Sabrina Bosserman is a professional skoolie builder, and she's here to tell us all about the ins and outs of converting a skoolie into a beautiful rolling tiny home. Sabrina is also a former Naval nuclear engineer who now builds skoolies full-time, and we chat about how her experience in the Navy helped to inform her desire and some skills for living tiny.
In This Episode:
- Military training helps with the tiny lifestyle
- What a professional skoolie builder offers
- Is a skoolie cheaper than an RV?
- What to look and ask for on your bus hunt
- How to turn a school bus into a rolling home
Links and Resources:
After 6 years of working as a Navy nuclear engineer, Sabrina Bosserman decided to pursue her true passion of building skoolies. As a certified NOAH builder and tiny house expert, she has worked with over 16 clients to help them fulfill their dream of traveling the world. She has been featured on many platforms like Square Peg Entrepreneur and Tiny Home Tours, as well as a guest speaker at the Great American Tiny House Show.
This Week's Sponsor:
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She suggests (and uses) spray foam for the wall insulation
It's best to remove windows when building things in front of them
Some customers only need the electrical to be done
Others opt for a full custom build
Keeping most of the windows allows skoolie owners a 360 view of their parking spot!
This teeny-tiny kitchen still has room for a dishwasher!
Sabrina named her first skoolie Hank
Sabrina Bosserman 0:00
People can't find homes at a reasonable price right now you know. They sell their home and then they can't find another one. It can be a solution for homelessness, communities of skoolies and everything or even communities for people that just want to live the tiny life.
Ethan Waldman 0:15
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 216 with Sabrina Bosserman. Sabrina Bosserman is a professional skoolie builder, and she's here to tell us all about the ins and outs of converting a skoolie into a beautiful rolling tiny home. Sabrina is also a former Naval nuclear engineer, and we chat about how her experience in the Navy helped to inform her desire and some skills for living tiny. It's really great conversation and I know you'll learn a lot so stick around.
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All right, I am here with Sabrina Bosserman. After six years of working as a Navy nuclear engineer, Sabrina decided to pursue her true passion of building skoolies. As a certified NOAH builder and Tiny House expert, she has worked with over 16 clients to help them fulfill their dream of traveling the world. She has been featured on many platforms like Square Peg Entrepreneur and Tiny Home Tours, as well as a guest speaker at the Great American Tiny House Show. Sabrina Bosserman, welcome to the show.
Sabrina Bosserman 2:26
Hi, Ethan. Thank you for having me.
Ethan Waldman 2:27
Yeah, thanks for being here. So I love I love this angle of you know, your experience of living on a Navy warship kind of translating into living tiny. Can you can you talk about where you see the parallels or how one led into the other?
Sabrina Bosserman 2:46
Yeah, absolutely. And it's funny, I didn't, I didn't ever think that that part of my experience in the Navy would ever be applicable to my life, I guess. Just because it was such a weird experience moving, essentially downsizing from you know, living in either a house or an apartment to living in this tiny, less than twin size mattress, actually. It was very small and very uncomfortable. And then we had this, this locker basically. And then if you lifted up the bed, there is some storage underneath. And that was basically my home for seven months.
Ethan Waldman 3:24
Sabrina Bosserman 3:24
That was what I lived with. So. And it's funny because at the end of my tour, I actually got home and kind of realized how much stuff I didn't need. So I started going through all of my belongings at the house. And I still hadn't really unpacked everything yet, because I had just gotten to the ship when we went on deployment. And I just took out these storage boxes filled with my stuff. And I started like donating them and getting rid of them and just essentially downsizing. And I'm pretty sure that's where a pair of my favorite cowboy boots actually went. Because I just I wasn't I didn't even look through them. I just got rid of all this stuff, because I realized that I didn't need it. So yeah, it was a very interesting experience. And it made me fall in love with the tiny lifestyle because I just realized how much stuff I didn't need, essentially.
Ethan Waldman 4:17
Yeah. So when you were on the ship, like how much space did you have for personal belongings?
Sabrina Bosserman 4:24
Not not too much space, to be honest, just this tiny little storage locker and then on top of that, you know, you had to take into account your uniforms, which were super bulky.
Ethan Waldman 4:36
Sabrina Bosserman 4:36
So we had to store all of our uniforms, all of our like dress shoes and everything like that. So we had, you know, maybe a locker and like two squares, maybe like two foot by two foot spaces to store all of our clothing, all of our bathroom stuff. And the worst part was that we went on deployment or when we went on deployment and we pulled into these different ports. You had like four outfits to choose from, you know, you want to go to Paris and get all dressed up all cute and everything and you have like, a t shirt and a pair of jeans to pick from so yeah.
