~ Total novices escape the rent trap of southern Florida by converting a school bus into a tiny home on wheels ~

Interview By: Brock Butterfield ~

School bus conversion by: Brittany and Steven Altmann

Bus Specs:

-Make: International

-Model:3800

-Motor:7.3l diesel

-Year:1995

-Interior Square Footage: 195ish sqft.

-Current Location:Sarasota FL

-Purchased From/Location: A private school in Sarasota Fl.

-Cost in materials for the conversion: $17,625 see our detailed to the penny expense sheet on our website. http://bit.ly/1WoeBTj

What made you want to complete a bus conversion? One of the main factors that lead us to living the skoolie lifestyle was the astronomically high cost of living here in southwest Florida. We didn't want to get caught in the rent trap. We wanted to travel and see what this beautiful planet has to offer. We have already saved enough money that we have booked a trip to Europe this summer.

What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself along the way? We were total novices, we had no experience what so ever. We watched a ton of youtube and the guys at Home Depot probably got tired of seeing us. We ended up doing everything ourselves from flooring to electrical. The number one thing we learned was perseverance. Sometimes the work would seem insurmountable, so we would just step back crack a beer, and get back to work.

What was the hardest part of the bus conversion and what guidance would you give others for that part? For us the hardest part for us was taking the plunge. We were scrimping and saving and trying to get all the money together before we started. We learned that the timing will never be perfect. The best advice we can give is to jump in with both feet and go for it!

What is the plan now that your bus conversion is road ready? In short, our plan is to live more and work less. We have a cross country road trip planned for summer 2018. We have already saved enough money living in the bus that we are going to Europe in a few weeks! We are taking some time this year to enjoying our own backyard in Florida.

Nature's Head composting toilet.

How were you able to get your bus registered as a motorhome or RV? We live in Florida and it’s pretty easy to get the title switched to an RV. After the seats are removed and you have installed plumbing, gas, or electrical you can fill out an affidavit and the DMV and you’re all set!

Ikea kitchen sink and faucet with a ShureFlo water pump.

Who did you get insurance for your bus conversion from? We are currently insured through National General they seem to be the go to for the skoolie community. Not many insurance companies will cover converted school buses. They have treated us really well and the agent loved our bus (they will request photos).

 

What make and model did you end using for the following:

 We also bought these hydraulics for our underbed storage. They are awesome and makes storing and accessing things stored under the bed so much easier.

What is the most unique feature of your conversion? Our bus happened to have a side door. It gives us a total of 3 doors and we LOVE IT! We are able enjoy a wonderful cross breeze with all doors open. We also utilize the door when cooking outdoors. We love to grill and this makes passing supplies from inside to outside a snap.

 

What do you do for income? Brittany is a User Experience Designer, basically she makes websites work the way users want. Steven is a nursing student about to finish his degree and start travel nursing. Once we are ready to hit the road our careers should allow us to work anywhere!

Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)

INSTAGRAM : http://bit.ly/2INSTAGRAM

FACEBOOK : http://bit.ly/2AOBFACEBOOK

VIDEO TOUR : http://bit.ly/2VID-TOUR

PHOTO TOUR : http://bit.ly/2BUSPHOTOS

EXPENSE SHEET : http://bit.ly/2expenseSheet

~ Yoga instructor, his wife, daughter and two dogs all make this 210 sqft bus conversion home. ~

 

Interview By: Brock Butterfield ~

School Bus Conversion By: David and Melanie Babin ~

Bus Specs:

-Make: Thomas

-Model:Flat nose

-Motor:5.9 Cummins

-Year: 2000

-Interior Square Footage: approx 210 sq ft

-Current Location: Edmonton, Alberta

-Purchased From/Location: Spruce Grove, Alberta

-Cost in materials for the conversion: $10,000 (including the bus $4000), but we still need solar and water tanks/pump

What made you want to complete a bus conversion? It appears you guys started in a VW Westfalia?

We got tired of paying crazy amounts in rent. We moved a lot in the past couple of years so having a home on wheels seemed like the perfect solution for our family. We started out hitchhiking from Ottawa to Alaska in 2008, and got hooked on traveling. Then we had a VW vanagon for a while, travelled all over Canada and did a few National Parks in the USA. We wanted to do it all again with our daughter Alice. We loved vanlife so we knew we could definitely make it work in a bus as a family of 3 + 2 dogs.  Living in the bus allows us to save up money but also allows us to spend more time together as a family doing the things we love most.

What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself along the way?

David has worked in the welding industry for 12+ years. He’s a fast learner and is incredibly curious. So off course he read everything on bus conversion before starting the project. I knew we would be able to pull it off but I am still amazed that he did everything himself.

