Introduction to Our "Skoolie" Conversion plans
Hey everyone! This is Jamie writing!!
We have had a few people ask about how our bus will be laid out. I have been working for many weeks on how the conversion of the bus will take place. How long each phase of work will take and what all supplies we will need to complete each section.
The whole bus design is centered around a raised floor where all plumbing, electrical, and fluid storage occur. The center of the bus will have removable panels down the main walkway so that if anything needs serviced, it is inside the bus and not under the bus. Also, this allows us to fully insulate all plumbing and tanks from potential freezing. While we plan to be chasing warm weather, we are likely to hit cold on a regular basis as we push from warm to cold going north in the spring. Having everything enclosed ensures we are not dealing with frozen pipes or tanks.
The raised center floor also allows for easy modifications of the bus as we travel. We can change the entire floor plan at some point and the only place we have to deal with plumbing or electrical is down the center of the bus.
The raised floor will most likely make something else needed though and that is a roof raise. This is where the roof of the bus is cut off at the window level and raised up 16-18". This is a significant undertaking, but gives so much more room inside the bus. We will likely do this as one of the first steps in our conversion process.
The kids will have their own space in the back of the bus. Our biggest decision point for this was safety. Since we are going with a conventional front nose bus, the rear door is available for easy exit in the event of a fire. Super important for our munchkins. It also gives them a space that they can have privacy when needed and during the day, their own entry and exit door.
BATHROOM / LAUNDRY
The bathroom area will have a trough style tub/shower, a composting toilet, and a spin dry washing machine/dryer unit. All of the freshwater and grey water tanks sit below the bathroom / kids bunk areas, adding weight to the rear of the bus making it ride better. The bathroom/laundry area sits between the front and the back of the bus as a sound barrier. This allows the kids to go to sleep earlier and Mel and I can still do evening stuff if needed.
WORKSPACE / WOODSTOVE
The next section toward the front of the bus is the kitchen and stove area. We will will have a small gasification wood stove that can burn regular wood or pellets.
This will be tied into an underfloor radiant heat system. The radiant heat system will also be tied into a diesel fired coolant heater. We can use the diesel coolant heater to pre-warm the floors, say in the morning, and then stoke a fire to keep the floors warm. We can also stoke a fire at bedtime and if the temp drops because the fire dies down, the coolant heater will kick on and keep the bus warm. Also, the diesel/woodstove systems can be used to keep the engine of the bus warm in cold weather as well, allowing for cleaner and more efficient start-up cycles for the engine.
Next to the stove, there will be a workspace of some kind. Possibly drop down so if we need extra floor space, we will have it easily.
We will have a propane/12V/110V fridge. If hooked up to shore power, it will run off of 110. When boondocking, it will run off of batteries via solar. If there is not enough sunlight, it will switch over to propane as the last resort. We will have a 60 lb propane tank installed under the bus for the fridge, hot water heater and an outdoor cook stove top.
Next to the fridge is the sink area, where we will have a large but shallow single basin sink, instant hot water heater (which also feeds the shower and is run off of propane or electric), and storage for a dual burner induction cooktop. We specifically chose to avoid open flames of any kind inside the bus. Close quarters and flames do not mix well. The stove is an exception because it is enclosed.
COUCH / MASTER BED
The idea with this part of the design is to have a couch area on both sides, with possibly a table of some kind. Then at night, we simply fold up supports from the front sides of the couch, slide the two sections together and we have a bed. At the head and food of each bed are storage cabinets. There will also be storage under each of the couch sections.
This is still a work in progress. We don't like the way that the bed will block the path out the door. We may move this to the other wall next to the bathroom and move the stove and kitchen forward.
Not shown in the photo yet, but the drivers area will be closed off from the rest of the bus. There are several reasons for this, the main one being that we will have our 3 cats on board, and having a cat jump in your lap and claw you while driving down the road in a 22000 lb vehicle could be catastrophic. Also, in the event of an accident, there is less chance of someone being thrown forward into the windshield area if there is a wall between. This area will double as a small office as well when needed at night. We will have a small desk directly behind the driver's chair that includes video editing equipment. The idea being that we will have a dedicated video editing bay for our YouTube channel and for Melissa to possibly do audio recordings.
We will also have various systems in the drivers area. These include: collision avoidance sensors, side view and rear cameras, engine and bus system monitoring controls and a dedicated micro pc running trip planning and routing software.
THE BUS WE NEED
We have a few requirements/preferences for the bus at this point.
Engine - I have crash coursed myself on diesel engines and buses and this is what I have come up with: It should have an 8.3L Cummins engine or a 7.3L International DT466. These are both wet sleeve engines, which means they can be rebuilt in the frame. They are also known for being incredibly long lasting motors with very few known issues.
Size - We will need a bus with at least 30' behind the driver's seat. This means we are most likely looking at a 40' bus, which is the max length a school bus can be. We may try to compress the layout down to something more in the 32-35' range if possible, but because it is our home on wheels, we are trying to give ourselves as much room as possible. Originally, the height of the roof was a concern, but now that we have resigned to doing the roof raise, we can be less picky about the interior height as we will add probably 18" to whatever bus we pick.
Typical conversions of school buses take between 3 months and 3 years, depending on the level of detail that goes into the conversion and what the goals are for the final product. For us, we plan to have the initial conversion completed that will make the bus livable in 3-6 weeks. We will start with the most essential functions and then add on more as we determine what we really need.
Bus Conversion - Phase 1
- Demolition - Remove all seats and flooring, remove all sidewalls and paneling, remove all ceiling panels and insulation.
- Exterior - Remove all bus equipment, treat and clean rust, paint exterior of the bus
- Plumbing - Install lines for kitchen sink, shower, washing machine - includes install of freshwater and grey water tanks, as well as pumps.
- Electrical - Run 12v LED lighting throughout the bus as well as minimal number of 120V outlets
- Insulate - Spray closed cell foam throughout interior for sound and thermal insulation.
- Enclose Interior - Install wall/ceiling coverings
- Sleeping Quarters - Build and install queen bed pullout that functions as a couch during the day, kids bunk beds and storage.
- Flooring - Install flooring throughout bus
- Appliances - Install of propane/electric refrigerator and tankless hot water heater and
- Counters and Tables - install of a counter with fold down table for cooking and meal prep - includes the install of the kitchen sink and storage space