Man Builds Dream Home With $2,200 & A School Bus


Remember those days when you sat on the school bus, with tons of dreams and aspirations racing through your mind? Well, it looks like one man has literally used a school bus to make his dream come true.

School Bus Gets Extreme Makeover

The man paid just $2,200 for this rusty old school bus and with a lot of hard work, creativity, and a little help from his friends, transformed it into something completely different. This is about a man who has finally found his place in the world – on a school bus.

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He Wasn’t Even A Builder

The genius behind this transformed school bus actually has next-to-no experience when it comes to construction. Michael Talley’s skills lie in design, so you would expect him to stay miles away from the hands-on side of the job. “I have never built anything,” Talley said. “Ever. I’ve helped paint a few houses on mission trips and I helped install some plastic lattice once, but that’s about it.” When Talley decided to invest in the bus, he was venturing into uncharted territory.

Going Back To School

Michael Talley’s goal was to build a new home for himself. However, he wanted to use a preexisting structure as the foundation. In the end, he went with an old school bus. “Ultimately I decided upon a school bus because I thought ‘Hey, there’s already four walls and a roof,'” he said. “‘Throw some wood and some light bulbs in there and call it a day.’ How foolish of me. I ended up doing a complete build on the back of the bus.”

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Living In A Tent

In order to invest in his new project, Talley chose to move out of his cheap apartment and move into a tent. “When I bought my bus I was living in a studio apartment in North Austin for around $1200 a month including rent and bills,” he said. “I moved into a tent in order to save money while working on the bus, commuting 40 minutes to work every day, just to afford more steel and more wood.”

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Fresh Start

Between September 2015 and September 2016, Talley went through a lot of changes. It was during this time that he lost many important things. These include his girlfriend, his job, and even his grandpa. “It was really a difficult time,” he said. “But luckily all I really had was this bus and the bus was all I had, and I put everything I had into it.” For Talley, the bus symbolizes a fresh start and he was determined to do it right.

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Starting From Scratch

Talley knew that the odds were stacked against him to successfully complete this project. With a pile of scraps and old furniture to work with, he knew that he needed to start from scratch. “I had never built anything before,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep for months because my brain was constantly going a mile a minute about how to build this and what I was going to do to build that. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

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Empty Vessel

Early on during the build, Talley’s removal of the seats turned the bus into a completely empty vessel. This was the first time that he saw the bus’s full potential. “The grueling process that was removing all those seats. Props to my stepdad for crawling under the bus and helping me remove every single bolt,” he said. “If I did this again I would have used an angle grinder, but this was still only days into the build and I was terrified of power tools.

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Bargain Bus

At just $2,200, the school bus that Talley purchased had the potential to be the bargain of the century. He knew this as soon as he handed over the cash. “I purchased the bus from the Austin Independent School District for a cool $2,200 off,” he said. “They had recently switched to this auction site to do a test run of 10 buses to see if they like it. Fortunately for me, not many people knew they were doing this, so I made out like a bandit.”

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Too Tall

For a moment, it looked like Talley had a made a huge mistake when he realized that he was five inches too tall for the bus! How was he going to work in this thing? “As soon as I stepped onto the bus for the first time I knew me being 6’6″ was going to be a huge problem,” he admitted. “The ceiling is only 6’1, so I was going to have to do some MAJOR work to get this thing comfortable for my abnormally large [body].”

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Cut In Half

One of the most radical things that Talley did to the bus was cut it in half. “I cut a section out of one of the steel ribs and took it to a metal fabricator,” he said. “I had him craft 25 identical steel ‘sleeves’ that could slip over either end of the rib once the roof was raised.” This is ultimately what solved the ceiling problem. “It’s remarkable how much more spacious the bus feels than I thought it would,” he said.

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Awesome Design

As a professional designer, Talley knew that he needed to make sure that every single inch counted. If one measurement was off, the entire project could fall apart. “This is my ‘final’ design for the bus. I like to entertain so I put all the public areas towards the front and all the private areas in the back,” he said. “Having people over outside to grill or chill, the two most common areas they would need to access would be the kitchen and the bathroom.”

