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Old 06-29-2021, 11:49 PM   #1
New Member
Join Date: Jun 2021
Location: College Station, TX
Posts: 2
Live-in while converting

Hey hi howdy,

Im extremely new to the forum so apologies if this is a common question, but I didnt find anything super applicable with a quick search:

Im hoping to save up for and buy a midsize school bus over the next year! I dont know how long it will take but Im willing to be patient. My deadline for purchase isnt until August 2022. The reason for that deadline is that my lease will end and I will need a place to live. A friend of mine has some land theyd let me stay on so that isnt a problem.

That being said, I have a few concerns and Im hoping someone can alleviate them or point me in the direction of some resources. When I do end up purchasing a bus, and if I havent had much time/money to begin conversion by the time my lease ends, I will have to live in it while converting. Does anyone have experience doing this? What potential problems or issues do you see coming up? Are there any previous threads on this topic yall could point me to?

My main concern is keeping the interior livable 24/7 while Im working on it, especially in the Texas heat. Im capable of roughing it and Im no stranger to camping but ideally itd be more like a tiny studio without AC than huge metal oven in the sun. Any ideas or experience?


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Old 06-30-2021, 05:52 AM   #2
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Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 6,787
Year: 2003
Coachwork: International
Chassis: CE 300
Engine: DT466e
Rated Cap: 65C-43A
Other users here will probably speak to the difficulties of living in a bus while trying to convert it (summary: not easy), but I can speak to the temperature difficulties you'll face (just a lot worse in TX than PA). Last summer during a 95F day I measured the temps in my bus with my infrared thermometer. At my house, my bus is parked half in the shade and half out in direct sunlight; at the time I had no insulation in the bus, and the part of the roof in direct sunlight measured 133F (this was with all my windows and doors open and a large fan running). The ceiling in the shaded half measured the same as the ambient air temperature, 95F.

Since then, I've insulated my roof with 1.5" XPS foam board packed into the cavities between the ribs and then a layer of 3/4" XPS foam board on the inside of the ribs/1.5" XPS (and then faced with 5mm underlayment plywood to form the interior ceiling). Yesterday the temperature here was 93F and my ceiling measured 97F in the sunlit half (from the outside, the roof measured 130F). Because the ribs are only 3/4" from the interior space, I was expecting that the ceiling directly underneath the ribs would measure slightly hotter than the rest of the ceiling, but to my surprise this was not detectable.

If you plan on having solar panels on the roof, parking in the shade won't be an option for you (and it may not be an option anyway depending on where you are), but if your bus is well-insulated you should be able to survive being out in direct sunlight. A 4F temperature differential is a lot easier for AC to deal with than a 35F one.
Rusty 87 build thread
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Old 06-30-2021, 07:46 AM   #3
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Join Date: May 2017
Location: Athens, TN
Posts: 1,572
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Amtran
Chassis: International RE
Engine: International T444e
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Not that I've done it before, but I'd say it depends on how far you are through the build and your general expectations, and what infrastructure you have. Do you expect to be traveling while converting, or is it going to be parked somewhere you can plugin?

Heat can be dealt with given you have the right infrastructure- tarps keeping the sun off, while electric hookup can give you access to AC. If you intend to move around a lot however that ups the difficulty- like if you'd need all the infrastructure in place to run the AC without grid power, or perhaps you're just willing to suck it up.

Maybe a MVP (minimum viable product) plan would work well here- what is the bare minimum needed to move in, after which you can do improvements at your own pace? Here's my guess at a checklist of items to make live-in conversion not miserable:

  • Full demolition (no seats, no old nasty flooring, in short a clean environment)
  • Interior painted as needed
  • Floor installed (so you can put a bed down)
  • Outer walls up and insulated (for AC to work well)
  • RV shore power inlet to a circuit breaker panel with a single outlet (power strips can be used for more)
  • Clear totes and/or a trailer can be used to organize your clothing/possessions
The ideal bus in my view is in short, an empty box: outer walls up and floor done at least, access to power while plugged in, a place you can park while you finish it out. With that done you can have an HVAC person come and do a split install for you and bang, you have your AC.

You'll have to think about where you will shower and use the restroom while you don't have those facilities, and if you even want that infrastructure in your build down the road....
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Old 06-30-2021, 09:28 AM   #4
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Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Florida
Posts: 1,239
Coachwork: Integrated Coach Corp.
Chassis: RE-300 42ft
Engine: 466ci
Rated Cap: 90

Prefab & Practice. Build components and assemblies in your apt, before you buy a bus.

Build a composting toilet ealrly on. You may need one on the drive home & the first demo day. It may take time to cultivate a relationship between your ass & the bucket life.

You can prefab a working vanity sink with a water reservoir, foot pump and drain bucket.

A solar water heater makes enough heat to wash your parts daily. You can set up a basin outside your bus. Better to be experienced with it, beforehand.

Practice cooking with only a grill & one small appliance. Non-perishable foods, as cooler refridgeration is limited & unreliable.

Can you buy & build out a small trailer first? To house tools, materials and a central energy production center? (Gene, batteries, 1-3 solar panels)

Otherwise, an onsite shipping container, shed or at least a large tent. Maybe some sleeping in there, too.

Do you have experience living in the wild? Military, homelessness, long term sailing, nomadic hunting....
Ceiling: Framing & Electrical Rough-in
Convert Hatch to AC & Roof Patch
🇺🇸 Frederick Douglass: "If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
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Old 06-30-2021, 12:48 PM   #5
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Join Date: May 2019
Location: Lebanon, Indiana
Posts: 912
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Winnebago
Chassis: Ford F53
Engine: Ford Triton V-10
Rated Cap: currently 2
If Matt Damon survived on Mars for two years growing potatoes in his own waste then I'm sure it's possible to live in a bus while converting it but I sure wouldn't want to do it. So what are the basics you need to survive:

Food - not really a requisite of the bus itself but unless you go shopping every day keeping food from spoiling is probably a good idea.
Potable water - again not expecting the bus to be sustainable on day one so probably an expectation of the property.
Shelter - this is what the bus will offer although as already mentioned in the sunlight it'll be more an oven than a retreat.
Toilet facilities - you can probably rent a porta-potty and have it set nearby. These include weekly servicing.
Shower facilities - if you can make use of all that sunlight a solar shower is a fairly reasonable compromise.
Electricity - unless you're doing this old school with hand tools I'm assuming you'll need at least a power drop to run tools, lights at night, and charge your phone to post progress pics!

It is roughing it in the extreme but our ancestors survived on a lot less so its mostly about expectations versus reality.
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Old 10-30-2021, 05:55 PM   #6
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Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: seattle
Posts: 1
Year: 1988
Coachwork: Bluebird, International
dont do i t

i am currently doing it and my mental health is suffering greatly. i dont recommend it to the weak of heart. i am truly going mad.
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Old 10-30-2021, 08:08 PM   #7
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Join Date: Sep 2018
Posts: 2,449
Year: 2007
Coachwork: Thomas Built
Chassis: Minotour
Engine: Chevy Express 3500 6.6l
I’ve lived in houses while renovating them. Doing it now. It sucks but you can survive it. Watch out for adhesive and paint with VOCs. Even small amounts will effect you. Plan to sleep elsewhere on those days
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