This article was originally published on RealLifeDIY
Some believe a home has four walls and a picket fence, but not Priscilla and Robbie. This couple knew their home was out on the open road, and they made it their mission to tour the U.S. in a rather unique home they would renovate for themselves and their pets. The big twist? This home had four wheels rather than four walls, and it needed some serious TLC. As you can imagine, these DIY novices had a tough battle ahead of them. Read on for their incredible story!
Living a Life of Adventure
Like many others around the world, Priscilla and Robbie have a taste for adventure. They lived in Florida, but they craved a different life for themselves. They wanted to travel the country and create memories to last a lifetime, and so they began to toy with the idea of life on the road. There was just one problem, though. Priscilla and Robbie didn't want to leave their beloved pets behind.
They confessed that "We hated leaving our pets at home and missed them when we were away... we needed a way to continue to travel and have them with us." So, they put their heads together.
Choosing Their New Home
Priscilla and Robbie knew one thing for certain; their pets needed to be able to travel with them. They wanted to embark on a cross-continental trip across the U.S. and Canada, and they believed this would take them at least two years to complete. So, they began to play around with the idea of living in a tiny home, a van, a motorhome, or a car. But could they do that for two years?
They needed something much bigger than a car, and soon they stumbled across an old school bus in Miami that seemed perfect. But the couple expressed that "we had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into."
Time to Rip It Apart
Although Priscilla and Robbie were excited about their new renovation project, they soon realized that they had a huge job on their hands. After all, the school bus wasn't designed to be lived in at all - let alone for two years! So, they decided to take it one step at a time and started by ripping out the seats to create a clean slate for them to design and remodel their new home on wheels.
All in all, the couple had 210 square feet of space to work with when constructing their new home. But the Thomas School Bus was built way in 1998, which meant that it wasn't long before they were met with a problem.
The First Big Challenge
Although the couple managed to strip the seats from the inside of the school bus, Robbie and Priscilla found themselves at a standstill when they tried to remove the floor rails that were once attached to the seats. The couple explained that this task was "the most difficult part of the floor gutting phase." Even with heavy-duty tools at their disposal, the couple struggled to make any progress.
Priscilla stated that "Robbie used an angle grinder to cut a slit about every six inches while I used a hammer." But this process was time-consuming and back-breaking, so the couple decided to move on to the next big task.
Starting on the Walls
Robbie and Priscilla needed to focus on something else before they finished the floor, so they decided to start on the walls. To make the bus habitable for themselves and their fur babies, they needed to saw off the original metal walls in preparation for the next stage of the process. But doing this was a messy job, and without a contractor, they were left with huge piles of trash to deal with themselves.
The couple stated that "We lost count of the number of trailers full of scrap metal that we removed from our empty bus. If we had to guess, it would probably be somewhere around... 20!"
An Unwelcome Surprise
Thankfully, it didn't take long for Priscilla and Robbie to finish stripping the walls. And when they were done, they went back to the floor and finished pulling up the railings. Their next step was to pull up the original flooring and remove the insulation - but once again they were hit with a roadblock. As they inspected the floor, they realized the whole thing was covered in thousands of holes!
They complained that "You can imagine how tedious it was to fill every single one of them. We used construction adhesive to fill and masking tape over it." It was during this time that they realized how old their bus really was.
A Saving Grace
The couple had seriously started to rethink their decision to renovate the 1998 school bus, but there was one saving grace. Although they were expecting to come across a huge amount of rust, they found very little during the first stage of the construction project. This was because the school bus had been in service throughout its entire lifetime in Miami, a city where vehicles are less likely to rust due to the warm weather.
Although they added some Rust-Oleum paint to a few spots of rust here and there, they were able to quickly move on to the next task; adding the foam board floor insulation. But sadly, their excitement didn't last long.
Finding Some Leaky Windows
With the floor insulation down, the couple's next challenge saw them use plywood to create the subfloor of their new home on wheels. And while this required a huge amount of attention to detail, it was encouraging to see the school bus come together. But that's when they realized that "we were having leaking issues with the windows." They knew this was something they needed to fix as soon as possible.
In the end, they decided to remove all of the windows, clean them up, and then reinstall them using an extra-strong sealant. But then Priscilla confessed that "after all that work, they continued to leak." They just didn't know what to do.
Recycling Just Wasn't an Option
Although Priscilla and Robbie originally wanted to reuse and recycle as many of the school bus's original features as possible, they soon realized that this wasn't practical. So, they opted to replace all of the windows with new ones to ensure that they had a watertight home. They also forked out on a new type of foam-insulating material for the walls to keep them warm and cozy during their adventures.