Ethan Waldman 5:10
So the the military can be famously like specific about how people do things. I'm curious. Did they like teach you like, Okay, this is how to fold your clothes in storage like this is how to store things in this space?
Sabrina Bosserman 5:23
Yeah, absolutely. That was part of our boot camp training. And I didn't think that I would use it again. But I'm still kind of folding my T shirts, and my socks the same way that they taught me to, you know, what was it like eight years ago. So that was like, a part of our training that seemed kind of unnecessary, but ended up being very useful. In boot camp, it was like the first couple of weeks.
Ethan Waldman 5:46
Is that the like the rolling technique where you flick fold up the bottom first, and then you roll it and tuck it over?
Sabrina Bosserman 5:52
It's this really weird, like the the main method that I still use for my T shirts as you like, you kind of think of it as taking the end of the t shirt and walking up to the collar and then like hugging yourself with the t shirt and then folding it in. So it's a really interesting method. And then of course, you have to make sure that like, all of the creases were out, or they throw out all of your clothes and make you fold them again. So yeah, it was I don't still, you know, I'm not that specific. But yeah, it was intense.
Ethan Waldman 6:20
Yeah. And then also, of course, like bed making I know, that's that's the thing, too.
Sabrina Bosserman 6:24
Mm hmm. Yep. We had to have these like, 45 degree angles on our bedsheets or something, which, when I got to the ship, I just used a what is that called? The the sheet with the little, you know,
Ethan Waldman 6:36
A fitted sheet.
Sabrina Bosserman 6:37
Yes. a fitted sheet. Yeah, I just used the fitted sheet.
Ethan Waldman 6:40
Sabrina Bosserman 6:41
But it looked really nice. But it takes it took way too much long time, to be honest.
Ethan Waldman 6:46
Yeah. Well, that bad probably came in handy. I mean, my tiny house has a lofted bedroom. And so it's like really hard to make the bed nicely up in the loft anyway, because you're like kind of crawling around up there.
Sabrina Bosserman 6:59
Yeah. And that's how a lot of skoolies are too is, you know, a lot of the beds, they don't have space to fit parallel to the bus. So you kind of have to, like one of our clients described it best is like hopping around like a bunny to, you know, change the fitted sheet and everything. So, yeah.
Ethan Waldman 7:15
Yeah. So it sounds like, you know, after your experience there, you got home and you you saw all your stuff. And that's like a great time to downsize when you're really feeling that inspiration. What other advice do you give clients who are maybe in the earlier stage of of their downsizing?
Sabrina Bosserman 7:36
So I would say that the most important thing for me, and I'm still practicing downsizing in my everyday life, you know, but the first thing would be just being mindful when you're going to purchase something, just, you know, kind of thinking to yourself, "Is this worth the money? Am I really going to be using it all that often? Is this worth the space that it's going to be taking up?" And then you know, just periodically, kind of going through all of your things like in your closet and your drawers in your kitchen and just kind of thinking, "Is this something that I need?" You know, they describe the closet, spring cleaning as kind of like clothes that you haven't worn in the past six months, donate them, because you're you're really not going to wear them. So yeah, those would be my two biggest recommendations.
Ethan Waldman 8:26
Nice. Nice. Thanks. Those are good. And that's, I like what you said there that it's like, it's a practice, because it's something that you have to keep doing.
Sabrina Bosserman 8:35
Yes, absolutely. Yeah, it's not. It's not just a one time thing. It's yeah, like you said, a practice of just constantly going through your stuff.
Ethan Waldman 8:44
Yeah. So let's talk about skoolies. How did you did you? Were you interested in them before you join the military or something that happened during or after? How did you first get the school the bug?
Sabrina Bosserman 8:55
Yeah, so it was something that happened during the military. Basically, like I said, when I moved onto the ship, we kind of had like, these four months before deployment. So I was living on the ship for those four months. And if you've never lived on an aircraft carrier before, it's not the best thing, because you're basically living at work, you know, you can get called on at any point in time to go help with this silly task and you can get woken up for things. So living on the aircraft really wasn't the best thing. But unfortunately, my rank was so low. I was an E-3 if anyone listening is you know, prior military, I was an E-3. And so I wasn't getting any BAH, which is basic housing allowance, or BHA, which is basic housing allowance. So I wasn't getting any money to live off the ship, which is something that the military does provide when you go up in rank. So I didn't want to spend a ton of my own money living in an apartment. I just couldn't justify it. I wanted to do some saving. So when we got back from deployment, I had heard from my dad and my sister, my dad was building his own skoolie. And my sister was living in a Bluebird Wanderlodge. I don't know if you've heard of that. But it's like it's basically a school that's been converted by Wanderlodge from the factory. So my sister was living in one of those. And I had just kind of gotten this idea to, you know, that would be a great way to further my tiny living experience. So I went on Facebook Marketplace, and I was just kind of searching around and I found this skoolie that was located in Washington, DC, which was a few hours away from Norfolk. I got my boyfriend at the time to go with me to go pick this up, because I had had no driving experience, like driving a larger vehicle. So you know, I wanted I wanted him to drive it back for me the first time. We went and picked it up and brought it back. And it was already converted, but it was kind of like a camping conversion. It wasn't really suited to live in full time.
