4 Steps to Planning For Your Skoolie Build
The first exciting part of a school bus conversion is the planning process.
This is where you can dream, get creative, and decide on what you all want in your skoolie. The best part is there are thousands of ideas from other DIY skoolies out there now to grab ideas from.
We know you have already started analyzing people’s skoolies and deciding what you like and don’t like in their skoolies, or what you might do differently. The skoolie build plan process we created expands on this initial excitement, helps organize it, and starts creating a reality around envisioning and creating your own skoolie.
Working through as many details as you can right now will help save you money and get your skoolie back on the road sooner – where it should be!
The 4 Steps to Creating a Skoolie Build Plan
Step 1: Create an idea list.
Step 2: Take the Skoolie Size Quiz.
Step 3: Design a skoolie layout.
Step 4: Figure out a parking location.
Below is some information and resources, along with the Skoolie Size Quiz for Step 2, to help you create your skoolie build plan.
Create an Idea List
This step is all about gathering ideas for your skoolie build and deciding on how you want to design the skoolie to fit your lifestyle.
Some people prefer utilizing all available space to pack in amenities, while others prefer limited walls with an open concept. Do you want a roof-top deck, a deck off the back, or no deck? How do you want your kitchen, entertainment area, or bedroom designed?
These are all items you will want to try to figure out at this stage.
Details of what you decide on at this stage might change as you get deeper into the skoolie research and build. However, you want to figure out the big items mentioned above from a rough design standpoint so you can figure out your bus size.
Below are a few of our most popular articles to help you figure out what you like and don’t like in skoolie builds out there, so you can figure out what you might want in the skoolie you build.
Take the Skoolie Size Quiz
The next step is to figure out what size bus would work based on your desired skoolie living lifestyle.
When we were deciding on our skoolie size, we had to create layout after layout while researching optimal skoolie sizes for traveling to figure out the bus size we needed to buy to build what we wanted and travel as much as we desire to travel. There was not a tool to use to help determine what size of bus would be best for us. This one decision took us several weeks and countless discussions to figure out.
We have since helped many skoolie owners decide on their skoolie size through Instagram DMs and emails, then rolled all of it up into the Skoolie Size Quiz.
The Skoolie Size Quiz below to help give you an unbiased opinion of what skoolie might work best for you based on a handful of questions that played into many other current skoolie owners’ bus size decisions.
Design a Skoolie Layout
You should now have ideas of what you want your skoolie to look like and what size of skoolie you should probably be looking to buy. The next step is to start designing layouts for your skoolie.
Below are a few basic dimensions to help you with drawing up your skoolie floor plan. We put the average school bus window dimensions so you can count the number of windows the skoolie you are looking at to get an understanding of the estimated interior buildable length. Keep in mind these are for school buses. If you are planning to convert a shuttle bus or another style of bus, the dimensions will be different.
- Avg. School Bus Interior Width: 7′ 7″
- Avg. School Bus Window Width: 28″
- Avg. Larger School Bus Window Width: 35″
We recommend the width of your aisle for walking be at least 24″, but this will be tight. We went with a width of 30″ (cabinet-to-cabinet in the kitchen or desk-to-couch) for our walking path, as Sarah and I did not want to be bumping into each other all the time. The countertop hangs over the kitchen and desk about 1″, so we have about 29″ from edge of the counter to the cabinet or edge of the couch.
The easiest way to test this would be to stack up some boxes at different distances see what would work best for you.
Figure Out a Parking Location
The last step of the skoolie build plan process is to figure out a parking location. This might seem logical and some people (like Sarah and I), go out and buy a bus with talking to their parents, other relatives, or friends and get confirmation they can park the bus on their property without deciding on a location. Others who plan to park it in their driveway or have another half-baked plan without thinking it through.
This bus will most likely be sitting anywhere from 6-18+ months, depending on your budget (we’ll figure this out in the next step) and time available for your conversion. We even recommend adding 2-6 months onto your build timeline when discussing parking with other parties, as you never know what life will bring that will set-back your school bus conversion’s timeline. This comes from our own experience of thinking we can finish our build in 12 months when it really took us about 19 months due to family emergencies and Wisconsin winters limiting our abilities of what we could work.
If you family has a spot for you to park it during your build process, this would be ideal. Especially if they have some tools you can borrow or are willing to lend a hand once in a while.
Other options would be contacting farmers to park it in a barn out of the elements, a local business with extra parking lot space, renting a piece of land, or finding an auto repair shop with space, or even posting up an add in your local Craigslist, newspaper classifieds, or local store bulletin boards in search of a place for parking. You would probably be surprised at how many people think converting a school bus into a tiny house is a cool idea and would love to play a part in your journey, been if it is just hosting you as you build your new home on their property.
As a heads up (again from experience), remember to respect everyone that is involved in your build or who may be impacted by it in any way, including neighbors. Sometimes neighbors of where you are parking the bus could get annoyed with looking at a yellow school bus sitting in their view out of their windows. The last thing you want to do is piss off the neighbors and cause an issue that could escalate over time, then lose your parking spot.
We have seen many people who have had to consistently search for a new spot for their school bus and this can consume a good amount of time, as well as discourage you in the build process. Do what you can up-front to set realistic expectations to your host (if you plan to park at family, friends, or someone else’s property) and get in front of any issues that may come up that could lead to you losing your build spot.
Finally, if you plan to park it in a driveway in an urban area, make sure to not block sidewalks and that you do not need some time of weird state/city/town permit or permission from an HOA or something for restoring/converting an old school bus. Breaking a law or a regulation will surely end up with you having the police or someone else having a bad day confront you at some point about it.