- Written by Guest Writers
A bus bathroom journey from floorplan to full-time to remodel.
Tawny and Mike have lived full-time in their skoolie, Oliver, since May 2019. After realizing they felt trapped in their “normal” life, they sold their house and business to hit the road with their two teens and haven’t looked back since. They document their adventures and the nuances of bus life on their blog, www.sincewewokeup.com, and share photo and video content on their Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube channels of the same name.
Wet Room Concept: A Love Story
Our bathroom was actually the first part of our build that was set in stone. I’d seen a photo on Pinterest of a concrete wet room-styled bathroom while the bus was nothing but a dream in our heads, and nothing could shake me from the vision. One of Mike’s big design criteria was that the bus not have a center aisle floorplan with a split bathroom, and I was happy to comply.
A wet room wasn’t just aesthetically appealing to me, it seemed practical. After all, how much more space-saving can you get than to combine all the elements of a bathroom into one space with no additional walls to interfere? But the concrete look had two problems – poured concrete weighs a ton, and with the constant shifting of a moving vehicle, would likely crack.
After some research, we found Ardex feather finish concrete, which became not only the solution for our bathroom, but a handy solution for our kitchen counters and our wood stove surround and firebox. This veneer product is lightweight, easy to use, and after a year and half of use and travel, we can confidently say it holds up to the movement of bus life.
This was our process.
Step One: Create the Forms
We used hardwood plywood and 2x4s to create the foundation for the concrete. The floor, walls, and counter were built entirely out of wood. We even created little built-in shelves on one wall that would later hold our shampoo and soap.
The hardest part of making sure our homemade shower pan had the proper slope to ensure good drainage – not an easy feat when your home is a bus that isn’t always parked on level surfaces!
Step Two: Make it Watertight
Wood is porous and prone to rot, so we needed to make sure our forms weren’t rotting away underneath the concrete. First, we used bathroom silicone to seal every single screw hole and seam. Next, there are paintable rubber products that create a thin, waterproof barrier. We recommend several coats over the entire surface. Finally, we laid a heavy silicone mat designed for tiled shower floors and sealed the edges with more silicone to add extra protection to the floor, since it would be in more constant contact with water than the walls.
Step Three: Concrete the Forms
The feather finish concrete was incredibly easy to use. Using a concrete spatula, we spread uniformly thin layers one at a time. Between each layer, we would allow it to dry completely, and then sand down any edges we didn’t like. We originally planned to make the concrete smooth but decided after the first few layers that we preferred the texture of the freshly finished layers to the sanded-down ones and left our last coat slightly bumpy and ridged.
Step Four: Waterproof the Concrete
As concrete is also porous, it required further waterproofing to ensure water wasn’t absorbing into it. In the bathroom, we used two coats of a heavy-duty concrete sealer made for concrete floors. In the kitchen, on our counters where food would be prepared, we used a food-grade concrete sealer.
Maintenance and Questions
We frequently get asked how the concrete has held up, and if it requires maintenance. While we’ve noticed some small, hairline cracks here and there (generally at seams in the wood), they’re easily fixed and few between. We’ve actually been really impressed with the durability of this product. We do perform maintenance on it in the way of resealing the concrete annually as a precaution, but other than that both the bathroom and counters have been easy to use and care for.
Remodeling the Bathroom to Fit Our Needs
The rest of the bathroom came easy after the concrete. I knew I wanted copper fixtures to gleam against the concrete, a composting toilet, and a small sink with a utility closet for our water heater underneath. Initially, I was positive that we would absolutely need a washer and dryer unit, so that was part of our original design as well. We placed the toilet on a wheel well behind the shower area, and a large vanity that contained our combo washer/dryer unit sat opposite.
