Morgantown brothers, ages 14 and 15, convert bus into RV for home school project

Zachary and Dominic Starzmann of Morgantown converted a bus into an RV.
Zachary and Dominic Starzmann of Morgantown converted a bus into an RV. Submitted photo
Zachary and Dominic Starzmann of Morgantown converted a bus into an RV.
Zachary and Dominic Starzmann of Morgantown converted a bus into an RV. Submitted photo

Editor’s Note: Zachary, 15, and Dominic Starzmann, 14, from Morgantown area, converted a bus into an RV. They have been asked to display the bus and speak at the Tiny Home Festival in New Jersey.

One day my mom, brother and I were driving home from dirt bike riding and I said, “It would be cool to buy a school bus and to turn it into an RV. My mom thought it was a cool idea. So we decided to start looking for a bus. The first one we found didn’t have any seats in it, which was a bonus but needed a lot of T.L.C. After a few more days of searching we found a 2000 Freightliner that turned out to be a really good deal and in excellent shape.

We ended up purchasing the bus this past January. The first thing we did was take out all the seats and ceiling. I would have to say that the floor has been the hardest part of the project. We then ripped up all the flooring, sanded and welded the rust spots. Afterwards we painted the floor with rust inhibiter and then started insulating the floors, ceiling and walls. We also decided to add a special touch to the ceiling and went with wood planks verses the original metal roof.

Shortly after, we started laying the sub flooring down and installing the cabinets and kitchen sink. By the end of the second month we started adding our own special touches which included a few pallet walls. My brother and I started disassembling pallets to stain as my mom pieced everything together. The pallet wall turned out better than I would have ever imagined. We still have plenty to do and are on a tight timeline to complete our project. In the next month we have to finish our floor, add plumbing, and electric. When all finished our bus will have a full kitchen, full bathroom, living-room area, bunk beds, and a small garage in the rear for our dirt bikes and mountains bikes.

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We plan on having the bus done by April 1, which will give us a total of 3 months. Some people think it is really cool but others think we are crazy. My family and I feel like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not only do we get to enjoy this experience together but it is a learning process for each and everyone of us. It’s like a mini house on the go, when it’s finished we are planning a trip California, which will be a lot of fun. Then we are planning on living in it from spring till fall to save up money for land so we can start on our next project.

Part - Two

It is now April and the months leading up to this have been very hectic. At this point our pallet walls are finished and our bunk beds are built with plenty of storage underneath. We also managed to install our wood stove. The wood stove was quite tricky because we had to cut through the roof of the bus and then ensure we would have no leaks. The electric turned into being quite a hassle because we were not certain how to wire everything properly so we had to call in for some help.

With one week to spare we had an open house for the bus for our friends to see, even though the bus was not complete. That Sunday is the day I realized how cramped the bus was actually going to be. After the open house, it gave us only five days to finish the sewer and water hookups, finish packing and clean up, and move out of our house. The clock was ticking and the days were going so fast. It seemed like it was raining on and off the entire week so we weren’t able to get much done. It was a very stressful week for my whole family.

By the time our final moving day arrived, the bus was not one hundred percent complete but we had to keep moving forward. We packed up the last of our belongings and headed to the campground late that night. We were worn out, exhausted, and soaking wet because it rained nonstop that day, not to mention our plumbing never got finished. Despite the way we were feeling at that current moment, it was a big weight off our shoulders knowing we were on the road to a less stressful life.

So at this point everyone probably wants to know how it is living on the a school bus? It is definitely different, a bit cramped but so far a great experience. It is cool, basically like camping everyday. At the campground we have a creek and lake to go fishing and kayaking, a pool for those hot summer days, plenty of activities to do on the weekends, and lots of outdoorsy neighbors. So far one of the downsides of living on the bus is when one person wakes up everyone else usually wakes up right after since the bus is so small. Another is that we have to get used to our mini fridge and freezer. Mom says it will help us with not wasting food and will help with eating healthier. Oh I almost forgot, the wood stove is a pain in the butt and taking the dog out on the leash every time verses letting him loose in the yard.

We have a lot of big plans for this summer so far. Along with our road trips, we are registered to display our bus at The Tiny House Festival in New Jersey. The bus seems to draw a lot of attention because it is unique but that is not why we converted it. We did this for the experience and because it is something unique. Its not everyday you get to see a family living in a school bus. Not to mention it is so much cheaper and safer than a motor home. It also taught us a lot of skills and how to work together as a family. A lot goes into it like math, carpentry, electrician, plumbing, etc. It was a great home school project and amazing opportunity to spend time with my family.

All I can say is if you have the chance to do this, do it because it is really awesome and a good experience.

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