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Personal Cinema

One thing is for sure, Talley is big a fan of movies. His social media is full of photos of him with stars such as Matthew McConaughey. So it made perfect sense that he wanted a TV in his place. “I like movies. Film and television are my favorite things, so I wanted a great movie watching room,” he said. “I like to have people over to watch things so I knew I needed a sizable living room. I’m also a designer, so I needed a great workstation.”

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Little Help From My Friends

It’s natural that Talley would’ve needed some help to fully realize his dream. “A nice man came with his 7 months pregnant wife and 8-year-old daughter to cart away all these seats to the scrap metal yard,” he said. “Props to my stepdad for crawling under the bus and helping me remove every single bolt. If I did this again I would have used an angle grinder, but this was still only days into the build and I was terrified of power tools.”

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Getting Better

With each day, Talley’s design was starting to take shape a little more. The scaffolding was starting to appear, furniture was being fitted and he even had his office set up. One of the main transformations that Talley made was stripping down the bus windows and replacing them. “The windows weren’t hard to take out,” he said. “Part of me wanted to keep them, but I knew they would rattle, provide little privacy or insulation, and look weird with my roof raise and design.”

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Kitchen In The Works

Being a lover of food, Michael Talley needed a kitchen counter that he could easily chop a lot of vegetables on. As you can see, he already test an onion on it.”IKEA phased out their old kitchen line and I got a hell of a deal on these drawers and cabinets,” he said. “I paid $30 for everything! The butcher block was also a great deal. All the butcher block in this bus was bought on clearance for $120.”

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Stunning Kitchen

Naturally, one thing that Talley considered even more important than a place to watch movies was a place to cook food. All it took was a sale at IKEA to get his dream kitchen. “IKEA phased out their old kitchen line and I got a hell of a deal on these drawers and cabinets,” he said. “I paid $30 for everything! The butcher block was also a great deal. All the butcher block in this bus was bought on clearance for $120.”

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Couch Potato

Between Talley’s movie watching pleasures and kicking back to eat his favorite food, he knew he needed to be efficient with the space in his new home. So he ended up bringing in his couch from his old apartment. “I took my IKEA Karlstad couch from my apartment and took off the back, arms, and feet so I was left with the cushions and the box spring base,” he said. “I built that into the bus for added comfort and style.”

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Birds Eye Design

Another design that Talley made in order to get a clear idea of how his home would be structured was this birds eye one. “I went through about a dozen floor plans for the bus. This early one was inspired by the adventure vehicle from “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” he said. “Since I was a single guy, a twin bed didn’t seem like that bad of an idea…I like the idea of the bathroom in the back.”

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Warning! Danger!

Everyone knows that if you want to get into the hands-on side of a construction job, you need to be prepared to do things that could be pretty hazardous. Whether it was fitting in a light bulb, fixing a pipe, or using electric equipment, Talley would make sure either taking safety precautions – or get someone else to do it. In this photo, Talley is taking matters into his own hands, “cutting the holes for the bathroom and living room windows,” he said.

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Home With An Engine

When transforming a bus into a house, Talley needed to decide if he wanted to strip away all the key components of the vehicle. The other option was to keep these components and have the home act as one that he could actually drive. “Engine work. I got stuck in the mud and messed up my power steering trying to get out,” Talley wrote. “You have any idea how hard it is to try and parallel park a 40 foot school bus with no power steering? I do.”

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Everyone Makes Mistakes

Even someone as skilled and meticulous as Michael Talley is prone to the odd mistake from time to time. He even admitted that when he took down the roof panels. “I wish that I had ended up keeping this insulation in, It was in remarkably good shape and would have saved me a few headaches if I kept it in,” he wrote. “Removing these panels was the absolute worst, but mostly because in my dumb-assery I had never heard of an impact drill.”

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Blood, Sweat & Tears

Not only did Talley make a couple of mistakes during his project, but he also had a handful of injuries. He even has evidence for some of his painstaking efforts. Apparently, things got messy! “First side done,” he said. “Easily the most painful and bloody part of the build. Got a sweet permanent scar on my fore arm from when one of these steel sheets fell and sliced my arm open. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the gorey photos!”

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Seeking Advice

Seeing that Talley wasn’t alone, he made sure to listen to the advice of his helpers. “I wanted to go 24 inches, but my helpers felt 20 inches was enough, out of fear of pushing our luck,” he said. “You can see the screw jacks at the bottom of the scaffolding. Each one of us turned our respective jack in unison and raised the roof perfectly level in one try. Pictured here is also the steel sleeves I had made that I then riveted onto the existing ribs.”