But as bus life will teach you, you don’t know what you need or what will work until you’ve lived with it! A few months later we realized we hardly used our washer/dryer unit because it required us to be plugged into shore power, and I missed being able to take a bath. So our first remodel commenced – we removed that large vanity and replaced it with a smaller one, moved the toilet to sit beside it, and created a concrete built-in tub over the wheel well the toilet had been housed in.
While I truly loved that big tub, a few months after that we wanted to expand the closet area in our bedroom, and we realized that if we were willing to downgrade our tub we could absorb that wheel well into our bedroom. While I was loathed to say goodbye to the beautiful concrete tub we’d just put in, I also really wanted more space in the bedroom, and removing the tub used once a week versus expanding our bedroom in a way that was more livable every day was a no brainer. Then I found our current tub, an old wine barrel that was cut in half, and I knew we’d found the perfect solution.
Our Bathroom Today
In its final state, the layout of the bathroom is exactly what we need. It measures five feet by five feet, with a small 2x2 section cut out of one wall where the wood stove sits on the other side. We laid Acacia wood tiles on the concrete floor so that we weren’t standing in water after our shower while we got ready and to help prevent slipping.
The wine barrel tub isn’t plumbed in, which allows us to bring it outside. It drains through a small hole we drilled into the bottom onto the shower floor and through the tiles, and the hose attachment of our shower means we can fill it inside or out through the bathroom window when it’s outside. Because the hallway outside the bathroom is too narrow to bring it through the bathroom door, we created a hidden door that looks like a wall of shelve behind it. When we want to move it in or out we unlatch the small hook, pull that wall open, and bring the tub in and out through our bedroom where there’s plenty of room to maneuver it.
In our final remodel, we sunk our tiny white porcelain sink with its copper fittings into the countertop to create a flush farmhouse-look sink and added shelves behind the toilet for extra storage. A shower curtain hangs on a rod that circles the shower, allowing us to keep the water contained but move out of the way to reopen the space when we’re done.
The bathroom has changed several times over, but each change is better than the last and has led to a functional space that we adore. One of my favorite things in the world is a Sunday morning bath in our tiny bathroom, little bus window thrown wide to the big world outside while I’m cozy inside with a hot cup of coffee.
More Articles By Little House On The Hwy
- Written by Guest Writers
Let's get cooking with Number Juan Bus!
Roadside recipes to stay nourished and ready for adventure
We’ve been living and traveling full time in our skoolie (@numberjuanbus) for over a year and in that time we’ve made a lot of delicious food. We often get asked, “What can you cook in your bus?” The answer is pretty much anything! However, when it comes to living in a tiny space and living off-grid you do want to choose meals and snacks that don’t make a lot of dirty dishes or require a lot of water. Wraps, sandwiches, bowls, burritos, and one sheet pan meals are great ideas for lunch/ dinners. Here are a few of our go-to bites to eat!
Cucumber Lime and Sea Salt Snack:
Kinda sounds weird but it’s one of our favorite snacks. It’s quick, easy, healthy and everyone in the family loves it!
Gather ingredients: 1 cucumber, 1 lime, sea salt
Peel the skin off the cucumber
Thinly slice the cucumber
Cut the lime in half
Squeeze the lime juice over the cucumbers
Sprinkle with sea salt to taste preference
Enjoy! It’s an ideal refreshing snack
Buffalo Cauliflower Wraps:
This meal happened on accident one day when I was trying to use up random ingredients I had on hand. It’s quickly become a staple meal and works for lunch or dinner.
Gather ingredients: frozen cauliflower, cooking oil of choice, Frank's Red Hot Wings Hot Buffalo sauce, cucumber, tomato, ranch, wraps. (Optional: add spinach and avocado to fancy up this wrap.)
Preheat oven to 400°F
Toss frozen cauliflower in cooking oil (I normally use ev olive oil)
Place cauliflower on a baking sheet and cook for 20mins or longer for crispier cauliflower.
While cauliflower is cooking cut up your veggies.
I like to cut my cucumbers in “stick" shape for this wrap
I prefer cherry tomatoes but any will work.
