The first steps to a successful skoolie build
What if I told you we already had the basic floor plan of our new bus finished? It probably seems premature to a lot of people, since we have yet to even start tearing bus seats out! However, the more planning that takes place, the more cohesive and functional your build will be. The last thing you want is to be scrambling and making impulse decisions to hurry up and finish!
The first step to any good build is precise measuring. You need to know the space that you’ve got to work with! Then, factor in how much overall space you have versus workable space. Remember, you’ve still got to frame and insulate the floors, walls, and ceilings, which will leave you with a couple inches less space than your shell.
When you’re working in a small, confined space such as with a school bus conversion, every square inch counts. Get your thinking cap on to make the most out of every little bit!
Know Your Needs
I must say that planning for this build has been infinitely simpler than the first time around. We already knew what worked for us, and what didn’t. Knowing your needs is the most important factor in laying out your floor plan!
Chances are unless you are converting a full size bus, you are going to have to make some sacrifices. Since we’re working with limited space, it is a challenge to fit all the conventional amenities in. You will find yourself asking many questions; Is it more important to you to have a bigger bed, or more storage space? Is it essential for you to have a table to sit down at every night to eat your meal? Or maybe that space would be better utilized as a couch that can convert into a twin bed for another place to sleep?
For us, we knew that adding a bathroom in this conversion was a must. In order for that to happen, we knew we would be sacrificing a bit of kitchen space. To us, that exchange is worth it, especially since we spend most of our time outside while on the road.
This is either going to be one of your favorite parts of the build, or you’re going to get frustrated very quickly. Either way, it is going to take longer than you expect! That list that you just made with your needs on it? You’re going to be referring back to that a lot during this part. Start thinking how you can fit together the elements on your list into the confined space of a bus.
I actually love this part. It is almost like trying to fit together the pieces of a puzzle. I find that the best way to start planning a rough design is just to grab a piece of paper and start sketching it out. Be thinking of how you can make each space multifunctional. For example, in this build we thought we might have enough extra space to add a dinette. However, no matter what layout I drew up, I was coming up empty handed. I couldn’t figure out a way to add in a dinette, and still have a couch long enough to convert into a twin sized bed when it was pulled out. After a bit of thinking, we ended up coming up with a floor plan to make the most of our space. We could make a sectional, that would still pull out into the equivalent of a twin bed, but would have a piece in the middle that would pop up into a table to make our dinette!
Budget & Available Products
After coming up with a rough floor plan, I like to hit in the internet. Is my design even possible with the budget we have set for ourselves? Are there products available to us that are going to fit into the space allotted?
At this time I make a shopping list of nearly everything we are going to be purchasing for our build. To keep a custom, built in look, and maintain optimal functionality and storage, I like to plan for everything we will be using. Be prepared to go back to your rough design! More times than not, you will be doing a lot of tweaking, based on either your budget or the product sizes that are even available for purchase.
Finalize the Rough Design
You’ve found products that fit into both your budget and floor plan! I like to do a 3D mockup of our build at this point. I know there are a multitude of different apps and websites out there to accomplish this, but I’ve used the Ikea Planning Tool for both builds and it has worked out very well. You can utilize their planning tools to make a custom design space. I just enter in the bus measurements and go to work! Since we use Ikea cabinets for our build, we can just drag and drop into place. For all of our other objects, I just enter the dimensions and insert them as a “floor obstacle”. It is so fun to see your vision start to come to life!
Just remember, it doesn’t matter how prepared you feel to begin your build, there will be unexpected challenges and changes that need to be made to the original design. Don’t stress too much about it, and most importantly, have fun with your conversion!
Are you a planner? Or is figuring it out as you go along more your style?