Ethan Waldman 11:08
Sabrina Bosserman 11:08
So my boyfriend, I got to work kind of like converting it and I lived in that skoolie for about a year before we eventually sold it to fund our two month trip to Europe.
Ethan Waldman 11:20
Nice. Nice. And so were you able to like recoup the cost of your of your conversion when you sold it?
Sabrina Bosserman 11:30
Yeah, I would say so. We a lot of what was needed was kind of like shaking down all the systems, making sure that everything still worked. And then we did some cosmetic things and everything. And even if we didn't recoup the costs, totally, you know, just the money that I saved for rent and everything was worth it for me.
Ethan Waldman 11:48
Yeah, yeah. And so you lived in that one for a year and then you did a trip to Europe. Did you? Did you then do another one to live in?
Sabrina Bosserman 11:57
We converted another skoolie. And this was kind of when our business started forming, we had I don't think we fully formed our business until maybe the midway point, but we call him Hank. Hank is our first official project that we did as part of the business. And we had built him with the intent to sell him. So we ended up building him. And then we took him to the great American Tiny House Show a few years ago. And that was a crazy experience by itself, because we are trying to make a deadline. So we are like Jordan was driving the bus and I was painting on the road like we are hitting all these bumps and my paintbrush was just going flying. So that was a crazy experience. And then even when we got there we were working on on Hank until, you know, basically the the thing, the American Tiny House Show until it started. So we didn't sell him there. We brought him back. And we you know, completed it, basically. And then we sold him later to become an Airbnb down in Waco.
Nice. Nice. Yeah. And is that is that what he currently is now?
The last I heard, I think he got sold. I think the family ended up having some change of plans, because this was he got sold, right in the middle of the pandemic. So I'm guessing there were some change of plans.
Ethan Waldman 13:26
Okay. And so, tell me more about the business. So you started with Hank? And how many skoolies are you converting at a time and what kind of clients do you work with?
Sabrina Bosserman 13:40
So that's how many skoolies we build at a time that's changed over the years. Thankfully, we've been able to able to move into this new shop, that's about 12 minutes away from where we live. So that's been awesome.
Ethan Waldman 13:53
Sabrina Bosserman 13:54
And we're able to fit about three or four. But we don't like to overwhelm ourselves, you know, we, we don't like to take on too many projects and what we can handle. So we typically work on about one full build at a time. And then we also do little side projects. And that's something that we've been doing basically, since the start of the business. We had people contacting us that were wanting electrical installed in their buses. And if you've ever installed electrical, it's a very daunting task. You know, it's, it's dangerous if you don't install it correctly, you know, and skoolies have burned down for faulty wiring, basically. So we had people contacting us wanting us to do electrical installs or solar installs. We've also done partial builds before. So basically, for people that don't have the largest budget or the skills or they even want to do the finishing touches for themselves. Then we we do basically all the hard stuff that we install the electrical and the plumbing and we do the insulation and the framing and all that. And then they basically come and pick it up and do the painting and the trim. And, you know, just the finishing touches, basically. So we've done, this is actually the first one that we've done of those right now. And it's about to be wrapped up. And that is for a family of four. So we've done tons of different types of clients. We have a family of six that we'll be building for next. And our current project is for a family of four. We've had solo travelers, we've had just couples. So we haven't really found that there is a certain type of client that we cater to we kind of cater to everyone.
Ethan Waldman 15:44
Nice. And the appeal of skoolies clearly it's just that that mobility piece that you can have this this spacious, comfortable, really movable home.
Sabrina Bosserman 15:55
Ethan Waldman 15:56
And they are quite spacious.
Sabrina Bosserman 15:59
Ethan Waldman 16:01
Do you hen when a client comes to you, is it? Do you kind of find the bus for them? Do you help with that? Or do people generally kind of bring you bus they have bought and then say like, "I want to convert this to a home."
