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Topic: convert School Bus to Mobile Living Space  (Read 10085 times)
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« on: January 13, 2006 03:23:04 PM »

we (my friend Chris and I) have made a long term (1 year+) goal:

we are going to hop in a vehicle and traverse the continent, while selling art, playing gigs, going to craft fairs, and we're going to make a documentary about the whole thing. I'm a 2-D and 3-D visual artist as well as an avid crafter, my friend Chris is a filmmaker, and Joe is a martial arts philosopher guy.

We plan on leaving February 20th, 2007

THUS, we need transportation. This plan is in it's preliminary stages, and after a lengthy talk with my dad (the smartest scientist in the world), we thought a school bus would be the most reliable, have alot of room to be converted into living space, be easier to fix/maintain, and be more efficient. Once/If we get a school bus, you bet I will post all my progress! we lost our apartment and I lost my job 2 days after Christmas, we see this more as an opportunity than an obstacle & the coming year will be an exciting and challenging one.

Now here's where you come in! there are questions I have:
  • what is used to insulate an RV? is there an even better material?
  • do you have any experience with RV vs. Bus?
  • how could I put any kind of plumbing (namely, a primitive shower) in the bus?
  • we're planning on looking into bio-desiel, any advice or previous experience? (there is a bio-deisel club in St. Louis we plan on joining)
  • have you ever bought and used a school bus for anything before? where is the best place to find one?

that's all I've got so far, ANY advice would be greatly aappreciated. And keep it coming because this is going to be an ongoing project. I've already been on plenty of road trips so I've got that under my belt, I'm more concerned about converting the bus to a living space specifically.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your time and attention, wish me luck!
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2006 03:30:22 PM »

Oh my God...that is the coolest thing I've ever heard. I really want to do this...maybe when I'm older and am actually able to...
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« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2006 03:45:50 PM »

I had a professor in grad school who moved into an RV full time with his wife after the kids moved away. He had tons of resources on this lifestyle...let me see if I can find some links for you....


The last 2 will be the most useful but the 1st 2 are fun and inspiring.
Good luck!! Keep us updated!

« Last Edit: January 13, 2006 04:55:36 PM by batgirl » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2006 03:50:44 PM »

rock on! wow, very on par with my own life dreams...
 that said, no i haven't done it yet but to get this thread moving and to brainstorm/communicate:
1)i have stayed with people who live in buses, and who toured in their mobile living spaces and it seems extra insulation is rarely used. i think the reason being it takes up too much space, and when in such a small space you are not going to need a big heater to keep toasty in the most damp and chill climates (excluding the "don't go out or you will die...really!" winters). 2)other than just RVs and busses I have seen pretty well down trucks with large loft extensions over the cab, and lots of fancy woodwork adjustments (think gypsy-style) 3)showers inside i have not seen...what about something you could rig up outside the bus?
a couple suggested links:

best of luck!!!

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« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2006 03:52:08 PM »

I had a friend who used a bus as a camper for a bit. But I never saw it or anything.

One thing to think about...

Since it is still a bus, even if you alter it. You will probably need a bus drivers lisence or something.

And put swivl chairs in it! My dad had a big van with the back all cool and he made it so the driver seat and passenger seat could be unlocked and turn around to face the back! (it is illegal now...but you could do it on other seats)
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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2006 04:45:44 PM »

I live on a 32' boat and we deal with a lot of similar issues with RVers and school bus people (yes there are a few here in santa cruz, CA!  even biodiesel school busses!) 

For insulation you should go with foam, not fiberglass since you might find yourself rearranging or disturbing it.  You can spray on foam or get something flexible in a sheet or rigid in a board.  "Blueboard" is pretty good.  Be sure to think about thickness vs. R-value.  However if you have all those windows, insultating might not do you any good.  Probably the best thing you could do to keep the inside warm will be to address the leaky windows first! 

For showering:
Cheapest:  get a "sun shower" and make a rack on the roof where you can lash it down in the sun while you're driving.
Check RV and/or marine stores for either 12V electric water heaters, small on-demand propane water heaters, or some marine engines have an elongated shaft where you can actually run a water heater off the engine.  I don't know if that's a modification that would make sense on your diesel but it works on ours.
For shower space some other boat people we know just took out one of our floor boards and replaced it with a grate, and painted the walls around it with exterior latex.  They ran the gray water down into the bilge where the pre-existing pump would pump it overboard.  seems like you could grout a pre-fab fiberglass showerpan into a corner of the bus and run a drain outside or to a graywater tank.