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Blast From The Past

Once Talley had stripped the inside of bus of all of its seats and furnishings, all that remained was the mainframe of the vehicle. There was now so much space, it seemed like the possibilities were endless. However, while sweeping away the remaining dirt and debris from years of usage, he stumbled across a funny note. It was an old post-it note that read “kick me,” a classic school prank that had probably been used during one of the rides to school.

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Going Solar

In order to be environmentally friendly and energy efficient, Talley decided that he wanted to add solar panels to the roof of the bus. According to him, it was the toughest day of the build and it didn’t help that there was no one else available to help him fit the panels. “Installing my solar panels. This was the most frustrating day of the build,” he said. “I was doing it myself, it was very windy, and things kept falling off the roof.”

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Tiles For Days

One of the standout features of Talley’s kitchen motif were the tiles he had fitted. “The only cosmetic design that I knew I wanted in the bust was dark hardwood floors, butchered block, and white subway tile with black grout,” he said. “Researched the hell out of tile in an RV and got to work. Not the best job, but then again, first time I’ve ever done any of this stuff.” Although he was modest about his work, it looks thoroughly impressive.

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Armadillo Bus

Interestingly, there is a heartwarming story behind why Talley chose this specific vehicle for his home transformation. The answer lies in his childhood. “My bus was the ‘Armadillo’ bus. I have two friends who actually rode this bus when they were kids,” he said. However, it turns out that Talley had to make a sacrifice in order to apply the finishing touches to his mobile home. “I had to sadly scrape this off so I could paint the bus white,” he said.

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Dream Office

As previously said, Michael Talley is a designer (hence the impressive illustration below) and needs an office wherever he ends up living. Seeing that the bus transformation was going to plan, he needed to make sure that he had an office. “Being a graphic designer I need a proper workspace. Most tiny houses have these little dinky desks that flip up from a wall or are tucked away in a small alcove,” he said. “This desk is 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep, the largest desk I’ve ever owned!”

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Recycling At Its Finest

Not only has Talley been efficient with his space in his new home, but he has also been thoughtful when it comes to what materials he uses for it. His proudest moment has to be what he used for interior furnishings. “I need to say I SUPER lucked out with this wood,” he said. “It’s reclaimed floorboards from a house here in Hyde Park in Austin, from 1941. I just flipped it upside down and used the unfinished sides for all my accent walls/couch.”

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Back To Basics

There were many other factors that Talley needed to take into consideration outside of the home’s design. Basic essentials such as electricity and plumbing needed to be executed to a tee in order to make the vehicle work as a home. Once those things were done, Talley moved onto other aspects of the construction. He ended up fitting solar panels onto the roof. After this, he applied interior panels to the ceiling. This allowed Talley to start working on the wooden furnishings.

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Cut In Half

Here is an image of the bus after it was completely cut in half. It is something that Talley knew needed to be done, but this photo clearly shows just how literal he was when he set he was going to cut the bus right down the middle. “Used a sawzall to cut the roof from one end to the other,” he said. “Have I mentioned how nerve racking it was to basically destroy my bus by doing all of this?”

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Keeping Cool

Since Talley was working during long, sunny days while he was in the thick of the build, it was absolutely imperative that he stayed cool. This meant that he needed to make sure that he was constantly hydrated. One thing that helped was that he could do the majority of the heavy labor inside the bus, in the shelter. Talley also had fans dotted around the vehicle to make things easier. “Building up my fridge and entertainment center frames,” he said.

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The Wheels Fell Off?

When “the wheels fall off,” that normally means that something is going very wrong. However, when Michael Talley made one wheel come off, this was an indication that quite the opposite was happening. Everything was still going to plan. However, there is no doubt that changing one of these school bus tires was financially demanding for Talley. “Changing a tire on this thing was more expensive and less fun than I had thought it would be,” he said.

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April Fools!

