Tiny home bus conversion of a young Tennessee couple.
-Interview By: Brock Butterfield
- Bus Conversion By: Dylan and Hannah Wallace
Not quite a short bus and not quite a full size bus, this skoolie conversion comes in at roughly 123 square feet of tiny living. Dylan and his wife Hannah spent roughly $8,500 for the purchase and conversion of this bus. Let's say you're paying rent at $700/month plus utilities. This bus conversion would pay for itself in roughly a year!
Dylan learned as many of us skoolie owners have that a school bus is one of the most well maintained vehicles on the road when they come up for sale. School districts make children safety number one so a school bus gets all the love and attention that it needs in order to keep it rolling for many years. What once was a childhood pipe dream for these two has now become a reality as they embark on a life filled full of adventure and experiences as opposed to being chained to material items.
Several years of cabinetry work gave Dylan the basic construction and wood working skills he needed to make this bus conversion a beautiful piece or artwork. Enjoy the interview below and get inspired to start living the bus life!
-Make: Blue Bird
-Model: Handy Bus
-Motor: 5.9l 24 valve Cummings Diesel
-Interior Square Footage: 123 sq ft
-Current Location: Clarksville, TN
-Purchased From/Location: Wilson County, TN
-Cost in materials for the conversion: $8,500
-Is the conversion complete or still in progress? The bus is about 95% finished, being that I don't think we will ever be COMPLETELY done with her.
-Does your bus have a name? Bluetopia
Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about.
My wife and I have always talked about doing something such as this, setting off on our own in some sort of sustainable living. It was always nothing more than a pipe dream throughout our childhood. Finally, a few years ago, we got the idea to turn a school bus into a tiny home. That would be our utopia we have sought after for so long. After a little research, our theory was spot on. Being one of the most routinely maintained vehicles on the road, a school bus sounded very promising. These buses are built to run forever. Not to mention these things are built like a tank. We turned towards hours of Google research on the subject. Much to our surprise, there's a whole community of people out there doing the exact same thing! The availability of knowledge online was a lifesaver. We were also lucky enough to have the available resources in almost every field to convert a bus. Myself, working as a cabinet maker for the past seven years offered much needed carpentry experience along the way. Anything we couldn't figure out or build on our own, we had family and friends help us. My dad being a master handyman in almost every field, and all of Hannah's family having knowledge in some sort of construction. Almost all of our immediate family and friends were a part of this project, which was really cool. We are very blessed to have had all the help and resources for this conversion.
Who is involved or part of the crew with your bus?
Myself, my wife Hannah and our German Shepard
How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed?
The bus is really only designed to sleep two, my wife and myself. Although, on our trip to Pensacola for the wedding we had eleven people and our German Shepherd. There were times when we were all asleep, except for the driver. So in extreme circumstances the bus can sleep as many as needed.
What is your kitchen and cooking setup?
Our bus doesn't necessarily have a kitchen, but rather a countertop and a bathroom sink that doubles as or makeshift kitchen area. We have a crock pot, small Black and Decker conventional oven, electric griddle/hot dog cooker, a few pots and pans, and a portable Primus fuel burner (similar to a jet boil) for cooking. Which actually would propose the hardest part of living in our bus, eating. We do have a portable generator for power in case we do not have access to electrical hook-ups. It tends to be quite the hassle to fuel up, unload, set up, and crank up the generator every time we get a hankering for some beanie wienies, or a cup of coffee. The Primus burner is a huge convenience in this aspect, we just bought it a few days ago. I would say the lack of electricity has posed the biggest problem in living in our bus conversion. It's not necessarily a problem, just a luxury we are still getting used to not having at the palm of our hands.
Hamilton Beach makes a nifty all in one Flex Brew for coffee and hot water.
What is your power source?
We have an outdoor electrical hookup on the side of the bus for power. We also purchased an 1800w Ryobi digital inverter generator for power when we aren't around campsite hookups. It's rated for 8 hours of power on a 1/4 load, and it only holds about a gallon of gas. A pretty cheap source of power. My brother is an electrician, he did the the majority of the electrical configuration on the inside. We have three 110v receptacles inside the bus. It's all hooked up on a 20amp breaker, as well as GFCI protection. Our lighting is strictly battery powered LED puck lights.
Do you have a heat source for colder weather?
We have a small space heater for those cold nights, which surprisingly works quite well.
How do you stay cool in the hot summer months?
We don't have any other source of AC except for the two units already installed in the bus.
What are you doing for water source? Do you have a bathroom solution for the "rumble guts" hit?
Our water source is a little different than most. We do have a campsite water hook-up on the side of the bus, that provides water to our sink. There is also a 20 gallon fresh water tank stored underneath the bed for dry camping. No pun intended. We have wired a 12v dc water pump to the batteries, for the sink. Our shower/tub is a water trough, which I personally think is awesome. We have the Road Shower 2 installed on the top of the bus, for a completely self sufficient heat source. It's pretty much a futuristic version of those crappy bag solar showers. It holds 5 gallons, is solar heated, and also is pressurized by a bike pump. Check their website out, they're pretty awesome. Also the owner (Tom I think) is a really cool guy. The sink and tub drain down to a 30 gallon grey water tank. We ended up using one of those blue portable tanks, since my old contractor gave it to us for free. Which made mounting it as a permanent holding tank, well a huge pain in the ass. The plumbing, believe it or not, took the longest to complete out of everything. We have a portable camping toilet mounted as its own unit, so we didn't have to buy a black water tank. It's basically a standard RV septic system compacted into a cool little portable toilet. We have magnetic curtains to throw up on the ceiling when we shower or relieve ourselves.
What is the most unique feature of your conversion?
I would venture to say the most unique part about our particular bus is the woodwork. I had such a vast availability of materials and knowledge in almost every field of woodwork when building the bus. I worked for my father in law at his cabinet shop for almost 8 years, so that was a huge help. The variety of species and colors in the hardwood, to the scorched pine cabinets that are 100% handcrafted by yours truly. That's what we get the most compliments on. The table top and bench seat are composed of reclaimed oak barn wood. There's a huge movement in the south, and likely the whole country, for reclaimed barn wood furniture. Having the materials readily available, we decided to build a few pieces of our own. The only piece of furniture, aside from the bed, we did not build ourselves is the bourbon barrel chair located at the front of the bus. It is actually a family heirloom, handed down from my great uncles. My father passed it on to me, with many stories surrounded around these chairs. There's a whole set of them that includes a barrel table as well. From what I'm told, there were many nights of gambling, bootlegging, smuggling, and who knows what else planned in these very chairs by my great uncles. My father has told me stories of times he recalls as just a small child, watching our uncles pile mountains of cash and guns on the poker table as they drunkenly gamble and laugh with one another in these chairs. But that's another story in itself, I suppose.
What do you do for income while living in the bus?
Neither of us have a permanent source of income while traveling, unfortunately. We have saved up what we could, and what we received as wedding gifts from family and friends. Other than that we're basically winging it. Which is something we have both become quite good at recently.
What do you do for Internet while on the road?
We have to get used to limited internet use on the road, too. We both have iPhones, which have Internet. Other than a wifi hotspot app on our phones, we're stuck to McDonald's wifi or super fancy campsites that supply wifi if we did in fact need to use our laptops.
Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)
If anyone is interested in following our story as we travel the country, you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and a soon-to-come YouTube channel. We have set up a gofundme account for anyone willing to help us achieve this goal. Thank you for reading our story, hope we've inspired you to start your next great journey!