Finished bed frame. Next I added the temprepedic topper
Traveling and living in the bus was a great adventure, but the build came first. It was testing and challenging. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and have to work it out. Building the bus was empowering and I made so many friends along the way. I can't thank my friends enough for the help and support, and the love strangers showed to me along the way.
Vinyl tiles were cut and stuck on to creat a usable Chess board.
Then I went to Home Depot to choose some flooring. I purchased vinyl and laid it down piece by piece. I did not have tools to make anything perfectly straight but it turned out straight enough just by eyeballing it. I chose vinyl flooring because it was very water resistant. It had a nice wood like texture and was inexpensive. I used a sharp box cutter to get it to go around any wheel wells.
In a standard living/dining room you'll find a couch, a tv, and some tables. Here's how I transformed the “living room”,I kept it simple and watched movies on my laptop, so did not buy or install a TV. I used my bed/couch combo as a couch in the day time and often if I had company they would come sit back there. I kept 2 of the original bus seats to make a diner style table and chair arrangement, but part way through my trip I noticed it got less used than I imagined. I usually ate in bed or outside. If I were to build the bus again, I might have just opted out of building a table. It did come in handy while driving because other passengers would sit in the chairs.
Once all seats were out, I gave them away on Craigs list and began to scrape the black rubber off the floor. I used a mettle scraper for this, and it also took a few days and underneath was wood. I chose to remove the black rubber from the floor because it was really old, disgusting and smelly. I scraped it off with a metal scraper and it took about two days. I then laid down a thin yet firm roll of foam I found discarded in a dumpster at a construction sight, to make the floor flatter and slightly more insulated.
For the "kitchen" area, instead of having an oven and just cooked everything stove top. Microwaves, toaster ovens and ovens use a ton of electricity. My solar set up did not have the storage to run these appliances, so I just used propane to run my stove. I kept my propane in the bus which everyone told me not to do, If I had outside storage space or If I knew how to mount the tank outside, I would have done so, but the propane was inside the bus and I did not die. I did have a battery powered gas leak defector gifted to me by a friend who was convinced I would die. If someone is interested in having a toaster oven or oven, I would recommend seeing if they could find one that runs on propane.
I built my frames for my sink, stove and fridges out of wood, a lot of it I found in alley ways as scrap wood, throw away wood. I decorated my countertops by applying modpodge, maps, more modpodge and making sure it was fast and dry before applying a few layers of polyurethane. Four layers to be exact, just to make sure the courntertops were waterproof. I made sure to get the edges too.
In the back of the bus I built the “bedroom”. To fit everything into the 90 square foot bus was challenging. I placed my “bedroom” which was just my bed and some storage in the tail end of the bus next to the emergency exit swinging doors. I loved to fall asleep in a campgrounds with both doors wide open so I could look up at the stars or out over a beautiful river or valley. I built my bed to be a sleeping space at night and two couches during the day. I used scrap wood I found to make two benches with slats, I then created a removable center with slats that when inserted, could make a full sized bed. For the mattress I used an old 3’ tempredic mattress topper and cut it in half, then sewed a fabric cover for the foam. Both foam pieces fit snug between the walls of the bus and I never noticed a split in the middle, but during the daytime in couch mode, I would pull the foam up and it would rest in an L shape, with the bottom of the L being as a seat and the side being as a back rest. I had lots of storage space under the bed/couch and used old bins that just slid in and our easily.
When I bought my school bus in 2016, I had no experience with power tools, carpentry, never built anything in my life. I dove into a complete school bus renovation with a very tight budget, and no experience, yet somehow created a livable space that I lived in for over a year while traveling. I had a little bit of help from neighbors, but 90% of the work was done by myself. Here I'll share with you what I did, and some tips and tricks for a vehicle conversion. I'm not an expert, but here's how I did it.
Having privacy in the bus was important to me. For the front of the bus I had a black curtain on a shower rod. Once parked for the night I'd pull it shut and no on could see in. For the windows my mom helped me sew black out curtains that I had on a dowle, and attached to the window with magnets. On the end of the magnets were hair ties. Once the curtains were rolled up I would put them into the hair ties. they held extremely well. I could roll them up during the day and down at night. If I wanted to drive with the windows down I could remove them all together so they would not flap around.
