Holly here. Once the bus was an empty shell, we had the task of imagining how it would become a 100 square foot home. Looking back, I can tell you that it’s much like building a larger home. Only harder. Everything is connected to everything else. Plumbing, electrical and propane pass through just about every piece of custom cabinetry, so one can not be completed without the others. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell which to do first, and almost without exception, every part of this build was done twice.
I wore my dad’s old belt in an effort to channel his skills and energy. After all, he made some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen made out of wood. I tried always to remember to “measure twice, cut once.” More often I would measure twice, cut twice. Or thrice.
After we installed the base for our roof deck, a skylight, and our Maxxair fan, it was time to start framing the ceiling.
We were lucky enough to know the Branford wood artist Ellis Bradley, who hooked us up with a huge amount of reclaimed wood. He hand milled a large beam into 3/8” thick boards that we used to make the ceiling.
Joe attached furring strips to the bus’s metal ribs. We then screwed the planks to those. (But not before we sprayed foam insulation.)
School buses, in case you didn’t know, are made from some kind of kryptonite that makes them indestructible. It also makes it very difficult to screw anything into them. We used wood-to-metal self tapping screws and an impact driver, and clamped the wood to the ribs to keep it in place.
Even though we were using 200 year old reclaimed wood, it looked brand new, as it was freshly milled. I wanted it to look as old as it was, so I painted a finish on the boards before installing them.
Before we installed the ceiling panels, we ran the wiring for the led ceiling pucks, as well as the wiring for the ceiling fan, the under cabinet lights, and the usb charging stations.
The first things I built following the ceiling install were the two benches over the wheel wells. I left room for large storage drawers under the seats. I hinged the backs for access behind the benches, one for electrical components, and one for storage.
I used reclaimed tobacco lath from upstate Connecticut tobacco farms to face the drawers under the benches.
Next I built upper cabinets for our kitchen. I traced the curve of the ceiling onto cardboard using a drawing compass set at a fixed distance (thanks Bob!). Then I transferred the shape to plywood and cut it using a hand held battery operated jig saw.
I want to take this time to note that we built this entire tiny home while the bus was parked in a dirt lot, with no electricity or plumbing. All tools had to be either battery operated, or had to be run off our generator.
Next came the kitchen base cabinets. I built them out of 3/4” plywood. Even though I didn’t have to deal with a ceiling curve, the bus handed me new challenges. Nothing was square and it took me several tries before the cabinets were flush enough to screw together.
The counter is reclaimed wood, made from a beam from the Malleable Iron Works factory in Branford, CT
I finished the cabinets with more of the tobacco lath that I stained a peacock blue. I made handles out of strips of leather. What you can’t see in this photo are the shallow drawers I put under each cabinet – you know, that wasted space behind the toe kick of ordinary cabinets. In a 100 square foot home, you can’t waste any space!
For the entry stairs, I used a combination of leftover ceiling planks (for the walls and risers), and new lumber (for the treads).
For the floor of the bus we used vinyl plank flooring. At just 3/16” thick, it took away very little of the precious height we had after insulating the floor and ceiling.
As part of downsizing to be able to move into a bus, we’ve gotten rid of most of our books, in favor of ebooks. But thanks to Joe, we will keep 33 inches of mostly poetry.
More to come . . . Check back soon!