DIY Skoolie Bus Transformation

This Couple Turns Classic Yellow School Bus Into Dream Home

Stories

| LAST UPDATE 03/22/2022

By Abby Wall

The Mendoza Family decided to join the skoolie living lifestyle in 2017 when they bought a yellow school bus which they converted into their dream home on wheels. Here's the amazing transformation!

Meet the Mendoza Family

In September 2017, Megan and David Mendoza decided to become "those crazy people you hear about" and bought a classic yellow school to convert into their tiny house.

Couple Transforms School BusCouple Transforms School Bus
Instagram via @megancollette

According to her personal Instagram profile, the purchase "has been a long time coming," and the couple was excited to get started on the renovation process as soon as possible. The Small and Simple Fam Instagram showed fans all over the steps it took from beginning to end, so let's take a look!

Picking Up the School Bus

The Mendoza family bought a classic yellow school bus in Colorado. Megan and David lived in Connecticut, so they flew to Denver, Ubered two hours away "to the middle of nowhere" Colorado, and only slept for a total of three hours, they said.

Couple Transforms School BusCouple Transforms School Bus
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

Once they picked up their unique new home, the new homeowners drove it alllll the way back to Connecticut. "We have been so grateful to be able to work on our future home. We don't get to work on it very much, though. Since we both work full-time jobs, we are only able to work on the weekends."

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Meet Lola!

Pause this interruption for the cuteness that is Lola. Lola is the Mendoza family dog! Lola was a big part of their journey and went along with the Mendoza family ride. Lola is videoed jumping around on a trampoline outside the bus, "Equal parts playing and working," looking thrilled!

Family Dog Skoolie LifeFamily Dog Skoolie Life
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

The very first post in September 2017 on the Small and Simple Fam Instagram shows a picture of Megan, David, and Lola in front of their newly purchased home. Lola was just a puppy there! As time continued, Lola made it into a few of the Instagram posts. How could she not?!

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Bye Bye Seats!

The dynamic duo got started right away. On David and Megan's first day working, they first began removing the seats. Most school buses are between 40 and 42 feet, so there were a lot of seats to remove! The seats are tough to un-drill from the bus's floor, but they were able to get them all out after a few weeks.

Removing Seats Skoolie LifeRemoving Seats Skoolie Life
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

Next, they removed the racks from the top of the bus. They started by taking one of the top racks down, and then a few more, and after a couple more days, they were able to get all of them out finally. The couple wrote on their Instagram as soon as the inside was emptied, "then comes the really fun part!"

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And Bye Bye Stickers!

Once the seats and racks were taken out of the bus, the family moved on to the next steps. David first removed the classic school bus stickers, then he removed the reflective tape and applied the first coat of paint on the roof. Way to get a head start, David!

Renovating Classic School BusRenovating Classic School Bus
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

After all of these steps were completed, David gave the bus a good old wash! Getting the exterior sorted out first was a priority for the family. One of the most challenging parts of the skoolie transformation is choosing the right color for the bus!

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Painting Days

Now that the stickers were taken off the bus, the family started painting the exterior of their new home. Due to the windy weather, it took Megan and David a few days to get the bus painted. "Fall is finally here, and it's hitting hard!" Winter is just a few weeks away!

Family DIY Skoolie Bus Family DIY Skoolie Bus
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

With much work, the Mendoza family painted their school bus from its original yellow to a shade of green. After all the significant parts were done, the couple had to finish up the roof, the back, and of course, some essential touch-ups. They must have needed a lot of paint to cover an entire school bus!

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Finalizing the Floor Plan

"We did the floor plan!!" This must be one of the most exciting parts in the skoolie design process, seeing your dream turning into a reality! The couple "wanted to see what we could actually fit in the bus," as they were nervous that not everything they wanted was going to make it!

Family DIY Skoolie BusFamily DIY Skoolie Bus
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

"It turns out we even added a few things!" that's always fun. The couple is super excited to "do this minimalist thing!" As seen in the photo, they tapped off the floor in different sections to get a better feel of where everything was going to go. Sounds like some major Marie Kondo vibes.

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'TINY' Personalized License Plates

The family worked on their tiny home renovations on and off but took breaks to spend time with family and get other things done. It's definitely a huge commitment to transform a yellow school bus into a home on wheels, but Megan and David took it slow and steady towards their dreams.

