Operation Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Follow our progress on renovating our 1999 International School Bus into our Tiny House that will take us around the United States to find our next homestead location! Maybe you can pick up some tips along the way too:)
Since we started with the bunk beds and the last thing to build out was the closet, we went ahead and finished that out. We framed the walls with 2x4s, just like every other wall and secured to the studs that run horizontal on the sides and to the plywood under the floor.
NOtice below that we added a piece of wood across the top of the closet from one end to the other. We did this on every closet we built, including the bunks and bathroom. This also allowed us to add trim later as well as keep it all secured.
The box over the wheel well is also secured to the wall/studs with L brackets so it does not move in travel. It is a great spot for my printer, Big paper we use for projects, bedding containers, and kid books.
The main shelving on too hold toiletry extras,.paper towels, Tp, towels, and an office supply 3 drawer unit. The kids each have their own shelf and rod for clothes, toys, and books. The drawer system is 4 drawers. Each child has school stuff in a drawer, I have a craft drawer, and the smallest drawer is for the animals brushes/tooth care/backpack, etc. I have loved using large containers with lids.for the kids clothes and organizing boxes. I may buy a shelf system you hang from the rod to try a new way of their clothes being organized. It is all an experiment really!
Once the Bunks were done, the Master bedroom was easy to tackle. We just needed a bed frame, some walls and closets.
However, we wanted to be able to be in cold places in the winter, so we decided that our water tank should be inside where it would not freeze. Along with our other water lines. And, at the time, we thought we would be boon docking more so we wanted 2- 100 gallon water tanks under the bed. These tanks come in all sizes. We found ours at an irrigation supply store in Odessa, TX. We used bulk heads and pex piping to plumb it out into our residential plumbing we later installed. The tanks I found were rather tall, which meant we were building a loft bed at the time.
We also made the bed in three pieces so we could detach the middle of the bed to use the back exit door if we ever needed to. We got this idea from an Alaskan couple on YouTube who built their bed this way for that reason. We have actually had to take the bed apart quite a bit since installing it to access the tail light wires (behind the brick wall), take out the water tanks and put in a new one, to build a new bed frame, etc. So that idea worked well!
We also screwed the bed frame to the 2×4’s In the wall by countersinking the screws, and we screwed it to the floor as well. The frame took up the entire width of the bus so that it would be able to be screwed into the bus wall, and later we add a foot board with secret storage here!
At this point we learned of the Perfect Butt and began using it on the walls. Notice how the wall in Ryon’s closet fits snugly to the curves of the corrugated metal. This took some time to do. We had to have a scrap trace piece and eventually got it perfect…trace, cut, fit…trace, cut, fit. But it looks great! For these walls we used ¾” plywood but we could have went with ½ “ plywood. It was just on special so we went with the thicker wood that was cheaper!
I built my side of the closet…it is not square lol!
My Closet and Headboard Before (we should have just came all the way down with that board. I don’t know what we were thinking. We had to add a piece of wood when we dropped the bed 1.5 years later. Link below article.
Pretty Much DONE!
Here is what the bedroom looked like all done. We purchased a Queen Foam Zinus mattress from Amazon. It came all rolled up so it was easy to bring in the bus and unroll. We had to let it set for 24 hours so it would rise throughly, but it still works fine 2 years later!
A year and a half later we decided we were only using 1- 100 gallon water tank of the 2. 1 tank would last us 3-4 days if we were boondocking, but honestly, we just weren’t doing it enough to justify the added weight and higher bed. Plus, sex was kind of uncomfortable being so close to the ceiling! We also discovered you can find water anywhere on the road. So we found a 42 gallon fresh water tank from https://www.pplmotorhomes.com/ (free shipping deal, total cost $80), replumbed it to fit the RV fittings, and lowered the bed J I will eventually have a link here to direct you to how we plumbed everything.
Stage 16 Extended-Interior: Insulating the Covered Windows
Building during the winter can mean different things for different people. Some people had to deal with snow and ice during their builds. Thankfully, we were in West Texas, but it would still get pretty darn cold! After the Christmas and New Year break and spending time with family in East Texas (about 8 hours from the bus) we got cracking back to West Texas and working BALLS TO THE WALL. We were excited, we had a better and more detailed plan, the lists we were making were getting longer, but we were crossing things off as fast as we could write them down. This was a really exciting time because we had just finished the bunk bed framing and walls and new we wanted that done so we could start the New Year full on building.
Our imaginations were going nuts. Everything we did every day made it look a little bit more and more like a house. Like our house. With this in mind, and the current weather we were dealing with, we decided the bus was way too chilly. The windows were just not efficient for if we wanted to be in a cold climate. Not this many windows anyway. So, we decided (I show the later exterior pics of this decision in my earlier post Stage 16 Covering Windows to insulate and cover more of the bedroom windows and anywhere else it did not make sense to have them. I felt WAY more confident in this decision now because the bunk beds were built, which pretty much gave me a for certain measurement where my bathroom and kitchen would be. I was really able to move forward one something was solid and in place. We did plan for the build, but loosely. We really didn’t know how to approach it and just prepared as much as we could. A plan, subject to change. That is pretty much our life now that we live on the road and tiny!
