Alright crew, here it is! The ultimate guide to converting a skoolie!
We filmed just about every step of our conversion process and learned lots of lessons along the way. We hope this growing series of guides helps you navigate the craziness that is converting a bus!
How to use this guide
We organized the guides in the order each step should be completed. You’ll quickly see that we didn’t always follow this order, but that’s because we were learning as we went. If we were to convert another bus, we would do the steps in this order.
We recommend starting at the beginning and moving your way through each process. Make sure to read the introduction for each guide section, so that you understand the reasoning behind the order.
Bear with us
As you can see, we are still working on completing this set of guides. If you’re familiar with what we do, you understand why it’s tough for us to keep up!
If you have a question about a step we haven’t covered yet, give us a holler. We’re probably out painting a wall somewhere, but we’ll take time to help you out. We wish we had someone to call when we were struggling with our build, so we’ll be that person for you 🙂
The first stage of your conversion will be to completely gut the bus. Everything needs to come out before you can begin to prep the shell for your buildout.
Sealing & Securing
Now that your bus is gutted, you need to make sure water NEVER makes its way inside. The windows and roof are the greatest points of weakness. Both need to be sealed completely to prevent leaks later on. Now is also a good time to install a door lock.
Now that your bus is sealed off from the elements, you can tackle your floor. You want to get to the subfloor stage, and you might want to go ahead and put down your final flooring as well. It’s definitely easier to install flooring now when the bus is empty, but you will spend more. Pros and cons either way. It’s up to you! If you want to repaint your driver seat, now is good time as well.
Timing the exterior painting is tricky. If you wait until after your rooftop installations, then you’ll have more things to tape off during the painting process (e.g., your deck ladder). But if you paint now, parts of your paint job will be cut away later when you make holes for water intake, shore power, and fridge vents. The choice of when is up to you, and really depends on your paint design. More guides to come in this section.
If you want anything mounted on your roof, now is the time to do it. You want to do this before working on your ceiling. That way things can be bolted through the top of the bus and strongly secured and sealed from the inside.
Electrical & Plumbing (Propane + Water)
Now you are ready to start framing walls and planning the electrical and propane. We carefully planned our electrical and propane needs and then hired professionals to install both. If you hire out, it is important to prepare plans and spec sheets for the technicians. With time, we gained experience in solar and upgraded our system as outlined below. Whether you diy or contract out, now is the time to lay the electrical lines and do as much plumbing as this stage permits (some aspects will be completed later). More guides to come in this section.
Insulation & Wall Construction
With electrical and some propane/water plumbing in place, you can begin insulating and finishing the walls and ceiling. Note: If you plan to have a bendable plywood ceiling, the mobile studio guide outlines that process.
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Guide series to be continued…
As we mentioned, we are super busy bees with our project. We hope to keep bringing you these guides as quickly as we can crank them out. In the meantime, please take us up on the offer to reach out anytime you have a question.
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We are not professional carpenters, electricians, plumbers, or solar/propane technicians. In this set of guides, our sole aim is to share how we diy’ed our build (contracting out the big stuff like electrical and propane), and we think our skoolie turned out pretty rad. Our intent is to share our process with you, not claim responsibility or authority over how you choose to build your skoolie. If any of the terminology, tools, or procedures we talk about are unfamiliar to you, it is your responsibility to gain the proper level of knowledge to complete them, or contract out to professionals. We are not held liable for actions taken on your part if you complete aspects of your build without proper knowledge.