School Bus Conversion Turned Into West Virginia Airbnb

-Intro: Brock Butterfield-

The idea of turning a school bus into a Airbnb has always been on my mind of something I want to will do in the future. When I came across Will's school bus conversion and saw the intricate wood work and detail he put into it I was floored. Then when I read more and learned he rents it out as an Airbnb and pays for his schools loans with it I knew I had to contact him for a quick blog. Below Will walks us through how the whole thing came about and that he is in the process of turning a second bus into a Tiny Home for himself. 

-Written By: Will Sutherland-

 
Purchased September 2014 from an IRS estate sale in Huntington Maryland for $1000.  It was "missing pieces" according to the sight-unseen IRS estimate, hence the low price.  It was only missing a horn button!  I charged the batteries and drove it two hours back to my home in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. 

At first I felt overwhelmed and was having second thoughts about keeping it.  I had it listed on Ebay and the reserve came within $100 of being met, but I decided not to sell it and continue with my original plans.  My recent Mother was my inspiration- she would be so proud to see it!

Specs

Make: International
Model: 3800 Series Bus
Motor: T444e engine, Allision AT542 transmission, non-highway gears (55mph top speed)
Year: 1997
Length: 28ft - not too short, not too long
Square Footage: 176 interior square footage
Location: Located at our home in Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Purchased from: IRS estate sale in Huntington, Maryland
Cost Of Materials For Conversion: $1750
Conversion Complete? Conversion is complete
Name of bus: "Will's School Bus"

 

Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about.

I have always loved school buses. Riding the bus was a major highlight for me in grade school. I had started thinking about converting one about three years ago and started searching for one about two years ago. I was really interested in building a "tiny home", and actually got as far as the foundation and main frame before a terrible "derecho" storm blew through and took out about 10 large trees on my property.  Needless to say my tiny house project was stalled and clearing the trees became my main focus. As Fall approached and winter was looming I was already getting anxious about not having made any progress on my tiny home, but then I discovered my bus for an amazing deal! My energy shifted to the bus conversion and there was no looking back. Why build a tiny house when there are school buses galore ready to be converted?!

Who is involved or part of the crew with your bus?

For this bus, I did all the work. I met my girlfriend, Sabrina, this past February and we are converting the new "short bus" together. Also, she claims to have fallen in love with me as soon as she saw the bus.

Will and some help during the conversion.

What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items?

I used a lot of leftover lumber from my home renovation. I purchased my house in October of 2011 and it was in dire need of some handiwork.  I reused two bus seats for the table, and had plenty of leftover laminate wood flooring to use on the floor and sides of the bus.  I used old wood from our family pool deck for structural wood.

Anyone who's ever converted a school bus knows the only way to remove the seats is a cut off wheel...

Beautiful stained glass in this bus conversion.

 

Great use of space and storage.

  

What made you decide you wanted to open the bus up as an AirBnB?

I had no idea Airbnb existed, and decided to give it a shot. I wasn't using the bus too much in the winter, so I figured sharing it with travelers would be fun.  Within a month I realized the bus was quite popular, and it quickly went from just a few five star reviews to over one hundred five star reviews. I cleared out a nice spot on my 4 acre lot and decided to leave it on Airbnb permanently.  I love telling people, "I pay for my school loans with my school bus." 

Funny how this school bus pays for Will's school loans without leaving the yard.

 

Allegedly Cheerio's are good for the heart.

 

Happy Airbnb guests. Wine and PBR.

  

How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed?

The bus sleeps 3 comfortably. There is a full bed in the very back, and a futon sofa over the riverside rear wheel-well.  The futon can lay flat, but in that position is less comfortable for adults but fine for kids.  We have had a lot of families stay on the bus. The bus still has a wheelchair lift located at the end of the bed in the back of the bus. I left it in case I ever change plans/repurpose the bus.

What is your power source?

I have the bus powered from my house, via extension cord. It mainly just powers an air-conditioner for the summer and a heater for the winter. There are two 18' rope lights hidden behind the boards above the windows. I have a 100w Renogy solar kit that I originally planned to use for this bus, but now it is being installed in the short bus.

 

What is your source of heat if any?

For heat on our Airbnb bus, there is small wood stove that fits perfectly on top of the passenger rear wheel-well, across from the futon. I used a sheet of furnace sheet-metal from Home Depot as a heat shield and built the shield out from the wall using a couple half-inch nuts. I provide the firewood for our Airbnb travelers.

Also, there is an electric heater I recommend guests turn on before going to bed on cold nights as the woodstove is challenging to dampen-down to last all night long. 

Wood stove with a hot water tank on the side!

 

You mentioned you're currently building a second bus. What kind of bus is it and how do you plan to use it?

I purchased our second bus because we wanted to have something we could use without compromising our Airbnb bus. I also learned a lot from the first bus.  Primarily I learned insulating the floor and adding more insulation to the walls is a major benefit for both road-noise and temperature preservation. Also, I decided a shorter bus would achiever better fuel economy, be more maneuverable, have a higher top speed, and be easier for the average mechanic to work on.  I also enjoy the challenge of "living tiny." The short bus is about 90 square feet inside, it fits in a regular parking place, cruises along at 70mph just fine, and gets 14mpg on the highway.

Will's second bus soon to be Tiny Home.

Where can people follow or find out more about your bus?

Social media wise- the majority of sharing has been done on Instagram. The hashtag "#willsschoolbus" is where one can find tons of photos from the conversion.

https://instagram.com/explore/tags/willsschoolbus/

FYI- there is no bathroom on the bus. I had originally just planned to use my portable toilet when necessary and I have a hanging camp-shower also.

 

  

 

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