How To Convert A Bus To An RV: A Skoolie Guide
If you’re thinking of building a tiny home on wheels or an RV, you may want to consider an old school bus. Much inspiration and work are sitting into converting an old bus to a fully functional house on wheels. From an old abandoned school bus, planning to restore and bringing a new life to an RV can be painstaking. Aside from considering the time and the budget invested in converting a bus to an RV, it’s also best to think about the repair involved. So, you may be wondering how to convert a bus to an RV if you only have a limited budget.
In this article, we will provide you some reasons to convert your old school bus into an RV. We will also share with you the steps on how to redesign, put insulation, and to tear away what’s left inside of the old bus.
Why Choose a ‘Skoolie.’
Skoolie is an old school bus that lends itself to being a functional converted into an RV-style tiny house.
Buses are designed with steel-framed bodies and panels on top of a heavy-duty truck casing. While most RVs are lightweight, school buses feature a durable diesel engine that, when properly maintained, is still roadworthy.
If a bus is somewhat in good condition, the engine can still go as far as more than a thousand miles. In addition to an extended motor life, these vehicles come with extra sturdy steel frames and floors, which most DIY RVers looked for before purchasing one.
So, if you’re a handy DIYer, you keep the potential of low cost while converting a bus into a tiny home on wheels.
How to Convert a Bus to an RV
Don’t be eager to throw away all the interior chairs and irons you see in your old school bus. Some RVers take more than a month to repair an old bus because the work allotted can be costly with time. Providing a new purpose to the school bus will be worth it once your work is rewarded with a beautiful and functional mobile home. So, here are the steps by steps of how to convert a bus to an RV.
Throwing and Removing
You may want to start removing first the seats, then followed by the exterior floor, the wall, and the ceiling panels. Then, there’s the tedious work of removing the electrical wiring around the bus.
- Seats – use a grinder to cut the base of the bolt at a slight angle to cut off the lock, since most of these bolts are corroded.
- Walls and Ceiling Panels – remove the wall and ceiling panels to inspect if there’s such rust around the bus. Removing the thin interior siding, and top of the bus, open up an option for better insulation and customizing wall paneling.
- Floor Prep – you may want to remove the original floor because you don’t want to build your Skoolie over a rusty and rough deck. It also allows you to insulate the surface of the bus so that you can add a comfortable temperature inside.
- Wiring – removing the wires of the lights, speakers, and alarm can be confusing because the wiring configuration of the bus is interconnected.
- Passenger Heaters – you have to disconnect the heater from the engine that generates the heat in the passenger area. But it’s best also to connect the coolant’s input and output hoses to bypass the heater.
Building and Construction
With your bus gutted out, you now have a more unobstructed view of the bus. You should inspect the bus and see if it needs any additional plan before working on the bus.
Check the bus if there’s any hole in the wall or ceiling, and inspect for rust or corrosion on the floor that needs to address first before preparing your old coach for building and construction.
- Clean the floor using a wire brush or metal grinder to remove the rust.
Seal the walls and ceiling of the bus to remove any corroded spots.
- Use a garden hose to check if the bus has any leaks.
If you found any leaks, caulk the exterior of the bus rather than patching the leaks.
- Check the electrical wiring of the bus for any damages or chips. You should repair and add extra cover to the wiring to prevent electrical accidents.
Walls, Ceiling and Floor Insulation
- Insulate walls and ceilings – you may want to install a thin insulation board such as 1.5 inches thick foam panels around the bus. It’s best if you also cut a piece of rigid foam insulation to sizes and fill in the gaps, and wall cavities.
- Subfloor finishing – it’s best to install sanded plywood for subflooring the bus. Installing plywood to subflooring should be ½ inch thick. Keep in mind to fit together with each subfloor panels by drilling short wood-to-metal screws for better insulation of the bus’s metal floor.
- Floor finishing – after installing your subfloor plywood panels, you can add the flooring design you like, such as hardwood or cut-out plasticine or tile floorings.
Adding Pieces of Furniture and Designs
Before adding the furniture, you should measure the interior of your bus. You can create a scaled drawing and layout to place your storage and furniture. This way, you know what would be the outcome of the interior of your bus once you have placed the bed, kitchen, and storage. You should take into consideration the size needed of the mattress, kitchen space, and room that you allow to use.
Here are our recommended sizes for each amenities you plan to add:
- Bed – a double mattress is a more convenient option because it only covers 4.5ft wide and 6ft long.
- Kitchen – the sink, overhead shelving, and storage should also consider the size you can allow. Most campers allow kitchen size no more than 5ft, which also allows you to adjust the space if you want to add a stove or a small refrigerator into the design
- Storage – depending on the size, it’s best to keep your drawers, under bed storage, and tools stored in a more accessible area from the exit door.
The cost of DIY conversion of an old bus into an RV with all the repairs and comforts added should be around $10000 to $20000. A used school bus would probably cost at an auction about $3000 to $6000 that is more affordable compared to the cost of a used RV.
Much of the cost left is from purchasing the material used in restoring the bus, which involves insulation boards, flooring, paints, and other building materials.
Reason to Convert a Bus into an RV
Converting an old school bus into an RV-style tiny home on wheels is some accomplishment that you can be proud of, and you did it by yourself. To make your hard work rewarding, we decided to add the reasons to convert a bus into an RV.
- It fits your budget.
- You can save some money because you have the option to buy affordable but high-quality materials.
- The design and layout fit your needs and furniture.
- You can add cozy equipment in your Skoolie.
- A comfortable, and cool temperature inside
Having the freedom to do what you want with the design and space is one of the great aspects of building your own tiny home on wheels. Understanding how to convert a bus to an RV means putting much work into your new home on wheels. Whether it’s extravagant that takes months to finish, what’s more, is that you enjoy building your Skoolie, and it allows you to go off-grid whenever you’re traveling.
How to convert a school bus into an RV? This is one of the most frequently asked questions among RV enthusiasts and those who are planning to DIY their way into the RV life.