~ Roof raise and all, this 1986 school bus conversion only ended up costing $10-$15k ~

Interview By: Brock Butterfield

School Bus Conversion and Photos By: Kyle Volkman

Kyle Volkman demonstrates that you only need a few skills to get started on a school bus conversion. Everything else will come later as you make mistakes and learn from them. Check out all of Kyle's unique ways of utilizing space in his bus conversion.

Bus Specs:

-Make: International

-Model: S1700

-Motor: DT466

-Year: 1986

-Interior Square Footage: 200

-Current Location: Sandpoint ID

-Purchased From/Location: private seller, Sandpoint ID

-Cost in materials for the conversion: 10-15k

What made you want to complete a bus conversion?

I’d been living out of my Volkswagon vanagon for a couple summers and fell in love with the lifestyle. It was around that time that I started learning about burning used vegetable oil as fuel in diesel engines, and I had the desire to convert my van to veg but I would’ve had to swapped out the engine for a diesel. If I was going to put that much time, money, and energy into my van, I wanted to have a bigger space that was more home like and I could live through the winter in. I also had decided that I wasn’t going to throw my money away on rent or move furniture ever again, so I sold it all and started looking for a bus.

What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself along the way?

I had basic carpentry skills before I started the bus but I definitely picked up the majority of my finish carpentry skills by working on the bus. Renovating a vehicle interior like a bus is extra challenging because things are rarely ever square or level, and everything is built off of everything else. I learned a lot of things while building my bus.      



What was the hardest part of the bus conversion and what guidance would you give others for that part?

There were many challenging tasks in my bus build, and lots of little tricks to make certain things easier/faster, but the number one memory of suffering was definitely trimming the spray foam insulation. I payed a local outfit to spray my interior but I chose to save money on labor and do the trimming myself. It was an arduous and messy task. In retrospect, I would’ve just paid them to do it, HAHA I know that’s not very inspiring for the DIY-er, but it’s real, the scars are real! The other thing I’d say is to make sure you keep track of your stud spacing. I used 2x3 studs and attached them to the metal ribs of the bus body, but the ribs aren’t evenly spaced so it can be difficult to remember where they’re at sometimes. Also, make sure that you plan the layout, size, and placements for all your electrical conduit and outlet boxes relative to your planned buildout, you’ll save yourself a major headache.

How were you able to get your bus registered as a motorhome or RV?

In Idaho (where I keep my bus registered) to qualify for RV registration, you have to have a number of things in your rig, like a toilet, bed, heater (separate from engine), water plumbing, etc. Once you have these things, they come onboard to check you off and then you’re good to go. RV insurance is cheaper and it offers the legal protections that come with my bus being considered a motorized home.     

Who did you get insurance for your bus conversion from?

I’m insured through National General Insurance. They are very accepting of skoolies, however, if you want complete coverage, you have to get your bus appraised. I’m not sure how an RV dealer would be able to assign value to something thats custom built and thats not made of plastic and comes from a catalog. I use good sam for roadside assistance in the USA, Canada, and Mexico.



How did you complete your roof raise and are there any tips you would offer people looking to do the same?

The roof raise was the biggest single expenditure of my bus conversion. I do not know how to weld. I paid a welder friend to do the metal work. I would like to learn how to weld so I can do metal projects like this myself in the future. I did prep the bus for him by completely gutting the interior sheet metal and removing all the original bus windows. He made the cuts, raised the roof, and re-skinned the sides with sheet metal, then I installed the new double-paned tinted RV windows. When installing new windows, it’s important to leave enough space in the studding around the interior of the window frame so that you can replace the window if it gets cracked.    

What make and model did you end using for the following:

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?- probably the couch. I was trying to find a good design online for a couch that turns into a bed and has good storage options in the base and the back. It’s an original design that I’m very happy with.



What do you do for income? I’m self employed as a custom carpenter. After building my bus and a couple other van conversions, I’ve gone into business doing custom vehicle build-outs, as well as tiny houses. I also am musician and a photographer on the side.    

