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Old 11-29-2018, 07:27 PM   #1
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New to bus conversions and seeking advice!

Hello!!

My partner and I are new to this and are so excited to get started on our skoolie adventure! We are in the process of researching to try to learn as much as we can before we get started.

I am a teacher and currently living in California has become so expensive. I honestly see most of my paycheck just going to rent. This is why we are seeking out converting a bus into a living space. We have run into trouble finding a place to do the demo and building. Any advice or ideas on this would be so appreciated! We aren't sure if you can demo and build on a residential street, at a storage facility, or a camp ground site? We just can't seem to find the answer to that yet.

Also, thinking way ahead, but once you have your bus built and ready for living in, where do you all usually park it? Have you found that it is easy to park/leave on residential streets? Or is it easier to rent a campsite? Again, any help with these questions would be wonderful.

Thank you in advanced!
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Old 11-30-2018, 04:45 AM   #2
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Old 11-30-2018, 07:05 AM   #3
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Where in California? I lived in the Carlsbad area for a few years and couldn't imagine many places to demo and build a bus, I got looks for changing a tire on the street...

Try searching online for contractor space or lay down yards to rent near you.

As far as private campgrounds, I don't think you will get far. I've been living in my partially converted bus for a few months now in NM and Colorado, and consideration of others always prevents me from doing much more than quick, quiet, interior improvements at a pay site. Headed to Florida for the harshest of the winter, and will continue this slow process.

Good luck!
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Old 11-30-2018, 04:11 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by partners.on.the.go. View Post
Hello!!

My partner and I are new to this and are so excited to get started on our skoolie adventure! We are in the process of researching to try to learn as much as we can before we get started.

I am a teacher and currently living in California has become so expensive. I honestly see most of my paycheck just going to rent. This is why we are seeking out converting a bus into a living space. We have run into trouble finding a place to do the demo and building. Any advice or ideas on this would be so appreciated! We aren't sure if you can demo and build on a residential street, at a storage facility, or a camp ground site? We just can't seem to find the answer to that yet.

Also, thinking way ahead, but once you have your bus built and ready for living in, where do you all usually park it? Have you found that it is easy to park/leave on residential streets? Or is it easier to rent a campsite? Again, any help with these questions would be wonderful.

Thank you in advanced!
We checked our local ordinances and found there were no restrictions to park our bus beside our home in town. Worth looking into wherever your land.
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:24 PM   #5
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@Jameson - We are currently located in San Francisco. Thats a great idea to look into a contractor space or lay down yards to rent nearby. Even if it's not super close to the city, we are willing to travel a little ways to do the demo and build.

It sounds like you're having a lovely time with your bus! Have fun in Florida, I hear they have some rough winters out there ;) haha. I wish you luck with your travels and continued improvements!
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:25 PM   #6
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@HappyInTN - Thank you for the tip! I will have to look into that.
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:27 PM   #7
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@EastCoastCB - I really wish we knew someone, but unfortunately we don't but yeah, that would have been ideal. Thanks for the response!
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:35 PM   #8
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I'm lucky my friends have a few pieces of semi-vacant land about 25 mins from my house. But we're working to get this place sold and get some acreage out of town. The plan is a giant barn that at least a few buses can fit in.

Good luck with your search!
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Old 12-15-2018, 08:29 PM   #9
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I did a lot of my renovating on BLM land in California and Arizona. I have also known several people who did their renovating on BLM land. As long as you don't make a huge mess(we put everything we pulled onto tarps, and had tarps underneath the bus while working on the engine), and clean up when you are done, the rangers don't seem to mind. Just keep in mind that you have to move at least 20 miles every two weeks, but one can do a lot of renovating in two weeks!
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Old 12-15-2018, 10:52 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by partners.on.the.go. View Post
Hello!!

My partner and I are new to this and are so excited to get started on our skoolie adventure! We are in the process of researching to try to learn as much as we can before we get started.

I am a teacher and currently living in California has become so expensive. I honestly see most of my paycheck just going to rent. This is why we are seeking out converting a bus into a living space. We have run into trouble finding a place to do the demo and building. Any advice or ideas on this would be so appreciated! We aren't sure if you can demo and build on a residential street, at a storage facility, or a camp ground site? We just can't seem to find the answer to that yet.

Also, thinking way ahead, but once you have your bus built and ready for living in, where do you all usually park it? Have you found that it is easy to park/leave on residential streets? Or is it easier to rent a campsite? Again, any help with these questions would be wonderful.

