School Bus Conversion Update!

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Sunshine and warmer weather have finally made an appearance in Western PA,

the result of which is a sudden surge in bus conversion activity.

Last summer we purchased a used school bus at a school bus auction with the intention of converting it into a RV for our family of seven.

This family project came as a result of us trying to price out the most economic way for our family to do a once in a lifetime, one month trip around the United States to visit some of our nation’s National Parks. After pricing out the varying costs of renting an RV or renting two hotel rooms per night for 30 days we discovered that if we could find a used school bus cheap enough we could convert it into a family RV and use it to see the country for less than the other two options…

With the added perk of having a custom designed RV to show for it at the end for future family trips.

The renovation process began with Toby removing all the school bus seats and adding a hardwood floor.

I am blessed to be married to a man who is handy and renovates/builds homes for a living, so this project was right up his alley. In addition to being a capable handyman he also has been blessed with the talents of creativity and being able to think outside the box. He is a great problem solver and good at executing an abstract vision. He is also a master of taking other people’s “trash” and repurposing it into treasure, a skill which has served us well over the course of our marriage, not just with this school bus conversion!

When we began the renovation we spent hours online looking at other peoples blogs, websites, and YouTube videos for blueprint ideas. The problem we ran into, however, was that most school bus conversion blueprints we found were meant for an RV that slept 2 or 4 people, not 7. So ultimately we had to start from scratch and come up with our own design, custom to our family’s needs.

We knew there were some non-negotiables with the design that we simply had to have. First and foremost we needed it to sleep at least 7 with a little wiggle room in case our family grows in the future.

We wanted belted seats for traveling. Rather than reinstall school bus seats (which wouldn’t be the safest or most comfortable for long distance travel) Toby instead found mini van captain’s chairs from a local junk yard that will be installed at the front of the bus.

I knew I needed a full kitchen for feeding my family three meals a day. With that I knew we would need a larger fridge and ample food storage. Adding a full kitchen (with a fridge, cook top and sink) will cut down on our vacation food expenses dramatically.

This need for extra storage is also what led to our decision to not install a shower. When drawing up the blueprints for the bus we knew that we had the option of a pantry/closet or a shower in the same spot. I opted for more storage space since we will be staying at KOA campgrounds most nights with showers we can use there.

We did choose to add a bathroom with a flushing toilet and sink. With this addition Toby had to install a white, grey, and black water tank beneath the bus.

Once we decided on the bus design Toby went to work. Much of his work over the winter months was necessary, but not photo worthy, behind the walls work like plumbing and electric, jobs that were time consuming, and taxing, but necessary. Now that that work is all done the fun, more visible and creative part of the project begins. Toby has now built all the walls, built all our cabinets (he is still cutting out all the cabinet doors) and has added the generator, finished all the lighting, and added the roof top air conditioner.

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The electric panel that will sit below/behind the shelving in our closet.

 

On Monday night, for family night, we spent the evening cleaning the bus, removing all the old bus stickers, and preparing the wood for staining. Everyone worked hard and the cleaning was done in about two hours. Cleaning the bus together allowed for a lot of trip discussion and got everyone excited for the completion of the bus and our big, cross country trip.

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Step one: Empty the bus out so we can clean it.

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Let the scrubbing begin!

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Grace removing all the old seating stickers.

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Tyler and Ozzie cleaned all the lower panels.

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Rusty helping Grace out by lifting her from cabinet to cabinet to clean window rims.

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Molly cleaning the top bunk (Rusty’s bed.) The wire and clips will be used to hang the privacy curtains that the girls are sewing for the bus.

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Toby’s seat. We manages to clean 10 years of grime from his dashboard. He is installing a co-captain seat next to his for me to sit in. The children’s seats will be in two rows behind us.

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The wood: sanded, cleaned, and ready for staining. I love the barn door design Toby came up with to build the bathroom, bedroom and closet doors. I think they are charming. 

 

Toby spent the remainder of the week  staining all the wood in the bus,

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IMG_0577 (2)The view from the back of the bus where our master bedroom is located.

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All stained! Isn’t it pretty 🙂

 

Welding a platform on the back of the bus to hold the generator,

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Installing the last overhead light and the air conditioner that will keep us cool as we explore the hotter southern states,

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The air conditioner being installed…

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The air conditioner (which he installed in the old school bus emergency exit hatch) and our new overhead light.

 

 

Storage containers were added to the outside of the bus,

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And our kitchen countertop has been installed.

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The progress is exciting and our school bus is looking more and more like a home.

Stay tuned as the school bus conversion continues!

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