Confessions of Building a Tiny Home

We Bought A Bus | Where We Roam
Look how naive we are 😉

When Scott and I realized that we both desperately wanted to downsize our lives and eventually build our own tiny home for a growing family, we were looking at Pinterest and all of the beautiful pictures there.  Building a tiny home seemed ideal and beautiful and less stressful compared to experiences of home owners around us.  Now that we’re building a tiny home on a bus, we’re being faced with LOTS of decisions that worry me, but I’m trying not to show it because I’m the optimist with the bus project!  If I hadn’t been saying, “Oh it will be fine!” or “Don’t worry about that, it will all work out once we get going!” then we wouldn’t have bought the bus.  Basically I just confessed that this whole thing is my fault!

I will say that building a mobile tiny home is very different from building a stationary tiny home.  I feel confident that when we do go to build a stationary tiny home that it will be a much easier process because we’ll be faced with fewer limitations than what we’re dealing with now.  This whole building a home thing is always full of surprises though so we’ll just take it as it comes when we get there 🙂

So, what limitations are we dealing with as we build a mobile tiny home?

  • We have to think about how to build walls and install cabinets/beds/appliances in a way that will move with the bus as we drive but not crumble if we go over a speed bump.

I think we feel pretty confident in this regard right now.  We’re able to use some of the bus quirks that we can’t get rid of such as existing holes from previous screws and bolts, permanent tracks along the base of the walls that use sturdy T bolts, and metal pieces over the wheel wells that were used to support chairs that we’ll use to build out our benches.  Hopefully the whole thing won’t fall apart as soon as we back it out of the driveway though!

  • We have to be very aware of how much power each little thing that we put into the bus takes and eventually come up with a schedule of sorts detailing what items need to be completely turned off in order to use the washing machine, or start up the air conditioner.

I’ll blow a circuit if I use a hair dryer—perks of having a 15 amp power source.  And we have to worry about things like DC vs AC, wattage, volts, etc.  I thought I was getting a grip on this whole power thing by listening to Scott and my dad for the last several weeks, but I realize that I really have no idea.  I just know that I can’t use a hairdryer.

  • We have to worry about water intake because we only have one 40 gallon water tank for our greywater.

Did you know that a 10 minute shower uses 42 gallons of water?! (Based on an average flowing shower head)  That’s more than our tank can hold!  Holy moly, that will be interesting getting used to.  I’m not even sure how much water our washing machine uses with one load and I’m not looking forward to looking it up either (by the way, we found a full capacity washing machine for the bus!).  To help with the amount of water we use during a shower, we’re going to have a shower head with an on/off switch that can easily be turned without losing water pressure or hot water.  We’re also going to use a shower head with a lower flow rate so we don’t lose as much water per minute as the average shower head. (Water conservation in the shower)

We also want to make sure our water is reusable.  Eventually, when we have our own land, we’ll reuse our greywater for watering grass and flowers and a garden so we have to make sure it’s potable.  We want to avoid putting chemicals into our water now so it doesn’t contaminate our tank for future use.  Anybody out there use organic dish/laundry detergent that they love and would recommend?

  • We have to be really smart about where and how we’re insulating because if we don’t do it right then it’s like we just shouldn’t have bothered with it at all.  But hopefully with doing it right it will make a big difference!

Insulation has been a back-and-forth issue at times.  It takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money, so is it really worth it?  The biggest issue is that no matter how much we insulate the walls and ceilings, our windows are huge and allow the most sun/heat to come in, affecting the entire bus.  So is insulation really worth it with such large windows?  We’ve purchased R10 insulation that we’re putting in the ceiling and walls and we’re going to make window shades that will be about R8.  We’re going to use the window shades when we’re getting direct sunlight through them, but they’re not going to always be covered so we can still benefit from all the natural light they provide.  So yes, we’ve decided that insulation is worth the extra time and money for us!

  • Compost Toilet.

Yes we are making our lives substantially easier in regards to plumbing and not needing whitewater and blackwater tanks, but we’ve never used a composting toilet before so we might be having our work cut out for us when we need to empty it.  We’ve looked to Gone with the Wynn’s on several occasions as we’ve been putting together plans for this bus renovation and they use and highly recommend the composting toilet pictured below.  Yay for trying something new I guess!

composting-toilet copy

When we traveled the world we were exposed to different lifestyles than what we grew up with here in the US and they all involved conservation and recycling.  We appreciated all of the things we learned and gained a desire to continue many of those practices upon returning home to the US.  But, we soon found out that they are not always the norm here and it was very hard to do!  With this bus we realized that we’d be able to incorporate these practices, but I don’t think we realized how drastically we’d be incorporating them.  This is way beyond what we experienced while traveling!  We do look forward to the day when we can put in solar panels and a water collection system whether it be as we add onto the bus or when we build a stationary tiny home.  This will be a very good gauge of how much of a dent we’re really making as we conserve our resources!