What is the plan now that your bus conversion is road ready?

I’ve been living in my bus full-time for four years. My desire to structure my life around my freedom and experiences is stronger now more than ever. I’m always working towards making that dream more efficient and sustainable. I usually spend the summer months traveling and working, and the winter snowboarding. I’m currently getting geared up for a spring road trip through the desert southwest and midwest.  

VIDEO 86 International School Bus Conversion By Kyle Volkman


Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)

Instagram- kylevolkman

Facebook- Kyle volkman

Twitter- @kyle_volkman

Website- www.kylevolkman.com


~ 1988 Short Bus Conversion Completed By Two Young Filmmakers ~

Interview by: Brock Butterfield

Conversion by: James and Jen West

James and Jen Martin are a couple of graphic design artists and filmmakers who wanted a bus conversion with a bar for serving delicious cocktails and traveling to film festivals around the US.

Bus Specs:

-Make: Chevrolet

-Model: School Bus (now titled as a Motorhome)

-Motor: 8.2L Diesel

-Year: 1988

-Interior Square Footage: 123

-Current Location: Atlanta, GA

-Purchased From/Location: McDonough, GA

-Cost in materials for the conversion: ~$11,500

What made you want to complete a bus conversion?

Jen's parents have an RV, so several times a year we'd find ourselves renting yurts or cabins to stay in at the RV campgrounds with her family. So a couple of years ago we started scheming about getting our own RV so that we could not only stay cheaply during those get togethers, but also travel more on our own. The thing is, the premanufactured RVs that we could afford had poor designs (in our opinion), so the more we researched the more we noticed other folks doing bus conversions. We joined a couple of facebook groups/forums and James immersed himself into the process of a potential build-out. In March of 2016, we purchased our bus and began working on it.

What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself along the way?

James had some prior experience with woodworking (we're talking junior high woodshop class), and Jen had renovated a small dwelling a few years ago, including a lot of finishing work. The great thing about the forum and facebook groups is that people are willing to share their processes along the way. Any questions that came up, we could usually find in the archives, or simply ask and start a new discussion. We ended up doing everything ourselves, with the exception of some electrical work by fellow skoolie owner JT Lane (@schooloflifebus), welding by a local artist in Atlanta name Jac Coffey, and curtain sewing & seat cover help by Christy Schreck & Dave West respectively (Jen's siblings).


What was the hardest part of the bus conversion and what guidance would you give others for that part?

The hardest part is committing to an idea and following through with it. It's easy to get distracted by what other folks are doing, or to become so overwhelmed that you freeze. You've got to create momentum, and never stop. Don't be afraid to ask others for help or guidance along the way. Most everyone we've met with a skoolie has been immensely helpful. We've got to give a shout-out to Zack (@naturalstatenomads) for helping so much with ideas and insight with small projects along the way, including the plumbing!



How were you able to get your bus registered as a motorhome or RV?

We're in Fulton County in Atlanta, and our process was surprisingly simple, but lengthy. When we first bought the bus and changed the title to our name, we asked what the process was re-title as a motorhome. They looked at us like we were crazy. A few weeks later we called the office to inquire again, and were told to call the state and ask them what to do. The state told us that as long as we document the build and print out the photos of the conversion, then we could change the title. The only hiccup was that we had to actually convert it all. After about six months of work we had the bus in a state good enough to stage and take photos. Thankfully, the woman who was helping us at the DMV called the state to verify the instructions we were given and changed our title over. We took the bus for a joy ride the next day!



Who did you get insurance for your bus conversion from?

We got our insurance and roadside assistance through Good Sam.

How many can the bus sleep?

The bus is a full shorty and is currently set up to sleep us and our dog Cilantro on the inside. However, we have a rooftop deck that could probably make for a great night's sleep for a couple others.

What make and model did you end using for the following:

  • Solar panels, charge controller and batteries: No solar panels quite yet, although they are in the works. We're using two 6v Trojan T105's wired in series to give us 12v and enough battery to run lights and light charging. We also have a Smart Dual Battery 140A Isolator so that we can charge up our batteries while driving to our camping destinations.
  • Kitchen stove: We're going to be using a camp stove once we're parked, and a simple electric skillet for rainy days.




