How to Make a School Bus a Home- Part 1

Before you read this post on How to Make a School Bus a Home you might want to check out Beginner’s Guide to Converting a School Bus.   The guide will help you answer some questions on how to make a plan before you jump right in converting your bus.

Part 1 How to Make a Bus a Home

Our bus journey started with Bus #1 .  It was our home from August 2009 until 2011. Because we have a daughter that has several special needs and a daughter that is a Type 1 diabetic, we decided to keep our stick and brick house but live full time in our bus. In 2011 when one of our children was having some major problems, we decided it was best to return to our stick and brick house.  Now that everyone is doing a lot better, we have decided to build another bus. (Well, Jeff is building another bus.)

So, How Does A School Bus Become A Home?

1.You first have to take out all the seats.

school bus with seats

Our new bus was a 72 passenger bus.  Thanks to a great friend, Dan, who removed all the seats with the help of a few children.  I think someone said it had around 24 seats. This was no easy task but Dan did an awesome job.

School bus with seats removed

2. Make sure you sand all the screws flush to the floor and remove the heater if you are not going to use it.

Once the seats were removed, Dan sanded all the screws so they would be even with the floor. Jeff removed the heater. When he removed the heater, he found out the bus was already home to a family…A FAMILY OF MICE! The mice must have been living in the bus for a while because there was more than ONE home. Let’s just say extended family had already moved in!!

3. Clean the inside and outside of the bus.

cleaning inside and outside of a bus

After Jeff evicted the mice and demolished their homes, he pressure washed the inside and outside of the bus. I am sure it will get cleaned many more times before we move in. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the thoughts of crawling around on the floor and touching stuff where mice have used the bathroom.

4. Making a school bus a home begins with a good visual layout.

While Jeff was busy inside the bus, I was busy drawing up the plans for our new home away from home.  There are several people who have made Skoolies (The name for a school bus turned into an RV) and have a wonderful layout. Check out Shalom Mama and Hank bought a bus.

Skoolie is the name given for a school bus that has been converted into a RV or tiny house.Click To Tweet

However, my challenge was how to sleep 9 people on the bus, have a full bathroom, washer/dryer, table, and seating for everyone while Jeff is driving. Oh, and let’s not forget about storage!!  I felt like I should have consulted the previous tenants (the mice family) because they made excellent use of space and I shudder to think about how many were living together.

5. Put down sub floor and paint the ceiling.

When Jeff laid down the sub floor, I got busy painting the ceiling and top part of the walls. We used white paint that was for exterior metal. Jeff purchased it at Lowe’s for around $25.00 a gallon.  It took 2 coats, except for a problem area which I might discuss later in another post.

flooring a school bus

6. Place flooring and tape off design plan on floor.

In our last bus, we had carpet. This time we chose linoleum that looked like hardwood because our children are messy! Also, Katie has several health issues that require an extreme amount of cleanup. If you notice, Jeff didn’t put the flooring all the way up next to the walls and in the very back. These areas will be covered up with beds and cabinets. Doing this saved us $150.00! After Jeff and Jacob put down the flooring, I was finally ready to tape off my plans onto the floor. This is when the school bus starts to look more like a HOME.

Laying out linoleum flooring in school bus

Here is Part 2 in the series How to Make a School Bus a Home. Check it out to find out more about converting a bus into a home or RV.

If you are looking for more information, we have a course on converting a school bus coming out soon. Be sure to put your email in the Pop-Up Box and you will be notified when we launch the course in the coming weeks. Are you needing some one on one help now? Click here to sign up for a one-on-one consultation with Jeff.

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2017-03-22T08:21:44+00:00

27 Comments

  1. Tamara March 9, 2016 at 7:37 am - Reply

    If you are goin to still drive the bus, what are the legal requirements: eg does all the funature need to be ‘pinned down’
    And can you but back in some of the bus seats and then they are legal for people to sit in while travelling with no seat belts?
    Does all of our conversions need to be ran by a motor authority?
    Sorry, I don’t expect you to know this, I just thought it was worth an ask as I am wanting to take on a conversion project
    Thank you for your time, il be following ur blog with excitement

    • discoveringus March 9, 2016 at 6:18 pm - Reply

      Hi Tamara, Feel free to ask all the questions you want. If we do not know, we will just say, “Don’t know.” As far as legal requirements, in our state (TN), we are not required to purchase any building permits or get the bus inspected when complete. To my knowledge, there are no “legal requirements” for pinning down furniture. Now, with that say, when we have built our buses in the past, we secure everything! Our family is riding in the bus and that is precious cargo. If we were ever in an accident, we wouldn’t want things to be falling on us. I have read that people take shortcuts and don’t secure things well when stationary, but then again that is not us. This topic is often why insurance companies are reluctant to insure skoolies. It is not only about things being secured down but also weight distribution.

