Back in 2017, the Mendozas took the plunge and embarked on a skoolie adventure: They bought an old school bus and converted it into their very own mobile home. Here's their renovation journey.
Meet the Mendozas
Husband-wife duo Megan and David Mendoza made the decision to change their lifestyle and become "those crazy people you hear about." Sure enough, they bought a school bus to turn into their future home.
By September 2017, they had done it. The Mendozas purchased their new bus, something that "had been a long time coming," in Megan's own words. They also started the Small and Simple Fam Instagram page, so they could share the skoolie conversion process with their friends, family, and followers.
Boarding the Bus
Though Megan and David lived in Connecticut, the bus they wanted to buy was in Colorado. So they flew to Denver and took an Uber "to the middle of nowhere" in Colorado, just to get a good look at the bus. They even shared that they only got 3 hours of sleep that night!
But it was all worth it in the end. The bus was perfect, so they hopped in and drove it right back home to Connecticut. "We have been so grateful to be able to work on our future home," the couple shared. "We don't get to work on it very much, though. Since we both work full-time jobs, we are only able to work on the weekends."
Lola Comes Along
But before we dive into the details of the skoolie renovation, we need to introduce someone special: Lola, the family dog! They couldn't leave her out and took her with them on their cross-state journey. In one video, she can even be seen on a trampoline outside the bus, with the caption "Equal parts playing and working."
In fact, Lola also features in the very first post that Megan and David shared on their Small and Simple Fam Instagram. It was a picture of the little family of three posing in front of the bus when Lola was just a tiny puppy. And the couple made sure to add her to more Insta posts along the way.
Say Bye To The Seats
But now, it was time to get started on the renovation. The first step, as with most skoolie conversions, was to remove every row of seats from the old bus. So David and Megan got to work removing all of the hundreds of nuts and bolts that secured the seats to the floors.
Within a few weeks, they had successfully pried every seat out, and it was time to remove the racks from the roof of the bus too. One by one, they began dismantling each top rack until they had removed them all in a matter of days. The DIY duo took a snapshot of their progress with the caption, "then comes the really fun part!"
No More Stickers
The “really fun part” turned out to be removing all of the stickers from the walls, to prepare the outer walls for a new coat of paint. David set about removing the reflective tape and painting over the bus’s original cheese-yellow coat, which didn’t look quite right for a new home.
But before he could paint, he had to make sure the walls and roof were sparkling clean, so he scrubbed down the exterior. For him and Megan, it was imperative to finish the exterior before they got onto the beef of the work inside the bus. But what color would they choose?
A Fresh Coat
The stickers were gone, the bus was clean, and it was time to start painting. If the weather would let them, that is. "Fall is finally here, and it's hitting hard!" the couple reported. They would have to wait a few days for the weather to clear before they could get started.
Once they got their chance, they started painting. Together David and Megan painted the entirety of the walls and roof in a new shade of green, something that felt more stylistically appropriate. They even went over it a second time to make sure they covered every inch of the bus.
Now For The Floor Plan
Soon they could start on another exciting aspect of the build. "We did the floor plan!" the exuberant couple shared with their followers. This was the first major step in seeing all of their plans brought to life - and the Mendozas could barely contain their excitement.
It was also important because they weren't sure if they would have enough space for their plans. "We wanted to see what we could actually fit in the bus," they shared. "It turns out we even added a few things!" That's right, though bus life required them to "do this minimalist thing!" they had a little more space than expected.
Special License Plates
Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible for Megan and David to get the entire build done in one go. They had to take stints for planning and building in between spending time with family and catering to other aspects of their life. But to them, it was important to take things slowly to not risk wearing themselves out.
Things truly began to feel real when they got their Green Mountain State license plates - their future home was officially registered! The super cute license plates had the word “TINY,” a perfect word to represent their little home that was slowly coming to fruition.
A Big Announcement
After months of planning, the Mendozas got the news of a lifetime: They were expecting! Halfway through the conversion, they discovered that Megan was pregnant. This would necessitate another break from the build, and the couple informed their followers, "we're gathering money and prepping for the baby's arrival in February!"
So Megan, David, and Lola put a pause on their tiny house on wheels, eager to start planning for another exciting stage of their lives. Soon enough, Grover Hyrum Mendoza was welcomed into the world, six weeks earlier than expected. The couple had a beautiful baby boy.
Mother Nature Takes Its Toll
The fact was that it was quite difficult for Megan and David to work consistently on their dream home. They had to juggle full-time work, family obligations, and a new baby. But that wasn’t all… the Connecticut weather also made their building sessions increasingly difficult.
Up until January, they had been working on the bus most weekends, but it eventually became far too difficult to renovate most of the time. Good weather was rare, so when they got it, they certainly took advantage. "Thank you, Mother Nature, for giving us a beautiful weekend to FINALLY get back to working on the bus!!"
