Installing Denim Insulation, Enclosing Windows, & Hard-Starting the Diesel: Weeks 20 & 21

"It's noticeably more temperate in here"

Said with a smile as we looked around at the newly insulated walls. 

The ceiling may still look like a spaceship, but the walls of the Slow Rolling Home are starting to take shape. Each window has a 'hull' under it which was originally filled with a yucky pink fiberglass insulation, stuffed thickly and having accumulated twenty years of Florida humidity in its lifetime. 


Denim insulation installed, we see a difference in the internal comfort of the bus, especially working on cold, grey days in the forest shade.

Thick 2 x 4 studs line the lower and upper boundaries of the window hulls, framing the structure walls of what will enclose our tiny house. Alhen worked with lengthy beams, cut to fit the length of the space and set the beams end-to-end the length of the bus. 

Before these could be installed, even more rivets needed to be punched out. If you remember from our earlier musings, rivets are the bane of existence when needing to remove them. Rivets are watertight and one of the most useful material binding options ever. But, they're a real pain in the neck to remove!

Using the holes left behind by departed rivets, Alhen secured the studs to the metal framing and our walls were born. 

The second week in November saw the delivery of two sizes of UltraTouch recycled denim insulation from CaraGreen - a company who took a chance on two DIYers and freighted us an enormous pallet's worth of insulation when no one else would. Our delivery man went as far as he could with his 45-foot truck but ultimately had to leave the insulation pallet at the entry to our cul-de-sac, about a quarter-mile and three (steep) hills from our house.


Okay, one of those hills is our driveway. 

We slashed the outer saran wrapping of the insulation bundles and loaded the Subaru to the gills, taking two trips to get it back to the house safely. Where are you keeping all of this supplies? You might be wondering. 

We keep 90% of our building materials and tools inside the bus at all times.

Creativity and organization is our friend, as our available space for indoor storage of large, cumbersome building materials are limited. We have the option to Tetris the garage, but it's proven easier to simply push items around the bus as we work on one section or corner at a time. 

At this stage of construction, many projects are running concurrently as tools are available, as many hands are on deck, and as materials arrive from various orders. We've begun "closing" windows we intend to block from the interior. These enclosed windows will be framed, insulated, and seamlessly integrated with our interior walls. They're destined to become storage closets, create more intimate rooms, and serve as a means of making the place more "homey". 

To do this, we removed a window that needed repair and measured its entire vacant space and components. Our calculations would later inform exact measurements for sheet metal cut to order. Some windows will be blocked completely whereas others will have only the bottom pane of glass replaced with metal, creating a better insulated and more moisture-resistant space. 

Alhen sourced a local metal company where he could order metal sheets cut to precise dimensions, a decision that saved us loads of time and potential injury working with raw metal. He picked the pieces up in Knoxville and we began to process them. 


Lesson learned: anything above "beginner" level assembly may require many additional steps before the piece is ready for use. 

This is Amelia speaking: I'd never had the experience of treating an item in so many different ways before it could be used. It seemed that everything I'd worked with in the past came ready for use. Not the case with metal. It needed to be sanded and "scored" to accept primer, cleaned with acetone to remove the greasy layer left behind in processing, painted with multiple coats of spray primer on both sides, and pre-drilled to fit the holes in the window space before each could be installed.

The bolts we used to secure the metal are treated with a thread-locker. In some cases, we drilled the metal from both sides to ensure the bolts could join sheet metal and bus metal cleanly, then sealed with at least one, sometimes up to three layers of adhesive (applied by caulking gun) to ensure each piece is watertight. 

Beyond the construction of the bus, it's important to keep our engine in tip-top shape. 


In case you're curious, yes we intend to drive this thing around. 

It's imperative we start the engine regularly and allow it to run in place of being able to drive it. The slow rolling home is perched rather precariously on a steep hill, relying only on its air brakes and some cinderblocks (and rocks) holding the wheels in place. The next time we drive the bus, it'll be to its next destination and our first big adventure! 

We recently purchased chocks, which give us slightly more peace of mind. 

Our recent startup was, needless to say, a little worrisome. Diesel engines can be more difficult to start as the temperatures drop. Glow plugs play into the equation but without the ability to consistently drive the bus around, the battery, the air compressor, and the fuel sitting in the tank are also subject to unforeseen variables. After a couple key turns, the slow rolling home chugged sluggishly to life. 

We'll continue to learn more about diesel engines as we get to know our bus better, but to be safe, we invested in an anti-gel supplement for the fuel tank in the interim. Additionally, we're looking into protecting the sitting fuel from the development of algae and considering ways to fix the fuel gauge which has been broken since we purchased the bus in June. 

As with all projects, there are lulls and there are spurts. 

These past few weeks have seen a spurt and the uptick has been gloriously welcome. We can't wait to move in and are anxious to get to the finer parts of construction - mainly, the installation of interior living elements and the opportunity to take the bus to new places. Over the next couple weeks, we'll seal the remaining windows deemed for replacement, insulate the ceiling, and begin receiving ordered appliances coming from far and wide.


In the meantime, check out some of our latest posts outside of bus construction progress: