The wheels on the bus go round and round …until one day they don’t and then it ends up in a junkyard or auction. Sometimes these school buses get scooped up and turned into restaurants, studios, or stripped for decor items. But when Steph saw one come up for auction, the journey of transforming it into a cozy home not only created a place for her to live but built life-long friendships as well.
What makes a bus a home? According to Steph, “a lot of work and a lot of friends… and a lot of work.”
They started with a 2000 International Diesel, 60-passenger school bus purchased at auction for about $2,000. It had 98,000 miles on it and ran pretty well – the seller even gave the mom a few driving lessons so she could get used to the size and making turns enough to drive it to her friends house where they parked it in the backyard. It was a much cheaper option than buying a trailer bed and it already had an engine so it could double up as an RV in the future.
Without the seats you could get 245-300 square feet of blank space but with furniture and appliances, she figured it would translate to about 220 square feet of living space.
After removing countless screws, wrestling bolts and pulling out metal siding, you’re left with an empty tin can. The next step was insulating it so you don’t freeze your butt off in the winter and roast like a turkey in the summer. They found a spray foam insulation kit online and covered the roof and all metal surfaces below the windows. After the inside of the bus looked like a cozy pillow of foam clouds, they covered it with reflective insulation. The flooring was removed and the surface underneath was cleaned with a grinder, wire-brushed, swept, vacuumed, mopped and then sealed so rust wouldn’t be a problem in the future.
An electric panel was installed along with wiring, outlets and plumbing. By now this tin can was beginning to look more like a home.
Considering this entire project was built using reclaimed wood and appliances that were donated, found second-hand on Craigslist or the local thrift shop, the end result was quite stunning. Let’s check out the inside by opening the bus door, which was welded into one piece complete with a handle and a lock.
Ta-da! Drum roll please…
Right across from the futon is a pull-out table with a leg you can swing down to support it. It locks into place when retracted so you don’t have to worry about it sneaking open on its own. The small entertainment center just below the table was also made from reclaimed wood. That’s a full size stove/oven on the right.
The kitchen sink was donated by a friend and sits in a counter top that’s a salvaged door. Above the sink are a series of open shelves for extra storage. Since the bus was going to be a stationary home for quite some time Steph didn’t have to worry about things flying off.
Every square foot is precious so Steph decided this washer/dryer combo which is vented on the outside and has access to a water supply on the left.
No female abode is complete without a huge closet! These wide sliding doors were perfect for the job and a better option than traditional doors that open out, which would block the hallway. Since the roof is curved, Steph took advantage of the extra space on top by adding storage with latched doors.
Right above the bed is a combination heater/air conditioning unit so Steph could sleep comfortably all year round along with an LED reading light for story time. Below the bed are hidden baskets for extra storage. But what completes this room is the framed vintage car photo!
The bathroom is huge and its own separate room complete with a toilet, vanity and shower. Like much of the lighting in the bus, the bathroom features a row of LED lights on the ceiling. They’re really bright and last long but don’t consume as much energy as traditional light bulbs.
There’s a vented skylight right above the composting toilet – just the right spot. The box will eventually store an emergency propane heater that will sit under the bus in case of a power outage. Once Steph parks the bus in a permanent spot with sewer access she’ll switch this toilet out for a real one so she went ahead and already ran the plumbing.
The shower is tall enough for her to stand in comfortably, and the walls are covered in vinyl with a tile design that runs from the shower pan to the ceiling.
The marble top of the vanity helps conceal the water heater below. And that’s the bus mirror that used to hang above the driver to keep an eye on unruly children. The note on it reads “Total Cost – $10,000”. Considering most of the items were donated, bought used or at thrift stores, that number may be accurate!
During the summer, Steph keeps a sheet of reflective material over the window to block out the sun and keep the bathroom cool. To the right of the sink you could see the grey door for the electrical box on the wall.
Check out Steph’s complete journal with photos showing every step of the way on her blog: tinyhomebusconversion