An old school bus may not sound like a dream home location, but Cassie Furlong had a vision. With her trusty DIY skills and her tool kit in hand, she got to work and achieved the unimaginable...
Growing Up in the Backseat
Cassie Furlong and her family loved to travel. Although they were mainly based in Minnesota in the United States, they were more commonly found traveling the country, seeing nature's best.
"I spent my childhood in the backseat of my family car road tripping around and outside the great state of Minnesota," Cassie reflected on her Instagram. "My most beloved place was a seven-hour drive from the cities to the northern border of the state."
Her DIY Role Models
Besides her love for the road and traveling, Cassie inherited some other valuable qualities from her parents. She often watched her dad as he worked as a carpenter and picked up some skills from him along the way. Before long, she had become her dad's, right-hand woman!
"From a young age, I developed the skills to make useful items with my hands," Furlong reflected. "The art of woodworking takes trial and error of which I developed by age 12." Little did she know that these skills would one day be instrumental in fulfilling her dreams.
A Dream Is Born
As Cassie evaluated what it is in life that makes her truly happy, she had an idea that would mean she could travel around the country in style, all while exploring the great outdoors. As tiny homes increased in popularity, her vision seemed not too far off from reality.
The plan was to apply her carpentry skills and create a mobile home for herself. "I have always loved traveling and spending time in the outdoors," she said. "I decided to combine these passions into a project converting [an] old school bus into a camper."
It Starts With a Bus
Scrolling through Instagram to see the growing number of like-minded individuals converting school buses into tiny homes, Cassie was more confident than ever. The appeal was obvious - not only is it cheaper than an RV, but the walls, roof, and wheels are already in place!
When the opportunity to purchase a school bus arose, Cassie knew her time had come and was not going to wait around. "This dream recently became a reality when I found a 2007 GMC mini school bus for sale in my hometown," Cassie said. "So, of course, I had to buy it!"
What's In A Name?
Cassie understood the power of a name. So, when it came to the moment of naming her bus, she did not take the task lightly. Her Instagram followers and her friends were excited to get involved in the process, suggesting names like Petunia, Tedy, Marguerite, and Lightning Bug.
Cassie, however, decided to take it in a different direction. "The bus was a challenge I took on to fulfill my childhood nostalgia," she explained. "It only felt fitting to name my tiny home on wheels after what I was referred to as a child, Sassy." Now the work could begin!
Fixing the Externals
Realizing that a yellow school bus may give people flashbacks to a time they would rather forget, Furlong decided the outside of the bus needed to be changed to feel more welcoming and homey. Gaining inspiration from nature, Cassie chose a beautiful shade of green to paint the bus with.
"Inspired by spring to find the perfect exterior paint color," Furlong said. "I started this transformation so one day I can travel the world and see beautiful places. It only feels right that I find a color that reminds me of nature!" Before she could start the real work, a few external issues remained.
Removing The Unwanted Components
Although a school bus provides an excellent base structure for a mobile home, a few parts of the bus were perhaps not necessary to hold on to. Cassie was undecided about whether she should keep the STOP sign attached to the side of the bus. "Should it stay, or should it go?" she asked her followers.
Of course, the sign would not serve a functional purpose for Cassie's project, but it was a symbol of its origins as a school bus. Finally, the young carpenter decided to paint the sign white and keep it in its place. Before she could begin working on the interior, a pressing issue needed addressing.
The Wheels On the Bus
If Cassie wanted the wheels on her bus to go round and round all day long, especially on the country's most challenging terrains, she would need to fix them up. She would also have to clean the dust and dirt that had built up since it was last used. It was going to be a long road ahead...
The skilled carpenter used a sanding machine to smooth the centers of the wheels and the front and back bumpers. She worked hard to remove all the rust and level the surfaces. Lastly, she sprayed the wheel details white. The time had finally come for her to work on the bus's interior!
Its What’s on the Inside That Matters
The outside of the bus had required a lot of thought. From the exterior walls to the bumpers and rims, Cassie thought of it all. That being said, she knew the inside of the bus would be an even greater challenge with so many decisions and details to oversee. There was nothing left to do but throw herself into the situation!
The process of turning a bus into a home is hardly straightforward. Furlong needed to figure out a way to fit all the home essentials into a simple school bus! As a frequent traveler, Cassie knew she wouldn't need much, but she still wanted the bus to feel like her 'home away from home.' First, she needed to make some space.
It's Out With the Old...
An obvious issue with turning a school bus into a livable space is the inbuilt seats. To create the room she needed to build her home, Cassie would need to start by removing them. She worked tirelessly to unscrew each tightly screwed chair. A couple of hours later, she finally could see the bus floor!
Cassie looks back on this task as her project's first significant road bump. "The hardest part so far was the hours spent grinding out the bus seats," she shared on Instagram. "If you know of anyone looking for bus seats, send them my way!" Filling this newly cleared space was next on the agenda!