What we have learned : Patience! And that not everything has to be perfect! :)

What was the hardest part of the bus conversion and what guidance would you give others for that part?

We did everything ourselves and we had to have the bus ready to live in in 2 months. It was extremely stressful and exhausting. Our circumstances were out of the ordinary (david lost his job a month in the conversion), but I would say this… if you can take your time and have friends to help out, ACCEPT!

What is the plan now that your bus conversion is road ready?

We will be moving around Edmonton and Jasper National Park for this summer and who knows after that… We are hoping to make it to the vanlife gathering in Canmore in July :)

How were you able to get your bus registered as a motorhome or RV?

We are still registered as passenger… will let you know how it goes.

Who did you get insurance for your bus conversion from?

Cooperators

 

How has it been raising a little one in the bus?

It’s great! She is one happy little girl so we must be doing something right! She has everything she needs in the bus, her toys, a bathtub, we have a full kitchen so we can even bake cookies together! Mostly she just loves playing outside so buslife is perfect for all of us. Each time we move the bus, she gets to explore new things!

What make and model did you end using for the following:

  • Kitchen stove it’s an old trailer stove we found on kijiji
  • Kitchen sink, faucet and pump : Sink from kijiji, DIY faucet, no pump yet (we were hooked up to water here on the acreage)
  • Toilet : DIY composting toilet
  • Shower or hot water source : Eccotemp hot water on demand, stock tank tub + diy plumbing/faucet
  • Any other unique and helpful items you’d recommend : full size woodstove for winter in Alberta!

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

I’m not sure? The full kitchen/bathroom? Full size wood stove?

What do you do for income?

I am a stay at home mom looking to start a business from home… David is a yoga teacher (in training) and works in an outdoor shop in Edmonton

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

Facebook : Our Dharma Tribe

and Instagram @our.dharma.tribe

 

~2003 Ford Short School Bus Conversion~

Bus Specs:

-Make: Ford Corbeil

-Model: E-450

-Motor: 7.3L

-Year: 2003

-Interior Square Footage: 112

-Current Location: Pacific Northwest

-Purchased From/Location: First Student / Pennsylvania (buyer beware!)

-Cost in materials for the conversion: $15k

-Is the conversion complete or still in progress? complete

-Does your bus have a name? Dan the Adventure Bus

Why convert a school bus and spend all the time when you could buy an RV? RV's were too expensive and the ones the same price as a bus were pieces of crap. Better to build a custom bus on my budget and preferred materials. Plus, I could get a diesel. That was important.

 

 

How did you keep your cost low during the conversion? I didn't. Had I done this over, I would have use cheaper subfloor and plywoods, skipped rustoleum and roof sealer, would not have ripped out and replaced wall insulation, made sure the AC worked as promised, and took it to a dealer or competent Ford mechanic from the get-go. Basically, I should have had a plan.

How many can the bus sleep? 2 can fit in the bed, and I have a bench bed / floor for 2 more. Also, there is a huge lawn on the roof, so in good weather I'm sure it can sleep another 4!

What is your cooking setup? I have a camping stove that I haven't used in 3 months lol. More a sandwich and salad kinda guy

Jax is using a Magic Chef Fridge/Freezer with a small sink and hand pump faucet.

What is your power source? 250ah AGM battery + 2000w inverter, powered by 320 watts AM Solar power!

Do you have a heat source for colder weather? I had a Little Buddy, but it only lasts 5 hours. I bought a thicker sleeping bag that works well. I'm chasing fair weather, so it hasn't been too cold!

How do you stay cool in the hot summer months? I should be in higher latitudes, so hopefully I'll be fine. If not, I can start the engine and run the AC :) I'm always on the go!

 

 

What are you doing for water source and bathroom? I installed a portable toilet that I installed in a vintage trunk! I call it "The Dump Trunk"! Water I usually drink from gallon containers, and I have two 7 gallon water jugs under the sink.

What is the most unique feature of your conversion? For sure the rooftop lawn. I think I'm the first to do this!

What do you do for income while living in the bus? I create youtube videos and work with brands on my social media and have hosted shows.

What do you do for Internet while on the road? Mostly my cellphone. I stop in coffee shops and I just downloaded a wifi finder.

 

 

What’s the hardest thing about living bus life? Shower. I love showers. I opted to skip the shower install and I regret it. I love being clean.

Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? Check out my daily vlogs at www.youtube.com/jaxaustin

We sat down to interview Jax in person to learn how he makes a living as a vlogger.

 

Check out the full inside tour of Jax Austin's short school bus conversion.

