Introduction: My Bluebird School Bus Project

About: I am currently converting a 1988 40' Bluebird school bus into a motor-home / workshop that I plan to live, work and travel in. This is my second such project. This one will probably be my retirement home. Sti…

How many remember riding the yellow bus to school? Ever think you'd be still riding a school bus well into your sixties? Even more, have you ever thought you'd live in a school bus? I grew up in the big city so I never got to ride a school bus to school. I would watch them go by as I walked to school. I did, however, drive a school bus when I got older. Even then the thought of living in a bus had not yet germinated.

I'm not going to try to give you steps on how to do this because it is a very intensive project and every conversion will vary depending on what the individual wants and needs. I've added a lot of things that I really didn't need for my existence but really wanted. Your project (should you choose to try) can be much simpler than mine. The build took two years of constant work every day while still working full time to get it to the point where I felt I could take it on the road and live in it as I finished it. And here five years later I'm still tweaking it.

So I'm gonna show a quick video here of the overall project and in later steps I'll go into detail of some of the things I did. The beginning of the video was a submission to a television production company that was doing a TV show about custom RV builds. The rest shows stills of the actual build. Later steps will go into more detail of the different projects within the entire build.

Step 1: The Video

Step 2: The Inside Prep Work

Before you can do anything you have to prepare the canvas (you catch the painters analogy?). For my project I had to remove the interior skin along the walls and the ceiling. This was more work than it looked like it would be. I started out counting the rivets I had to remove to get the walls and ceiling off. I quickly gave up that idea. There was a lot of them.

Step 3: Exterior Prep

I took the interior ceiling skin and cut it to fit where I took the windows out. (see video) After the window openings were covered new window openings were then cut in.

Step 4: Insulating

After the windows were covered and new windows in place it was time to insulate.I don't like being cold so I chose to spray rigid foam through the entire bus. I eventually went over that with "Reflectix" radiant foil barrier. That turned out to be a good decision for the heating and air conditioning. I bought the spray foam kit from "Foam it Green" . I started off masking the windows and anything I didn't want covered with foam. All the plumbing and electrical wiring had to be in place before spraying. I ran the electrical inside conduit so that I would still have access to the wiring inside the foam insulation. I can go back and pull existing wires and rerun them and I also ran empty conduit to run additional wiring if necessary.

Step 5: Heating

I have three sources of heating. I can use electric space heating if I am plugged in at a campground that includes electric. I have plumbed in quick connects where I can plug in a "{Big Buddy" heater or a "Wave-8 Catalytic Safety Heater" , both of which I have on board. I also installed in-floor radiant heating which was designed for me by PEX Plumbing. I stripped the floor down to the metal base. I repaired the metal floor and coated it with Rust-oleum rust coat. I laid down rigid double faced foil foam then layed out the tracks for the radiant pex tubing. Ran the pex within the tracks. Covered that with the left over metal from the ceiling then covered that with the sub-flooring.

Step 6: The Bathroom


My part time (remote) project manager informed me that I neglected to add the bathroom and kitchen in this instructable. So here I will show what I did to/with the bathroom.

The bathroom has four pocket doors all with storage. There is one sliding pocket storage door at each end of the bathroom allowing one to go from the Jacuzzi to the toilet and vanity without being exposed to the rest of the bus. There are two sliding pocket storage doors that will close off the toilet and vanity without blocking access through the bus. The door next to the toilet is also my reading room.

The Jacuzzi has water jets, air jets and under water light therapy. I found it on for $500 and everything on it worked.

Step 7: The Kitchen


I also neglected to include the kitchen. I built the countertop on a 3/4" flake board base. I used forty year old cedar which was donated to the project by a friend. I wanted to embed a map of the US in the countertop. I bought a map kit on Etsy and used the stain I had on hand and Snapple Iced Tea mix for additional colors.

Step 8: Epilogue

This is just a quick synopsis of a two year intensive jump start on my Bluebird bus project. The project, just like owning a house, continues on today. You know, like changing the furniture, repainting because you like a different color better, or just had an idea that something would look better somewhere else. This is intended to be my retirement home wherein I can change my backyard and view at a moments notice.

The rear eight feet of the bus is a workshop which encompases a wood lathe, tee shirt press, drill press, cutter plotter, speciality printers, roll top desk and more. I will probably continue making changes and additions to my home as long as I have it just like any home.

Here are a few of the bus conversion projects that were presented as Instructables:

Keyless Door Lock for Schoolie Project

RV Backup Lights

How to Put Square Cabinets in a Round Bus

RV Power Monitor

Applying Vinyl Graphics to Vehicles

Spray Foam Insulation

Putting a Heated Floor in a Bus (part 1)

Stain Wood With Snapple Iced Tea

Making Simple Cabinet Doors From Scrap Wood

A Poor Man's Vehicle Wrap

Upgrade Vintage Round Headlights

To see more of the build and future changes I make to the bus you can follow me at See Inside the (Please keep in mind that I am not as vigorous in keeping up with blog post as others. But I will try to do better)

To see where I go in the bus you can follow me at Leonard

Also, having a relocatable home this size means I cannot take it everywhere I want to go. So I solved that problem by creating my home away fro home (or my vacation home). Read about it here.

Keep in mind that where ever you go and whatever you do in life, "You are only limited by your own imagination!"

Thanks for reading.


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First Prize in the
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Before and After Contest 2017

Participated in the
Before and After Contest 2017

Travel Contest 2017

Participated in the
Travel Contest 2017