Sabrina Bosserman 16:18
We used to do the bus sourcing, but it just got too complicated. So now we have all of our clients bring the bus to us. We've also noticed that a lot of people that have purchased a school bus don't have a place to park it because especially in the beginning phases when it is still a school bus and it's that bright yellow. First of all, they take up a lot of space. So that's difficult, you know, if you're wanting to park it in your driveway.
Ethan Waldman 16:43
Sabrina Bosserman 16:44
Then there are HOAs that, you know, yeah, nosy neighbors that don't really like the sight of a school bus being parked in their neighborhood. So we've started offering free parking on our property, basically.
Ethan Waldman 16:57
Sabrina Bosserman 16:57
So yeah, yeah. So any clients, you know, if they, if they sign a contract with us, they can bring their bus onto our lot, and we'll store it for them until the project is completed.
Ethan Waldman 17:06
Sweet, sweet. And speaking of place to park it that's, that's something that I've heard that can be a challenge with skoolies, you know, a lot of the kind of legalization efforts that are applying to tiny homes on wheels aren't always applying to skoolies. And I've heard that it can be difficult sometimes to park in RV parks with a skoolie. Is that is that changing?
Sabrina Bosserman 17:32
Yeah, that's, that's definitely something that we've noticed as well. And unfortunately, I feel like a lot of the states are kind of behind the times when it comes to accepting tiny houses, which is such a shame because they can be a great solution for you know, the fact that people can't find homes at a reasonable price right now, you know. They sell their home and then they can't find another one. It can be a solution for homelessness, you know, if we can set up communities of skoolies and everything or even communities for people that just want to live the tiny life, so.
Ethan Waldman 18:06
Sabrina Bosserman 18:06
We have seen that ourselves. We've definitely noticed kind of the shift happening, especially at the Great American Tiny House Show. NOAH has talked about kind of all the different laws that have gone into effect and we've noticed the shift happening. But yeah, it's it's definitely been an issue I just recommend that people use apps out there that are available, you know, like the Harvest Hosts is a great one or freecampsites.net And basically, it does take a little bit of planning on you know, a skoolie owners part because they kind of have to map out their trip a little bit more. But as for RV parks, we actually, all of our sckoolie are NOAH certified. So we found that that can be helpful. And NOAH does offer DIY certifications as well. And they basically just go through the process of making sure that all of your plumbing and your electrical is safe and they certify it with you know master electricians and plumbers and everything.
Ethan Waldman 19:10
Nice. Nice doing in terms of you know, the affordability of you know, doing a school bus conversion versus an RV and I know that the they're kind of two separate things because the school bus is going to be better for full time living. How do the costs compare?
Sabrina Bosserman 19:30
The cost of a skoolie versus an RV?
Ethan Waldman 19:33
Yeah, or like a motor like you know something like a motor coach I guess.
Sabrina Bosserman 19:37
Yeah, I would say that that one depends on if you're going to have someone build the skoolie for you or not because that is you know, you can you can save a lot of money building it yourselves - timewise maybe not maybe not so much time but...
Ethan Waldman 19:52
Sabrina Bosserman 19:53
With the skoolie you can put in you know, recycled materials or you can use you know, the dressers are something from your house, Habitat for Humanity. So, if you're building it yourselves, you can save a lot of money. RVs, I've just found are so outrageously expensive for what they offer.
Ethan Waldman 20:13
Sabrina Bosserman 20:13
And that's, you know, not even from a competitor's standpoint, that's just, you know, the fact that and we talked about this with our latest client, just the fact that you pick up a brand new RV at this point, and it's already falling apart and the waitlist to get on to their, you know, their maintenance schedule is like, six months long, so you're having to live with this. And then, you know, the quality of materials that they use, and the fact that a lot of them don't offer off grid capabilities, like solar panels and everything. So,
Ethan Waldman 20:44
Sabrina Bosserman 20:44
Price wise, I would still say that RVs are more expensive to purchase than having a builder build a skoolie. And then on top of that, just the things that you get with your skoolie, you know, it's completely custom, it as off grid capabilities. And, you know, it's, it's designed for you, you know, the the aesthetic and everything is what you want, unlike some of those RVs out there that are a little bit more outdated.
Ethan Waldman 21:10
I asked John and Fin Kernohan, of United Tiny House Association, what they love about their PrecisionTemp hot water heaters. And here's what they told me.
John Kernohan 21:19
Hey, Ethan. This is John and Fin Kernaghan with United Tiny House Association.
Fin Kernohan 21:25
We organize tiny house festivals.
John Kernohan 21:27
Oh, yeah, I guess so.
Fin Kernohan 21:28
First and foremost.