And in with the New
The seats may have been removed, but what remained was a rubber floor that hardly seemed homely. The thought of coming back after a day of hiking to these unsightly floors motivated Cassie to upgrade the floor's appearance, even if it was a short-term solution that only involved the base.
She purchased floor insulation material and cheap wood, sawing the wood to match the bus's interior dimensions. She then placed the pieces on top of the insulation. "Two days of work later, and we have an insulated subfloor," the young carpenter wrote. "Now, time to create a floor plan!"
Maximising the Space
In order to make use of every centimeter of the bus and maximize the space available, Cassie understood a detailed floor plan was required. Taking to her notepad, she began to create a layout that flowed seamlessly but at the same time considered all the requirements of a home.
Many things needed to be taken into account - spaces for the kitchen appliances to be installed, accessibility to the bathroom, and the best location for a bed. After throwing out numerous designs, she decided on a final blueprint.
Bringing It Into Reality
Confident in her construction blueprint, she began to build the rooms and furniture. In an attempt to bring the notebook to life and arrange the bus layout in real terms, she used painter's tape to map out the plan onto the pre-installed bus floor base.
Leaving the driver's seat in its place, there would be two benches around a table for the kitchen area, and the living room would be made up of a sofa bench which could double up as a bed for guests. Towards the back of the bus would be the kitchen, bedroom, and outdoor bathroom.
Updating the Engine
The bus was almost unrecognizable from its humble beginnings. With its beautiful green exterior and well-planned interior, Cassie felt an overwhelming sense of pride. There was one major issue that needed taking care of. She needed her new home to survive on the roads.
It wouldn't be enough for the mobile home to be parked permanently outside her parent's house. She needed the freedom to drive in it across the country. This would require an upgraded, modern engine and NAPA Legend 75 battery replacement. No big deal; this was all within Cassie's building expertise.
A Well-Deserved Break
Knowing she had a fully functioning bus with a working engine and a new set of wheels, the keen traveler felt an overwhelming urge to test drive her bus on the roads and escape into the outdoors. She had a long way to go until the bus was finished, but for now, its ability to get her from A to B was enough!
"Took a break from the renovation for a little road trip," Cassie notified her followers. She was starting to get a glimpse of her future life on the road, and she could not wait. After a short trip to the forests around Minessota, she got back to the construction mindset.
Locking in the Heat
The insulation and base floors would play a big part in keeping Cassie warm in the Upper Midwest winter months, but to truly lock in the heat, she would need to also insulate the bus walls. In its previous life, the bus would have kept kids warm on the way to school, but extra padding was needed for more extended stays.
With just some power tools and measuring tape for assistance, she made a wooden frame on the walls for insulation. After installing the purple foam, she covered it with some light wooden pieces. She decided to leave the white metal ceiling untouched as it well suited the style of her home.
A Place to Sit
Applying the carpentry skills she learned from her father; Cassie began to design and construct the furniture. She built two wooden benches on the left-hand side, which would eventually situate around a table. She even had the foresight to create storage space within the benches.
On the opposite side of the bus, she began to create the living room seating area. Here, she constructed another storage-savvy bench and left pieces inside the seat for a make-shift guest bed. This way, she could ensure her friends and family could join her on the road. The kitchen was next...
A Means to Cook
After completing the living and dining areas, Cassie understood that if she wanted to be the ultimate hostess, she would need somewhere to prepare delicious baked goods and high-energy hiking meals for her guests. She, therefore, turned her attention to the kitchen area.
With her power tools and some more wood, Cassie created the frame for the countertop and cabinets from scratch. She cleverly ensured there were holes for appliances and plenty of storage space. In a short space of time, the kitchen base structure has been completed.
Efficiency is Key
To fill in the kitchen frame, Cassie would need to add a sink, a countertop, and large storage spaces underneath. She chose a cheap yet appealing light wood for the counter space and cabinet doors. After cutting a hole into the countertop, she could fit in a small sink.
In her ongoing attempt to keep the renovation costs at a minimum, Cassie searched for abandoned or second-hand appliances for her project. She located the old bar sink for free and refurbished it herself. She would work on the plumbing connection at a later stage.
Nothing Goes to Waste
Cassie recognized that if she dedicated the other side of the kitchen to appliances, as planned, then she would have just these three cabinets below for storage. Realizing she would need more space for all her clothes, food, and camping supplies, she searched for a solution.
Searching around the home for a place to build another closet, Cassie noticed the wall above the kitchen sink was empty! Within a few hours, the carpenter had created a new storage unit in the space. "The cutest little cabinet," Cassie exclaimed. "Can't let any space get wasted."
