How much we Talkin Here???
Now I know its rude to talk about money, but I also know there are a lot of people interested in how much such a venture costs, and I want to be as open as possible with the hope of inspiring others to create...and for jokes. So that said, probably the number one theme of questioning I receive regarding Double Decker Coffee Roasting is, how much money are you putting in? Generally, it seems most people expect me to say I got into this for some wicked deal or life hack. When in reality its much more boring in that I simply set a goal in my early 20s to own property or a business by 30. In order to realize that goal I just worked as much as possible to load up two main bank accounts; a projects account, and a wow you really blew it with that project account, account (RRSP). Although to some people the numbers I am discussing here are not a huge sum of money, but when you work hourly labour jobs it can take awhile to add up...or at least in my case it did.
Although I saved primarily to execute a project of this type, I can’t seem to shake a voice in my head of that dink on Dragons Den that is always yelling “YOU ARE KILLING MONEY”! But at the end of the day, I want to create a business from the ground up, and if catastrophic monetary failure is a part of that lesson, so be it. I mean it is really no more of a loss than paying for a business degree and never using it. Nothing ventured nothing gained is the mentality I try to keep, and at the very least I will have a neat place to sip some decent coffee!
So lets brake things down. As far as the bus purchase went, by the time my week on Vancouver Island putting the deal together was done, buying the bus, transferring titles, insuring it, hiring a driver, ferries, and fuel to get it up to the Callaghan I was into the bus for $20k. Now a lot of people seem quite shocked when they hear this figure, but really, what are they comparing it too? Its not like there is a flooded market of double decker buses on the west coast. The market value of the bus was just what the seller wanted, as he had the only one for sale. Anyways, I find its easier to swallow when its put in the context of $20k for 480 square feet of rent free space on wheels.
With $20k invested in the space, I was not about to halfass the rest of the project. It would have been very simple to paint the inside, turn some seats around, chuck in some tables, toss in a $400 Breville espresso machine and call it a day. But I wanted to build something I could be proud of, whether it succeeded as a business or not I needed to be fulfilled by the build. Since the start of the project, the budget has been reallocated several times, but originally, I set the budget around $50k in enhancements to the already paid for bus. In order to best meet the budget I split it into four main categories: Construction cost (the roof upgrades, interior cafe conversion), Servicing Cost (electricity, plumbing, gas), Equipment Cost, and unforeseen/whoopsies.
Now anyone involved in the café business is all thinking the same thing, you think you can outfit a café and a roastery for $20k? And at the time, yes I did believe this... lets just say it’s a good thing the woopsies fund was so high.
The Messy, Awful, Expensive, Best Option Around
When I first purchased the bus I knew the upstairs ceiling had water damage and would need to be removed. Although this would create a lot more work, it would also give me the opportunity to see whats up there structurally as well as improve the insulation situation. Originally, the bus had about as much insulation as a beer can. All the walls were thin sheet metal, the floor plywood, and all single pane glass windows. Having such a lack of insulation in a structure creates three main issues; an inefficient building, a difficulty regulating temperature, and condensation buildup possibly resulting in water damage. Issues such as inefficiency I will just have to swallow, after all it is a bus from the 1960s and I have no plans on replacing all that single pane glass. However, I can add insulation where it will take it and dropping the ceiling is the first step.
Being an impatient individual, I decided the best way to remove the ceiling panels was to smash them down with a hammer rather than drill each rivet out. Unfortunately this was a terrible idea which resulted in much more work. Although my way was quick to get the ceiling down, it left a mess of broken rivets that still needed individual attention to be smoothed out in order for the new ceiling to sit flush to the frame. After grinding down the remaining rivets, I decided to add some wood to the existing aluminum frame to give me more material to fasten the new ceiling to.
Once the ceiling was demoed and everything was ready to be covered back up, I started prepping for my insulation. I decided to go with a spay foam application because when properly applied it creates a seal ensuring there will be no condensation issues. All that said, there are a lot of downsides to spray foam as the kits are very expensive, difficult to get use too, and fairly unpleasant to apply. In my case, I needed two of these kits (around $600) to ensure the ceiling was completely covered. The first tank I entirely over sprayed, resulting in excess foam that needed to be removed, as well as many shadow areas that needed to be re-sprayed. The second kit went much better as I had a smoother technique and changed from the straight nozzle to the fan nozzle creating more manageable spray pattern. Although the spray foam kits where pricey, messy, and required weeks of cutting and sanding the foam down, I still believe they were the best option as they yielded a great end product that I am satisfied will not condensate. With the spray foam complete, all that was left was replacing the ceiling panels, but first....