John Kernohan 21:29
We have a total of three PrecisionTemp On Demand hot water heaters. The thing we really like about these and folks know this, I think they pick this up on Fin and I, if we don't like something, you'll never hear us talk about it. So the two things we noticed that we noticed and experienced immediately. They took painstaking effort to make sure that it was done right and installed. And so that was pretty cool right there. The other thing is the continuous on demand hot water that just ran forever without any fluctuations or anything. I can't imagine an application, especially in our environment and our lifestyle of being the nomad, transportable, mobile, tiny lifestyle where one of these units aren't good to use.
Ethan Waldman 22:22
One thing that I know can be a challenge for people even after they've kind of set their heart on on living tiny is kind of choosing between, you know, a stationary tiny home, a tiny house built on a trailer, a skoolie or a van. I'm curious, you know, who Who do you think a skoolie is perfect for and who do you think a skoolie is like not for?
Sabrina Bosserman 22:48
I would say the big thing that when it comes to living in a skoolie and this is what we tell all of our clients do is if you haven't had any experience at all, living in an RV or something like that, then either the skoolie is not for you, or you want to kind of dive into it a little bit deeper. Because, you know, we don't we don't ever try and cover it up. There are challenges associated with living in a skoolie like you mentioned, there can be there can be parking things and getting into RV parks and everything. Unfortunately, they're still not widely accepted. So we always tell everyone, if you're wanting to live in a skoolie, and you haven't lived in an RV before, then to just try it out, you know, use those, those RV rental services that are available and and see how that that small space works for you. And on top of that living in a school is kind of like a intentional mindful endeavor. You know, you kind of have to think about how much water you're using every day, which is not something that most people ever think about. You have to think about how much electricity you're using, especially if you have a solar system. So it's a really mindful thing to live in a skoolie, but I will say as far as the tiny homes that are on top of a trailer, one thing to consider is the cost of transportation basically, like we were talking to someone at the Great American Tiny House Show, and he was saying that he spends $80,000 a year moving his tiny home around on just like maintenance-ing his truck. And on top of that, you have to purchase a vehicle that is capable of towing that tiny home around.
Ethan Waldman 24:32
Yeah, yeah, no, the cost of moving is quite expensive. I'm actually - my tiny house is being moved this weekend, coincidentally and just a 45 mile move. I found someone locally who's going to do it for $500, but when I contacted the like professional moving companies, you know my quotes were closer to $1,000 for that move, so it is getting more expensive to move them for sure. So you're getting in skoolie, a tiny home with its own wheels and motor.
Sabrina Bosserman 25:06
And that's not to say too that, you know, that skoolies is do break down. So, you know, you might have to pay for a till every once in a while, you know, but there are services out there like AAA and Good Sam's and I know everyone kind of has their own experience with those companies. I don't want to rave about them. But there are companies out there that we have actually used before that have been helpful.
Ethan Waldman 25:30
Yeah, is there like a particular model or brand of bus that you like, advise people look for?
Sabrina Bosserman 25:38
We always talk about the flat noses. My husband and I kind of like differ on our opinions on this. I personally, I personally would want a, if I were the one to be driving it, just as someone that has no experience driving a larger vehicle, I would want you know, the shorter dog nose buses and, and I think for ease of parking and everything, those are a lot better. But you know, if you have a family of like six people that might not be best for you. So my husband always talks about, you know, the flat nose, rear engines and that way you have the space up front, the engine is taking up any of the living room, basically. So yeah.
Ethan Waldman 26:18
Got it. And then like, I mean, school buses can be had for a wide range and in prices. Is there kind of a cut off in terms of the age of the bus that you recommend? Like, hey, maybe don't go older than, you know, 20 years old? Or? I don't know, I'm just making that up.
Sabrina Bosserman 26:34
Actually funny, you should mention that I would say don't go newer than 2007. Yeah, because,
Ethan Waldman 26:41
Sabrina Bosserman 26:41
Ease of maintenance. Basically, they have the, I've found that the models that are older than 2007 have the electronic components basically. So if you're wanting to get it checked out by a mechanic, then they have to, you know, hook up this tester to see what's wrong with it. And it can just be more difficult to work on and more expensive. So I would say anything older than 2007 would be best. But we do have a Crown SuperCoach in our shop right now. That is a, I want to say it's a 1988 or '89. And we drove it from California. It's a five speed manual. Well, I say we. My husband drove it from California, I was in the back kind of like cheering him on, you know, but... We drove it from California and it performed amazingly. Like we didn't have - we did change the tires before we left. But we didn't have any issues with blowouts or, you know, the it breaking down or anything. It made the whole trip from California to Texas without any problems, so.