Installing the Appliances
Although most mobile travelers opt for basic, on-the-go meals, Cassie decided she would not compromise on her food prepping appliances. Wanting a full home kitchen, she built frames that would be filled by a small oven, mini-fridge, and burner stove.
The small fridge would at some point be connected to an electrical source, while the oven and stove could be propane-powered. Cassie was excited to start flexing her cooking and baking skills, but she knew it needed to be in a way that would still be safe for the environment.
Protecting Her Purse and the Planet
Cassie's low budget, cost-cutting, DIY approach to constructing her dream mobile home ensured she stayed within her budget. She was also able to attain a few key items for free such as the old bar sink, which she polished up when necessary. But, it seems Cassie's motivations to do it herself were not solely financially based.
"A large part of bus living and camping is the no trace left behind policy," Cassie explained. "From a young age, I learned to conserve the outdoors." She kept her environmental beliefs on her mind throughout the entire bus renovation process, ensuring all her practices were in line.
A Moment to Appreciate
With all the construction going on around her, Cassie had barely taken a moment to appreciate what she had achieved so far. The once school bus had taken on an entirely new identity, and its exterior resembled more of a home than a bus. "It's really starting to come together," she gushed.
It seemed her social media followers agreed with the young woman as they rushed to congratulate her on her incredible achievements. "Good job on all the hard work. I love it!" complimented one user. The temptation to spend a night in her new home gave Cassie the strength to begin working on the bedroom.
A Bedroom in the Back
As Cassie's floor plan dictated, the communal living and dining spaces were at the front of the bus, and the bedroom would be at the back to allow for more privacy. Between the kitchen and bedroom areas, she built some thin walls to divide the space.
Once the space was defined, she managed to fit a queen size bed against the emergency door of the bus and created more storage space underneath the bed frame. On completion of her bedroom, she shared the results with her followers with the caption, "even though there is still a lot of work to do, it's come a long way."
Sharing more pictures of her new bedroom with her followers, she described it as "the coziest spot" in the home. Situated at the back of the bus with the sunlight flooding in, the comfy room was the perfect spot for admiring the outdoors. The windows, however, could cause some issues.
The bus had an old heat control system, but Cassie needed extra layers to keep warm during the colder months. For this, she purchased an "ultralight" customized down quilt from Enlightened Equipment. There was one remaining issue in the bedroom that she had been avoiding...
The Ramp Dilemma
Her almost-perfect bedroom had one remaining issue, which served as a reminder of its previous use as a school bus - the accessibility ramp remained next to Cassie's bed. Unsure what she should do with it, she took to Instagram to ask her followers.
"It's heavy. I would remove it to save gas and free up useable space," noted one follower. Others reckoned she could use the ramp as a headboard. Ultimately, Cassie chose to keep the ramp because it "works great as a patio and outdoor table."
An Electrical Boost
The Sassy was almost complete. However, to turn the now-beautiful bus into a fully-functioning home, Furlong needed power. With her expert knowledge and environmental agenda, she connected the kitchen appliances to solar-panel-powered electricity. She used a power station for her phone and electronics.
The clever young carpenter arranged a partnership with MAXOAK, who provided her with a solar generator wireless charging battery in exchange for an Instagram mention. In an attempt to finish up the project, she turned her attention back to the bus's interior, which still needed some work.
A Floor Upgrade
In an attempt to modernize the bus, Cassie had hidden its rubber ground floors with light wood material, but she didn't want to stop there. In order to make the Sassy bus more stylish and put the sass in Sassy, she needed to paint the walls and finish the floors.
Until this point, the carpenter's wood lay on top of the insulation, which in turn covered the rubber floor. Cassie purchased rustic dark wooden floorboards to act as a fourth layer to protect her feet from the cold. She loved the way her shoes looked against the new wood floor.
Taking It for a Spin
There was still some work to do, but Cassie felt confident to take her new mobile home for a spin and start experiencing the outdoor adventures it could allow. Despite the unfinished paint, Furlong began her life on the road, and it did not disappoint!
Cassie traveled with Sassy "from the sunny afternoons in Glacier to a chilly sunrise hike in Acadia." The outdoor adventurer drove her new mobile home to national parks and experienced the best nature had to offer. She even hosted herself a birthday party on the bus, serving up baked goods she had prepared in her tiny kitchen.
A Work In Progress:
The Sassy Bus has become the ultimate social spot for Cassie and her friends. She has hosted picturesque movie and game nights under the stars and bus fairy lights. In the back of her mind, she still has some unfinished business. What remains on Cassie's to-do list before she can deem the renovation complete?
Her biggest priority is to decide on a paint color for the bus walls; understanding the effect color can have on a home's vibe, she is not taking this decision lightly. There are also plans to paint her kitchen and finish the flooring. We're keeping tabs on the innovative travelers' Instagram page to see what's next!