Check out our 3rd Episode where we interview another full time rv family, The Ruthardt’s! We literally just met them 2 hours before the podcast, so everything is very genuine! They tell us about their inspiring journey that led them to this lifestyle, what the plan is for the future, life on the road with kids, their Homeless Outreach Program, and so much more! We chatted for 3 hours people! Curl up and listen, with a belly full of Turkey bits, to this awesome conversation of 4 like minded people!
We literally tried ending the podcast 3 times but these guys were just so much fun:)
Ryon and I had the honors of being guests on the Skoolie Today Podcast (found on itunes and castbox) a couple of days ago, and will be released sometime next week for anyone who would like to listen! It is a free download for either app, and free episode downloads or playbacks.
Hear us talk about Chitty Bang, life on the road, mechanical stresses, our experience building the bus, homeschooling, and more!! Stay tuned for more info on the release!
Here are our other 3 videos on our workamping gig at a small pumpkin patch in Sierra Vista, Az this October. We have some time off, and will be back to selling Christmas Trees sometime around Thanksgiving!
The bathroom was a bit complex bc I wanted a shower that was comfortable for Crab to stand in, comfortable to use the large compost toilet, and have room to put in the American Made RV water heater we decided to go with, Precision Temp’s RV 550. The size of the bathroom was adjustable at this point, but we went with interior measurements of 32″ deep (The exterior depth was the same as the bunkroom located on one side of the bathroom) x 70″ long. (Measured with the corrugated metal we used as the paneling). Exterior length down the bus, the bathroom measures 77″. The shower pan was 32″x32″ from Home Depot. Remember, we ran our electrical after we built because we had no idea what the space would really look like or how it would function really until we built it. Total Newbies!:)
We painted all of the framing wood in the bathroom with Red Guard. Thus was suggested by a contractor We met. He swears by it. It paints on pepto bismol pink, but dries a red plastic covering over whatever you paint. So if water ever gets through, it will save the wood at least! We then used galvanized corrugated metal as the walls and used hex head screws with rubber washers to help seal where we had to install. I used a clear silicone to caulk the seams.in the shower and where the wall met the ceiling.
We had to cut a hole in the side of the bus to install the tankless water heater and allow it to vent properly. Well we cut it too big….and then hung a piece of metal to cover the mess up lol. We had some experience with metal work so this part no longer seemed so scary and daunting. Confidence was building:) We actually felt good about making a hole in the bus. Wowza…
The Plumbing for the shower looked like this:
After much research on youtube and seeing how people liked their composting toilets, we decided to not build a black water tank and just use a compost toilet! The Nature’s Head was what we decided on, as it was really the only one I could find! I wrote an article The Dirty Rotten Truth About Compost Toilets for an in depth look at how I like ours.
We positioned it in the corner of the bathroom so we would have space to sit comfortably, and be able to vent it properly, and plug it in to a power source so the small fan inside runs to keep it from being stinky.
Plumbing Propane: (link to full article coming soon!)
This happened towards the end of the build when we were finished with the propane “cage” we fabricated at the rear of the bus on the extension we also built on. This way, we knew exactly the distance and we were just measuring, cutting, and flaring. We had our great Mentor, Robbie, to show us how to do a double flarethat was perfect (we had a lot of re-dos doing the flare at first, but it is very important it is done without having cracks or uneven edges on the flare). A double flare is RV standard for double safety, basically, you can find this out on a google search. However, a single flare will do the trick, but if you already have the Flaring kit, you might as well do a double and be safe. (If you do this, have someone look at it that approves. Try a heating/cooling business, A/C repair. You can even have a licensed propane inspector check it out. Might cost $100 but its worth it if you are not sure. )
We ran copper piping from the propane cage we built underneath the bus up through the floor underneath the water heater. Underneath the bus, right underneath the water heater, we “T”ed a connection to also connect the RV refrigerator to propane since we bought a 2 way by Norcold (info on that in a future article) and it was just a few feet away on the same side of the bus.
And since we are talking about propane, lets talk safety. NO BUILD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN SAFETY. At every connection (2) inside of the bus, I have a Propane Sensor on the ground (PROPANE IS HEAVY AND WILL DROP TO THE GROUND NOT FLOAT) connected 12 V to the SOLAR battieries and they are on 24/7. That is not to say that spraying febreze or other chemical wont’s set off the sensors…that has happened…but I know they work! We also put on and off valves inside underneath the water heater and fireplace so we could turn off the propane easily in here without going outside.
Also, we wrapped our copper in foam insulation so that it would not rub against anything underneath the bus. REMEMBER VIBRATION IS YOUR ENEMY. ALWAYS THINK OF HOW THINGS WILL VIBRATE or TWIST while bumping down the road! And things move! We also attached the foam covered pipe with metal hangers securely to the frame of the bus with TEK metal screws.
Crab built a box to cover the plumbing, propane, and water heater and I put a basket on top of it for an air freshener, lotion, and TP holding area. We also trimmed around the bottom of the box and the doorways! We should have gotten a type of cover for the top, stone or wood, but we always keep our eyes open for something to add later.
I use a friend’s old shoe organizer to organize our bathroom necessities. With 3 girls and guy that shaves his head, there are quite a few pockets filled with feminine hygiene, extra soap, razor blades from dollar shave club, sunscreen, face and hair masks, all of our toothpaste and brushes…etc. It works Great!
We have a curtain for privacy when showering that we tuck behind the organizer when no one is in their. I also orginally had a towel hanger there but it was in the way a lot so it was removed and we have since found another place for towels.
DRAIN LINES: (another article coming)
When it came to installing the drain lines, again, this was something never done before. We read the lines should hang at a 1/4″ slant all the way to the end. This lets gravity do its job. So we used some of these awesome metal straps with holes in them (we used these for lots of stuff and hanging things) to hang the 1″ PVC from the sink drain under the bus to the shower, all the way to the rear of the bus to the Gray water tank we installed at a later time while on the road (that will be in the future drain line article).
A Look Back:
The Rv550 has worked decently the last almost 2 years. Here are the issues we had. The first time we installed it, the face that goes on the outside of the bus didnt really fit.
The company has great customer support. They sent us a new one, no issues. After about 8 months and tracking from Texas to Washington then down to Cali, the water heater sprung a leak shooting water down the outside side of the bus. At least it wasn’t inside. The company sent us another new one, took back the old one, all paid for. It just sucked to have to deal with. Over a year later we traveled from Cali to Arizona and have been exploring the state, no issues. It is hard to find the correct setting for how hot you need it, and lately the hose being in the sun is enough to get the perfect temp shower lol. If it craps again, though, and isn’t covered with the warranty I want to take out the box Crab made to cover it, and install an Eco Temp or other style I have seen other skoolie/tinyhousers use. And we will get some floor space back in the bathroom which would be a cool change:).
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.”
This video will cover how we, as a family 4 (plus an English mastiff and a cat) research places to find a place to park our diy converted tinyhouse/skoolie/rv because there are some restrictions we discovered with rv parks and such. We were also unsure anywhere to park when traveling…well rest assured, plenty of people worry the same things and I am here to tell you how we did it, what worked, what we did and didn’t try, and where we ended up parking and How we made connections to get some great spots! I mention apps and procedures as well. What to look for on the websites and what has worked for us!
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!