      As far as putting back in the seats, YES you can!. Depending on how many people are traveling/sleeping in your bus, you may loose unnecessary space by doing so. Some people will get van seats to use for a couch which would have seat belts. We make our own couch with seat belts. When kids were younger, we even secured their booster seats.

      In TN, we do not have to have a “motor authority” to sign off on our bus. Not sure about the regulations in other states.

      We welcome your questions, if you don’t want to ask them at the end of a blog post, you can always ask us on our FB Page. https://www.facebook.com/discoveringusbus/ We check the page more frequently.

      Just let us know, if we can be of any help to you as you start your conversion project. As you read our posts, you will find several freebies that you are welcome to download that may answer some more of your questions. Thanks for taking the time to connect.

    • Scooter trash June 23, 2016 at 7:49 am - Reply

      Most school busses do not have seat belts and there is no law requiring seatbelts for other than the driver. It is licensed as a commercial vehicle and can be swapped to a “housecar”, neither require seatbelt for passengers because of the weight of the primary sub frame of the power unit. Personally I would hit the junk yard where you can purchase seat belts for 2 dollars per set. Little ones should be belted

  2. Khai March 31, 2016 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    I was wondering what you guys mix the paint thinner what was the ratio? And how many gallons did you guys buy.. thanks Khai

    • discoveringus April 3, 2016 at 1:32 am - Reply

      Khai, I will get back with you in about a week. We are on a Make A Wish Trip for our daughter.

  3. Laura June 14, 2016 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Hello we just bought a ford econoline “short bus” and would like some ideas for floor plans

    • discoveringus June 15, 2016 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      Hi Laura, We would love to chat with you. Send us an email and we will talk about floor plans for your short bus. We are in the process of converting a short bus for a gentleman in NY. Therefore, we have several options for short buses. Contact us at discoveringusbus.com – Missy

  4. Kendra Pollreisz June 14, 2016 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    Hi guys, my name is Kendra and I just read your blog about painting a bus as well as some of the other ones! Very informative! Thanks for sharing what you know and your experiences with other skoolies!!! I am looking to downsize from a home to a tiny house or converting a bus by next May as my son will be graduating high school and it’s time to go tiny!! I’m looking for a bus right now and want a 40′ flat nose pusher with underbelly storage (ideal). I drive a school bus for a living and would prefer a bus over a tiny house for the flexibility of traveling when school isn’t in session. Tho I am willing to do as much as I can with working on the conversion, I’m not going to be much help at getting it as I don’t know how. Can you tell me what you consider to be a rough estimate of a complete conversion cost would be with someone experienced doing the work? I’d also like to know what an average maintenance cost would be a year if traveling in it say 4 months out of the year? I’ll have invaluable help with engine maintenance for the most part as the mechanics I work with will be just a phone call away. Anyway, thanks for whatever input you have for my questions (in all my rambling!). I’m so excited to start this new journey in my life and a little scared as well, but knowing their are so many skoolies out there like yourselves sharing your knowledge having gone and done before us, makes it so much easier to believe that yes, I can do this too!!! Thanks again🙂

    • discoveringus June 15, 2016 at 6:35 pm - Reply

      Kendra, You Can Do This!!! It is completely normal to have the scared excited feeling when starting any new adventure. I remember that feeling when we converted our first bus. That feeling kept us grounded and level headed. As far as, the cost of a complete conversion it really depends on your desire and the size of your bus. Please email us and we can talk further. Have you checked out the business side of our blog? See http://discoveringusbus.com/custom-bus-conversions/ then email us at discoveringusbus.com We would love to connect and help you in any way we can. If it is easier you can Facebook message me. https://www.facebook.com/discoveringusbus/?ref=bookmarks . Jeff said to tell you that the maintenance costs would depend on how far you traveled but general up keep like oil changes and maintenance shouldn’t be more than $500. If your tires are in good shape, you start out with good brakes, and you have a good maintenance check before your first trip you should be able to keep your first year costs down. Kendra, just contact us and we can talk further about your conversion and will be happy to share some our experiences with you. – Missy

  5. Ray Cox July 21, 2016 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    My wife and are from tn. I was wondering how you tagged your bus. I am almost done with ours and the wife is getting in a rush to use it. Thank you for any info you can give.

    • discoveringus July 22, 2016 at 1:22 pm - Reply

      Ray, We titled our bus as a motorhome. I received your email and gave your number to Jeff. He should be calling you soon. If you have any more questions, just contact us. Have you joined the TN Facebook group? Here is the link. https://www.facebook.com/groups/skoolieconvertersinandaroundtn/ We are trying to organize a meet up for August. Also, let your wife know I am in the process of starting a Facebook Group “4 Wheels and a Bra” for women who travel/camp in a bus, RV, Travel Trailer, or Van.