What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

We're huge fans of our custom rooftop deck. It's one of our favorite places to hang out. It will double as storage for outdoor things (grill, chairs, etc) while traveling, but will then become a preferred hangout spot once we're parked. We also built custom booths with storage below, a couch/pullout bed and a hidden compartment somewhere on the bus!

What do you do for income?
We're both filmmakers and graphic designers. We'll be using the bus as our mobile studio on the road.

What is the plan now that your bus conversion is road ready?

We're really thrilled to be taking the bus to film festivals over the next month to use the bus as a mobile VIP lounge. We'll be in Chattanooga, TN for the Chattanooga Film Festival April 4-7 and Columbia, SC for Indie Grits Film Festival April 21-23. We're excited to hang out with fellow filmmakers and let them check out what we've been working on for the past year. Beyond that our goal is to take a big trip out West in the fall, and as many camping trips as we can leading up to that. We'll also be at Bonnaroo Music Festival in June.

VIDEO 88 Chevy School Bus Conversion By Atlanta Couple

Where can people follow or find out more about your bus?

Instagram: http://instagram.com/eldonthebus
Facebook: http://facebook.com/eldonthebus
Website & Build-out Process: http://eldonthebus.com

Film Production Website: http://fourxproductions.com




Phone App Developer Moves Family of Five Into Bus Conversion

- Written By: Brock Butterfield

- Conversion By: Trebitowski Family

"Teaching kids to use their inside voices" is one thing that the Trebitowski's have found challenging with bus life. Living in a 288 sq. ft bus conversion is tricky with a family of five but the Trebitowski's make it work. What started out as a desire to take the family on more camping trips quickly escalated to turning a full size school bus into a tiny home. 

I had the chance to interview the Trebitowski's and got to learn how they're able to live full time on the road by running a 10 person software company that develops apps for phones.


Bus Specs:

-Make: Blue Bird

-Model: All American

-Motor: Cummins 8.3

-Year: 1999

-Interior Square Footage: 288 Sqft

-Current Location: Seaside, Oregon

-Purchased From/Location: We purchased the bus from Ennis, Texas from a small church.

-Cost in materials for the conversion: $21,000

-Is the conversion complete or still in progress? Complete

-Does your bus have a name? Blue Steel, because its really really ridiculously good looking


Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about.  

It all started when I got the wild idea in my head that I wanted to do more camping as a family.  Knowing that there was no chance I would get my wife to “tent camp”, I decided to purchase a trailer. So, within a day, we had one selected and headed to Tuscon, AZ where we picked her up.  Never having towed anything in my life, I was terrified to take it on the long drive home.  7 long hours later and we were back.  The only problem was: this trailer looked like every other camper trailer (a 90’s themed, floral print wallpaper, fake wood grained disaster).  After about 3 weeks, we had beautified the trailer and began taking trips. We were hooked!

After a while, our friends (miller_adventures) and (strugglebusadventure) decided to join the party.  While the strugglebusadventure friends started with a tent trailer, miller_adventures opted for a school bus.  I will never forget the day Denver Miller sent me a photo of himself sipping a Big Gulp and sitting behind the wheel of a 40’ school bus. I thought he was absolutely insane. He and his family began their conversion shortly after with the intention of selling their house, moving in to their bus and parking in our backyard. 

After spending a few Saturdays helping the Millers work on their bus, my wife and I got the itch to do our own.  At the time, we really intended on just using it as an RV and still living in our 2100 square foot home.  Within a few months of the Millers completing their bus, they found renters for their house and moved on to our property. 

Once my wife found the bus of our dreams, Denver and I boarded a flight to Texas and the rest is history…


Who is involved or part of the crew with your bus?

Denver and Vanessa Miller were a God send during our conversion. Denver’s knowledge and Vanessa’s perfectly planned meals were the only reasons we didn’t give up and walk away at times.

