We might be biased since we used truck bed liner for our skoolie paint job, but we believe the best skoolie exterior paint is truck bed liner – for good reasons!
Painting a skoolie with truck bed liner comes with a host of benefits that regular automotive paint does not provide.
In this article we’ll go through:
- Benefits of Truck Bed Liner Skoolie Exterior Paint
- Negatives of Painting a Skoolie with Truck Bed Liner
- Cost of a Truck Bed Liner Skoolie Paint Job
- Best Truck Bed Liner for a Skoolie Paint Job
- Complete Guide on How to Paint a Skoolie with Truck Bed Liner
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Benefits of Truck Bed Liner Skoolie Paint Job
The major benefit of painting a skoolie with truck bed liner is durability.
Think about all the stuff people throw into the back of pickup trucks, like piles of rocks, appliances, or even scrap metal. Yet, you spray it down and the truck bed looks almost as good as new.
This was the big reason we wanted to use truck bed liner, as we wanted to paint the skoolie once and not have to worry about rocks flying up from other cars, stuff falling out of the back of other trucks, or all the other road debris.
2) Sealing Abilities
Truck bed liner on a skoolie can help seal the metal from rusting and even seal the small gaps between the metal on the school bus’s exterior.
One of the biggest worries for many skoolie owners is leaks. A leaky roof can cause massive damage to a tiny space if it gets inside the roof, the walls, or under the floor. Another worry is rust!
We wanted to take this extra precaution and go with truck bed liner to help seal the entire exterior. We wanted to prevent any leaks or rust from developing – especially when we are near the salty air by the oceans or driving down the salty roads in winter in our home state of Wisconsin.
3) Ease of Application
Spraying a skoolie with truck bed liner is really easy! As long as you have a good air compressor and a good spray gun (most kits come with the spray gun), the application process of painting an exterior of a school bus with truck bed liner is much easier than trying to get an even coat of automotive paint down.
Now, I must warn you that the prep work before spraying truck bed liner is the same as any other paint – if not even more meticulous to ensure the truck bed liner paint on a skoolie sticks and there isn’t any of the truck bed liner pealing after a few months. We’ll get into the prep work involved in the guide to spraying a school bus exterior with truck bed liner below.
Negatives to Painting a Skoolie with Truck Bed Liner
Cost is often the reason some people turn away from painting a skoolie with truck bed liner.
We have a 9 window bus, which is a larger mid-sized school bus conversion. It took us 3 kits of truck bed liner to paint our skoolie. Each kit came with 8 bottles of truck bed liner, so we had 24 total bottles to spray. We did 2 kits in dove grey color for the sides of the bus and the third kit in white for the roof.
We actually ended up with 4 extra bottles, which we will be using to do some touch up on the peeling that occurred where we had silicone around the windows and areas we did not sand well enough. These are common issues regardless of the paint type used, which we will get into later.
If you are looking to paint a skoolie on the budget, truck bed liner is not for you! However, if you are looking for the most durable option and have a bit of money to invest in a quality paint job option, then spending the money to paint a school bus in truck bed liner is a good option.
We’ll dive into the cost of painting a school bus with truck bed liner more in just a bit.
2) Air Compressor Requirements
Spraying a skoolie with any type of paint will require a good air compressor unless you are using spray paint cans (which I could not imagine spraying an entire bus with spray paint), so it is not only a downside to truck bed liner but also automotive paint.
The only other option is to roll on paint, but it might not turn out as smooth and even.
Building the skoolie at Chris’ parents’ house, his stepdad owns a contracting company and has multiples of pretty much every tool you could imagine. We had access to an Ingersoll Rand 80 gallon air compressor which is often used for automotive purposes or large demand automotive shops. I’m not saying you will need an air compressor this large, but we had this big guy running pretty frequently so you will want to use a larger capacity and higher horsepower air compressor to make sure it can keep up with all the demand being consumed by the constant spraying.
3) Need 2-3 People
Sarah and I both did all the prep work and it took us a few days to get stickers removed, everything sanded, washed, and then everything we didn’t want to be sprayed taped and masked off.