Ethan Waldman 27:47
Sabrina Bosserman 27:47
I think it's just a matter of kind of asking for the maintenance manuals, and you know, asking the seller, if there's any issues and just kind of doing your due diligence.
Ethan Waldman 27:59
So in order to to keep a school bus on the road and maintain it. Do you have to be a nuclear engineer?
Sabrina Bosserman 28:09
Um, no, I would actually say that is not a requirement. I would also say you don't even have to be a mechanic. A lot of people say that, you know, it's, it's best if you have some basic knowledge. And I would agree, but that would be kind of hypocritical of me, because I'm, I'm not a huge diesel engine person. You know, I know the basics, basically. But I would say that if you don't have any mechanical knowledge, or any mechanical background then I would say expect to spend about double the cost of what you paid for the bus per year, to be fair, but that that ranges and that's not an exact measurement, because if you get it from, you know, a bus dealership, like AAA Buses in Phoenix, they'll do some maintenance for you and clean it up. And so it really just depends on where you get the bus from, but I would say around $5,000 a year on maintenance.
Ethan Waldman 29:03
Okay, and what is the - So are you saying that people can get buses for $2,500?
Sabrina Bosserman 29:12
Absolutely, uh, yeah. There are a bunch of different places that you can get a bus and unfortunately, with, with the, you know, COVID and the economic downturn and everything, I've definitely seen the prices of buses going up. And in some cases, you get what you pay for, you know, so if you get a bus for $900, it might not be suitable to move, but they have a lot of auction sites out there where you can get a bus for a couple thousand dollars. Or you can go like I previously mentioned the bus dealership route, where you can get it for $10,000, but it's been cleaned and maintenance and everything.
Ethan Waldman 29:49
Cool. Cool. That's an that's, I mean, that's really inexpensive. That's like the cost of a tiny house trailer.
Sabrina Bosserman 29:57
Mm hmm. And I think I do want to say I think that can be kind of confusing for some people to is because in some cases, you can get this bus for so cheap. But then on top of that, especially if you're having it built out by a builder, the cost of materials and labor can be expensive. So don't let the price tag of a bus fool you, it will be expensive to maintain it and build it out. Expensive is relative, but it will be it will cost money to maintain it and build it out. But yeah, you can at least get the basic platform for a decent price.
Ethan Waldman 30:31
Nice. What's the basic protocol for kind of getting the shell of the bus ready to build in like, I'm thinking about checking it for leaks, and then you're obviously not building a skin on the outside because you want it to look like a bus on the outside. So what are you doing on the inside in terms of, of insulation and framing to kind of get it ready for building?
Sabrina Bosserman 30:56
That depends on each person, we always recommend that you basically tear it down to the shell, you know, you've a lot of people feel that maybe they want to build on top of the pre existing flooring, or use the ceiling of the bus as is. Which you know if that's the route that you want to go, if you're going to be traveling from nice weather to nice weather that might work for you. It really depends on what kind of lifestyle you plan on living. But we always recommend removing everything that's there. So like the ceiling and the the walls and the floor and everything. Because once you start getting into it, you can find some rust that was previously hidden, or in some cases, we've demoed a bus and found rat's nests in like behind the walls, basically. So
Ethan Waldman 31:46
Sabrina Bosserman 31:46
You know, that's not something that you want to be living with. And then sometimes we we've gotten a bus from Arizona that had tons of dust and sand in the roof, basically. So and then on top of that, you know, with the with the flooring, if you don't remove that there might be like a gaping hole that's being covered up by the floor, you know, so we recommend just tearing it all down to the basic frame. And it is very labor intensive. But I absolutely think it's worth it if you have the time.
Ethan Waldman 32:16
Yeah, yeah, it seems like it. I'm looking at a picture from your website, which I'll put on the show notes so people can see it the current skoolie projects. And it looks like you've you've kind of already done that work ripped everything down. And then it looks like you're installing, you know, stick framing and then spray foaming.
Sabrina Bosserman 32:36
Yes, yes, absolutely. There's been a lot of talk to you about kind of what insulation is best. A lot of people like the Havelock wool, which is a great option. And we have used it before. One thing to note is that it can be kind of difficult to install, especially if it's not like a van or something like that, just because it's it's really pliable. So
Ethan Waldman 32:59
Sabrina Bosserman 33:00
you're meant to kind of like stick it in nooks and crannies, you know, but some people use foam board, which is fine. That's what we use on our floor. But what we really recommend, especially if you're going to be traveling, you know, throughout all the four seasons is spray foam because it is mold and mildew resistant. And this is closed cell closed cell spray foam. So it is mold and mildew resistant. It's a sound barrier. And we actually heard from our previous client that I think that's the picture of his that's up. He was sitting at an RV park and it was raining and he couldn't even hear the rain on the roof of his bus though. It is a sound barrier. And then you know, it also protects against like leaks and everything like that.
