How to Remove the Original Floor of a School Bus

How and why to remove the original floor for a school bus conversion

What do you think of our clean slate now that the seats are out?! The true potential of our space is finally becoming clear. A few more things to demo, and the construction can finally begin! If you missed our post on the floor plan for this conversion, you can check it out here. Now onto removing the original floor of the bus!

Why Remove the Original Floor?

The next step is to remove the original floor of the bus. We often get asked why we bother putting the time and energy (and it is SO much time and energy!!!) into removing it, especially since we will just be covering it up with the new vinyl floor.

School bus floors are generally comprised of three layers: the rubber flooring, the plywood subfloor, and a layer of galvanized sheet metal, which sits on the actual structural metal supports of the bus. In this bus, we found a surprise bonus layer. Beneath the plywood subfloor, we found a thin, secondary layer of metal. We removed all but the bottommost layer of galvanized sheet metal for several reasons.

First, and most importantly, we like to know exactly what we are working with structurally in the bus. Any number of surprises could be laying under those layers of flooring, and we want to know them all!

Second, we like to insulate our floor. Insulation helps regulate both cold and heat, and we like to ensure we are as comfortable as possible in our travels. We will eventually be framing out the floor with 2×4’s and foam board insulation, followed by 3/4 inch plywood. If we did this on top of the layers of flooring already in place, we would be losing serious precious headspace!

The last major reason is patching the holes. Remember when we removed those bus seats? The seats were bolted directly through the floor of the bus. All those holes that held the bolts to the seats must be patched to eliminate any future moisture issues!

Removing the Metal Trim

The first step in removing the original floor of the bus is by far the easiest. The aisle in the bus as well as the perimeter where the flooring meets the wall is framed in by metal trim. This has to be taken out in order to get to the nitty gritty of removing the flooring itself!

empty school bus short bus with seats removed and original floor

Removing the Rubber Flooring

Now the real fun begins! It is time to remove that rubber flooring that has graced the interior of our bus for so many years. Let me tell you, that flooring did not want to go anywhere!

man pulling up the original rubber flooring of a short school bus with his hands

Seriously, whoever constructed this bus had too much fun with the glue. Every square inch was SLATHERED in it. We ended up tackling the rubber flooring in sections. Bryant would score through it with a knife, and then work on getting an edge released from the plywood subfloor. I would then pull upward on the section of flooring, while he worked at prying up the attached edge with the leverage from a shovel.

woman pulling up the rubber flooring of a short school bus with help of leverage from a shovel

It was nearly impossible to completely detach the rubber from the plywood subfloor. A large amount of the plywood came up with the rubber flooring. Removing just this layer of floor took us nearly three hours to complete!

Removing the Wood Subfloor

In the midst of swearing over the rubber flooring, I asked Bryant why we even bothered removing it off the plywood if it all was going to come out anyways. He explained that although it was a grueling task, it was much easier to remove it in layers. We needed to pull up the rubber flooring in order to access the screws that were holding the subfloor in place to the metal flooring of the bus. Prying up the plywood with a crowbar would be much more difficult than working layer by layer!

man removing screws from the plywood subfloor of a school bus

Once again we sectioned off the flooring to work on. Bryant set his circular saw to the depth of the plywood and scored it into square sections to work on.

Since the original builders of the bus were so generous with the glue, nearly every screw head needed to be scraped out prior to actually removing the screws from the plywood.

man prying up plywood subfloor of a school bus with the end of a hammer

Once the screws were removed from the plywood, the section could be removed from the bus to reveal the metal flooring beneath.

Unveil Your Surprise

The moment of truth! After all our hard work removing the many layers of flooring, we finally knew what we were going to be working with. We ended up finding a fair amount of rust behind the wheel wells when we pulled up the plywood subfloor. It was honestly more than we were expecting, but repairable. That led us to the decision to pull up the “bonus” layer of metal flooring we found as well. We will be able to clean much of the rust with a wire brush and paint with rustoleum. Some areas we will have to cut away and patched with the metal from the ceiling and the metal found inside the seats.

man removing rusted metal flooring from school bus

We are certainly not disappointed to see the floor demolition come to an end. As seat removal was my least favorite part of demo, I think it is safe to say that the flooring was Bryant’s least favorite. For now, things are starting to look up… up to the ceiling that is!

Converting a school bus is certainly a project not for the faint hearted. It is full of unexpected surprises and continuous problem solving along the way, no matter how many times you have done it!

Did you run into any unexpected surprises with your school bus conversion?

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