. Follow his journey on Instagram @Thosemodernhippies.