How do you gut a school bus?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: How do you gut a school bus? We will explain why this is perhaps the most important step in building a Skoolie and tell you how to do it step-by-step. 

How do you gut a school bus?

To gut a school bus you must pull out its windows, the side panels, the floor, the roof, the front lights, basically everything to the exterior sheet metal. 

Gutting is the first step in any school bus conversion and it is an essential step. You must gut the school bus to find if there are any issues (like mould or rust) especially with a second-hand bus. 

Here’s how you gut a school bus:

  • First, you must expect that your school bus will have some sort of insulation that you must rip out. Consider your options as you must replace it if you want to keep your Skoolie cool in the summer and warm in winter. 
  • Below the flooring, usually rubber flooring, there is plywood that in most cases was there for several years. The flooring may even have traces of water damage. Do not skip this step, you must take it all out in order to replace it. 
  • Important to know: whether your bus has screws or rivets, the process of gutting is the same. If it has screws, the gutting process will be way, way easier. With rivets, it’s probably going to take longer. The reason is that screws are gonna be able to be backed out with an impact driver or with some WD-40 or rust breaker and typically you won’t have to grind too much. 
  • If you have rivets you’re gonna be drilling out those rivets you’re gonna be popping the rivets out, you’re gonna be using air chisels or grinders and well it’s just gonna take you a lot more time.  
  • When you start gutting your school bus the first thing you’re gonna want to start gutting is going to be your upper side panels above the window. The reason why bus gutting should start here is that those side panels are also holding in the roof.
  • Once you get that side panel out you’ll then be able to take the ceiling out and the whole upper portion of the bus will come apart.  
  • Once you rip out the school bus ceiling you can then get to the emergency exits which we highly suggest to rip out or replace or at least rip out and then put back in and reclaulk just to make sure that it is 100% sealed so you will have no water issues in the future.
  • Once the roof is done you can move to the side panels below the windows. Many people like to skip this step, but we insist you do it. The window cells are going to be spot welded just behind the window guard so you’re gonna have to grind it just below the window or remove the windows and grind the whole window.
  • Once the side panels are out you can move on to the floor, which is going to be probably one of the hardest parts of your entire gutting process. The reason behind it has seats that are screwed through the plywood. All of this is gonna have to come out! We explain how to remove the bus seats in the section below. 
  • After removing the bus seats, the last thing that we highly suggest you do is going to rip out all of the windows. The windows are not going to be the easiest to remove because they’re held in by caulk that has probably been there for ten to fifteen years. However,  with a good razor blade or a Dremel, you can get them out quite easily.
  • Once you rip the windows out you can reuse them or you can replace them with RV windows. 
  • Recalculating the windows is going to be a simple way to ensure that your bus is not going to have any leaks and that it’s going to last into the future so don’t skip this step!

How to remove the bus seats

When renovating a school bus for personal use, you will gut the interior of the bus. Part of the remodel will be removing the seats from the bus. Secure bus seats on the side wall and floor of the bus. The lower bolts go through the floor of the bus. You will need a helper to hold the retaining nuts under the bus while you are removing the bolts from the inside of the bus.

  • Spray the bolts with penetrating oil. You should spray the retaining nuts under the bus as well. Let the oil soak in for an hour before removing the seat hardware from the bus.
  • Have your helper go under the bus with a 7/16 inch socket wrench to hold the locking bolt nut. There are two bolts that hold the two legs off the bus seat. You will need to tell your helper which bolt you are going to start removing first.
  •  Remove the low seat bolt with a 3/8-inch socket wrench while your helper holds the locknut with the socket wrench. Remove the four-floor bolts before moving on to the side bolts.
  • Remove the two bolts that hold the bus seat to the side of the school bus with a ½-inch socket wrench. The side of the seat rests on a metal ledge and the bolts go through the seat mounting and the boss. There will be two or three mounting bolts on the side of the bus seat.
  • Ask your helper to help pull the seat off the bus. Repeat the process until all seats are removed from the bus.

What’s next after gutting a school bus?

As discussed, after the acquisition, the first step is to dismantle the interior of the school bus. Exit the seats, only those necessary are kept. Depending on the vehicle, the other interior components are also removed: luggage racks, handrails, etc.

The next step after gutting your future Skoolie is renovation. During their transformation, it is often necessary to renovate the vehicle, both mechanically and in terms of bodywork. Smoky engine, rusty bodywork, these obstacles do not discourage the adventurers of transformation.

Insulation, heating, partitioning, installation of sanitary facilities, fitting out of a bathroom, a kitchen, laying of beds, water management (clean/dirty), electrical connections …: the fitting out requires knowledge in many trades. These arrangements must meet certain standards for the vehicle to be approved.

Final thoughts 

Although they are the norm, traditional brick or concrete houses do not have to be the only option for living. Just as there are people who have transformed industrial containers into warm homes, school buses lend themselves to being transformed into unconventional but functional houses on wheels such as Skoolies. 

For all those who are passionate about travel, a Skoolie offers a way to always be on the go without sacrificing the comforts that a home offers. School buses are also a blank canvas – once the seats are removed the possibilities are endless. The design will depend on the number of people that will be accommodated on the bus, as well as their lifestyle and needs.

Do you think gutting a Skoolie is the most complicated step? If you have any questions, comments or tips on the content, please let us know!

FAQ on How do you gut a school bus?

How long does it take to build a Skoolie?

Building a Skoolie can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on your level of training, the time you have, whether you will have help or not, and of course, your resources.

What equipment do I need to build a Skoolie?

For the transformation of the bus into a viable home, several elements must be integrated into the interior of the vehicle. First of all, insulation is one of the essentials to achieve with the installation of a floor. Once this step is completed, you will have to think about the electrical and plumbing equipment. 

Are Skoolies worth it?

For many people, Skoolies are totally worth it. A Skoolie offers a way to always be on the go without sacrificing the comforts that a home offers. School buses are also a blank canvas – once the seats are removed the possibilities are endless. The design will depend on the number of people that will be accommodated on the bus, as well as their lifestyle and needs.

Is a Skoolie considered an RV?

Yes, A Skoolie is considered an RV. They have become popular recently and are nothing more than converted school buses. They are spacious and offer plenty of room to decorate and furnish as you may please. 

Are Skoolies safe?

Compared to other RVs and vehicles, yes, Skoolies are safe on the road. The school bus is a heavy vehicle with superior construction. Its robust construction, it’s simple and accessible mechanics make it a very reliable vehicle. An abundance of used parts, at affordable prices, is available to bus owners. 


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