Once we got into spraying, Chris was spraying the truck bed liner, Sarah was mixing the bottles to make sure Chris didn’t run out, and then we had Chris’ nephew helping to move the air hose and run fresh bottles and empty bottles between us. You only have about an hour between spraying and when the truck bed liner really begins to cure fast, so you want to make sure you have a consistent flow going. Also, stopping more frequently will cause the truck bed liner to harden and gunk up the spray nozzle faster.
Cost of Painting a School Bus with Truck Bed Liner
As we previously mentioned, we have a 9 window bus, which is a larger mid-sized school bus conversion. It took us 3 kits (8 bottles per kit) at a cost of $400 per kit, so $1,200 in truck bed liner materials to paint our skoolie.
Here is a good estimate of the number of Raptor Truck Bed Liner Kits based on school bus-size. This does not include equipment or materials to prep the school bus for painting the truck bed liner or an air compressor, tape, etc. – only the truck bed liner itself.
4-6 Window Small Skoolie: 1-2 kits ($400 – 800)
7-9 Window Mid-Sized Skoolie: 2-3 kits ($800 – 1,200)
10-12 Window Full-Sized Skoolie: 3-4 kits ($1,200 – 1,600)
Best Truck Bed Liner for a Skoolie
We may be a little biased, but Raptor Truck Bed Liner Kits is the best option. Chris spent hours researching truck bed liners and what is cool about Raptor is that you can find everything from Jeeps to boats and beyond that are spraying their vehicles completely with Raptor truck bed liner. It’s almost a community of itself.
We didn’t like the fact that it doesn’t stick to the silicone on the seams of the window caps (even though this was a big mistake by Chris anyway since no paint really does stick to silicone unless it is some type of paintable silicone…), but Raptor truck bed liner is cool for a few reasons:
- You can get it in a complete kit, with a spray gun.
- It is SO easy to spray (and fun!)
- There are countless colors!
Raptor themselves has 15 colors to choose from, but you can also get the kits from Custom Color that come with the Raptor truck bed liner bottles and then liquid colors by Custom Color on Amazon. We actually went with the Raptor truck bed liner and Custom Color tint variation for our Dove Grey and White kits.
If you look into the Raptor truck bed liner with Custom Color tint options, there are actually 49 color options to choose from!
Guide to Paint a Skoolie with Truck Bed Liner
Prepping for Paint
All of the reflective tape, words, & lettering had to be removed. We tried just removing them with a putty knife, which did not work. The reflective tape would just break off. Then, we used a heat gun, while scraping the tape off with a putty knife. Heat, scrape, & peel. Heat, scrape, & peel. This worked much better and the tape peeled off like butter. Just be careful not to keep the heat gun in one spot too long, as this will make it stick to the bus even harder. 5 – 10 seconds per 3″ section is optimal on the reflective tape. The letters, like “Virginia School Beach” and your bus letters like “985” or “DIESEL” on the diesel tank, these all need to be removed too. Do it the same way as the reflective tape, just cut down on the heat gun time, maybe 2 – 3 seconds per letter.
Using a palm sander, lightly sand the entire bus.
We used Frog Tape (really good stuff!) to tape all the windows, lights, and security cameras. We wrapped the tires and engine in plastic. Make sure to cover up anything you don’t want to get paint on. Remove your mirrors, your engine latch clips, your license plate, & your engine badge tag.
After we were done prepping the bus to paint, it’s time to start painting! We got everything we needed from the Raptor kit, including color, base, application spray gun, & hardener. The only added thing you will need is a measuring cup measuring in ounces and an air hose attached to an air compressor, 8 cfm @ 50-60 psi compressed air. I mixed, while Chris sprayed.
Chris started spraying the roof of the skoolie first. We ordered 1 set of white, and the rest gray. We kept the white for the roof, so the roof would stay cooler in the summer and not bake us out of the bus. We only had about one day for painting our school bus and prepping for painting took us a lot longer than we thought. So there is not a definitive line from the white roof and from the gray rest of the bus, as we did not have time to let the roof dry and tape off a line for the gray.
We love our finished product! We would for sure use this truck bed liner again, especially since it seals so much better than regular automotive paint, and hopefully keeps us rust free!