Reinforcing the Roof
Due to the bus's original roof having minimal structure, it needed to be beefed up to handle more than a little rain. Currently, the bus has an aluminum skeleton which holds everything up right, and riveted to that is a thin layer of sheet metal wrapping it all together. My concern with leaving the roof as is is it will not be able to handle the weight of our wet coastal snow, as well as the windows could sheer due to the added compression. So how does one reinforce a structure without overwhelming it? The overall concept to reinforce the roof is simply to add a wooden hat that sits ontop of the current structure helping spread the weight out. To achieve the hat, I will build several wooden ribs which straddle the bus on key portions of the roof that currently have a frame. Once the ribs are in place they will be stranded together with 2x4 and eventually sheeted with plywood. By utilizing ribs I can match the curve of the original roof, ideally resulting in the hat structure looking natural to the bus. In addition to the hat helping spread weight out, it will also create a larger thermal barrier between the internal hot and external cold surfaces in the roof resulting in less condensation overall.
Building the hat structure was simple enough, once the first rib template was built it was easy to replicate. The main complication to this process had nothing to do with the build itself but simply with the logistics of bringing materials and tools up and down the second story structure. Now a normal person working on a roof would have had a second person there helping, and from time to time I did, but being a stubborn man it was usually just me pushing items up the scaffolding alone. Luckily, I was able to borrow four lifts of scaffolding which made getting around the bus a bit easier. However, no matter how easily scaffolding goes together, taking it apart and moving it around constantly adds days to a project. After the first de and re-assembly I began to get creative, dragging it on skis, building it in the box of my truck, and eventually ditching it all together and just using the backhoe bucket.
After getting the frame built and sheeted I was able to cut some nice curves into the front and back of the roof to add some character to the hat. As for the actual roofing material, I originally intended on using galvalume or some other flatsheet metal but eventually changed my mind in favour of a rubber membrane. The main reason for the alteration was I wanted to be able to stand on the roof incase I needed to get up there to shovel, and did not want to risk slipping off. I have built curved roofs with both materials and neither seem to shed snow great, so I went with the safer of the two options for standing on. In addition, the rubber membrane comes in a large roll, that once ontop of the structure is very easy to unroll and drape over creating an instant roof. By the time the I had finished the roof, I had burned through the majority of nice weather October had, and as I unrolled the rubber roof the first storm of the winter pushed in.
But its a Bus, Not a Cafe?
Lets get to Gettin!
With a crazy busy summer wrapped up, its homeward bound to start construction on the bus October 1st. At this point, I am secretly aiming to open the business December 1st (spoiler: I do not make it). Other than my fire crew there are still only a few people even aware I bought the bus or have any desire to start a business. I think for the most part the majority of people I am close with would be surprised by my plans. Not that they would think I couldn’t do it, but more that I simply don’t have the time to build a business it let alone run one. Which I don’t, but that’s a problem for future Patrick. October Patrick is driving home after five months of constant daydreaming of what, how, but what about this, and this might be cool. Once home the intention is to unload the truck, bike, and trailer, and literally that same day start cutting wood! As far as work priority goes, there are certain aspects of the job I need to complete before snow flies, which can be as early as mid-November. Specifically, I need to have the roof reinforced before the snow comes, as the original sheet metal roof would certainly collapse under the constant snow the Callaghan Valley receives. Other priority jobs are replacing the windows which were lost during transport and prepping a pad for the bus to sit on and connect to services like hydro and water. So in a nut shell, I am aiming to get the outside work done while it is not horrible to do so. In addition to the physical work on the bus, I also plan on taking a week off to attend a coffee roasting course somewhere in America, as well as take several other road trips to acquire unique building materials. Seems simple enough really, just get the outside ready in the first few weeks before snow, then take a few trips, and then get into the fun jobs inside the bus. Eight weeks is loads of the time, I can get everything under the sun done in that time! Or so I thought, but when you have been fantasizing about every little piece of what you are going to do on a project for the past five months, it is extremely hard to focus on just one job. This will end up being the major take away lesson of the whole project, future Patrick, just stay focused on one damn thing at one damn time!
Patrick Sills is the owner and creator of Double Decker Coffee Roasting. The purpose of the Build Blog is to share the story of the physical build, its components, Patrick's growing education in the coffee industry, and the overall creation of the business. Warning: if run on sentences, poor sentence structure, or simple spelling mistakes bother you to the core stop reading! The Build Blog has a very loose format, I am a builder not a writer, just thought some people might be interested in the story. Enjoy!