The Lime Factory Bus Conversion
Skoolie bus conversion - bus living and tiny house topics are on the hot side of the internet world. We have been working on a project like this and would love to share the process and the results we have so far.
As you read our process, please remember this is a case scenario where we included the below steps, and we are going to share with you what worked for us concerning our experience and needs.
Meaning this is not a template for bus conversion but rather our experience with the build and some tips originating from our struggles. Take our mistakes and ideas and use your head and heart when working on your unique project!
This current bus is movable and has a valid license; however, we designed it mainly to be parked and moved a couple of times a year rather than travelling with it. For the travelling bus version, we are looking for a different bus already. Stay tuned for the following posts.
We include eight steps that we considered when working on this particular project.
Step 1 What is the type of bus you have available?
We love the original yellow skoolie that you see in most bus conversions; however, this is an expensive and premium product here in Europe, not to mention spare parts and people who actually know how to fix such a beast.
We looked around and realised we have quite a selection around where we live, and we purchased a decommissioned bus used until the last minute as an intercity bus.
This intercity design was the best fit due to the construction of the bus, as you will see furder in this article. Any intercity bus will have a pretty significant area underneath the passenger seats for any luggage and baggage. For example: if you purchase a bus built to be driven in the city only: transporting people around, you will most likely have no space underneath the passenger seats. The so-called "luggage space/area" is helpful to accommodate all the utilities, so you do not have to reduce your space inside to fit any personal stuff you do not need at the moment, as well as the water heater and other similar utilities.
Step 2 Ripp everything out!!
In this step, we wanted to have a "blank canvas" meaning what could be removed needed to go out so we can start fresh. We needed to create ticker insulation in future steps. Buses are generally not built to be well-insulated structures so instead of adding on bad insulation we decided to remove everything and start fresh in this step.
If you are looking to save some money for the disposal of waste and do not need such a fancy look consider keeping it as it is with some additional layer on to the original setup.
Again different bus different conditions check it out, think about it, decide and move on. Do not overthink it. If not sure just ask someone who knows little more than you.
Step 3 Where, what and how? Planing!!
It is hard to imagine everything when the bus is full of seats and handles and other necessities for transporting a bunch of people around. Once the bus is cleaned out you will change your perspective of the space and will be on the right path to imagine how and what you need in the bus for your living or travelling. We did have a plan before getting the bus but at this stage, we changed it for a couple of reasons.
Work with what you have - less cutting, less welding, less drilling the better. For example, it would have been nice to have a bathroom in a different place on the bus but for that, you might have to remove the engine of the bus just to run a waste pipe down. This is crazy! Don't do it.
Take a look underneath the bus and see where all the floor supports are, where is a good place to place a water boiler for a shower, where is your waste and where you will run your water. In our case, we have a massive canal of hydraulic, pneumatic and mechanical lines running from the driver area to the engine bay that is at the back of the bus. This needed to be considered and we realized it would be easier to bring only one line of water to the kitchen area and in that area create another small boiler for hot water for the kitchen sink rather than taking both hot and cold lines from the water boiler that is located directly underneath the shower area. This sounds unreasonable but it is way easier than welding on the frame and cutting unnecessary holes where they do not have to be.
Also consider where you will have your appliances like fridge, heating and other energy-dependent products. I will emphasize here to use your head and products that are available on your market and if working with a contractor that will dot the installation for you this would be a good time to bring him/her in and let them take a look. They will usually give you a good insight on how to go about the issues you have. If you have not done this ever in your life be ready to think a couple of times before acting on your first impression. It is easy to cut something but it is hard to put it back the same way. Take your time with this step.
If you find yourself stuck don't move on until you know how this will be solved. Check with people you know and you don't know and consider their opinion but ultimately decide on your own. It is your space.
Step 4 Walls, insulation, electricity, water, heating preparation
Here you will test the points you prepared from the previous step and still have the opportunity to do slight adjustments. Works slow, take your time and try to enjoy it at this stage it might be overwhelming but as with any step on your journey once you climbed the step you will have a better view of the final destination.
In our example, we pulled all the wires necessary for our heating system, lights, appliances and so on. The underneath boiler area got insulated and the water heater got instaled with its connections to shower, kitchen, WC, washing machine and dishwasher machine.
We are using a wood stove as a heater but we have installed 3 infra heaters on the ceiling in case we don't feel like making a fire. One in the kitchen, one in the bedroom area and one smaller one in the bathroom. This was considered when wires were distributed in the ceiling and walls.