Update on the Bus and Life

I’ve become with worst with blogging.  It’s not that our life is boring (because believe me, there is rarely a dull moment over here); it’s more that there’s so much going on that I feel overwhelmed with trying to document it all.  Or even some of it for that matter.  If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram you’ll get the most recent, but very occasional, update there and up until now that’s been about all I can do.  Sometimes I have this little voice in my head that says “You should take a picture of that.” “You should blog about that.”  “You should really just log into your blog once this week.”  And by the time I get to my computer I forget all about the little voice and I end up spending all my available time researching how to do something for the bus, scanning ksl.com for the umpteenth time, or yes, sometimes I turn on a show and just check-out from this crazy life for a bit.  Then I close the computer and I forget all about blogging and how that was the reason I opened the computer in the first place.  So… now that I’ve started this post with something melodramatic, let’s get to some of the exciting stuff that’s been going on around here!

 

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Bus Renovation Update

We are all over the place with this bus.  I feel like we’re making tons of progress, but sometimes I step onto the bus and think “What have we been doing for two months?”  Then I see the never-ending pile of receipts and all of the items we’ve been purchasing stacked up in the garage and I remind myself, “Well, we’re buying stuff that will hopefully be of benefit when we go to use it.”  Oh, and I got myself a Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer.  It’s baby blue and definitely a priority for the bus.  We’re still looking for a used, but good, compact front load washer if anyone knows where we can get one!

My dad has been here for a few weeks and it’s been amazing having him here.  He’s pretty knowledgable about a lot of stuff, and if he doesn’t know something he’s been able to get us in contact with someone who does! For example, my uncle Brent has experience with diesel mechanics and he was able to come help us clear out a ton of stuff on the bus!  Seriously, the work they did was huge for us.

So what have we done so far… like I said we’ve bought a lot of stuff.  We’ve also (hopefully) solidified a working floor plan that has now accommodated for all of the appliances/cabinets/tub/beds/etc we’re buying.  We’ve figured out how to seal the windows, which was a lot harder to do than it sounds.  We’ve done a final deep clean of the bus so we can run the water, gas, and electrical lines then put up insulation, set up the bathroom, and put up interior walls. We’ll then paint the kitchen cabinets then install with the appliances, finish building and painting the murphy bed then install.  I guess most of our progress is theoretical at this point, but at least we have a solid plan that will produce big outcomes this next week!

 

Life Update

Scott is working 40 hours a week on his business and putting 20-30 hours into the bus as well.  He’s pretty much AMAZING (all caps for emphasis) because he somehow does all that and still sits down for dinners with us and cleans up after, as well as plays with Carter and puts him to bed.  AND he makes time for me, which I thoroughly enjoy and feel really special to have.  And it’s Father’s Day so I don’t feel bad at all highlighting him—even though I know he’ll hate it.  He even set aside all day yesterday to go fishing with his dad, a favorite pastime of theirs that they haven’t done for years.  Seriously, he’s always thinking of us before himself, even though he stays up late after we’ve all gone to bed and wakes up early to work a little before Carter and I wake up.  I’d also like to mention that he has good hygiene, which could be difficult to maintain with a schedule like his.

 

Carter is getting funnier and funnier every day.  I haven’t cut his hair in almost two months (because it’s seriously so hard to do on him) so it’s getting long and is constantly in his eyes.  He doesn’t seem to mind, and I think it’s the cutest thing ever, but at least one person every day, stranger or not, comments on it usually saying something passive aggressive like, “Oh, Carter, is your hair in your eyes?  Are you having a hard time seeing your food/toy/book/etc?”  First of all, it’s not that bad AT ALL.  Secondly, I’ll get around to cutting it when I feel like wrestling him while holding scissors and somehow not cutting either of us.

