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  • Writer's pictureTina Lambert

Amazing DIY Skoolie: The Ins and Outs of School Bus Renovation from Start to Finish

Dean is traveling in his renovated bus he named Felicia, but has dubbed, The Skoolie on social media. Ironically, Dean had never driven a bus until the day he bought her! He had been traveling in his GMC skoolie for a year at the time of filming. This bus boasts a 185 horse Caterpillar diesel 3116 with an Allison 545 transmission that he is thrilled with. After keeping immaculate records for 25,000 miles, he calculates that he is getting 8.5 MPG, on average. The bus has 250,000 miles, but his bus is ‘just getting broken in!’

Dean renovated his skoolie himself and loves how it turned out. He added a backup camera system that he can monitor at any time, not just when he is backing up. He kept much of the original equipment…his air door and air horn, as well as the original sun visor that is transparent and the large panel of switches, although he doesn’t use most of them.

Building Your Own Home Bring Great Satisfaction

Dean chose to stick with the old camper’s design, convertible dinette on one side and sink, cabinets and things on the other! He added a large one bowl sink with reinforced butcher block countertops that cracked and he had to repair. He also DIY’d pins to hold the drawers shut, repurposed a shoe holder for holding his pots and pans, and made a diamond plate heat protector next to the stove. He installed a propane stove and ventilation through a roof fan that can either bring air in or push it out.

Interestingly, Dean has to slouch standing inside the bus, as he is 6’ 2” and the bus ceiling is only 6 feet. He created a beautiful natural wood ceiling from blue pine shiplap and sealed it with Danish oil for protection. Dean also built his own drop down table that converts to a bed when placed between the dinette seats. His Dometic fridge runs from 110 or 12V and can be used in many ways. It can even be used as a stand alone cooler!

Separate Shower and Toilet Rooms Can Be Worth the Sacrificed Space

Dean has a separate shower and toilet area, across the hall from each other. This was a must-have for him, even though it is uncommon in skoolie design. There is a full-size shower that draws from his 86-gallon fresh water tank that is located under the bed to prevent freezing, and a Nature’s Head composting toilet. Power needs in the bus are taken care of with four 109 Ah AGM batteries hooked to an alternator so that he can charge them while driving, if need be.

Dean’s Empire propane-fueled wall heater allows him to go off-grid and still have heat. His huge closet stores tons of clothes, he doesn’t even need to separate by season! The bedroom has a full-size bed with pass through storage underneath that can be accessed from either side of the bed. A mini-split is the main source of heating and cooling and is also located in the bedroom! He added blackout curtains for insulation and privacy.

Use Sturdy Building Material so That Things Last

Outside the bus is painted sand from Home Depot and he hand painted the trees and ‘The Skoolie!’ design on the side. There are 30 amp shore power hookups and water hookups as well as screened-in windows that he was able to repurpose. He built a small redwood deck with trailer lights onto the back to carry his motorcycle safely, as well as a 7x10 deck on top which shares the roof with his four 100 watt solar panels. Diamond plated ‘bins’ hold things that he doesn’t want inside or doesn’t have room for since he didn’t do underbody storage on his bus. They also provide seating for those enjoying the ambiance of skoolie life!

All in all, Dean is amazed at the satisfaction that he gets from his life on the road. He has such a sense of accomplishment from renovating his skoolie all on his own and living within the tiny home on wheels that he built with his own two hands! He continues to make improvements to his bus and is more than happy to talk skoolie with anyone who would like to!

Watch the complete tour here:

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