We also had help from many other family members and friends mentioned below:

Arnold Gabaldon

Jason Gabaldon

Mike Polonis

Dan Dunning

Loren Miller

Kellie Scherer

Phillip Overman

Ryan Dunning

and countless babysitters during the last couple weeks of the build



What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items?

Lowes and Home Depot for wood and walls, kitchen cabinets were from Lowes, sinks and faucets were bought on amazon, Magic Chef 9.9 cu. ft. refrigerator and Allure vinyl plank flooring was purchased at Home Depot, Natures Head Composting toilet bought on Amazon, Home depot for PVC trim to trim the curves (it's only sold at Home Depot and its amazing), and our RV windows we bought on Ebay. We have a company credit card through chase (Ink Bold) that does 5 times the points for purchases at office supply stores such as Staples or Office Max so we purchased Amazon, Ebay, and Lowes gift cards there and earned a ton of points from all the purchases.


How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed?

3 twin beds, king size in the master, couch converts to a queen



What is your kitchen and cooking setup?

Atwood DV 30S Stainless steel Drop-In 3-Burner Cook Top Propane range and Oster Extra Large Electric toaster oven




What is your power source?

We have designed our bus to use as little power as possible. Therefore most of the power comes from solar + batteries.  It is also designed to plug into shore power when we are staying in RV parks.

There are 400 watts of Renology Solar Panels on the roof charging 4 - 6 Volt Trojan Batteries

Inside we have a Go Power 3000W Sin Wav inverter, Go Power Battery Charger, and Go Power Power transfer switch (to switch between shore and battery power)

Do you have a heat source for colder weather? 

If we have hookups, we prefer to use thermostated space heaters. When boon docking, Mr. Heater Buddy 4000-9000 BTU indoor propane heaters works well

How do you stay cool in the hot summer months?

We have two ACs on the roof powered either by shore power or a generator when we are driving.

What are you doing for water source? Do you have a bathroom solution for the "rumble guts" hit?

For water we have a 100 gallon water tank on board with a 45PSI water pump.  We also have a city inlet for when we are hooked up at RV parks.  All of our sinks and shower drain to a 60 gallon gray water tank underneath which can be dumped at any dump station or using a hose to a bush in a pinch. 

For a toilet, we use a Nature’s Head composting toilet


What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

We have a RV awning and I don’t know if this is “unique” but I have yet to see a skoolie with a king sized bed in the back. We don’t compromise when it comes to sleep.

What do you do for income while living in the bus?

I run a 10-person software company (http://pixegon.com) focusing on building iOS and Android apps.  We have been building a distributed team/business for the past 4 years, so moving on to the road has had no impact on the business.

What do you do for Internet while on the road?

We use a combination of things.  In order of preference based on availability:

1. RV Park Wifi (almost never fast enough for us)

2. Local coffee shop wifi

3. Verizon Jetpack hotspot


What’s the hardest thing about living bus life?

Lack of personal space. Its surprising how often you think “get out of my way” on the daily but at all times you’re in each other's way. Also having one bathroom between 5 people, 1 of those people being a potty training two year old who knows the minute you sit on the toilet and instantly goes into emergency I need to pee mode. Teaching kids to use their inside voices, our house handled the noise much better. 


Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)

www.trebventure.com and we are @trebventure on instagram

Short School Bus Conversion with 64 square feet of easy living.

-Written By: Brock Butterfield

-Conversion By: Ryder Karkus

If you scroll through Ryder's Instragram feed you'll start to get a feel for the kind of man he is. Motor head, jet ski enthusiast, adverture seaker and likes to make things with his hands. It's no surprise that all of these key components led Ryder to the future of owning and converting a short school bus into a tiny home. His bus conversion sits on the highly sought after Ford 7.3l diesel motor which is know to run for as long as you keep putting oil and fuel into it.

I reached out to Ryder for an interview and small tour of his bus conversion of which he has given the name Tumbleweed. It goes wherever the wind blows...