Tiny Home DIY ProjectTiny Home DIY Project
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

They finally got their Green Mountain State license plates for their tiny house big living skoolie! What an exciting moment for the couple to see their dream slowly unravel. The Vermont plates write "TINY" on them for everyone else on the road to know exactly who they are!

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They're Expecting!

Mid-school bus conversation, Megan and David had a big announcement to share with their followers! They took a little break from converting the old school bus because Megan was pregnant! The couple informed their followers not to worry; the conversation was still happening, "we're gathering money and prepping for the baby arrival in February!"

Family DIY Bus ConversationFamily DIY Bus Conversation
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

The family took a little hiatus from working on the bus transformation due to the birth of their beautiful baby boy Grover Hyrum Mendoza. Grover was born six weeks earlier than expected and stayed in the NICU for a few days. The new parents nicknamed their little boy, Grove.

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Thank You, Mother Nature!

Living in Connecticut, the family couldn't work full time on their new home. Besides having full-time jobs, family, friends, and everyday life responsibilities-the, drastic Connecticut weather was a significant factor when transforming the yellow school bus.

Working On Skoolie BusWorking On Skoolie Bus
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

The DIY'ers worked on the bus primarily on the weekends, but it became a little challenging if it was January and below zero outside! "Thank you Mother Nature for giving us a beautiful weekend to FINALLY get back to working on the buss!!" Time to get going!

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The Walls, Ceiling, and Front and Back Panels

After the weather had improved and baby Grover was born, the parents of two (Grover and Lola) continued. David started by ripping out the walls, the ceiling, and the front and back panels of the bus. Megan jumped in with a power drill to get the process moving.

Working On Skoolie BusWorking On Skoolie Bus
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

The couple still had some work to do gutting out the floors and ceilings before they worked on insulating the future home. The couple took to Instagram to ask their followers some questions about the proper procedure for these upcoming steps.

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Working on the Heating System

After they ripped out the walls, ceiling, and front and back panels of the bus, David started to work on the bus's heaters. Lucky for them, they called up two good friends to help get the job done. "This amount [of] work definitely would have taken us a couple of weekends to complete if it were not for them."  

DIY Skoolie Home TransformationDIY Skoolie Home Transformation
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

On top of organizing the heating system, David also began draining the coolant. A coolant is a liquid or gas used to regulate the bus's temperature system. Coolant prevents the radiator from overheating in boiling temperatures and freezing in low temperatures.

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Cleaning the Rust Spots

Now that the heating and cooling system has been taken care of, it was time for the next steps. The couple continued forward by removing the rust spots on the bus. In doing so, they sanded down and cleaned up specific areas that needed it. Luckily for them, they only had some rust spots near the wheels!

Working On Skoolie ConversationWorking On Skoolie Conversation
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

After the rust was removed and sanded down, the couple continued with other tasks! With the help of their friends, they were able to vacuum the insulation, rip off the floor, scrape the caulking, prepare the foundation for paint, paint two coats of rust preventative, and clean up! It sounds like it was a successful weekend for the Mendoza family.

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Installing the Subfloor

Now that the bus was finally gutted and emptied out, David and Megan insulated and installed the subfloors. Installing the subfloor was a significant win for the family because it was an extremely challenging task for them to accomplish. With every step done, they are closer to the finish line!

DIY Skoolie Bus Conversion DIY Skoolie Bus Conversion
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

The subfloor is the bottom-most part of the floor, providing a sturdy and concrete base for the foundation. The floor would eventually be placed over it, as the subfloor offers additional support for the actual floor. The Megan and David did their research and knew that subflooring is most commonly made up of plywood.

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The Perfect Solar Set Up

The family gathered the last bit of essential elements to build their solar setup. Megan and David purchased 6v batteries for their bus from Ew Gardner Golf Cars in Rhode Island to complete their solar power dreams! The couple shouted out the dealership on their Instagram, thanking them for their help!

Skoolie Family DIY BusSkoolie Family DIY Bus
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

On average, a skoolie will require anywhere from 320 watts to 2,400+ watts of solar power. Wow! The solar power system will vary depending on geographic location, how often one travels, and how much energy is needed. The family needed a lot of solar power to turn the bus into a home.