Ethan Waldman 33:42
Sabrina Bosserman 33:42
We don't install the spray foam ourselves. And I wouldn't recommend anybody else does unless they have experience doing it. I know that spray foam insulation can be really expensive, especially if you don't shop around. But if it's installed incorrectly then it might not cure correctly and then you have to scrape it all out. On top of that just hiring someone to get them to trim it down might even be worth the cost alone because we have done the trimming before ourselves and it was very expensive and very sweaty and you have to make sure that you're in you know the proper PPE. Sometimes it falls inside your eye you know and stings and everything. So we recommend getting someone to do it for you if you can find a reasonable price.
Ethan Waldman 34:32
Yeah, and just for people who just to explain that when they spray the foam in you know it kind of expands and so sometimes it can be sticking out past your studs and you need to kind of shave it down so that you can install your walls. I remember I'm pretty sure that that mine got - I have spray foam in my tiny and they did. They did a pretty good job trimming but there were - I remember installing walls and coming across certain places where it needed to get shaved down a little further.
Sabrina Bosserman 35:01
Yeah, yeah, we've, we've we've been came across that when the spray foam company that we use did a great job. But we even came across that after they had finished trimming was basically some spots that we still had to get. So yeah, it's it's very labor intensive.
Ethan Waldman 35:17
Yeah. One thing in my mind that would be challenging about Schooley conversion is that they tend to have so much glass, so many windows that are probably old leaky single pane windows, or maybe they're not single pane but but still probably not the windows that you want necessarily in your in your house. How do you like how do you take away windows? And then what do you replace the windows with?
Sabrina Bosserman 35:45
Yeah, I would say, that's actually not the most difficult task. We do offer 10 window removals or 10 windows to be removed with our basic package. And I would suggest it personally, especially if you're going to be again, you know, living through all four seasons and everything because they let so much light and heat through. But it is really nice to have all of that light, you know. It is really pretty. You get 360 views of wherever you're parked. We've had clients that have chosen to remove, you know, 10 of the windows, and we have clients that have chosen to remove none of the windows. But as far as removing them, it's really and it depends bus to bus. But it's really just a matter of kind of breaking up the sealant or the caulking and then pushing them out. And then with replacing them, you want to make sure that you scrape away all of the old goo and everything like that. And then you just use, I believe it's 14 or 16 gauge sheet metal, and just cut them into little squares and kind of either rivet or screw them into the the empty bases, and then just paint them like you normally would or prime them and then and then paint them. But it's not too difficult of a task. And I would definitely suggest it. And if you don't be sure and just test your rig for leaks before you start building.
Ethan Waldman 37:13
Sabrina Bosserman 37:13
Do pretty intensive tests. Because once those are built on top of basically it can be difficult to chase down the leak.
Ethan Waldman 37:22
Yeah. Now if you want to replace your windows with wall, how does that work?
Sabrina Bosserman 37:30
Yeah, so it's, it's essentially the same thing. And that's, that's one of the things that we're working on right now too with the current client is just same process of removing the windows and then it would be just spray foam over it essentially, and then just frame it out and, and kind of build on top of it. And, and especially that's another instance of when I suggest you remove the windows is, let's say that you're going to be having, you know, like a Murphy bed in front of these windows, I would suggest removing all the windows that would be behind the Murphy bed. Because, again, once you build something on top of it, you're not going to be able to reach a leak or anything like that. Yeah, you know, so I definitely would suggest replacing those windows.
Ethan Waldman 38:18
And then from the outside like how do you..? Do you just like basically weld in steel to cover them up? Or like how do you kind of cover them up from the outside?
Sabrina Bosserman 38:29
We actually just use rivets or you can use the I think they're called roofing screws, basically, and just tons of rivets and roofing screws around them.
Ethan Waldman 38:38
Hmm, cool. Okay.
Sabrina Bosserman 38:39
Yeah. Yeah, not not too difficult of a project. For sure.
Ethan Waldman 38:43
No, no. How long? You know, obviously, you are a professional school lead converter. And so people listening, don't assume that you can do it as fast as Sabrina can do it, but like how long does it take to convert a bus? If you're going to do the whole, you know, tier one and two, you know, delivering a bus that's ready to live in?