Thank you in advanced!
Hi there!
Welcome to the skoolie community! Iím just somewhat starting out, Iím located in So-Cal and have a 2007 Ford E450 Diesel short bus with my husband and dog daughter. The home we were renting was foreclosed on and rent is too expensive and this was always a dream of ours and it happened!

So far my best advice In regards to finding a place to build is research local laws and how long youíre allowed to leave a large vehicle parked. We got lucky and our friends live in Santa Ana and street laws arenít a big deal and we can park as long as we want as long as we move for street sweeping. It helps to introduce yourself to the neighbors so youíre not Ďthose creepy people in the busí. Most cities allow you to park on any street if you know someone that lives there and youíre Ďliving with themí or are related to someone thatís living on the street. Otherwise public streets are public streets, you can park as long as you move the next day.

For daytime work with a nice view, we got a California park pass for $200 or less and get entry as long as the park is open. Doheny and Huntington Beach are great favorites.

Camp grounds I imagine work also if you have quiet tools or are spread out, Iíd be weary of noise level restrictions and salty neighbors.

Same kind of goes with where you park it, if it fits it sits! 24hr Walmartís work great, Iíve had friends that live in vans that say that if you get a 24/hr gym membership you can park overnight. A bus might be a different story.. then, when you travel, itís nothing but the road ahead of you! Enjoy the ride!
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Old 12-16-2018, 08:21 AM   #11
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General layout/floor plan question from a newbeeee

Hello and good morning to yas
So having some mechanical work done before bringing her home. In the meantime, we're doing like everyone new does and reading, learning, dreaming and so on. Question for yas? Why do most layouts have the bed in the back rather than integrating it into the living room somehow? Just curious if it was a preference, common sense or weight thing.
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Old 12-16-2018, 11:23 AM   #12
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Hello and good morning to yas
So having some mechanical work done before bringing her home. In the meantime, we're doing like everyone new does and reading, learning, dreaming and so on. Question for yas? Why do most layouts have the bed in the back rather than integrating it into the living room somehow? Just curious if it was a preference, common sense or weight thing.
Definitely smart to get mechanical work done before purchasing! I got mine checked by a $400 mobile mechanic since it was far away from where I lived and even with a clean bill of health I STILL had to pay $1000 for the alternator and transmission pan. So check your list over and over again!

In regards to putting the bed in the back...
Common sense tells me that the weight distribution shouldnít be too much of an issue considering the vehicle is meant to tow all those heavy benches and people in it as well. Most people plan primarily where theyíre putting their plumbing first, and try to make the bathroom and kitchen as close together as possible to avoid having to run extra lines and all the frustration that comes with it. If you havenít already, Instagram has thousands of conversion accounts, Iíve seen plenty of busses with their beds along the wall, most use futons, even Murphy beds!

Best of luck!
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Old 12-16-2018, 05:25 PM   #13
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Hello and good morning to yas
So having some mechanical work done before bringing her home. In the meantime, we're doing like everyone new does and reading, learning, dreaming and so on. Question for yas? Why do most layouts have the bed in the back rather than integrating it into the living room somehow? Just curious if it was a preference, common sense or weight thing.

A lot of it is practical.

A bus is long and narrow, and a full-size bed will take up most of the width - so you're forever having to walk around the bed to get to the back of the bus. You could make something that folds, but then you have to move the pillows, sheets, blankets, etc. out of the way to fold and un-fold the bed. I'm lazy and I don't even like /making/ my bed, forget about having to fold it up and put it away every day.

The bed in the back also gives you 3 walls of windows - which some people like, because it makes the space feel open, and you get a panoramic view of wherever you're staying.

This is also why many people put the bedroom in the back, with the bathroom right in front of it - the bathroom walls off the back part of the bus, keeping the entire front section open.

Everyone knows the ride is also the worst at the back of the bus (at least, on a front-engine bus.) When you're driving, the empty bed doesn't really care about the bumpy ride. You, on the other hand, would notice that you were being tossed around over every bump.

On a rear-engine bus, there's a hump in the back of the bus for the top of the engine. You could loose that floor space, or build the bed on top of it - which gives you a great storage nook under the bed, and saves you a few linear feet of living space elsewhere inside the bus.

If you have more then 2 people together on the bus, you also want some separation for the bedroom - so if someone is sleeping, there's some separation if someone else is watching TV, or talking in the living room. You can't do that if you live and sleep in the living room.

Depending on where the rear axle is, it's easier to have to plumbing concentrated towards the middle of the bus. You want one gray water and one black water tank - and if you put the bathroom in the back, behind the axle, then you have to run your plumbing around the axle to get from the fixture to the tank. I wouldn't want something getting stuck in such a long run for a toilet drain....
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Old 12-17-2018, 10:36 AM   #14
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Thanks Mark all of that makes total sense and I very much appreciate all the detail. Now ya could hopefully give me some more after I tell ya A little about our situation.