Robbie was tasked with spraying this foam, with Priscilla stating that "He was miserable in that suit. It was so hot, and it was so much work." But when it was done, they could move on to the exciting part.
Bringing Their Plan to Life
With all of the practicalities of the school bus conversion completed, the couple could move on to the layout and the design of their new home. Instead of simply winging it, they decided to map out a frame using plywood. By doing this, they could map out the different sections or "rooms" within the bus, as well as construct frames for large pieces of furniture like their bed and their couch.
Within just a few days they had mapped out their living room, bedroom, kitchen, and even a full bathroom. This made them even more excited to see the finished product.
Turning a Bus Into a Home
With a full plan in place, Robbie and Priscilla moved on to the next stage of their plan; turning their bus into a home. They were conscious that they didn't want their school bus to look and feel like a school bus. They wanted to make it cozy, homey, and comfortable - and they knew that this would be all in the small details. For example, they knew they wanted their ceiling to be a centerpiece.
In order to cover the original steel roof and the extra insulation, the couple opted to clad the roof in cedar wood. Priscilla loved this part of the build, as it made their bus smell "wonderful."
Starting on the Bedroom
Priscilla and Robbie couldn't wait to finish their bus renovation, but they needed to be smart about their plan. Instead of working on different projects at once, they opted to work room by room - and their bedroom was first on the list. They continued the cedar theme in this room, cladding the ceiling and even using the same wood to clad the walls. Then it was time to construct the bed.
With limited space at their disposal, the couple made their bedroom into a versatile space. They used their DIY skills to build a platform for their mattress, and underneath they made sure to build all-important storage space.
Brick by Boring Brick
Up until this point, Priscilla and Robbie had largely focused on the practical side of their motorhome. They'd made it watertight, they'd insulated it, and they'd mapped out their layout. But they wanted to start adding their own personal touches to the bus, which is why they decided to start thinking about the aesthetics of their home. More importantly, Priscilla wanted to start working on the fireplace she wanted so much!
To create the perfect backdrop for Priscilla's dream fireplace, they chose to install half-inch brick veneers on the wall. This offered a real "wow" moment and gave them even more inspiration for the next step.
Settling on the Storage Space
When the brick fireplace backdrop was completed, the couple decided to focus on building out the custom closet next to it. Although they were planning to keep their house in Florida during their adventure, they knew that they needed somewhere to store some of their clothes while they were on the road. So, they noted that "we had to really go through our closet at home and pick only our favorite pieces."
Priscilla explained that "this was our time to do our yearly cleaning and donate what we no longer needed or used." But they were careful not to construct a huge closet, as they needed space for their full bathroom.
The Bathroom Was Never a Compromise
From the outset, Priscilla and Robbie knew that they would need a full bathroom during their trip across the U.S. and Canada. Of course, this meant that they needed to sacrifice space elsewhere in their 210-square-foot bus, but they were more than willing to do that. And while they didn't have space for a bath in their bathroom, the couple managed to map out a 2.5 by 3-foot shower on the bus.
As they started work on this room, they were able to tile the shower and even find the perfect sink and toilet to fit into the space. And once the bathroom was done, they moved on to the kitchen!
Now to Cook up a Storm
They say that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and Priscilla and Robbie needed to ensure that they had enough space on their bus to keep themselves well-nourished during their adventures. And although they didn't have a huge amount of room to play with, they managed to incorporate full-size kitchen cabinets, as well as a stove and refrigerator, and freezer. During this time, they also got started on the lighting.
Although they wired in some ceiling lights, the couple also wanted to cut out some skylights to allow the sun to come through. They originally wanted two skylights, but then their plans changed when they ran into a complication.
Focusing on Renewables
From the get-go, the adventurous couple knew that they wanted to utilize solar power to keep their home running. But when they bought their many solar panels, they realized that they would need to close up one of their skylights to make space for them all. Of course, this was a small price to pay to install "six solar panels 360 watts apiece," and they were ultimately happy with just the one skylight.
The couple confessed that "We can go days without any sun and still be fully functional, including the fridge." Keeping a school bus running off solar power isn't easy, though. And it's definitely not pretty.