When I first purchased the bus, I had no plans on painting it. I removed any school related decals with a hair dryer and a 100ft extension cord that ran from my apartment. About 2 months after I purchased it, I got a letter from the California Highway patrol saying I was breaking some law by having a yellow schoolbus and I had to paint a certain percentage of it. So I rallied some of my friends, bought some beer, and we taped off the windows, sanded the bus down, and painted it with spray paint. Spraypaint was not my idea choice but I was on a budget. Over the next year the paint stuck just fine.
My fancy handle, which I hung towels from and the closed doors, not perfectly cut and help shut with strong magnets. I had a lot of storage all around the bus, under the sink, under the stove, and under the bed. For items like rain jackets and wet towels I put them in a "gear hammock" often used in boats, which hung near the door, I put it on the wall with extra powerful magnets. Spices were on magnetic spice shakers.
Heres how I got power in the bus, and some ideas for alternate sources. The three main ways to get power on a bus, is generator, solar power or hookups. Using a generator for power can be loud and you have to buy fuel. Relying on hookups, such as the ones found at rv parks, means you’re limited to camping at campgrounds with electric plug-ins. I went with solar because even though it was a more expensive initial investment, solar was quiet, came at no extra costs after installation, and was quite reliable. Even on days with overcast or rain, there was still enough power stored in the battery to run everything I needed. I had two 100 watt solar panels mounted on the roof, and I used a Goal Zero 400 as my battery, charge controller and inverter.
My sink before the doors were installed, and my weak sprayer/water pressure device
Bed mode; when the center slats are in place and both half of the bed are pulled together
I then used foam insulation, about 1 inch thick and glued it to the walls. On top of that I screwed wood wall (cheap stuff made of plywood material) on to look nice and for further insulation. I had painting the paneling red before installing it. I filled in any cracks with some of the spray foam, which ended looking a little sloppy but there was lots of furniture I added to cover that up. Now the bus was starting to look like just one big empty room. Heres where I did more measuring, planning and changing ideas around. I did not mess with the ceiling insulation because the metal sheets were riveted to the top of the bus instead of screwed. I did repaint the ceiling white to make it brighter in the bus. The ceiling was magnetic so I used that to stick magnetic lights on.
Sunshine the school bus the day after I bought her
Removing bus seats
Couch mode; When the slats are removed, stored, and the two halves of the bed are scooted up the wall a little.
My sink sprayer and under sink storage
I added a fridge, or more like a glorified cooler that ran off my solar. I installed the fridge on a short wooden table, with black fabric to just keep it covered up. I also had a wood map countertop on top used as a cutting board, and it was attached with Velcro, so it could be removed.
A better look at the "gear hammock" I used for extra storage near the drivers seat
Scraping up the rubber floor and laying down a thin insulation
Curtains down and curtains up
Spices on magnets
The table legs were found, and were the perfect hight. A board was attached to the top and a folding piece installed to save space while not in use
My bed that could transform into a couch by removing the center slats.
First, I unbolted the bus seats. My bus seats were held in place by one long bolt that went through the floor of the bus. My bus was from 1987 so it was a simple design. I had seen others online using tools to cut the bolts off, but I did not have such tool so I did it manually. Some of the bolts were rusty and tricky but with a little help and WD40 and some friends I was able to get the seats out in a few days. This was a two person job, so I would lay under the bus with a flashlight, while holding a bold in place with a wrench, while the person in the bus would unbolt from the inside of the bus. The long bolts went all the way thought the the floor.
For the sink, I cut a hole in the wood and placed it in. It was a fancy tile sink I found on Craigs list. I kept the water pressure going by using a weed sprayer to pump up water pressure and attached a kitchen faucet sprayer. I would give the weed sprayer a few pumps and have good water pressure, and I would refill the weed sprayer with fresh water when needed. This was a very budget friendly way to create a sink. I basically only did dishes in the sink and having the faucet sprayer helped me save water. I would spray my dishes down. Soap them up and spray them off again. Seems tedious, but it kept me from keeping the water running. My grey water tank was attached to the bottom. This was also a two person job. The grey water tank was a long wide PVC piped caped on both ends. We drilled a hole in the bottom of the bus and ran a flexible pipe from the bottom of the sink down to the grey water tank.