WheWander's previous life was as a blood donation bus so she has no rear door, only three windows across the back with two descent size windows on each side as well 1 entry door at the rear wheel well and 1 at the front wheel well on the passenger side.

The reason we're checking all different layout options is because of how we will most likely live and travel.

Although it may sound silly to some, we designed our current home with our large dogs in mind and they'll be coming with us in WheWander.
With that in mind, here's kind'a the thought process.

Disclaimer.....this is all just dreaming and is completely open and welcoming thoughts and insight as we've got an awful lot of work and a long way to go on this process.

More boondocking than not to begin with as we very much enjoy mother nature's incredible gifts and the puppies are both close to 100 lbs.
If the kitchen is in the back and the bath is split with slider doors allowing us to block off access to the rest of the space, we would be able to use that rear side door as the main entry and almost like a mud room to deal with crazy wet and/or dirty dogs rather than having them shake or jump on the bed, etc.
It would also allow the full length of run room down the middle and the light from the rear windows when the doors are open.
Another thought is with respect to heating and cooling remembering how houses were sectioned off to better manage primary space climate. If the kitchen is in the rear, there's a chance we could maybe focus more of the temp control to the primary living and sleeping area during more extreme climates as we aren't planning to 100% follow the weather.
A wood stove is our intention for a primary heat source and living in a metal can we anticipate it being an interesting process to minimize summer temps in the main area should we get caught in a heat wave somewhere (puppies are only 2 yrs with hopefully 15 year life span so we're gonna deal with their hot bodies for a while....we hope).
WheWander already has the bath partially plumbed at the drivers side rear wheel well so we're thinking shower area there (water tank would be in the general mid ship ...kinda area) and c-toilet across at the other wheel well area.
The electrical systems housing is already in a designated place too.
So the really rough basic thought is rear kitchen with entry door leading to split bathroom leading to living/sleeping/storage while having some versatility of controlling different aspects of the space.
As there's only two of us, older but still following somewhat on our prior military days schedule, the bed situation isn't a huge concern as we're thinking of using a really nifty van conversion partial flip up idea that was pretty great for our arthritic selves.
Oh, plus we considered the fact that being well trained humans, the pups are always with us, on us or sleeping near by. Having their sleeping space under half the bed in the living area where we'll be when not milling around, eliminates or maybe eliminates an additional non-bedtime dog bed or sofa battle.

SO Much to ponder!!!!!
Although it's unconventional thinking, that's what makes the skoolie process so amazing, confusing, awesome and fantastic!

Thank you heaps for reading and responding.
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Old 12-17-2018, 11:59 AM   #15
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Hi there!
24hr Walmartís work great, Iíve had friends that live in vans that say that if you get a 24/hr gym membership you can park overnight. A bus might be a different story.. then, when you travel, itís nothing but the road ahead of you! Enjoy the ride!
My experience with Walmart has been spotty. Before I left Southern California I tried to overnight at a few different local ones (I was based in Torrance CA) and security told me it's not allowed. These were not 24 hour stores so maybe that's the difference, but from what I understand it's a combination of how the management feels (which is often based on whether the people who came before were good citizens or not) and what local ordinances allow that determine whether they let you park there. I was approached well before store closing hours, when I'd actually only been there a short time, and warned of a two hour parking limit. I have an app on my phone now that spells out which Walmarts are and aren't good bets.

Your initial post didn't say whether you were planning to keep your job and remain in the general area of your community once your build is done, or whether you'll be taking to the road. It makes a big difference, of course, as some of the best places for temporary situations don't hold up long term.

I did find places you wouldn't necessarily assume will let you camp out that can be mighty hospitable. I happened to notice an RV that was more or less permanently situated in the parking lot of a shopping plaza in front of a CVS Pharmacy, next to a Starbuck's, and a rotating group of car and van dwellers appeared there as well, so I gave it a go. That was my home for the last two weeks I lived in California. Then again, I have a short bus so even though it's quite conspicuous it is smaller, which makes it easier. I think I could have stayed there forever, honestly, as it seems a few other people do. There was a lot to like about it, especially in terms of safety. But I think if I'd ended up staying in the area semi-permanently I would have sought out something less visible - CVS is right on the main drag - and less traffic-noisy.