Place baked cauliflower on a wrap
Drizzle Frank's hot sauce to preference
Drizzle ranch or blue cheese to preference
Wrap up, serve with chips or fruit and enjoy!
Jackfruit BBQ Sandwich:
This meal is so quick, so easy, and so delicious! This is healthy BBQ and also works for Lunch or Dinner.
Gather ingredients: 1 can of Jackfruit, Favorite BBQ sauce, and buns.
Rinse off jackfruit and shred with a fork or by hand
Sauté the jackfruit over medium heat for 5-7 minutes
Add sauce and sauté for 1-2 mins
Remove from heat and stir until cool enough to eat.
Load up a bun, serve with your favorite BBQ side, (ours is mac & cheese, but coleslaw or baked beans are also great options) enjoy!
To see a few other of our favorite meals to make in our tiny house you can watch this video we made.
Join our journey by following along on YouTube & IG:
More Articles By Little House On The Hwy
- Written by Guest Writers
Outback Skoolie's step-by-step guide for their custom skoolie skylights
Hi there! We are Charlie and Nicole of Outback Skoolie. Charlie grew up in Brisbane, Australia and Nicole is from Chicago, IL. We met while we were both in Las Vegas, NV by complete chance and have been together since. Neither of us has ever been happy staying in one place and we both want to explore as much of the world as possible. We spent 4 months backpacking through Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand in 2019 and realized how much happier we were living with memories instead of things! This inspired us to downsize our way of living and dive headfirst into buying a school bus. We haven’t looked back since and are so excited to get on the road.
What led you to this project?
We’re the type of people who want all of the curtains open during the day and all of the lights on at night. The more natural light we could add to our bus the better! This led us down a rabbit hole of researching different ideas on how to replace the emergency hatches in our bus. We saw a couple of ideas from other skoolies, (such as Colaventures), where the hatch was made into a skylight and we loved it! We decided to put our own spin on these ideas which brings us to this how-to.
Roofing screws - $18.54
Plexiglass sheet - $60
We found this cheaper at Home Depot, ~$38
Poplar Boards (or wood boards of your choice)
1 x 6 at 8 ft - $23
1 x 2 at 8 ft - $9.20
Weather Stripping Seal - $11
One step wood stain - $27.50
Utility Hinge, pack of 2 - $2.18
Supporting hinge, left and right sides - $6
Window Sash Lock - $3
Small handle - $3
Clear Silicone - $6.39
Flex tape (optional) - $12.99
*The links on this product list were supplied by Outback Skoolie.
Total approximate cost: $147.81
The Step-by-Step: Below are the steps we followed to replace our emergency exit hatch with a skylight!
1.) Demo time - First, remove all screws from your emergency exit hatch. Then scrape off the caulk around the hatch until you are able to pop it out. Scrape away any remaining caulk off the roof and clean it thoroughly. The cutout from your emergency hatch will most likely have rounded corners. Using a speed square, trace 90-degree angles on each corner of the cutout to form a true square.
Next, use an angle grinder to cut out the steel of your roof along the lines you just drew to square out each corner, forming a box.
2.) Measure, Measure, Measure - Measure all sides of the fresh new hole in your ceiling. For us, the measurements were 24 ¼” L and 23 ¾” W.
Once you have your measurements, cut your 1”x6 “and 1”x2” boards to match. We cut the 1”x6” boards first, for a total of two 24 ¼” boards and two 23 ¾” boards. We then used the 1”x6” boards to mark the exact same lengths on the 1”x2” before cutting. You should now have 8 total cut pieces.
3.) Choose your Aesthetic - Stain your cut boards to your desired color. We chose a traditional cherry stain as we wanted it to contrast with the white ceiling we plan to install. Let dry before continuing.
4.) Build your Boxes - Using a speed square to help, screw together your 1”x6” boards to form your base box. This is the box that will be drilled into your ceiling. Repeat this step to create a box from your 1”x2” boards, which will form the lid of your skylight.