So, moving on…
We used 1/2’” foam board on the windows, it fit nicely b/w the 2×4 studs and sat flush. Then we were able to tape it up with Foil Tape.
I love that stuff. It sticks really really well. Too well sometimes. But I have used it for multiple things, primarily insulating the windows. This tape seals any gaps so air can’t leak in.
Besides insulating some Full windows, in our Master bedroom, kitchen, and living room we insulated the bottom half of the windows since the couch would cover them anyway. And let me tell you, I am glad we did. Even after spray foam insulating the entire walls and then a ¾” piece of plywood laid on top still does not prevent the heat from the exterior metal heating the wood up on the inside. If we have no shade, the heat can penetrate. So just remember that when you are deciding if you want to cover windows.
We even took the back 2 windows out completely (we just smashed them lol) and then replaced the brick panels with a whole brick panel, you will see that in some future posts.
Where are you planning on being mostly? What is the climate like? How cold is too cold for you? Too hot? Are you following the cool weather like we planned to? We did because we did not plan on installing an AC right away. So for a year we stayed where it was cool. Now we have an AC (one in front Emergency hatch area in Living Room/Kitchen) and it just doesn’t matter where we are! But insulating the bus with spray foam and covering some windows really really helped with this.
Side Note: One more AC in the Rear will be perfect. Mini Split Install Coming Soon!)
Next Time: IF I knew then what I know now I would have taken all of the windows out and put in RV windows wherever I wanted them. Now…I know. And we know more about metal work and such…and more confidence!
SO to help even more with insulating the windows now that we live in the bus I use reflectix inside of my curtains that I made to act as added padding. In humid climates, if its hot inside and cold outside, condensation will form on the windows. If they don’t get to dry, you will have mold. Anytime you have metal remember it can condensate. (Another reason to take your bus build down to bare metal! Insulate and put something else over the insulate. MAny people complain about the original metal siding condensating nd causing mold on their beds/cabinets/etc. Use a thermal barrier. My curtains are the barrier, but some people put reflectix in each window and that is it’s own barrier. Some people even use Bubble Wrap on their windows.
When we started officially building in the bus it was winter time, right after Thanksgiving 2016. WE started with the Bunk Beds, after some time learning metal work first. Why? We knew for sure the general layout of the bus, how big our bed space needed to be, the kids beds, that the closet for most household and kid items would be in the area across from the bunks, and everything else was flexible. The bunks were the center for our imaginations so we started there. In doing this we basically completed the master bedroom, the bunk room, and began the bathroom. Yay tiny spaces! 🙂
I looked up a typical twin size bed and went with 39” Deep x 75” Long exterior. Leaving the hallway to be 28” and the rest of it was left for closet space. A standard twin foam mattress fit inside of each fine, and I squished it in on the sides.
WE used long wood to metal screws to insure we got a good hold on the bus metal ribs under the ceiling. These are spaced out decently, so we just followed our ceiling screws path to make sure we attached to the proper rib.
We built our walls sturdy as hell. Let me repeat, our crap is sturdy. We didn’t want things falling, breaking, whatever. So we overengineered it. Almost 2 years later, no issues. I am just saying:).
We did use the ¼” wood for the bunk room and closet interior walls to save on interior space. You can see we started adding it as we framed the bunks. But ¾” wood was used on the rest of the house.
We did not learn of the scribing tool “The Perfect Butt” until after we started this room, but notice the walls curving with the ceiling. Because we went with corrugated metal, they do not fit as snugly as a flat ceiling. Later on, you will see how the tool worked for us and how much better the other walls looked.
The space b/w the walls on either end of the bunk beds is 2” bc 2x4s were used for the framing, thus leaving quite a bit of empty space. Secret compartment would be cool, but we filled it with foam board for added sound insulation since our room will be butted up next to the kids
If you noticed in the pictures before, there were a few windows in the bunk area. Like I said at the beginning, we were building this in the cold weather in West TX so this made us re-evaluate covering more windows to keep the heat inside. So we grabbed some foam board and insulated the windows (DID NOT REMOVE THE WINDOWS BEFORE, We did not see the need to) and covered with plywood!
We also added a piece of wood to act as a smooth bed rail that Ryon and our friend, Jesse, made custom for each bed:). He came to visit us from Colorado to help us with the build for a few days! We were happy to have him there to help pitch in too! If you don’t remember, he also helped us re-seal all of the bus windows too back in the beginning!
The foam mattresses I found were from Walmart, and they were 6” thick and about $80 each. It was a tight fit but they easily pushed down! I recently purchased a new foam mattress for the bottom bunk from Amazon by Zinus and it was 3” wider but still I was able to cram it in. Foam is flexible!
We eventually trimmed out the bunk at the end of the project. That was kind of our motto during the building phase, “Fuck it…we’ll trim it.”
Hey everyone! So if you don’t follow us on our other social media outlets you may not know, but we made the cover and centerfold of the May 2018 edition of Bus conversion magazine! We wrote the article and featured some pretty amazing pictures of the bus I will be posting soon here! Below is the link to the issue! You may or may not be able to read the whole article, but its worth a shot! And there are a bunch of extra photos towards the back as well! Enjoy!