Removing The Panels
Things were looking a little sunnier, and now that Megan was no longer pregnant, they could start devoting more time to the bus. The next step was to remove all of the internal paneling - that included the panels on the ceiling, walls, floors, and the back of the bus.
Megan even took to the walls with a power drill to speed things up. This gave them extra time to start ripping out the flooring and ceilings so they could begin the vitally important task of insulating the structure. They even got some helpful advice on these steps from their Instagram followers.
A Full-Blown Heating System
Once the interior had been partially gutted, they set to work on removing the last few things. David began removing the heating system, which turned into such a daunting job that he had to bring in help. "This amount [of] work definitely would have taken us a couple of weekends to complete if it were not for them," he shared.
But that wasn’t all. David also had to drain the coolant from the bus, a liquid or gas that had been previously used to regulate the temperature on the bus. It was essential in protecting the radiator, stopping from overheating in the heating or freezing in the cold.
The heating and cooling systems were out of the way, which meant the couple could move on to a small but pressing issue - rust. Throughout most skoolies, there were usually spots of rust that needed to be removed and sanded down. Thankfully, in the Mendoza’s case, their bus only had a few spots at the front, near the wheel.
It was a stroke of good luck and meant that Megan and David wouldn’t have to spend too much time on rust removal duty. Soon enough, they were able to remove the flooring, scrape the caulking, paint the floors and walls with rust preventative chemicals and clean up any leftover mess.
On To The Subfloor
The bus had finally been stripped of everything, making it the perfect blank canvas for Megan and David to build on. First up, they needed to insulate the walls and floors and then install the subfloor. The Mendozas had been very worried at the prospect of installing a subfloor for the first time - but it all went smoothly.
The couple had done plenty of research, so they knew that subflooring was generally built out of plywood, which was easy enough to get. The subfloor had to be thick and sturdy, and as the foundation of their home, it was a very important step that they had to get right. Once done, they could lay the floor over it.
A Little Bit Of Solar
Another component that required a lot of research was the mobile home's power system. Megan and David had decided on a solar power setup, a very common choice for skoolies. Their system would be powered by a set of 6v batteries they had purchased from Ew Gardner Golf Cars.
The solar power system had to accommodate the needs of their house bus, which would likely require between 320 watts to 2,400+. This number would vary greatly depending on where they were, how often they were on the road, and how many electrical appliances they had.
AC Is Necessary
After all the aforementioned work David had done removing the bus’s former heating and cooling systems, it was time for them to begin adding cooling systems of their own. He had to install several fans, so they had some AC while traveling, and he also had to remove the caps from the bus light and fix its blinkers.
It sure sounds like hard work, and according to David and Megan - it was! "Today was a rough day, we honestly had to force ourselves out the door to go work on the bus." Many of the tasks they undertook were difficult and time-consuming, and sometimes they really had to motivate themselves to complete them.
Some Safety Hazards
A few more demotivating problems occurred when the Mendozas began insulating their home. They were using spray foam insulation to change the bus’s R-value (the amount of heat transferred through walls, floors, and ceilings), but they soon realized they hadn’t purchased enough foam spray. Oh dear!
As if that wasn't enough, David got into a spot of trouble while using that very same spray. When one foam insulates a house, they are always meant to wear eye protection - but he had forgotten that simple rule and accidentally burnt his eyelid. "Remember safety first," he told their followers.
Meeting Like-Minded Folk
After a few months of juggling work and renovations, Megan, David, and little Grover took a well-deserved break. They traveled to Massachusetts to meet another skoolie-loving Instagrammer: @theskooly, otherwise known as Denise. "She is one of the best people we have ever met!" the family gushed.
Denise’s journey began with some bad news - she had been diagnosed with cancer and chose to sell everything she owned to take a chance on building her very own tiny house on wheels. She then began traveling with Paxton and Greyson, her two beloved dogs, all while sharing her journey with her followers on Instagram.
Visiting Denise had given Megan and David the boost of inspiration that they needed, and they returned to their own tiny house project refreshed and rejuvenated. They completed the last steps of the spray foaming, began installing appliances, and continued the build.
Now it was time to start the framing for the outer walls and windows. The family had to prepare for some difficulties, as framing the curved ceiling is different from traditional framing. They also needed to ensure that the framing lumber was very durable and properly installed, so it would stay in place while the bus was moving.
Packing Up And Moving On
During the building process, the Mendozas made another important life decision - they decided to pack everything up and move to Oregon. Despite adding another big task to their plate, it was an important choice as the move would allow them to be "closer to family" and "it would be a better move to finish the bus."