What is life if you’re not able to have a joke every once in a while? Michael Talley is obviously the kind of guy who doesn’t take things too seriously. Virtually every step of the way, he approached his project with a quirky sense of humor. In fact, he even played a prank on his friends, when he posted this photo online. “Best April fools joke I’ve ever pulled,” he said. “Everyone on Facebook freaked out and my mother nearly had a heart attack haha.”

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TV Break

Seeing that he had not one, but two TVs fitted into his new home, Talley took full advantage during the final stages of the build. “Testing out the TV, works great! I wired HDMI cables from the wall behind the TV over to the desk where I keep my Apple TV and my Computer,” he said. “I should have also wired HDMI cables to the cabinets below and above but I was an idiot so now I plug my PS4 in whenever I use it.”

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Meals On Wheels

If you’re going to transform a school bus into a home on wheels, you need to make sure that you have everything you need. One of those things is most certainly a fridge. After making the perfect measurements, Talley had a freezer that fitted into the home just right. However, it looks like his next step is to replenish the fridge. “Elevated fridge/freezer combo,” he said. “Brought to you by half a stick of butter and Karbach brewery.”

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Ready For The Paint Job

This was the shot that Talley took of his modified home just moments before he decided what color to paint it in. It still looked very much like a school bus, but that’s mainly because it still had that iconic yellow color. As you can see, the roof has been raised in order to accommodate Talley and his furniture. “Moved the bus to a slightly different spot on the farm to prep it and paint it,” he said.

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Everything But The Kitchen Sink

Despite having some misfortunes along the way during the build, there is no denying that Talley has had some luck on his side when it comes to getting a good deal from IKEA. One of the best things he got from the furniture company was a beautiful black sink. “Found the perfect sink at IKEA, and then found one for 50% off in the clearance section,” Talley said. “I seriously have the greatest luck with this sort of thing.”

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Sweet Dreams

Of course, what is a home if you don’t have a place to rest your head at night? For Talley, it was imperative that he had a cosey bedroom. Not only is it a comfortable sleeping space, it also has an incredible view of the forest. “Finished bedroom. I really wanted to keep the front and the back walls original,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun opening the back emergency door at night and waking up the forest every morning.”

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Two TVs!

It might seem unnecessary, but if you have worked as hard on a new home as Michael Talley, you are allowed to have more than one TV. “I originally didn’t have a TV in [the bedroom], and entertainment center was designed to be a headboard,” he said. “But after a few weeks of watching Netflix on my phone, I decided I was kidding myself that I couldn’t have a TV in my bedroom and bought this guy the next day.”

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Comfort From Another Angle

Whether or not it is the way you would have had the place done, you can’t help but be impressed with the job that Michael Talley has done with his new home, particularly with his lounge! Look at that thing of beauty. If you didn’t know that this was a story about a man who transformed a bus into a home, would you think this was on a bus? Actually, we take that back. You can subtly see the steering peeking at the very back.

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Funny Memories

One thing is for sure – transforming this school bus was one of the most memorable experiences that Talley will ever have. It seemed like every aspect of the process was full of funny memories, like this one. “The one picture of me actually working on the bus,” he said. “Fun fact, while spraying insulation I got a bunch in my beard and didn’t noticed until an hour or so later, and had to shave the whole thing off.”

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The Little Things In Life

Although Michael Talley made a lot of sacrifices to get the fantasy home he wanted, this didn’t stop him from kicking back from time to time, sitting on the roof and drinking some wine as he watched the sunset. “Before the roof raise I moved the bus to a friend’s farm in Manor, TX for $0 a month,” he said. “I would regularly go sit on the roof of the bus and drink some wine and watch the sunset over the Texas farmlands.”

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Into The Wild

Talley’s months of time and effort have culminated in one can only be described as the ultimate camping home. With a bedroom that has a beautiful view of the forest, Talley has achieved what he set when he first purchased this school bus – to feel at home. Being able to stare out into the wild and hear all the beautiful sounds must be absolutely enchanting. One thing is for sure though, he might want to invest in some curtains at some point…

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Nice Paint Job

After a lot of hard work, Michael Talley can look back at his new home with a lot of pride, knowing that it originally looked completely different. The Armadillo school bus is now a luxury home with a stunning white paint job. “Painted with Rustoleum,” he said. “White is best for the heat here in Texas, and leaves me open to add colors down the road. I also coudn’t think of what colors would go with my wood interiors.

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