that said - I don't know anything about RV prices but it seems like if you want plumbing, it would be easier and maybe even cheaper to buy an RV than to try to turn a schoolbus into an RV.  Every town has showers at truckstops or laundry mats, they run a few bucks a pop (I've paid as much as $8!) but I bet at an average of say $4/shower, 3 people, maybe 120 showers a year (don't forget rivers/hotsprings and swimming holes!) you would have to stay on the road a long time to make installing water, water heater, pressure tank, drainage, etc... worthwhile.

good luck and keep us posted on your progress!
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« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2006 05:25:27 PM »

hello, my boyfriend and i bought a 34' school bus to convert about 5 years ago.

we bought it from some guy who had gotten it cheap from a school when they had to replace it. i understand it's mandatory for schools to replace them after 20 years or so. so that would be something to check into as a source.  we paid $2500 cdn it was in excellent condition.

first,we took out all the seats,except 2 at the front. that was a huge job. then we had to get rid of them too. luckily a friend wanted them -i don't know why.
we put down styrofoam insulation and then pine boards over that for the floor. that was the cheapest way we could find to do a nice-ish wood floor.
being in canada, we needed heat so we installed a small wood stove. during cold months, having the woodstove going was great, but as soon as it went out we would be freezing our asses off as the bus didn't hold any heat.
then we just moved in a bed, counters, propane range, shelves, curtains etc. it wasn't the greatest for travelling alot. when we moved it, we had to tie stuff down so it wouldn't be sliding all over. we had plans to build ship style cabinets and put insulation and wood paneling on the walls but that is expensive and we are no carpenters.

we decided not to install any kind of plumbing since we were mostly staying in remote spots so we didn't figure we needed it. we had a solar shower or lived near family where we could shower and do laundry.

i guess the best thing about doing it that way is we got to design the layout exactly how we wanted it. fuel is super expensive, especially if you are travelling around alot.
so......hopefully that helps you a bit and good luck! Smiley

this is the boyfriend here talking: ive been making biodiesel (my bus was propane fueled) for my nissan pickup and its not too difficult. check out www.journeytoforever.org for recipes and experience. the problem is you'd either have to haul around the processing equipment (the space of, say.. a fridge) or haul arounfd barrels of fuel.
or you can buy a $1500 kit to run on straight or waste veggie oil.

shower at truck stops, it's cheaper and easier than building a shower, and 3 of you? on one bus? youll need all the room you have.

try to get your diesel bus soon... and live in it. think of the $$$ youl save on rent between now and feb 2007! you can put it back into your bus.

theres a yahoo group called skoolies it is the internerd bible for schoolbus conversions

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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2006 05:47:04 PM »


My grandpa has a boat. So..

Even sliding pannels will stop things from falling off the shelves. And having a rubber edge around counters and stuff will help things staying in place a bit (or rubber bottoms on your dishes).
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2006 07:05:50 PM »

One bus that caught my eye...in a good way... was painted dark green and brown.   The fenders and stripe on the sides were brown, making it look more like the newest model of Jeep, than a school bus. 


Here's a picture that resembles the look.  I think it had brown rims too.  The finished look was really impressive.

I'm not sure of the climates you plan to travel too, but I don't know if i would bother with insulation.  The walls of the bus should have insulation in them, although I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to insulate the floors like someone mentioned above.  The pine sounds really cool to me.  Most fairs and ect. are held during the warmer months, or in warmer climates... the windows on both sides should provide great ventilation in even the warmest weather.   If you have bunks, remember the air at ceiling height will be uncomfortably warm in most cases.

The large roof of the bus has alot of potential as a solar water heater. 

RV's are easy, but it seems like there is never any elbow room.   I think the bus would be more comfortable to live in, but it would definatly be a plus if you were comfortable building simples bunks and shelves.  There is a book, The Motion Minded Kitchen, that explains space design really well and has great ideas for building simple, durable, but attractive cabinets.

Also... some campgrounds won't allow bus conversions.   
« Last Edit: January 13, 2006 11:11:14 PM by kd » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2006 07:19:14 PM »

I don't think I can help with the other topics, but I might have a biodiesel suggestion. My boss has been using it for a few months now and swears by it, and if you're traveling, it would probably be pretty easy to obtain what you need for little or not cost.

He uses the dirty oil from our deep fryer after it's too dirty to cook with. He's discovered that if he strains it a few times until it's clearer, and mixes it with diesel fuel. I believe his ratio is 20% diesel to 80% nasty cooking oil. He said he only ends up paying about 40 cents per gallon.

The only thing you'd really have to buy would be the gas. You could probably go around to different restaurants in whatever area you're in and ask them for their oil. It's a real pain to dispose of since it can't be thrown away or dumped down the drain, so most people will be more than happy to just give it away.

I hope everything works out, it sounds like it's going to be quite an adventure!

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