Bus Specs:

-Make: Ford 

-Model: E350

-Motor: 7.3l Power stroke


-Interior Square Footage: 64sqft

-Current Location: Fonthill, Ontario, Canada

-Purchased From/Location: Cayuga, Ont, Lomoca Auto Wreckers

-Cost in materials for the conversion: $700 for interior, $4000.00 mechanical. We bought a bit of a lemon that we suspect spent some years on a farm being abused.

-Is the conversion complete or still in progress? In progress, finishing touches

-Does your bus have a name? We noticed on a trip to Nashville a Tumbleweed or piece of dried grass on the antenna, it stayed with us for the entire road trip. That’s when it came to us… Tumbleweed,it goes where ever the wind blows it.

Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about.

From the start I have always talked and fantasied about buying A bus and converting it into a home on wheels to take a trip to a place called Peace River. No particular reason except we thought it would be such a spiritual place because of its name. Over the years friends and I often talked about this dream, mostly on tent camping adventures or around the campfire. The talk and some friends faded away and even grew apart.

Except for one, Years went by of me and my very good friend Tom Tom, adventuring, camping out and always coming back to the same topic… imagine if we had a bus.... we didn’t know why a bus. But something about inventing our own layout in such a large diesel machine just made our imagination run wild. A lot has changed since those noble conversations around the fire.

I found the love of my life at an event actually where I was camping with 4 other guys in one tent… talk about a gross feeling in the morning in a scorching tent. We hit it off instantly. Within weeks we met again by me picking her up from the train station near my work. 9 month’s later we bought a house together.

About a half year into us now attending events together in a ford ranger sleeping under the truck cap my dream of the bus came back to me.

The vision of having a strong powerful diesel bus converter into exactly what we need, done for cheap! So I put the ranger and cap up for sale and set out shopping, it took a little while to find a bus and I talked to many different people online as well as on the phone about the different laws, restrictions and problems. I then found myself at a wrecking yard in Cayuga. It was there we purchased our bus and were on the quest to convert it to our family adventure camper mobile. Since that time Tom Tom and myself have taken trips in the bus. “A guys weekend” but majority of the time and to this present date my girlfriend, our puppy and I have really taken our bus life to the next level.

Who is involved or part of the crew with your bus?

My direct family, my Father especially has been an extremely large help mechanically in making our dream bus built come to light. But I mustn’t forget the few friends that have helped with the initial painting.

What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items?

Mostly plywood, with L brackets, with a good plywood surface you can screw almost anything to it. Also, yes, we did purchase a set of lower kitchen cabinets from Habitat for Humanity, which is all donated home items.



How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed?

The bus is currently setup with a double bed at the back with enough floor space to setup a cot need be. The bus seats 4 + driver.   

What is your kitchen and cooking setup?

We have a complete kitchen counter top, using a hot plate to boil water. And we have a small microwave for warming up something premade quickly.

What is your power source?

Our recently updated power source is a EU3000iS Honda gas inverter generator. This unit producing enough power to run an entire household.

Do you have a heat source for colder weather?

We have a portable electric fire place right now but are going to be switching to a Kni-Co Trekker wood stove, same as our friend Adam Sauerwein owner of #ThePursuit

How do you stay cool in the hot summer months?

We have a portable apartment AC that runs off the generator. Typically, only run the AC at night for sleeping, but our generator is more than capable to run it continuously.

 One way to keep cool!

What are you doing for water source? Do you have a bathroom solution for the "rumble guts" hit?

No indoor bathroom source

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

We have a delicate balance of hominess and functionality. Our bus is setup for hauling toys and long distance ventures with or without local power sources.

Back deck for hauling dirt bikes was added after this interview.

What do you do for income while living in the bus?

We only vacation in the bus. Work 5 days a week typically

What do you do for Internet while on the road?

We haven’t encountered a problem with this. We use our phones as a Hot Spot need be, if there’s service.

What’s the hardest thing about living bus life?

Not enough time for adventures

Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)

Instagram is a greats source for ideas and help. Everyone is very helpful, you can follow me @koonamaflopa on instagram