Skoolie Update: New Radiator & Spray Foam

Recently I posted an overview of my skoolie project. I’m still working on it; thank god there isn’t a deadline, or I’d be fired.

Since that post, there have been two big (and expensive) events in skoolie-land that put me several large steps closer to project completion.

First was the installation of a new radiator. When I bought the bus, I knew it had a coolant leak, and planned to fix it if/when I found a qualified bus mechanic. The leak didn’t prevent the bus from running – it did, however, require me to constantly monitor the coolant levels and refill as required.

Eventually I drove the bus over to the folks at Rocky Mount Radiator, hoping it was something simple like a leaky hose. Of course it wasn’t – I had to get a new radiator. There are 220,000 miles on the bus, though, so repairs like this (as painful as they are) are part of the deal.

The leak is gone now, and there are no other major mechanical repairs on the docket.

The second event has been a long time coming: spray foam insulation. Many things conspired against this happening, but now it’s done, allowing me to surge forward again.

Spray foaming the interior of the bus was a tough choice. See below:

Pros

– seals stuff up tight

– doesn’t absorb moisture

– doesn’t decay

– high R-value

Cons

– expensive as hell

– difficult, if not impossible, to spray in a uniform manner

– requires a professional to install, unless you want to try your luck with one of those DIY kits

The pros outweighed the cons – though, coupled with the new radiator, my bank account isn’t thanking me.

After talking with several insulation companies, I went with an outfit called All Star Insulation. They’re a few hours from where the bus is parked, and I was willing to drive it to them, but they gamely drove their rig over to my neck of the woods.

The inside of a school bus is a unique spray foaming project, but they did their best to do it right. Jeff, the installer, didn’t rush through the process; I was able to scrutinize the interior numerous times and get him to redo certain areas. The end result isn’t perfect (there are gaps and holes that need to be touched up) but if you’re looking for perfection with spray foam, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed.

Before I move on, I have to call out Brabble Insulation, a local insulation company, for their shitty customer service. Brabble is only about 20 miles from me, so it was a no-brainer to see if they could do this job. I talked to them, a guy came out here and looked the bus over, and I received a quote – and then they apparently decided to say “screw this guy.”

If I had to guess, I think the issue is that I said the quote was inaccurate. But it wasn’t inaccurate to my benefit; their quoted spray foam thicknesses were too thin. I didn’t want to get surprised with an even-more-massive bill, so I took my own measurements and informed them, and that’s when they decided to basically ignore me. No revised quote, no attempt at scheduling the job, no response to my voicemails. I got a reply to one of my emails 18 days later, but by then I’d had enough.

I don’t know what kind of business balks when someone tries to be honest and, potentially, gives them more money. Maybe I wasn’t nice enough. Maybe I offended the guy’s professional honor by correcting him. Maybe my “corrected quote” theory is completely off. Maybe they didn’t want to spray foam the bus at all. Maybe they were possessed by evil spirits. It’s a mystery that probably won’t ever be solved – unlike the mystery in my novel Double Lives, which is solved in explosive and uber-awesome fashion!

(Damn, that was good.)

So I wouldn’t recommend those folks, but I do recommend All Star Insulation. Give ’em a shout if you’re in Eastern NC and need insulation work done.

After spray foaming was complete, we had to trim a lot of portions that spilled over the framing. It’s a tedious, dirty job, as the foam spawns tons of crumbly bits when you slice into it, and sometimes it’s hard to get your blade or saw at an efficient cutting angle

So now, with spray foam, the bus will be nigh-impenetrable in winter. Summer, though, is a different story, since air conditioning isn’t feasible on a skoolie….

Lastly, here are some photos of the foamy goodness:

IMG_0137
The ceiling and walls.
IMG_0138_600x600
Is it just me, or does this section look like brains?
IMG_0139_600x600
Filling in gaps with Great Stuff, a brand of spray-can foam. It’s the pale yellow stuff. Once it cures, it’ll be shaved off to make it level.
IMG_0141_600x600
The back door.

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