Raising the Roof



I realized right away that my baseball cap was scraping the roof as I walked around inside. A quick check verified that as soon as I added some flooring I would be vertically challenged! I considered every option including living with it until I at last came to the realization that the roof was going to have to be raised!

First the windows came out, four screws and a little prying with a screwdriver and they came right out. It helped to have someone inside prying and someone outside to pull (and sometimes catch)  :o) I will not be using these windows again though as I have decided to go with larger motor home style windows with screens.

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Next, I went after the rivets around the rear cap using every tool in the box before I was done! The job took much longer than I had expected. I ground, chiseled, drilled and torched my way around the cap. Eventually I was able to loosen the rear cap while leaving the framing around the rear door intact.

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A chop saw is the only way to go on this next step, I got a reconditioned unit from a tool catalog for $150.00.  After settling on a six inch boost in head room, I cut the twenty pieces of box iron (1 1/2" x 1/16") I would need to weld into the window posts. Cutting the posts themselves was accomplished by mounting the chop saw to each post, these cuts must all be square and the pieces that are to be welded in must also be square and uniform in size.

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Starting at the rear of the bus with a chop saw on the window post and jig made to accommodate a set of camper jacks on the previous post,I unweighting each post as I went along , this helps to avoid binding the blade of the saw. If you don't have camper jacks, you probably know somebody who does, borrow them! You can substitute with bumper jacks, but they are less stable and harder to work with. C clamps and bar stock were attached to each cut post in such a way as to provide temporary support and guidance for a safer and more stable lift. Note that the two lower clamps are tight and the single upper is slightly loosened during the actual lifting.

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The last obstacle before the lift was to make the final cuts on the front cap. We chose to cut the post  right above the window, we removed the side windows and made the cut with a reciprocating saw. It seemed to be an easier task to fabricate a new piece to frame in the window than to leave the front cap in place, cut the roof behind the cap and step up the roof from there. The new frame piece will be welded in above and on the sides with the bottom slipping down into the rubber window seal. This will be detailed later in the skinning segment.

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Now we were clear to lift, some careful attention was needed to keep the windshield in place during the first inches. Once we cleared the window, the lift went quickly and easily. We welded in our 6 inch box iron pieces with a wire feed welder.It is important to start at one end and work your way to the other so that you can use the jacks to lift and lower the roof as needed to fit each piece in. It was a lot of work to this point but it really felt good to walk around inside without sensing the roof 1/4 above my head! That ominous feeling I was having that I needed to duck or crouch was relieved, it felt great! J

The 30/ 90 amp welder was purchased for about $250.00 from Northern Tool Supply (see Links page) it is gasless and incredibly easy to use! I gave this unit to a first time welder a year ago, new in the box. I didn't get it back until quite recently, he had built a double, split tilting, drive on/off snowmoile trailer! I suddenly felt much more secure about the purchase J I did already have a clunky old 220 ARC welder, but that has not been fired up once since the wire feed came.

So this is how the routine went to this point.

Remove seats (and wall panels if you plan to replace them with wood paneling).
Remove windows.
Free rear cap ( you may need to pull down a few roof panels to get to the rivets).
Chop rear most window post & insert jack applying light pressure to roof.
Chop next post forward and move jack one post forward, then install a bar stock support on the first cut post with three heavy c-clamps. Use two snug clamps below the cut and one slightly loose clamp above. The roof should snap upwards 1/8th inch when the saw breaks through to avoid binding.
Repeat this procedure from back to front leaving a support in every other, or every third cut post. (Three c-clamps per post $3.00 per clamp, you do the math and settle on what you are comfortable with. If you are using camper jacks they can support the entire weight of the roof, but they should have some support to discourage movement side to side or back to front. You can use bar stock or even pipes that can be clamped or tack welded inside the window posts. The jacks should also be set in about 1/5 or 1/6 from the front and the rear to balance the weight distribution and reduce stress in the center of the roof structure. lay out a piece of 2'x6' on the floor to help support the jack pad as well).
Free front cap by cutting window post above windshield.
Adjust jacks and unwieght the supports.
Remove c-clamps from upper side of window posts, leaving the bar stock in and clamped to the bottom post.
Lift and weld in box iron.
Weld in supports for windows and you now have head room! Closing in the caps, front and rear, will be covered in "Skinning the Bus".

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