This Man Built His Dream Home With $2,200 And An Old School Bus

A man named Michael Talley decided to hand over $2,200 for this beat up school bus with a plan in mind. After putting a lot of hard work, creativity and with a little help from his friends, he was able to transform it into something completely different. He realized he ended up finding his place, his home-on a school bus. Michael Talley, the genius behind this operation had almost little-to-no experience when it comes to construction. But here's how he used to skills he DID have to create his dream home.

Designer Not Builder

Michael Talley's skills lie mostly in design, and because of this you would expect him to stay far away from the hands-on portion of the job. "I have never built anything. 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 invent the bus, he was venturing into uncharted territory.

Back To School

Talley's goal was to build a new home for himself, but he wanted to use an already existing structure as the foundation. He decided to go with an old school bus because he said, "Hey, there's already four walls and a roof. 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.

The Big Move

In order to invest his money into this new project, Talley had 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. 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," says Talley.


Fresh Start

September 2015 to September 2016 was a hard time for Talley. During this time he lost many important things, including his girlfriend, his job, and even his grandpa. He said, "It was a really difficult time, but luckily all I really had was this bus and the bus was all I had, and I put everything I had into it." It seems, that for Talley, the bus symbolized a fresh start.

Starting From Scratch

He knew the odds were stacked against him to complete this project. He knew he needed to start from scratch since he had never built anything before. "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."

Empty Vessel


Early on in the building process, Talley's removal of the seats turned it into a completely empty vessel. It was during this time that Talley was able to see the full potential of the bus. Talley said, "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. 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.

Too Tall

Talley first thought he had made a huge mistake when he realized that he was five inches too tall for the bus! How was he going to live in it if he had to somewhat crouch at all times? He admitted, "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. 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.

Cut In Half

One of the most radical things Talley did was decided to cut the bus in half. He said, "I cut a section out of one of the steel ribs and took it to a metal fabricator. I had him craft 25 identical steel 'sleeves' that could slip over either end of the rib once the roof was raised." This is how he ended the ceiling problem.


Awesome Design

As a professional designer, Talley knew that he needed to make sure that every single inch counted. If one tiny 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. 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."

Personal Cinema

One thing about Talley that many of his friends and family acknowledge about him is his love for cinema. His social media is full of photos of him and big stars like Matthew McConaughey. Because of this, it obviously made sense that Talley would want a big TV in his place. He said, "I like movies. Film and television are my favorite things, so I wanted a great movie watching room. 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."

Little Help From His Friends

Of course Talley couldn't do the whole thing on his own. He said, "A nice man came with his 7 month pregnant wife and 8 year-old daughter to help cart away all these seats to the scrap metal yard. 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."


Getting Better

As the days rolls on, Talley could begin to see his design come to life. The scaffolding was beginning to appear, and he already had his office set up. One of the main transformations that Talley made was completely stripping down the bus windows to replace them. He said, "The windows weren't hard to take out. 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."

Kitchen In The Works

As a lover of food, Talley knew he needed a kitchen counter that he could easily chop a lot of vegetables on. As seen above, he already tested an onion on it. "IKEA phased out their old kitchen line and I got a hell of a deal on these drawers and cabinets. I paid $30 for everything!" Said Talley of his new kitchen.

Couch Potato


Between Talley's movie watching and eating his favorite foods, he knew he needed to be efficient with the space on the rest of his new home. He ended up bringing a couch from his old apartment. He said, "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. I built that into the bus for added comfort and style." We have to agree, it looks pretty great!

Bird's Eye Design

Talley knew how he wanted the design of his new home to be structured. He got his idea from the vehicle from The Lost World: Jurassic Park. He said, "I went through about a dozen floor plans for the bus. Since I was a single guy, a twin bed didn't seem like that bad of an idea...I like the idea of a bathroom in the back."


If you're getting involved in a construction job, you need to be prepared to do things that could be pretty hazardous. Whether you need to put in a light bulb, fix a pipe, or use electric equipment, Talley made sure to take safety precautions-or get a professional to do it. In this photo Talley is cutting the holes for the bathroom and living room windows.


Home With An Engine

When transforming a bus into a house, Talley needed to make a decision. He needed to decide if he wanted to strip away all the key components of the vehicle or have the home act as one he could drive. He said, "I got stuck in the mud and messed up my power steering trying to get out. You have any idea how hard it is to tray and parallel park a 40-foot school bus with no power steering? I do." We can't even imagine!

Mistakes Happen

Even someone as meticulous to detail as Michael Talley is allowed to make a small mistake from time to time. He admitted when taking 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. Removing these panels was the absolute worst, but mostly because in my dumb-assert I had never heard of an impact drill."

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Not only did Talley make some mistakes during his project, he also managed to walk away with a few injuries. Apparently, things got messy! He said, "the first side is done. Easily the most painful and bloody part of the build. Got a sweet permanent scar on my forearm from when one of these steel sheets fell and sliced my arm open. Don't worry, I'll spare you the gory photos." YIKES!


Seeking Advice

Talley wasn't alone in this, and 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. 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."

Solar Power

Wanting to be environmentally friendly and efficient, Talley decided that he wanted to add solar panels to the roof of his bus. He said it was one of the toughest parts of the build, and it didn't help that there was no one else available to help him fit the panels. He said of the process, "I was doing it myself, it was very windy, and things kept falling off the roof."

Tiles For Days


One of the most striking details of Talley's kitchen were the tiles he had fitted. He said, "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. 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." We have to disagree! The panel is very impressive.

Armadillo Bus

There's actually a heartwarming story behind why Talley chose this specific vehicle for his home transformation. The answer is in his childhood. He said, "My bus was the 'Armadillo' bus. I have two friends who actually rode this bus when they were kids." Sadly though, he had to scrape this off so he could paint the bus white.


Talley managed to not only be efficient with his space, but he has also thought a lot about what kind of materials he wanted to use for it. His proudest moment is what he used for the interior furnishing. 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."


TV Break

Talley was able to fit not just one TV, but two! He said, "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. 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."

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. Although it still looked very much like a school bus, it was only because it still had the iconic yellow color. As you can see, the roof was raised to accommodate Talley and all his furniture.

Sweet Dreams

Of course, what is a home if you don't have a place to rest your head at night? It was imperative for Talley to have a nice and cozy bedroom. Not only is it a comfortable sleeping space, but it also has an incredible view of the forest. He said, "It's a lot go gun opening the back emergency door at night and waking up to the forest every morning."