Step 5 Wallcovering, plastering, insulation finish
As you can see in the picture standard insulation is used and conventional ways of drywall are being used. Here we emphasize again this is made for standing rather than travelling but now we know we will do some trips in the Czech Republic so we can circle back on this topic and let you know if this is a good solution for travelling versions as well.
Step 6 Flooring, painting, testing and last chance adjusting
At this point, the space is starting to come together nicely and the feeling of a cosy place is coming along. Walls need to be plastered, sanded and painted to start with the flooring stage to avoid covering the floor when working on the walls.
We have chosen to place cork flooring tiples for a couple of reasons. They look nice, they are easy to clean and most importantly they add additional insulation to the flooring area. In our case, we have 25 square meters or for those in US approx. 270 square feet.
Try to look for a flooring solution that will fit your needs and will be durable as well as pleasant to work with. At this point, you can imagine yourself living there and you can see any flaws or mistakes you have done in the previous steps. It's kind of a now or never scenario to do any major changes before you start installing the kitchen and other appliances.
We actually stayed a couple of days in this stage just sleeping on the floor on a camping mattress to see if there is anything we find extremely uncomfortable. We did not find anything at that point so we moved to the next stage.
Step 7 Kitchen furniture, storage, testing
This stage is where your original vision and excitement from getting your bus manifests in the final form. All the final touches will be settled and ironed out and of course, tested.
We went with a super simple setup here using two storage regals as a base for our kitchen setup. The structure was already black and we only used our really old pressures wood from the lime factory as a final design touch.
Using the wood and some old components from the bus - the kitchen seat was a good solution for us and it allowed us to tie the bus together with the building it is currently parked next to as well as give it some personality.
We were able to build the kitchen components, shelves, wardrobe and coat hangers as well as bed platforms from these resources. Emphasizing our golden rule: use what you have because what you have is plenty!
Step 8 Living, renting, sharing
We have already spent a couple of weeks on the bus adjusting to life in a small space and observing the positives and negatives of the lifestyle.
Well, it is not hard to look into downsizing these days and believe me it does not take long to fall in love with the simple and practical setup. The space is small but welcoming, cosy and practical.
Having the bus divided into a couple of areas where you can spend your day reading a book, preparing a tea, meal or just look outside of the massive windows during a stormy or night or a rainy day. The small living area encourages you to be outside when the weather permits it and therefore you charge your energy on a trip around the area for example to the Orlik castle and come back to a cute easy to clean home.
We have decided to equip the bus with a combined washing machine and dryer for convenience. This allows long term stay and you are flexible with your needs. The kitchen has a dishwasher and standard size fridge and freezer so we can keep our ice cream in the summer. Here is a video of my brother driving the bus he loved it!
Conclusion, budget and time scale
We have had some sceptics coming along during the build and believe me if you decide to go a different way than anyone else is used to you will always come across people who do not relate to your ideology. Overcome such obstacles and you will see the whole process will give you joy, moments to remember and laugh about and of course the final result will be something only you can completely appreciate. Use it,
share it with others, rent it or sell it whatever you decide to do with the final product should share the pleasant moments you have had when working on such a project.
We have had some issues along the way since we live in Switzerland and the bus was being built in the Czech Republic. We could not work on the project as much as we wanted due to various restrictions and decided to outsource the majority of the labour to our lovely neighbour who loved the project. Therefore fo us a professional builder was able to move the project along when we were not personally there.
We were fortunate enough to have someone like this for some parts of the project and of course, this reflected on the price as well. If you can do the majority of the work yourself you will save some money and gain plenty of skills along the process.
As I write this article it will be almost a year since the day I went to check out the bus we wanted to start with. The project can definitely be done in a shorter period and many other variations of its design, this is just a simple example and case of how we did it.
We are in a process of getting another bus at the moment and this will be for a different purpose so if you are interested and want to see how the next bus conversion turned out just keep an eye on our updates or follow Instagram: the.lime.factory
I was pressured left and right to finally put some pictures and videos of the bus online so I wanted to finish with an offer or a proposal for any of you.
We see that lot of people is interested in building a tiny house, travelling camper or a bus like you see here however do not have the skills, equipment or even space to work on their project. We would be interested in offering our knowledge, experience, workshop, equipment, parking, material and even helping hand if you want to participate in building your project.
As long as you have a vision you could start! Let us know and we can give you more details and even give you the keys from our workshop or put you on a waiting list.