Fitting the Interior Essentials
As with any home - including a tiny home, motorhome, or any home on wheels - Priscilla and Robbie needed to install essential electrical wires and equipment around their bus to keep everything running as it should. But of course, they didn't want all of this to be visible, so they came up with a creative solution to hide all of the interior essentials behind a nifty white door. This way, everything was easily accessible without being an eyesore.
Behind this door, the couple could find their solar charge controller, air conditioning thermostat, inverter panel, and even their water heater controller. And when this was done, they could finally get around to sorting out the outside of the bus!
A Frustrating Paint Job
When it came to the outside, Priscilla and Robbie toyed with the idea of keeping the iconic yellow paint job. But they also wanted to think about practicalities, and they wanted to keep their home cool during the hot summer months in the U.S. So, they opted to paint their bus white so it wouldn't absorb as much heat. But they didn't just use any old white paint to do this.
In fact, they used weather and UV-resistant white paint for the main bulk of the bus and used an elastomeric roof coating on top. It was a tough job, but one that made all the difference.
The Finished Product
All in all, it took Priscilla and Robbie a year and a half to complete their school bus renovation. They did this all themselves, and they were proud of what they achieved. However, they did note that it took longer than expected: "If we had done it without the breaks, it would have probably been a year." Sadly, this long renovation process also meant that their dog passed away before it was ready.
The couple still had their pet cat, Mr. Beebles, to take on their adventures though. The couple confessed that "He was not happy at first. It took him a while to get used to it."
The Living Room of Dreams
As you can see, the couple nailed their school bus renovation project. And while their home is certainly unconventional, it features everything you could possibly need to live comfortably - including a place to store your shoes when you climb up the front steps! This enables Priscilla and Robbie to keep their living room clean, especially as they've opted for a white color scheme complete with a white couch and walls.
Priscilla explained that "The cushions are outdoor furniture cushions, so they're water and stain resistant which is ideal for us. Under the couch, we keep winter stuff like jackets, coats, boots, scarfs, etc."
Now the Kitchen Is Fully Stocked
Past the living room and further into the bus, Priscilla and Robbie have created the perfect space for them to cook up a storm when they're hungry on the road. Their fully-stocked kitchen has everything they could need to cook delicious meals, and Priscilla confessed that "this was the area that I enjoyed designing the most. I don't think Robbie would agree that it was the most fun... but he was very happy with how it turned out."
The couple decked the walls with white metro tiles, opted for white cabinets, and even bought dark vinyl wood-effect planks for the floor. But Priscilla's favorite aspect of their kitchen was pretty specific!
Priscilla's Favorite Farmhouse Sink
Priscilla fell in love with her home on wheels when she saw the finished product, but she was most excited about the farmhouse sink in the kitchen. She stated that "I've always wanted a farmhouse sink. It turned out just the way I envisioned it. Robbie did a great job cutting the hole in the cabinets." But that's not all. They also worked together to make the area around the sink just as beautiful.
Their washing area now features a gray quartz countertop, as well as a stylish brass faucet and steel handles for the cabinets. They also worked hard to construct some nifty space-saving storage for the kitchen, too.
A Space-Saving Pantry
Throughout the whole renovation process, the couple had to come up with storage solutions that wouldn't take up too much space. In doing so, they decided to create a slide-out pantry in the kitchen. This way, everything they could possibly need was within reach, but out of the way when they were using the kitchen. Priscilla explained that "I love that everything is nicely displayed without things getting pushed to the back."
She added, "At home, I often find myself cleaning out our pantry with expired food because it's all the way in the back, and I never see it." But that's not the only hidden surprise on their school bus.
They Even Built a Tiny Office
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Priscilla and Robbie's school bus only had a kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. Although the couple built designated spaces for these specific rooms, they also knew that they wanted to incorporate a mini office into the mix. They found a small space opposite their refrigerator to manage their finances and their business, and the end result is absolutely adorable. The couple loves their creation, too.
They wrote on social media that "We manage our business and investments remotely, so as long as we have internet, we can be anywhere." And now they have the perfect place to do that.
The Finished Brickwork Fireplace
During the earlier stages of their renovation, Priscilla was especially excited about the fireplace area - complete with a brickwork surround. Now it's finished, the fireplace is not only a cozy place for the humans and their cat to chill out, but it also offers some all-important warmth during the colder winter months. As you can imagine, Priscilla was over the moon with the result, and has stated that it's her "favorite piece on the bus."
With this fireplace and the insulation, there's no doubt about the fact that their home stays pretty toasty. But they do also have a backup propane marine heater for when it gets too cold. What about the bedroom, though?