 

~ Roof raise and all, this 1986 school bus conversion only ended up costing $10-$15k ~

Interview By: Brock Butterfield

School Bus Conversion and Photos By: Kyle Volkman

Kyle Volkman demonstrates that you only need a few skills to get started on a school bus conversion. Everything else will come later as you make mistakes and learn from them. Check out all of Kyle's unique ways of utilizing space in his bus conversion.

Bus Specs:

-Make: International

-Model: S1700

-Motor: DT466

-Year: 1986

-Interior Square Footage: 200

-Current Location: Sandpoint ID

-Purchased From/Location: private seller, Sandpoint ID

-Cost in materials for the conversion: 10-15k

What made you want to complete a bus conversion?

I’d been living out of my Volkswagon vanagon for a couple summers and fell in love with the lifestyle. It was around that time that I started learning about burning used vegetable oil as fuel in diesel engines, and I had the desire to convert my van to veg but I would’ve had to swapped out the engine for a diesel. If I was going to put that much time, money, and energy into my van, I wanted to have a bigger space that was more home like and I could live through the winter in. I also had decided that I wasn’t going to throw my money away on rent or move furniture ever again, so I sold it all and started looking for a bus.

What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself along the way?

I had basic carpentry skills before I started the bus but I definitely picked up the majority of my finish carpentry skills by working on the bus. Renovating a vehicle interior like a bus is extra challenging because things are rarely ever square or level, and everything is built off of everything else. I learned a lot of things while building my bus.      

 

 

What was the hardest part of the bus conversion and what guidance would you give others for that part?

There were many challenging tasks in my bus build, and lots of little tricks to make certain things easier/faster, but the number one memory of suffering was definitely trimming the spray foam insulation. I payed a local outfit to spray my interior but I chose to save money on labor and do the trimming myself. It was an arduous and messy task. In retrospect, I would’ve just paid them to do it, HAHA I know that’s not very inspiring for the DIY-er, but it’s real, the scars are real! The other thing I’d say is to make sure you keep track of your stud spacing. I used 2x3 studs and attached them to the metal ribs of the bus body, but the ribs aren’t evenly spaced so it can be difficult to remember where they’re at sometimes. Also, make sure that you plan the layout, size, and placements for all your electrical conduit and outlet boxes relative to your planned buildout, you’ll save yourself a major headache.

How were you able to get your bus registered as a motorhome or RV?

In Idaho (where I keep my bus registered) to qualify for RV registration, you have to have a number of things in your rig, like a toilet, bed, heater (separate from engine), water plumbing, etc. Once you have these things, they come onboard to check you off and then you’re good to go. RV insurance is cheaper and it offers the legal protections that come with my bus being considered a motorized home.     

Who did you get insurance for your bus conversion from?

I’m insured through National General Insurance. They are very accepting of skoolies, however, if you want complete coverage, you have to get your bus appraised. I’m not sure how an RV dealer would be able to assign value to something thats custom built and thats not made of plastic and comes from a catalog. I use good sam for roadside assistance in the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

 

 

How did you complete your roof raise and are there any tips you would offer people looking to do the same?

The roof raise was the biggest single expenditure of my bus conversion. I do not know how to weld. I paid a welder friend to do the metal work. I would like to learn how to weld so I can do metal projects like this myself in the future. I did prep the bus for him by completely gutting the interior sheet metal and removing all the original bus windows. He made the cuts, raised the roof, and re-skinned the sides with sheet metal, then I installed the new double-paned tinted RV windows. When installing new windows, it’s important to leave enough space in the studding around the interior of the window frame so that you can replace the window if it gets cracked.    

What make and model did you end using for the following:

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?- probably the couch. I was trying to find a good design online for a couch that turns into a bed and has good storage options in the base and the back. It’s an original design that I’m very happy with.

 

 

What do you do for income? I’m self employed as a custom carpenter. After building my bus and a couple other van conversions, I’ve gone into business doing custom vehicle build-outs, as well as tiny houses. I also am musician and a photographer on the side.    

What is the plan now that your bus conversion is road ready?

I’ve been living in my bus full-time for four years. My desire to structure my life around my freedom and experiences is stronger now more than ever. I’m always working towards making that dream more efficient and sustainable. I usually spend the summer months traveling and working, and the winter snowboarding. I’m currently getting geared up for a spring road trip through the desert southwest and midwest.  

VIDEO 86 International School Bus Conversion By Kyle Volkman

 

Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)

Instagram- kylevolkman

Facebook- Kyle volkman

Twitter- @kyle_volkman

Website- www.kylevolkman.com

 

DMC Firewall is developed by Dean Marshall Consultancy Ltd