Sabrina Bosserman 39:06
Yeah, we we give clients a timeframe of around four to six months. And that also kind of depends on if you're going to be having a because our tier 2 package is like a basic on grid capable skoolie. So you can you know, drive from RV park or plug it into your, your shop or something like that, but it needs a source of of power and water basically. So if you add on extra components like solar, and generators and everything, that's when it starts to get to be more expensive.
Ethan Waldman 39:39
Sabrina Bosserman 39:40
But we're also kind of in a shift period right now where we've moved into the this new shop and and we're telling clients that it'll take longer than we think that it will just so you know, they, they have a good schedule. But on social media and everything I've seen it from like 30 days to three years, basically, you know. There's, there's not really a one size fits all, because it also depends on are you working on this from nine to five Monday through Sunday? You know? Or do you have another job that you have to work at? Are you going to be working out in the weather? Because if you're working out in the weather, you know, you either have to hold off on painting, or maybe you don't want to work in 100 degree weather. So you're going to take a few days off. So it really just depends. There's there's no, you know, specific timeframe.
Ethan Waldman 40:34
Yeah. And so is this is this is Phoenix Skool Buses, your full time job essentially?
Sabrina Bosserman 40:42
Yes, yeah, it has been our full time job since we started the business. We kind of just dove, you know, headfirst into the thing all in, you know. It was just something yeah, that were really passionate about. And, on top of that, after working in the military, or being in the military, I didn't really want to work for anyone else, at least for you know, a short period of time. I just didn't, didn't want to have to look to another supervisor. So yeah, we, we've been doing it from nine to five, Monday through Sunday, most of the time, sometimes Monday through Friday, since we started the business.
Ethan Waldman 41:21
Nice. That's awesome. Well, congratulations for jumping in. And it sounds like... How, how far out are you booking for, you know, for new clients?
Sabrina Bosserman 41:31
Right now, smaller projects like electrical installs or solar installs, we can take that on in the beginning of June. And then for full builds, I would say August would be the next available spot we have.
Ethan Waldman 41:45
Nice, nice. Well, so my my dad's dad, my grandfather was in the Navy. And I think from from him, we got the the wise wisdom of of lighting a match in the bathroom after you use the bathroom.
Sabrina Bosserman 42:00
Ethan Waldman 42:01
Was that something you learned in the Navy, I'm curious. For people who listen to the end of the interview, are there any other like little life hacks or kind of tricks that you've learned living in this tiny space on the worship that you've carried with you into into your life or into living tiny?
Sabrina Bosserman 42:20
Other than just, I'm constantly minimizing, I can tell you one thing that I did learn on the ship was, uh, cherish all of your meals, basically, because I still remember that there would be times that I would sit down with my tray and as soon as I was about to set my tray down, they would call away a casualty. So I'd walk away from the table and just dump all my food into the trash. So my grandfather, he, he took, gosh, like half an hour to it well not even have like, an hour to eat all of his food, because he was just sit there and enjoy like every bite. But as far as tiny living yeah, I would just say the biggest thing that I learned was just being aware of what you're purchasing and constantly, you know, downsize, basically.
Ethan Waldman 43:05
Yeah, yeah. Awesome. One thing that I like to ask all my guests is, what are two or three resources that have helped you out, either in your business or in your tiny journey that you can share with our listeners?
Sabrina Bosserman 43:19
Business wise, I would say the biggest thing is PandaDoc. And if you haven't heard of it, it is an amazing platform. I basically lost my mind when I found it, because it's so cool. It replaced like three or four different applications that I was using. And it's a document, kind of like building thing where you can create templates and send out invoices and quotes and everything like that. So it takes care of a bunch of different things for you, NOAH, NOAH Certified, I would definitely say is another resource. If you're going to be building your own skoolie, I can't remember off the top of my head, what the cost is to DIY, but just kind of having someone there behind you, backing you up and checking everything out. And they have a list of you know, tons of requirements that they've gathered from, like the I forgot what it's called RVIA, but the recreational vehicle association or something like that, and then you know, the fire regulations and everything like that they've put together a whole list of stuff that you should be doing. So I would definitely check out NOAH Certified as well.
Ethan Waldman 44:29
Awesome. Well, Sabrina Bosserman, and thank you so much for being a guest on the show today. This is really fun.
Sabrina Bosserman 44:36
Thank you for having me, Ethan. I really appreciate it.
Ethan Waldman 44:39
Thank you so much to Sabrina Bosserman for being a guest on the show today. Head over to thetinyhouse.net/216 for the show notes from today's episode. This includes a complete transcript, some of my favorite photos of Sabrina's skoolie conversions, and more. You can find that again at thetinyhouse.net/216. Well that is all for this week I'm your host Ethan Waldman and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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