Okay, back to Carter.. Where do I even start… he’s almost 2; he loves buses, trains, tractors, trucks, and cars; he prefers to put himself down for a nap or to bed and it makes me sad that I don’t get to hold him any more; he loves the garden in the backyard and picking strawberries and snap peas; he loves his cousins and is constantly yelling “MACK!” ( a combination of Jack and Max) and “Tommy! Owier!” (even though he hasn’t seen Thomas and Oliver in almost 2 months); he LOVES helping in every way possible and his new thing right now is clearing his plate in the trash, even if there’s nothing on it, and then rinsing it off in the sink and putting it in the dish washer; he loves talking on the phone and has recently starting holding it between his shoulder and ear because he’s seen me do it; he enjoys sitting on the potty and wiping his bum whether he’s gone to the bathroom or not; he’s very polite and is constantly saying please, thank you, scoose me (excuse me), and bess you (bless you); he likes to eat chalk; he loves stickers; he likes to put deodorant on; he loves looking at pictures, and if I pull out my phone he’ll say “cheese” (whether I’m taking a picture or not, then come over real quick and say “see it. see it.” and then laugh at whatever is on the screen and point and say “funny!” … I could probably go on for forever, but I’ll stop there and maybe there will be something I can share at a later point in time 🙂

 

Emily, or me.  I recently totaled our car.  Yep, that one car that took us over 2 months to find and we complained about how long the process was taking and then we put about 5,000 miles on it and then, yes, I totaled it.  The accident was actually very, very minor and no one got hurt, but somehow the car took a really hard hit.  So, we’ve been without a car for a couple weeks and that’s been hard, but I did get a stroller and Carter and I have been taking Thadius on long walks and also going to parks and groceries stores!  It reminds me a lot of how we used to walk so much more when we traveled than we have since being back.  I actually love the freedom of not having a car, until I need more than a stroller basket full of groceries, or I need to go to Target.  It’s nice to get out and walk a lot though and Carter is taking to the stroller very well!  I’m trying to be useful with the bus in any way that I can, and most times that is just helping Carter feel involved without letting him ruin anything.  It’s a hard job!

 

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Thadius is same old Thadius.  A snippy chihuahua who will only let me pick him up.  He’s adjusting very well to being here in Utah and Carter adores him.  He loves to hold Thadius’ leash on walks and get him his food in the mornings.

 

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And last but not least, Baby #2 is doing great!  Yep, a small, subtle announcement for baby #2.  I think we had an elaborate announcement planned, but you know, our lives are crazy and apparently nothing came of it.  It’s been kind of nice though as we’ve been able to relish in this little secret and just love this baby a whole bunch.  We had our 12 week ultrasound the day after the car accident and it was a relief to see a large, healthy baby and it was the cutest when the baby started sucking it’s thumb!  We’ve been talking to Carter about the baby a little and I highly doubt he knows what’s going on, but he’s getting more and more attached to this baby doll!  Like today he had to take the baby on our morning walk with Thadius.  So he very diligently pushed the stroller the whole way and loved every bit of it.  He had to take the baby with us every time we got in the car, but the baby had to be in the stroller the whole time.  At one point we went to an appliance store and he insisted that the baby come with us and he pushed the baby in the stroller all around the shop.  This baby is going to have a really great older brother.

 

Well that’s us in a nutshell.  Again, I’m much more active on Facebook and Instagram, but I’ll try to be on here a bit more.  And all I have to say now is… Bring it on life!

We Broke A Bus

Broken Bus Engine | We Broke A Bus

As the inaugural post on this new section, I hoped that it would be something uplifting and fantastic. Instead, I present to you what engulfed our Friday afternoon and Saturday last week.

Of course, when I say “engulfed” what I mean is “Emily’s uncle Jeff took care of it because he’s incredibly awesome”.  So here’s the story:

I was supposed to take off Saturday morning for Utah.  Only problem: I didn’t know how to drive a 40-foot monster road hog.  I met up on Friday with Jeff (who did know how to drive these things), who agreed to help me figure out how to not run over people and smash into street lights.  Things were going well, and he showed me as much as he knew about all the many buttons and lights on the bus’ control panel. He drove the first part, then it was my turn.  I jumped in the seat and flawlessly made my first couple turns, only clipping a curb once.  Then it happened.

“EERERERENERGGHEHEREEEEEEEEEEE”

I just did a 3-min youtube search to see if I could find the exact noise that went off at high volume. No dice. The nearest comparison would probably be that impression of the most annoying sound in the world in Dumb and Dumber.

Out of nowhere the front panel started beeping wildly and a little light saying “stop engine” was violently flaring.  I was in the middle of an intersection, and neither I nor Jeff knew what to do. So I kept going.  The bus decided it would take matters into its own hands, however, and it shut itself off—power steering and all—on a one lane road. I pulled the 9-foot wide monster as far to the right as I could and we tried to diagnose what the crap was going on.

You have to understand at this point that though the dash was full of lights, pulleys, buttons, and toggles, there were only two actual meters or indicators of what’s going on with the bus: a speedometer and an air pressure gauge. No tachometer, no fuel gauge, no engine heat, nothing of the sort. Apparently transit buses are not supposed to allow their drivers to know too much in case they think they can fix a problem themselves. I dunno. Seems dumb to not at least have a gas gauge.