5.) Cut your Plexiglass - Trace the plexiglass sheet to match the measurements of the boxes you created. This should still measure 24 ¼” L x 23 ¾” W. Next, use a utility knife to score the plexiglass sheet 5-10 times along your measurements. Repeat this on the top and bottom of the plexiglass sheet. Once the line is thoroughly scored, the plexiglass will snap cleanly on your lines.
6.) Attach your Plexiglass - Place the plexiglass sheet on top of the box made from 1”x2”s. Mark every 1.5 inches on the plexiglass with permanent marker all the way around the square. Pre-drill holes through the plexiglass and into the 1”x2” box on all your marks. Once you have everything pre-drilled you can begin attaching the plexiglass to your skylight lid, (or 1”x2” box), with your roofing screws (1 in).
7.) Avoid Leaks - Cut 4 pieces of your weatherstripping to attach to the bottom of your skylight lid. This will be attached to the 1”x2” but rest between the base box and lid box when the skylight is closed. Be sure to add clear silicone to the corners to fill in any gaps that exist between the weather strips.
8.) Installation - Take your base box made of the 1”x6”s and check the fit against your hole in your bus’s roof. You want it to be nice and snug so it’s easy to caulk. You may need to use a rubber mallet to fit it perfectly. We left some overhang so you could still see the stained wood below the ceiling level!
Once snug, it was easy to drill in 4 screws in each corner to attach it to the bus. We used self-tapping screws (1 ¾”) since we were attaching straight to metal.
9.) Attaching the Lid - Make your way to the roof and add your utility hinges to connect the top and bottom boxes. Be sure to push down on your lid to ensure a seal with the weather stripping.
Next, add supporting hinges so the skylight can stay open on its own.
10.) Final Touches - Grab your window sash lock and install the appropriate pieces on both your base and lid. Make sure you are pushing/pulling down on your lid against the base to have a tight seal when latched! We also added a handle to make opening and closing easy.
11.) Final step - Head back to your roof and caulk all the way around the skylight box. There should be no gaps to avoid all leaks. Once we had a good rain and the bus was still dry, we considered these skylights a success.
How can people reach you and follow your journey?
We’re so happy to share our steps on this project! If anyone has questions or wants to follow our journey, we are available at @outbackskoolie on Instagram.
More Articles By Little House On The Hwy
- Written by Garret Towne
Your big off-grid solar questions, illuminated.
Ever feel like harnessing the sun's energy is more magic than it is science? Our friend Garret Town of AM Solar is here to demystify the process with our "Solar Sunday" series to get you connected so you can start your off-grid adventures. In this article, he'll cover a series of frequently asked questions from how many batteries you need, basics for how to connect them, and if it's worth your time to clean your panels for a better charge. If you are new to solar energy or already warmed up to it, we hope this article sheds light on some of your questions!
Garret Towne has worked in the solar industry since 2009 starting with a company that developed dual axis solar trackers. After solar panel prices plummeted, making the ROI on trackers less attractive, Garret became a Senior Engineer and Technical Sales Manager for a solar panel distributor. Garret joined AM Solar in 2015 and became President in 2016. As President, Garret has grown AM Solar from 11 to 23 employees. Garret has a BS in Electrical Engineering and MBA from Oregon State University. When not at work, Garret enjoys studying foreign languages (Spanish, Portuguese & German), competitive archery, beekeeping, and raising chickens on his mini farm with his wife and son. His greatest joy in life comes from writing fake bios for his employees that get published on his website.
How many panels do I need?
It depends on the wattage. I wouldn’t recommend less than 400W for a simple DC fridge, LED lights, and fans. If you have a residential refrigerator, get at least 600W. If you want to run an air conditioner or minisplit, get as much solar as you can afford/fit.
How many batteries do I need?
