A “skoolie” is a term used to describe a vehicle that has been converted from a school bus to a functional RV. As the DIY craze continues to sweep the country, the practice is becoming more and more popular – both as a way to save money and make efficient use of space and resources. That was the thinking of a young Florida couple who had gotten tired of moving from apartment to apartment to rental house and wanted an alternative type of housing arrangement. The tiny house was an option, but the decided against it in the end. What they decided on was something similar.
They purchased an old school bus in 2013, made it into a home and moved into it. It was a far cry from the 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,600 square foot rental house they lived in at the time, but it was just right for them. This is the story of Chris, Kelly and “Just Right Bus.”
1. You’ve Heard of the Tiny House…
It’s a wave that’s sweeping the nation, as families downsize to make efficient use of space and resources. But have you ever heard of the tiny bus?
2. Meet Chris and Kelly
This longtime couple met in high school and grew tired of moving from apartment to apartment as they evolved throughout their twenties. While the tiny house was an option, they wanted something that was more mobile for them and their two dogs.
3. First Things First
Before they could make a bus their home, they needed to buy a bus. They selected a 1991 Ford Thomas 11-row, 64-passenger school bus.
4. “Just Right for Us”
Chris and Kelly called their new bus the “Just Right Bus,” because, while some people thought they were crazy, it was just right for the two of them.
5. The Beginning
The 11 rows’ worth of seats were already removed from the bus when they bought it, but there was still a lot of work to be done. Little did they know just how much was involved.
The early part of the bus transformation consisted of peeling up floors, removing side and ceiling panels and getting rid of the old insulation. It was all easier said than done, as the floors were glued down securely and hundreds of screws were stripped.
While Chris worked on the bus, Kelly started to sort their belongings, as there was no way that everything they had would fit into their new home upon completion.
They sanded the floors down next and continued to clean up the bus. Progress was slow but steady.
9. Street Legal
Between working on the bus and sorting through their belongings, they also got insurance, title and licensing squared away. That meant that Just Right Bus was street legal! And of course, a celebratory drive around the neighborhood was in store.
10. Rustoleum Paint
Chris and Kelly painted the ceiling, side panels and wheel wells with Rust-oleum paint.
11. Construction Begins
It took Chris and Kelly about a month to deconstruct and clean the bus. Now, construction was due to begin.
12. Plywood Base
The plan was to place plywood on the bus floor to make a more comfortable sub floor. It consisted of lots of measuring, cutting and trips to the hardware store.
13. Insulation and Electrical
Next up, installation was installed in the ceiling, and the electrical in the bus was re-worked so that there was overhead lighting.
14. Planning Day
Now that the subfloor was down and some of the more basic tasks were carried out, Chris and Kelly dove into planning out the layout.
Chris and Kelly found that the bus conversion was becoming a bit more laborious than they originally thought. Every time they were ready to move on to the next step, they realized that they needed to do something else first. And they were completing this conversion as Chris attended medical school and Kelly worked a job that she traveled often for.
16. The Floorplan
Up front, there’s the kitchen and a living room area, then a table and trough tub. In the middle, there’s the closet, bathroom and washer/dryer and in the back is the master bedroom. This floorplan would be altered as they delved deeper into the work, but the general layout remained the same.
17. The Alcohol Stove
In an effort to make the bus as energy-efficient as possible, they opted for an alcohol stove instead of a propane, electric or gas one. This took some getting used to, but turned out to be the right call.
18. Building the Bed: Part 1
Next, Chris and Kelly decided to build their bed. But there was a lot more that needed to be done first before they could do that.
19. Building the Bed: Part 2
They built – and insulated – sidewalls in the master bedroom area, then created the bed frame. They made the bed frame 15 inches high to accommodate a water tank underneath it. Converting a bus is all about conserving space, so this was crucial.
20. Having Fun
While the project was not without its difficulty and frustration, Chris and Kelly relied on each other for support and made the best of unfortunate situations. They thrived off of the progress they made and enjoyed spending time in the bus.
21. More Construction
One neat thing about Just Right Bus is that it wasn’t going to be an open floorplan. Since they wanted separation between each area of the bus, they built walls for different areas to give it more of a home-like feel.
22. And More Construction
Closet areas were planned over the wheel wells and more construction was done to support the washer/dryer and more.
23. Navigating the Weather
During the construction phase of the project, the rainy and stormy weather was a constant. While it was muggy working on the bus in Florida weather with air conditioning, they were thankful that they had weatherproofed the bus early in the process. Not all bus conversion projects can say the same thing.
Though the painting was ways away, Chris and Kelly decided on a blue color for part of the exterior.
25. We Have Power
The couple hired an electrician to perform electrical work on the bus.
26. Next Up
After the electrical was good to go, Chris and Kelly popped for the refrigerator and a custom-made water tank. Things were coming along!
27. So Much Work, So Little Time
Countertops were installed, the tub area was prepared and the sink was situated. A backsplash was even added off of the counter.
28. Tiling the Tub
They even opted to tile the tub area to make it look nice and homey. Why not – the bus was going to be their home, after all.
29. The Big Transformation
With all the walls up and the electrical and plumbing work finalized, construction of the couches and even some interior decorating could commence!
30. Lending a Helping Hand
Chris and Kelly were fortunate to have lots of help along the way. In addition to all of their parents pitching in as they were able, extended family also were willing to help out when they could. Some family members even came from thousands of miles away to do what they could to help.
31. Wood Flooring
To make the bus feel like home, they added a slope of wood flooring down the middle of the bus.
32. Moving In
Six months after they bought the bus, Chris and Kelly formally moved into it. Work wasn’t yet complete, but it was complete enough where they could live in it.
33. Enjoying the Bus
Upon moving in, Chris and Kelly enjoy cooking meals, talking and listening to music on the bus. They also had Internet in it so they could research improvements and ideas of course!
34. Looking Good
With most of the major work done (including the installation of a hot water heater), the couple turned their focus on more of the details.
35. Spilt Blood
While working on a windowsill for the bedroom, a saw slipped, splitting Chris’ hand open. After 10 hours in the emergency room, surgery and 14 stitches, they returned back to the bus. A few months of physical therapy was to follow before Chris made a full recovery. While the accident was a scary one, it was the only injury experienced during the project.
36. Attention to the Details
Now that the bulk of the work was done, Chris and Kelly could focus even more on the details, like curtains, adjustments to the hamper and touching up certain areas.
37. Exterior Sanding
Finally, it was time to paint the bus exterior. But before they could paint the bus exterior, they had to sand off the school bus lettering. It was now technically an RV, anyway.
38. One Year Later
Just Right Bus sure did come a long way from its purchase.
39. Home Maintenance
Performing routine home maintenance on Just Right Bus turned out to be changing the oil, which was easier to do than anticipated.
40. One Year of Residency
In October of 2014, Chris and Kelly celebrated one year living in Just Right Bus.
41. Exterior Painting
Finally being able to get around to painting the bus exterior, they settled on a white color for the top half and a dark blue color for the lower half.
Today, Just Right Bus serves as a recreational vehicle after Chris and Kelly moved from Florida to Minnesota in July 2016.
43. Just Right Bus
If you’re interested in learning more about Just Right Bus, follow its journey on Facebook at facebook.com/justrightbus. Or visit Chris and Kelly’s blog, www.justrightbus.com.