  6. Amanda Nel August 4, 2016 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Missy, it sounds like a real adventure! I don’t want to miss your next post.
    Amanda Nel recently posted…Jewellery from Summer to Fall to make you stand out in the CrowdMy Profile

    • discoveringus August 4, 2016 at 11:40 pm - Reply

      Amanda, Thanks for stopping by our blog. I have already written part 2 and 3 in this series. Hopefully, when the adventure slows down I can write an Ebook!

  7. Maggie August 4, 2016 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    Super interesting post Missy. Makes me start dreaming….

    • discoveringus August 4, 2016 at 11:43 pm - Reply

      Hi Maggie, Thanks for your comment and stopping by the blog.

  8. Joie August 10, 2016 at 1:24 am - Reply

    Did you insulate the floor under the subflooring?

    • discoveringus August 10, 2016 at 9:44 am - Reply

      Hi Joie, When thinking about insulating the floor, we consider the height of the person who owns the bus and how the bus is going to be used. The height in most school buses is 6’2″. Depending on what type of insulation is used, it could reduce the height anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Then when the sub floor is put down it reduces the height even more. Of course if the person is only 5 feet there would be no worries.

      Now, the other consideration, is how is the bus going to be used. If it is only used as a weekend camper, vacation RV, and the person lives in the south, insulation may not be needed. The biggest reason for insulating would be if the bus was going to be a full-time home. In this case, insulation would be important. Finding a thin insulation that will do a great job is the way to go. Of course, before doing this, we would remove the old floor and repair any rust damage. Then, we would put down the insulation and sub-floor.

      All of this being said, in this bus we didn’t insulate the floor before we put down the sub-floor. Instead we put extra insulation in the walls, sealed around the windows and insulated the windows.

      Thanks for stopping by our blog and if we can answer any more questions, you are welcome to email us. missy@discoveringusbus.com. We enjoy connecting with other skoolie owners and answer each email. – Missy

  9. Shayna November 16, 2016 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    Hello Missy! I’ve been reading a few of your blogs on living in a renovated home. In the beginning of 2017 I will be starting my adventures and purchasing a school bus to renovate and live in full time. ( yes I know it will take some time before I actually move in ) but I am very excited. It’s good to know I can ask questions to people with experience because this is just a 21 year old girl all on her own renovating a school bus 😜 I look forward to this and ill email you with questions soon.
    – Shayna

    • discoveringus November 16, 2016 at 6:36 pm - Reply

      Shayna, It is great getting to know my readers. Thanks so much for commenting. Let me tell you about a group that would hekp you greatly. I started a Facebook Group, ‘Four Wheels and a Bra”. It is just for women who convert/live/travel in a bus/mode of transportation. Here is the link if you would like to join. I am in the group answering questions each day but the awesome factor is that other women jump in and help as well. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1564363513865112/ Hope to see you in the group. – Missy

  10. Juan December 9, 2016 at 11:07 pm - Reply

    Great blog.I am working towards to get a school bus and convert to a motor home,your comments and tips had been very helful.

    • discoveringus December 10, 2016 at 12:42 am - Reply

      Thanks Juan, for stopping by the blog and leaving a comment. I am glad you have found it helpful. We’d love to have you join us in our Facebook group and follow along with you as you get and convert your bus. Here is the link if you are interested. https://www.facebook.com/groups/discoveringusbus/

  11. Whitney French January 29, 2017 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Hi!

    How did you deal with the wheel wells? i see you put the flooring over them, but did you build over them or utilize them in a different way?

    • discoveringus January 29, 2017 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Whitney, After insulating them, we built a couch over the and bench over the ones in the front. For the wheel wells in the back, the bunk beds go over them. Thanks for stopping by.

  12. CJ February 24, 2017 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    How much would it cost fully to buy a bus and all the requirements for it?

    • discoveringus February 24, 2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      CJ, I wish I could give you an overall total. It is practically impossible due to everybody wanting different designs and amenities. Jeff and I tell people if they are converting the bus themselves to start out with a budget of $10,000. If you are hiring someone to convert the bus, the starting price should be $20,000.

  13. Ward March 13, 2017 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Hello, I am wondering what insulation you use on the ceilings walls and floors? Do you prefer fiberglass, foam sheets or spray in foam?

    Also do you set any of your busses up with solar panels and battery packs?

    What do you use to replace the side windows?

    Thanks a bunch for all the tips you have given in Your blogs

    • discoveringus March 31, 2017 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Ward, The insulation we used in our personal bus was rigid foam board and fiberglass. We can put in different types depending on the needs of our clients. Currently, we are just getting started in solar and battery packs. This will be an addition to our company in the near future. For the windows, we replace with sheet metal. Jeff and I are glad you are following along on our blog. Email us at missy@discoveringusbus.com if we can help you in anyway.

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