A Bedroom-Utility Room in One
This handy couple managed to construct their bed from scratch, and they decided to lift the whole thing off the ground for a very clever reason. They measured the height of their bed perfectly, as it now fits a full-size washing machine to keep their clothes clean throughout their cross-continental adventure. They also have extra storage underneath the bed, but they might not need it with their well-thought-out closet space.
Behind those double doors is a closet for Priscilla and Robbie to store their clothes, and with two rails in there, the couple can have one rail each. They really did think of everything!
The Coziest Sleeping Space
After a long day of driving or exploring a new destination, Priscilla and Robbie are pretty thankful to be able to hunker down in their bedroom. They've made this room super cozy with the pillows, the paneling, and the artwork, and they've constructed it in a way that even offers a little window to the outside world. In fact, the adorable window is the couple's favorite feature in their bedroom.
Priscilla stated that "We couldn't wait to spend our first night here and we have a little window to look out of." But no home would be complete without a bathroom, right?
A Bathroom Finished to Perfection
Just a few steps away from Priscilla and Robbie's bathroom is their newly renovated bathroom. For the most part, the couple built this room without the help of contractors. They used their DIY skills to plumb in a shower, toilet, and sink. They also decided to spend some extra money on a glass door with an in-built blind to separate the private room from the open space of the school bus.
The couple shared that "this door allows for an open feel between the bedroom and the bathroom while at the same time providing privacy with built-in blinds." The finished shower is also pretty spectacular.
A Full-Size Shower in Their Bus
Many people hate the idea of living on a school bus, but Priscilla and Robbie have proven that you can still have the little luxuries you expect from a house. They made sure that their bathroom included a full-size shower, and they created room by choosing smart additions such as a space-saving sink and vanity unit. They also matched the bathroom tiles with the tiles they used in the kitchen.
All in all, the couple was able to transform an old school bus into a beautiful and practical home on wheels. But they're not the only couple to do this. Francesca and Nicholas have also done the same thing!
Say Hello to Francesca and Nicholas
After tying the knot in 2016, Francesca and Nicholas Drez knew that they wanted their married life to be full of adventure. And while they knew they were lucky to live in a 1,400-square-foot townhouse in Illinois, they couldn't help but think that they had too much space. They were more intrigued by the idea of tiny living, as well as traveling across the country and exploring more of the world.
The couple was originally excited to move into their townhouse, but after two years in their property, they realized that it wasn't their home. Their stuff was still in boxes, which proved to them that they didn't need it.
Inspired by Fellow Travelers
Although the couple tried to unpack all of their belongings and fill their space, it just wasn't possible. Francesca noted that "The kitchen and bedroom were all we used." So, they began to explore the idea of leaving their life behind, and they did this by watching countless videos and documentaries online about tiny living and tiny homes, and those who had ditched normal life for a life on the road.
The couple was especially drawn to the idea of converting an old school bus into a home on wheels, but with three dogs they figured they wouldn't be able to. Or could they?
Finding Space for the Three Pups
Like all dog parents, Francesca and Nicholas were completely besotted with their three dogs; Magoo, Sullivan, and Murphy. And while the couple knew that they wanted to scratch their adventurous itch, they also needed to think about the practicalities of traveling around with three dogs. Because of this, they ultimately decided that a large school bus would suit their needs better than a smaller van or tiny home on wheels.
All in all, it took Nicholas and Francesca around two days to decide that they were "all in." But before they could get started, they needed to go in search of the right bus to renovate.
Stopping the Search
It didn't take the couple long to find a school bus that seemed perfect for them. And while the bus was being sold at an auction in North Carolina, they were drawn to the 20-year-old Blue Bird that had 168,000 miles on it. Something about it seemed to call to them, which is why they decided to make the trip to Greensboro to bid on the bus in person. Before too long, it was theirs!
Amazingly, the bus had very little rust to deal with. So, before getting back on the road they simply changed the oil filter, topped up the fluids, and pumped up the tires.
A Big Budget for a Big Job
Although Francesca and Nicholas' new bus ran well, it was far from liveable. But as the bus only cost them $5,000, that left them with a whopping $55,000 in the budget to renovate it. Nicholas himself stated that the whole process was "much cheaper than a house, an RV, or an RV mortgage" and so they were happy to spend the money. Their first job; raising the roof of their bus.
In fact, the couple raised the roof by 20 inches to give them more living space. With two humans and three dogs, they didn't want to feel as though they were stepping on each other's toes - or paws!