How I’m Turning a Bus Into My Dream Home

Photo Credit: Giovanna from Beegden, The Netherlands

I’m Nick and I bought a bus. I will be spending the spring/summer converting it into a comfortable and versatile home to last me at least the next ten years. She is a 1985 Leyland Tiger Alexander N-Type 53-seater bus and was originally an Ulsterbus in Northern Ireland.

From the get-go, there were several things I knew I’d have to take into consideration when designing my home, to make it really work for me. Even before I decided to live in a bus, I knew that whatever home I built myself would have to be movable. I’m not very good at staying in one place for long periods of time, and although I want a base, I want to be able to set up home wherever I choose and not be constrained by solid foundations on a piece of land that I may decide in a year or two isn’t where I want to spend my time.

It would also have to highly adaptable. I have no idea where I’m going to be and what my life will be looking like in a few years’ time, let alone ten. As long as I don’t remain in the trap of a steady job for too much longer, things are likely to be very different indeed in the not too distant future. I might be running my own business and the bus might be my office. I might have a long-term partner and three kids, and the bus would be their home too. I just don’t know. It would be a shame to build myself a home that becomes obsolete and unusable in a few years time just because I didn’t anticipate my potential future needs.

I also decided pretty early on that I wanted to do all of the construction work myself (or with friends). The idea of outsourcing this project just doesn’t make any sense (nor is it economically viable). This space needs to be unique, interesting, and identifiably hand-crafted by me. It needs to allow me to do the things I want to do, and should I want to change things about it down the road, I need to know it inside out. It will, without a doubt, become a significant part of my life story and therefore a part of me, so I need to get to know her deeply.

There were a few more practical goals to bear in mind before I put pen to paper:

  • Must have a lot of storage. Although I don’t have many possessions, my adventure gear needs a place to call home when not being used.
  • Needs to sleep 2 people really comfortably, but up to 10 ideally. Bus parties are an inevitability.
  • Needs to be drivable on a car license.
  • Ability to live on and off the grid. This is a must, but is a long-term goal and may not get accomplished this year. (Solar panels are expensive!)
  • Rentable – must have all the conveniences a paying customer might expect (without compromising on home-iness). While I’m away traveling, it would be great to earn some extra income on AirBnb, etc.
  • Easy to maintain.

Project Management

With the above goals identified, I set to work putting together a project plan. I scoured the web for days looking at other people’s conversion projects (buses, vans, tiny homes, etc) and collating ideas & inspiration (and tonnes of useful information). Any ideas I thought I should incorporate into the project went in a folder called The Idea Dump.

From this, I put together a Design Specification. This is a document that details every part of the build in terms of what decisions I need to make, my material choices, what tools I’ll need. It is split up into logical sections of the build (Flooring, Rear & Side Walls, Ceiling, Interior Stud Walls, Windows & Doors, Insulation, Ventilation, Soundproofing, Cabinetry & Room Layouts, Heating, Plumbing, Electrical Setup, Gas Setup, and Other) and is the document I keep updated the most (still not very often). When the project is complete, hopefully this document will be the most complete record of what I’ve actually ended up doing.

I’m excited for this adventure!

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