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Installing the Fans

The next step in completing the bus was installing the fans! The fans are essential for travel, so David got right to work. While installing the fans, he decided to complete the AC installation, fix the blinkers, and remove the caps from the lights on the bus.

Working On Bus TransformationWorking On Bus Transformation
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

Despite their commitment to finishing the bus, some days were more challenging than others. "Today was a rough day, we honestly had to force ourselves out the door to go work on the bus." Finishing up any task is a big win when completing such a big project, so, understandably, some days were more difficult than others.

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Be Careful With the Foam Spray!

The couple got started on spray foaming the bus interior but didn't have enough spray to finish the whole project all at once. Spraying the bus affects the bus's R-value. The R-value of the bus determined the amount of heat transferred through the wall, floor, and ceiling one is insulating.

DIY Tiny Home TransformationDIY Tiny Home Transformation
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

As David was spray-foaming the bus, he ran into a bit of a safety issue! During the process, David was not wearing any eye protection as he was drilling holes into the metal and spraying the bus, resulting in him burning his eyelid! "Remember safety first," he wrote.

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Visiting a Fellow Skoolie

The family of three took a break from renovating their bus to visit a skoolie seasoned veteran, @theskooly. Megan, David, and baby Grover went to Massachusetts to visit Denise and look at her magnificent home! "She is one of the best people we have ever met!" The couple wrote.

Skoolie Family Transforms BusSkoolie Family Transforms Bus
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

When she was diagnosed with cancer, Denise started her DIY journey and decided to sell everything she had and buy a bus to convert it into a tiny home. She is now traveling in her tiny home with her two dogs, Paxton and Greyson, focusing on her health and natural wellness journey. Megan and David were inspired and continued to work on their very own skoolie.

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Framing the Bus

After visiting Denise in Massachusetts, the family returned to their tiny home to continue their renovation process! David finished up the spray foaming and added three major appliances, so they began building around them. The couple was ready to keep going.

DIY Family Skoolie LifeDIY Family Skoolie Life
Instagram via @smallandsimplelife

The next step was to frame the outer walls of the bus and, eventually, the windows. Framing a bus is different to framing a house because the roof is curved, presenting more challenges. When framing the bus, the lumber needs to be extra sturdy for when the bus is moving.

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The Family Moves to Oregon

The family was on the move yet again! The Mendozas decided to keep the journey going and move to Oregon. The family wanted to be "closer to family and decided it would be a better move to finish the bus." The family packed up and drove cross country to Oregon.

DIY Family Skoolie DesignDIY Family Skoolie Design
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

The bus was parked after their cross-country trip, and David and Megan could continue building their dream home on wheels. With many of the big projects out of the way, David could focus on continuing to build the furniture. David made the bed frames for their master bed, then bunkbeds, Grover's bed, and Lola's, of course!

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Building the Couch, Table, and More

The furniture was getting closer to being done now that the cabinets were built, sanded, and painted. The family built their couch, which would later turn into a pull-out bed for guests to stay over, and finally a table for the living room/kitchen. Soon we'll see how the kitchen came together!

DIY Furniture Skoolie LivingDIY Furniture Skoolie Living
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

The table was built out of a wood pallet that David sanded down, stained, and added a coated lacquer to. Now that most of the furniture was built, sanded, stained, and painted, the bus was close to being finished, and only a few more tasks remained.

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Tackling the Shower and the Plumbing

The following steps were to finish up the plumbing and shower system. The water tanks were not finished being set up, so they were using 5-gallon water jugs for a water source, but once all the plumbing lines were ready to go, the family could install a hot water heater and a shower!

DIY Family Skoolie LivingDIY Family Skoolie Living
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

"When we started our bus build, we knew what we wanted but didn't exactly know how to get there with our shower." The family landed on the Wedi shower system for their motorhome, saying it "really is perfect for bus/tiny homes." "Pretty freaking dreamy shower," David called it.

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Finishing the Flooring and the Bathroom

Now that the plumbing and hot water were all sorted, the family was finally ready to put the flooring down on the rest of the home. The family landed on dark stained wood for the bus, and once all the interior design was finished, it looked absolutely gorgeous!