In any case, after we tried to figure out internally what had happened we ventured outside toward the engine.  That’s when we found this:

Broken Down Bus Leaks Coolant | We Broke A Bus

At this point I concluded that either a) I ran over a really juicy squirrel, b) someone hid a Fruit Punch Powerade in the engine that finally exploded, or c) some sort of diesel fluid runs red (ding ding ding!).  I opted for c, and confirmed it when I saw a pipe that was still squeezing some red liquid out of a place where liquid should not be squeezing.  I also concluded that my early morning Saturday takeoff time was no longer possible.

Jeff once again came to the rescue. He called a few people who knew diesel engines much better than we did, and someone was able to come check it out.  Damage: old gasket had blown and the red stuff was coolant. (Phew, no squirrel blood.)  We weren’t too far from where we’ve been keeping the bus so Jeff jumped in the driver’s seat and we made it back without any death threats from the alarm system.  Jeff’s friend was going to take a more serious look at it the next day, and by Monday we’d be ready to take off again.

The rig was fixed on Saturday.  For good measure, Jeff and his friend took a ride with the bus on Sunday up the nearby mountain pass and back down, testing everything out thoroughly without any issues at all.  We were ready for launch. Em and I drove back downtown to pick up the bus and take it up to where we were staying in Erie just north about 30 miles.  The looks and reactions we got driving around in a suburban neighborhood… I might as well have been both Santa Claus and a flamboyant gay parade at the same time.

We Bought A Bus

We Bought A Bus | Where We Roam

Remember our goal to build a semi-transportable tiny home we set for ourselves at the beginning of the new year? Well, it is finally becoming a reality!  Ready for the details?

With the help of our awesome uncle in Denver, we bought a 2000 Orion V retired Denver City Bus. The bus is 8.5 x 42′ (exterior) so once we’re done with the renovations in a few months we’ll be sitting pretty in a spacious 300-ish sqft home on wheels. We’ll get about 6-8mpg, and it has 6 wheels. The 10.6L Cummins engine is located in the back and it comes with two scrolling marquees at the front. And we’ll be converting it into a home over the next few months.

We know that doesn’t sound like everyone’s cup of tea, but we are so excited about this that it’s not even funny! Initially we thought we’d be building our first home in a shipping container, but after A LOT of thought/sketches/talking to others, we decided to consider a bus. We soon realized that the size of the bus is roughly the same size as the shipping container, the bus is obviously transportable and—in our opinion—the bus is easier to convert into a transportable home than a shipping container would be given the prep work we’d have to go through before building.

Since we have a lot of family weddings and a couple reunions going on this summer in Utah, we’ve decided to move the bus from Denver to Utah to renovate. If you’re in the Utah area and know anything about metal work, electric, plumbing, insulation, solar, or carpentry… do you wanna be our best friend??

We’re looking to start renovations next week. Scott will be driving the bus to Utah by himself, while Carter and I will be staying in Denver with my sister and her family for a little bit. Scott will be removing all the seats and hardware first so if you’ve always wanted city bus seats, now’s the time to get them! We’re hoping to have the all of the renovations completed by October of this year as we’ll be working on the bus just a couple days a week since Scott is still working full time.

Again, you might not be renovating a bus right now, but we hope you’ll follow us along as we work to make our dream a reality. Scott is really the mastermind behind all of this as he’s done pretty much all the research (but I chose the color scheme, so there’s that), and he’ll be sharing everything he’s learned and the reasons behind some of our decisions with solar power, electricity, plumbing, etc. There are a lot of really great resources out there already that we’re learning from so we hope to help direct people to them and also be informative and helpful with our own experience.

Seriously though, we just bought a bus!  If you set your mind to it, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!

 

Where We Roam Logo | We Bought A Bus

Website Switcharoo

It’s come time:  we’ll be officially switching our main blog over from TwelveCountries.com to WhereWeRoam.com.  In fact, we just did… look up at your address bar!  We are going to be building TwelveCountries.com out as a travel resource for those who are looking to enjoy long, budget travel with a family, and will still be very active there… but we’ve got a lot of things ahead of us that we also wanted to document.  Stuff like “We Bought A Bus” is just the beginning, and we wanted a title/site that fit that better. Don’t worry, we won’t be changing every time we start something new 🙂

Thanks for sticking with us for this long. You have no idea how much each of you mean to us, and we just want to say thank you for commenting, liking, responding, emailing, watching, reading, and being so incredibly awesome.  We get really excited when we are able to make you smile, and we intend to continue to live life ‘epically’, and show off all the amazing people (like you!) that influence us on a daily basis.