The Advent of Electricity – almost there!

After a long hiatus, mostly due to my own mental stumblings over working with electricity, work on the bus has begun rolling forward again, and I feel my motivation and enthusiasm building.  Hard to say if that feeling comes from getting over the mental roadblock or is more to do with the changing weather – I tend to be much more motivated on a sunny day!  So with the sunshine comes progress on the bus.  While figuring out how to begin the electrical installation, I worked on a couple of the built-in shelves   – one behind the driver’s seat, and another that forms part of the wall between the girls room and the rest of the bus.  They are not 100% finished, but here are the bare bones:



While I figured out our electrical diagram, I started working on the boards that will cover up the wires, make the bus a little “prettier”, and also to make extra shelving possible that will nearly encircle the bus.  We are running the wiring (12 gauge, the kind in the bendy conduit) above the windows, and the outlets and switches will be attached to a 12″ cedar board that will be attached to the bus walls.


Our vision for the wiring is to set up a simple system that can be plugged into the grid with an extension cord or be upgraded to solar when/if the need arises.  We are building in storage for the batteries, converter, charger, etc., that will be in the same area where the extension cord will come into the bus.

I find that each task seems fairly simple and straightforward, but then I realize that working on these things with two small kiddos in tow can really stretch out the amount of time needed.  It’s taken me weeks to get boards sanded, cut just right, attach the shelves, and build little boxes that will house the outlets.  But as of today, I have half of the boards ready, and I’m excited to get them up on the walls and have outlet boxes with wires coming through!!  Here’s a photo of the board while it’s laying on the floor of the bus.


And here’s a photo of one of the outlet boxes – kindof confusing to see while laying on the floor, but hopefully soon it’ll be on the wall and more obvious how the outlet will fit.


The final thing that I’ve been finishing up is the baseboards!  Hooray!  No more gap around the edge of the bus!  We used the same redwood paneling we had for the walls, just cut at an angle.



Those are the updates – now I can hope for more sunshine so I can be outside sanding, sawing, and varnishing!

Written by Kristin

Going up the wall

We rode the excitement of having the floors done for awhile – we had a dance party, we slid around in our socks (the bamboo is very slippery!), we hosted our first guests by throwing a futon mattress on the floor and a string of white lights… And then got back to the work at hand.Getting the walls in.  It was a long process – we found a deal on old-growth redwood tongue-and-groove paneling (pulled from under an old house in Eureka!), and began the slow process of sanding each board and treating it.  Not an easy feat when it’s October in Humboldt and the rains have started.  We treated the boards with a mixture of tongue oil and lemon extract – it looks beautiful, the grain of the wood really pops, it smells good, and it is non-toxic, so our girls were able to help in the process.

Redwood boards drying in the sun (photo taken by Madeleine, our 5 year old)

While we waited for sunny days to sand, we also worked on the “framing” of the existing walls of the bus.  We needed these to have something to attach the paneling to, and it was, I have to admit, a pretty tedious process.  We used 1×2 boards and attached them vertically every 15″ (or so) with self-drilling drywall screws.


Then we put some type of insulation in between, either the foam insulation we used under the floor, or some double bubble reflective insulation we had from another project like in the picture below.


And the final step was using a table saw and cutting the panels for the top sill. Yay the corner came together nicely!



And the nearly finished walls! The gap in the paneling on the right side of the bus where a woodstove will go to heat the bus (it will sit on top of the framed in wheel-well).IMG_5834

We have a couple things to finish up on the walls, such as the baseboards, some finishing edges, and caulking the gap between the paneling and the windows.  Our next mini-projects are built-in shelves (one of which you can see the framing for in the above photos on the right hand side of this picture) and the next major project is the wiring of the bus!  We hope to have more photos soon, but we’ll see how things progress….



Getting Floored

Two fundamental laws of our universe, one thermodynamic and the other ecological, weave through our lives. The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy or disorder generally increases in a system. That is to say that things fall apart. Pessimistic some might say but no less true. This is balanced, however, by a positive and fundamental characteristic of living systems which is that they are creative and self-ordering.  These two aspects of our existence, chaos and order, balance each other in the delightful and often tenuous moments of our lives. And it is true that creation can come from the seemingly destructive or, as Nietzsche said, through chaos comes order, or something like that. This is no more or less true as we are embarking on converting a 1988 Thomas Built school bus into a tiny home.


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Before pictures: front looking back; back looking back.

You would assume buying an old school bus that is mostly converted into livable space would make it easier to convert into a tiny home. However, after a year of ripping things out and building things back up again I do not know if that is a valid assumption. At least we didn’t have to unbolt, remove and dispose of all those bus seats. Hey, that’s looking on the bright side! Seeing how someone else designed and built the livable space was a great way to see what we did and did not want to do. Suffice it to say we did not keep a single design aspect from the previous conversion and it did show us how we don’t want to do things. We want more light, more space and more beauty.

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Front looking back. Left is before repainting, before removing paint from windows and rust neutralization; Right is after.

After removing everything down to the bare metal floor, we set to filling in bolt holes in the floors (think: every seat was bolted down multiple times) and neutralizing surface rust, which was extensive but not damaging, then we began the process of creating a home out of an empty shell. We began by repainting the ceiling to replace the vibrant rainbow across the middle of the bus with something that would reflect light, namely white paint. We did this everywhere except in what will be the girls bedroom, where we painted a blue ceiling with white clouds. At the same time, Kristin painstakingly removed paint or opaque, plastic coverings that were stuck to the windows (inside and out!) to limit visibility into the bus. Sharp razor blades and lots of painter thinner were her partners in that endeavor.

With the ceiling painted, it was time to start on the flooring. I will share some pictures now and will return to this process in more words and pictures soon.

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L: Insulation put down and framing of cabinets etc begun. R: Vapor barrier on top of insulation.



Juniper dancing on the newly laid bamboo floor!



The bus came by…


Where to begin. Really how can anyone put a finger on the exact moment when a journey begins? Does it begin the moment the idea is let loose in our brain or the first step we take? It has been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step but I gotta admit that I think each step is the journey of a thousand miles with no beginning and no end, just one big fractal world. Patterns repeating over and over again. Neither conception nor death can stop it.

Answers or no answers we own a rather large school bus and here in these pages we will share our journey with you. We don’t know when this all began and we don’t know where it will take us but we know we are on it. And as that inimitable rock band the Grateful Dead once sang, “the bus came by and I got on and that’s when it all began.” Our purchase of the bus is definitely rooted in our search for simplicity and the desire to live more fully by digging deeper into ourselves, our relationships and what is truly meaningful in this crazy, messy world.

So I guess our journey starts here, on these pages and what better way to begin than by stepping aboard a school bus which is made for traveling and transporting one’s hopes and dreams along the way.


~written by David