If you just want lights and fans, you can get away with 200Ah of AGM. If you plan on using a microwave or blender, you’ll need at least 300Ah of AGM, or 200Ah of lithium. If you want to run an air conditioner or minisplit, get at least 300Ah of lithium, but plan to add-on.
What's the difference between AGM and lithium batteries?
This page goes into a lot of detail on that topic: https://amsolar.com/diy-rv-solar-instructions/edbatteries/
The main factors that I consider:
-Lithium batteries don’t need to be topped off weekly like lead-acid batteries and give you a little more flexibility in often you charge.
-Lithium batteries might twice as long as AGM batteries.
-Lithium batteries give you about 4x usable energy per weight and 2x per volume compared to AGM batteries.
-Lithium costs about 50% more than AGM.
Does tilting my panels towards the sun give me more power?
Yes, but maybe only 15%, and depends on the time of year. I would only consider tilting if you plan on parking for a week or more.
Should I clean my panels?
If you have a leaf or bird mess on a panel, the production of the panel will go down to about 0W. You’ll definitely want to clean anything like that. As for dust, it probably isn’t worth the effort.
If I have a 300-watt panel why am I only getting 175-250 watts when looking at my Victron Energy app?
It is unlikely that you will ever get the full rated output of your panels. That rating is meant to guide circuit protection decisions for system designers, not advertise real-world energy production. You will get 300W of power from a 300W panel, when you have 1000W per square meter solar irradiance at 25 degrees C, with no line losses. This isn’t practical for someone living in North America with flat panels, looking through a lot of atmosphere on top of a hot skoolie roof.
If my panels are a little in the sun am I getting the full charge?
You actually get a lot of solar production from a bright blue sky. You don’t need the full sun to generate watts. On the other hand, if you have shade close to the panel, it will dramatically reduce the output. I like to imagine that you have a fisheye lens on the panel looking upwards. How much of your view is obscured by shade? How much is bright blue sky and the sun? The ratio of shade to sun is roughly the percentage of rated output you will get. But, if there is a part of the panel that has zero light on it, that part will bring down the entire panel.
What are the standards you follow for fuse and cable connections?
Without going too deep, here are some standards we follow:
12V battery system, all parallel solar arrays:
Up to 200W of solar: 15A charge controller, 8ga cable, 20A fuse
Up to 300W of solar: 20A charge controller, 8ga cable, 25A fuse
Up to 450W of solar: 30A charge controller, 6ga cable 40A breaker
Up to 700W of solar: 50A charge controller, 4ga cable, 60A breaker
Up to 900W of solar: 70A charge controller, 2ga cable, 80A breaker
Up to 1200W of solar: 85A charge controller, 2ga cable, 100A breaker
Up to 1600W of solar: 100A charge controller, 2ga cable, 120A breaker
12V Inverter systems:
Up to 1200W, 2ga cable <10’, 150A Class T-Fuse
Up to 2000W, 2/0 cable <10’, 300A Class T-Fuse
Up to 3000W, 4/0 cable <10’, 400A Class T-Fuse
We are using Nissan Leaf or Tesla batteries. Can you answer our questions?
These systems are cool, but as a business with liability insurance and long term customer support, we can’t help with Nissan Leaf or Tesla-based battery systems. This is because they are typically used batteries. I don’t recommend this approach for the novice.
How do you know that it's electricity your bus is harnessing and not magic? (It's clearly magic.)
It is magic. You should see my old Electrical Engineering notebooks from when I was a student at Oregon State University. 500 years ago, I would have definitely been burned at the stake. That’s why this information is so hard to convey to the uninitiated.
Contact Garret and his team at AM Solar here.
Thank you to Stu the Bus for use of the image of their tilted solar panels. Watch a full tour of their bus here.
There's more then one type of solar panel... How do you choose the right panel? The short answer:Forget all that… Read More
AM Solar Skoolie Kits
Short Bus Kit
Full Timing Bus