Removing the Walls and Ceiling in a Skoolie Conversion

To remove or not to remove the walls and ceiling in a school bus conversion

The days of demolition are quickly coming to a close! As much as I love tearing out the old, I am very excited for the day we can start adding our personal touches back in. If you missed the post about our plan for the bus, you can find it here. Tearing out the walls and ceiling in our bus is one of the last big steps of demo, having already removed the seats and the floor. There is nothing quite like looking at the bare bones of your build to realize there is no turning back now!

This topic is probably one of the most highly debated within the skoolie community. Many pro’s and con’s exist around ceiling and wall removal, mostly based on labor time, cost, and resources. Choosing to removing the walls and ceiling is just the route that we decide to take with our builds, based on our personal needs and expectations from our bus conversion.

man pulling on sheet metal to remove school bus wall

Why Remove the Original Walls and Ceiling?

We actually get asked this quite often. Removing the walls and ceiling is quite a bit of work, and at first glance, they look pretty good. They are intact, without any obvious signs of any damage. So why bother removing them?

Running Electrical

With the ceilings and walls gone, we have the opportunity to run all of our electrical! The ceiling will have ample recessed lights and several speakers for surround sound on those long drives. Additionally, we will wire the 12 volt and 120 volt outlets into the walls. These will charge all our devices and power our appliances, water pump, and TV.


The stock insulation in school buses is generally pretty subpar for the purposes of a skoolie build. It is perfectly fine for getting kids bundled in their jackets to and from school in the middle of winter, but not for much else. Insulation is rated based on R value, and the R value that comes standard in buses is pretty low. In addition, there are usually gaps of missing insulation, which just further decreases the R value of your build. We like to tear out all the existing insulation and put in new insulation with a higher R value.

Checking for Leaks

Ah yes, the leaky ceilings. Spoiler alert- we have yet to complete a bus build that hasn’t had a leaky roof. It is amazing what you find hidden behind the ceilings and walls in a school bus, and unfortunately that includes water damage. Trapped moisture not only compromises the integrity of your bus, but it also creates a breeding ground for mold and mildew. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be breathing in harmful mold spores while inside my bus.


Aesthetics is arguably the least important reason for demolishing the original walls and ceilings in a school bus conversion, but important none the less. You are spending all sorts of time and energy to create your tiny home on wheels, you might as well have it reflect your personal taste and style! Starting with a blank shell of a bus certainly makes this easier to accomplish.

Removing the Screws

Notice how I was able to say screws?! This was such a huge time saver with this bus! Frequently, the walls and ceiling are installed using rivets. We completely lucked out with this bus, as they were installed with screws. Demolition took less than half the amount of time that it would have if we were dealing with rivets!

woman using screw gun to remove screws from school bus ceiling

Removing the Panels

After removing all the screws, we (and I mean Bryant!) used a pry bar to release the panels from the metal frame of the bus. Each panel was attached to the framework using a high strength glue in addition to the screws.

man using pry bar and hammer to remove sheet metal panels from school bus ceiling
man pulling on sheet metal to remove school bus ceiling
man using pry bar to remove sheet metal from school bus wall

As we removed the ceiling panels, we encountered some leaks coming from the roof. We actually did this part of the demolition on a day that was raining. This made it quite apparent where the leaks were coming from.

Removing the Insulation

The old insulation had to go! Not only to make room for the new, higher R value insulation, but because of the water damage it suffered from the leaky roof. It was time to put on some long sleeves and gloves, grab a garbage bag, and say good bye to the old insulation!

man removing insulation from school bus ceiling wearing gloves and long sleeves

It certainly seems like surprises come our way every step of this little adventure we have embarked on. No matter how many blog posts we’ve read, YouTube videos we’ve watched, or how much personal experience we have, something pops up that never ceases to amaze us. As frustrating or as disheartening as it may seem at the time, it is part of the journey and certainly creates memorable experiences for us to look back on. If there is one thing I can say about this entire skoolie journey, it is that it’s all about the experiences, and the time that we get to spend together. Good, bad, or ugly, we truly love all the opportunities and memories this journey has provided us so far.

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