After making their way to Oregon and finding a place to store their bus, Megan and David were able to continue with their pet project. By now, they had finished the bulk of the renovations, which meant David had time to start building custom furniture for the little home on wheels.
David The Carpenter
In the coming months, David constructed his and Megan’s bed frame, a set of bunk beds, and a bed for both Grover and Lola. He then moved onto a set of kitchen cabinets that he also sanded down and painted, and together he and Megan built a custom couch that could double as a bed for guests.
To finish off the carpentry project, he also put together a sturdy table for the kitchen and living room area - built entirely from pallet wood that had been sanded and stained. By the time they were finished, they had built an entire set of beautiful custom furniture that not only fit the bus perfectly but saved them a lot of money!
The Plumbing Problem
Next was the plumbing, a prospect that many skoolie-builders dreaded, but the Mendozas were determined to get it done. They needed to install proper water tanks, as they were relying on 5-gallon water jugs. But they finished the plumbing line, so at least they could use a water heater.
A water heater also meant they could install a shower, which was easier said than done. "When we started our bus build, we knew what we wanted but didn't exactly know how to get there with our shower," they said. And after weeks of research, they settled on the Wedi shower system, which "really is perfect for bus/tiny homes."
Bathroom And Floor
Finally, the Mendozas could lay down the flooring throughout their home. There were a lot of possibilities, but they settled on dark stained wood in every room of the bus, which really tied the interior design together. They also finished up their bathroom with a sink and toilet.
They were getting so close to finishing their home - after months and months of work and navigating various obstacles. It was around this time that David and Megan made a rather surprising announcement… they were moving again! This time the family was relocating to Georgia, with their nearly-complete home in tow.
Ceilings And Walls
Once they had resettled in Georgia, Megan and David began reconsidering some of their previous design choices. For one, they decided to replace the original walls with wooden shiplap. They also chose to frame all of the windows, as the originals still felt more fitting for a school bus than a home.
One of the last major renovation projects was the ceiling, which the Mendozas completed after recruiting some professional help. They wanted a simple "pine tongue and groove" paneling for the ceiling, with a staining job that matched the dark wood floors.
A Complete Kitchen
The kitchen was close to done, but there were still some finishing touches that were sorely needed. The couple got started with the last of the essentials, fitting in a wooden countertop with a black sink and matching custom cabinets. They even found a stylish black fridge to complement the setup!
Finishing the kitchen was an enormous relief, not only because it looked so good but because the Mendoza’s now had running water for cooking and washing up! Now that the kitchen was complete and fully equipped, they could move on to something a little more fun…
Interior And Exterior Decorating
They finally got to indulge in everyone's favorite part of home renovation - decorating! And not just indoors. David and Megan also had to sand down the outside of the bus, prime it, and repaint the entire exterior as patches had been stripped off during severe weather.
They also added some lovely touches to the interior, including a letter boards sign saying "Let's be basic" alongside a flower bouquet. "We're officially those basic Instagrammers who have a letter board," the couple joked with their Instagram followers.
A Few Festivities
Now that their house on wheels was almost complete, it was time to celebrate! The Mendoza family highlighted this major accomplishment by taking their house bus to the United Tiny House Festival in Nashville, Tennessee. This festival was a celebration of tiny homeowners across America who came together to share their beautiful homes.
The festival was a little overwhelming for the family but worth it in the end. "It was a lot more stressful than we had thought it would be. I guess it is pretty weird having a few hundred people walk through your home. I will say we met some amazing people that we can now call friends!" David wrote on Instagram.
A New Addition To The Family
Just as the couple was finishing the remodeling, they made a heartwarming announcement: Their second child had arrived! The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate. Just as they became fully road-ready, August Woods Mendoza had joined the family.
David and Megan continued to travel during this time, now with two kids and a happy dog by their side. "Even when it seems impossible, give it your all and just make it happen," the couple shared as they visited gorgeous locations, including South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park.
Though the bus conversion was a major success, after so much time and effort spent on renovating, the family made the difficult decision to sell their beautiful tiny home. "We're not sad we're happy, and we would love to have this bus go to a loving owner that will have an adventure on it just like we did!" they shared.
They found a buyer and even hand-delivered the bus before buying a yellow 78 VW bus, which they hoped would become their second tiny home. Sadly COVID made it impossible to devote enough time to a new building project, so they sold the VW without renovating it.
A New Adventure Awaits...
Despite their failed plans, Megan and David found a new course of action. They purchased a van to renovate, installed extra windows and fans, and even took it to the nomadic vehicle festival Van Fest, which they later shared with their eagerly awaiting followers.
Over the course of three years, Dave and Megan and their adorable family converted an old school bus into a gorgeous home - all while documenting the process on their Small But Simple Fam Instagram page. Though they no longer live in the house bus, we've got a feeling their story is far from over!