DIY Family Skoolie LivingDIY Family Skoolie Living
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

The bathroom was finally installed, and step by step, they were getting closer to being finished. What a good feeling! During all these final pieces to the tiny home puzzle, the family announced they were moving to Georgia! The tiny homeowners were on the move... again!

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The Ceilings and the Walls Done!

The creative duo decided to change the original walls they had up in the front area of the bus, take them down, and put up a wooden shiplap. Megan wanted to frame the windows giving the motorhome more of a homey feeling rather than a bus feeling.

Skoolie Family Bus TransformationSkoolie Family Bus Transformation
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

With the help of a team of professionals, the ceiling in the front of the bus was completely done and ready to go. David and Megan decided on "pine tongue and groove" for the roof and eventually stained it a different color to tie into the theme of the skoolie.

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The Final Kitchen Touches

As the bus renovations came to a close, the family finished up the final kitchen touches. They installed light-colored wooden countertops, a sleek black sink, black cabinets, and a refrigerator. The color combination looked terrific in their tiny home!

DIY Kitchen Skoolie LivingDIY Kitchen Skoolie Living
Instagram via @thesmallandsimplefam

The small family was thrilled when the sink was finally installed in their motorhome. They could adequately do the dishes with running water and a sink! David and Megan then started adding personal style touches to the bus to turn their dream into reality.

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An Eye for Design

Now that the building was all done, the appliances were in, and the major projects were completed, it was time to finish decorating! The best part. After all the weather extremities the bus faced, the couple had to touch up the bus's exterior. First, they sanded it down, added primer, and then added the second layer of paint for a fresh look.

DIY Family Designs BusDIY Family Designs Bus
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

"We're officially those basic Instagrammers who have a letter board." The couple shared many of their accomplishments along the way, including a photo of a letter board saying, "Let's be basic," next to a beautiful bouquet of colorful flowers. They sure deserved it!

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United Tiny House Festival

With all their fantastic progress so far, the family decided to show off their motorhome at the United Tiny House Festival in Nashville, Tennessee. The United Tiny House community holds events all over America for tiny homeowners to come together and put their homes on display for others to look through.

DIY Skoolie Bus LivingDIY Skoolie Bus Living
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

"It was a lot more stressful than we had thought it would be. I guess it is pretty weird having a few hundred people walk through your home. I will say we met some amazing people that we can now call friends!" David wrote on their Instagram. Above is a photo of David and a new friend in front of their motorhome.

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Baby Number Two and Finishing Up the Bus!

Surprise! Baby number two was born! As the remodel finished up, August Woods Mendoza was born, and the family of three went to a family of four (or five including Lola) just like that. With many exciting moments to celebrate, this is definitely a huge one!

Family DIY Bus TransformationFamily DIY Bus Transformation
Instagram via @smallandsimplebus

As the bus renovations came to a close, they continued traveling to places like South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park. "Even when it seems impossible, give it your all and just make it happen," the Small and Simple Fam wrote on their Instagram.

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Selling Their Tiny Home

In the end, the family of four decided to sell their beloved bus and move on to their next project. "We're not sad we're happy, and we would love to have this bus go to a loving owner that will have an adventure on it just like we did!" They were even willing to hand-deliver the bus to the buyer anywhere in the U.S.

DIY Converted School BusDIY Converted School Bus
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

The family ended up buying a yellow 78 VW bus before they sold the bus as their next project, but due to COVID, their plans were derailed. In the meantime, they celebrated Lola's fourth birthday! The family sold the VW before they got started DIY-ing it!

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They Bought a Van!

Once the skoolie was finished and sold to new buyers, the Small and Simple Fam bought a van as a part of their next adventure. Their goal for the van was to get it ready in time for Van Fest, a nomadic vehicle festival. The family started cutting holes into the wall to install windows, and install fans in the van.

DIY Skoolie Bus TransformationDIY Skoolie Bus Transformation
Instagram via @smallandsimplefam

The family of four transformed their old yellow school bus into a beautiful home in about three years before selling it to the next lucky family! There is currently no update on where the Mendoza family is, but hopefully, they are cruising around somewhere enjoying their tiny home lifestyle.

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