Big Ass Bus: what we bought and what our plan is.

bus-grossWe bought a 1997 Bluebird school bus. It’s giant, it drives and it smells like pee. Here’s the backstory on the purchase of the bus:

Initially, we searched for a school bus on various online websites, hoping to find a bus for around $2,000 to $4,000. We assumed it would be fully outfitted with its seats, gum and crumpled up report cards. The idea was to demolish the insides and slowly convert it into a home over a span of six months. One day, in our craigslist searching, we found a bus that was nearly finished being converted. Sure, it wasn’t beautiful, but the ceiling, flooring, kitchen, bathroom and other infrastructure was in place. A little scrub scrub here, a little finish work there and we’d have our home. All for the exceptionally low price of $12,000. Most people spend roughly $15,000 to $20,000 total on their conversion. The deal was too good to pass up! Immediately, we contacted the seller who responded with refreshing transparency and an obvious disdain for our new President Elect; we were sold!  Two days later we drove three hours north and climbed into the bus for the first time. The seller is best described as a crafty anarchists with a taste for misogyny and a lover of all things “liberated.” He was frank about the bus’s shortfalls and we felt as confident as one can be when dealing with a complete stranger who left a pile of his own poop in the composting toilet and insisted on showing us. One day later, we met to settle up and drive the bus home. The seller and his comrades made their best efforts to clean the bus with one exception; someone had left the urine valve open on the composting toilet, allowing for a gallon worth of piss to shower the under compartments of the bus. Tools, air compressor and many other knickknacks were covered in anarchists urine. Which by the way, smells nothing like the rejection of hierarchy, but in fact smells exactly like a highly dehydrated person’s piss. The bus’s name is Petey.

Fast forward to three days later and we began to asses what work needed to be done. At first glance, Petey appears to be in good shape. His aesthetics are lacking, but for the most part, he seems to be fully functional. There we were, patting ourselves on the back, saying “good job us, we’re doing it! We are really making this shit happen!” Two minutes later, I feel the sudden drip drip of water landing on my shoulder. Water? How could that be? There are no signs of a leak or water damage? Oh wait, I just pulled up this floor board and there is a completely drenched sub-floor? Oh wait, I just pulled up another one and all I can see is black mold? Huh? Petey and the anarchist deceived us.

One week later and we have completely disassembled the entire bus (except for the ceiling). Most of the wood is reusable and we intend on redesigning the layout and re-purposing it. The sub-floor has been removed completely and we are about to begin the process of sealing holes in the metal floor and painting over the floor with an anti-rust sealing paint (I will add the paint type later). After we seal and paint the metal floor, we will glue the new sub-floor (plywood) down. We scored 350 sq. ft. of beautiful dark oak wood flooring for super cheap ($1.00 a ft) and we will install that on top of the sub-floor.

After the flooring is in, we will begin to seriously address any and all leaks. There are two common leaks on school buses. Can you guess where they are? That’s right; windows and emergency roof doors! Some windows need to be taken out completely and resealed, while others will be removed and replaced with sheet metal and for small leaks, we will spot seal them.

Proceeding leak control, we can then begin the re-insulation process. The anarchists unsuccessfully convinced us that school buses don’t need much insulation, hence why he put minimal in Petey. We call bull! There is currently one layer of hard foam insulation along the wall panels and one layer in the ceiling. We will be adding another, slightly thicker layer of foam insulation, along with a vapor barrier before putting the walls back together. Regardless of the insulation we install, the single pane windows are the ultimate enemy in the battle for temperature regulation. For now, they’ll have to stay. Talk to me next winter and Alex will be out in the freezing rain and wind replacing each window with multiple layers of steel.

Following the insulation, we will set forth on plumbing and electrical. Currently, the bus uses a gravity fed system, like so many other buses do. For us, we have the luxury of hooking our bus up to a well. Gravity out, pump up the jam in. Petey’s electrical will not be extravagant,  but his current wires duct taped to the ceiling simply wont do.

Lastly, once the infrastructure is in place, we will begin to build the amenities. Soon I will have a fancy CAD drawing of our design layout. Stay tuned!

Have a question so far?


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