I had an offer from a couple who were living in a warehouse up the way to park there, and it would have been a great spot if I'd stayed. Maybe you could seek out something like that. Offering some rent should help there. LOTS more people live in warehouses than you'd think, at least in SoCal, don't know about up North. When I had a warehouse I had 5 parking spaces assigned to me and probably could have rented one or more out. if you keep your eyes open the areas where this is happening begin to be fairly obvious.

In the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County there are people camped out all along the sides of the road, which means you have a lot of company. Some of the people get a little scary, though.

A friend who lives in a van conversion has been parking on the street outside his storage facility - a smaller independent one rather than a big chain - for years. He rents a small unit, and the security guard keeps an eye on his van. They were not open to him staying on the actual premises for insurance reasons, but he's right outside the gate and considers it home at this point. As soon as they open he goes into the office for his morning coffee with the manager!

If you're going to be on the move, it's different. Though I haven't done the BLM land etc. it's only out of ignorance - I will do that when I set out again. As I made my way across America, I found for me the best temporary spots seemed to be industrial parks, either in the lots or on the sidewalk adjoining, or 24 hour supermarkets, where it kind of seems like it was the "surprise" factor that kept me safe: they just aren't used to people overnighting there so have no mechanism in place for kicking you out! People say you should ask permission but I beg to differ; it just confuses the poor night manager who has no idea if he/she is supposed to say no or not. I never got in trouble doing this but even if I had I would just have been told to leave, which is not the end of the world.

As far as working goes, my build happened in basically four places (but remember mine is a short bus):

1) The street along the back side of my small business, which was sort of like an extension of my parking lot but less visible to passersby. I still had the lease on the place at the beginning of the build, but had to move out to let the new tenants in about two weeks in. So for that two weeks I got as much done as possible. If you know someone with a business or parking lot access they may be able to give you permission.

2) After I had to leave the store, I spent all day every day working on the bus in the HUGE parking lot of my local Lowe's store. I spent money there throughout, heading inside every time I needed a tool or anything at all that they sell. I made sure to park far from the building, and left before closing. The daytime people were fine with me. I think the daytime manager thought it was kind of cool. The later shift folks, though, were not so friendly. They're probably uptight because people have tried to overnight there before, but that was not my intention. The security guy and I really got into it one early summer evening when it was still light out, so I went in to talk to the manager. After explaining that I am a woman on her own who until very recently was a local business owner, that I was moving into the bus for economic reasons, that I was spending money in the store, and that this is the only place I feel safe working, he agreed it was not a problem and called off the guard.

3) A neighbor who saw me camped out at CVS offered me her driveway for working on the bus, and I took her up on that for a time. By then I was down to the wire, though, and had to work night and day. You really have to tone it down in a residential area after 9 pm or so. So I had to find a place to overnight and work.

4) The huge parking lot of an industrial area near my former store was the answer. I could work there without many people even noticing, shielded from view by factories. The only issue I ran into is that areas like that are also popular with teenagers who want to get buzzed, and especially on the weekend I was not alone. I didn't sleep there only because I didn't want to risk oversleeping and being there when the factories opened because I didn't know how they'd react, so I went back to CVS to sack out.

Hopefully you will find ONE place to do your build; the moving around was problematic and I would not have been able to do it during those first two weeks at all. A friend with some land (or better yet, your own home!) is of course the best option.

Good luck!
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Old 12-17-2018, 12:14 PM   #16
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Although it may sound silly to some, we designed our current home with our large dogs in mind and they'll be coming with us in WheWander.
With that in mind, here's kind'a the thought process.
I don't think it will sound silly to many on here, there are whole threads devoted to our pets!

I honestly think in terms of layout there is no "right" answer; like Mark said, it's all about what's practical for both your vehicle and your lifestyle. I use my short bus as a pop-up shop, which is why I opted for a murphy bed that is a shelving unit when closed. If I were only living in it, I would have done a sofa-bed type setup that pulls out into the aisle rather than the back bedroom thing, because I like being able to use the back door and have an aisle all the way throughout. But I'm just one person - most couples, who need a larger bed, opt to section off the back and put the bed there, blocking the rear door. For me, when I'm in bed I'm just sleeping - no snuggling if you know what I mean - so I don't need anything luxurious. When the bed is down, it does block the back, but putting it back up is a snap - I close it with the bedding still on there and never make the bed!

Sounds like you are on the path to a great adventure!
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Old 12-18-2018, 06:45 AM   #17
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Thank you for the input and encouraging thoughts.
We can't begin to express our gratitude to all the neat people on this site.
The information and kindness has been flat out awesome! We so appreciate the diversity and the "go for it", frame of mind.
Wishing you well.
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