So, you bought your panel van and the one of the first tasks on your “to-do” list should be to install side windows. Chances are you are probably reading this article weighing up if it’s a job you can do yourself or alternatively just pay someone else to do. The installation of windows to the campervan conversion can be done by anyone and is suited to all levels of DIY ability once the correct installation steps are followed. Don’t rush the works, have a cup of tea or coffee and ponder over all the steps of this job.
There are several different styles to consider such as ones with a sliding windows or a hinged window or maybe even a nice small and discreet window etc so choose wisely. Don’t be sitting in the middle of Spain and France saying to yourself – God I should have spent the extra £40 and got the model with the sliding window! Choose wisely!
Then we must look at the two most common styles of windows available:
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Rubber Mounted Windows
- Rubber mounted windows are windows which sit inside a rubber channel position in your window ope. Difficult to install and generally only seen in older van conversions. Although they are a lot cheaper than other styles of windows it may be cheaper in the long run to choose a different style if you factor in the labour / install time cost. If you are avid DIY’er and are not put off by your Van’s aesthetics this could be a good money saving option as you will generally find these in old minibus’s in your local scrapyard. Just make sure the rubber mounts are not perished, as they can be difficult to source. One thing to remember if you choose to go with these windows is that you must be 100% accurate when cutting you Van’s window ope – unlike Bonded Windows there is very little margin of error allowed here so approach with caution!
- Bonded windows are either constructed of glass or hard plastic and usually follow the contour of the van. These type of windows are secured in place using a quick drying adhesive which will give a watertight seal throughout the window if applied in the correct manner. It comes with an internal rubber seal which is the ideal option for the DIY Campervan Window Installation. It is also the most common window choice for the DIY Campervan Conversion. This is the installation process which we will outline below. Once the window ope is cut in the van the rubber seal will sit on the edges of the ope and then the bonded window is secured from the outside using adhesive. Leaving a seamless finish with no sharp edges and a thoroughly professional finish.
Another question you might ask yourself do I need one window or two windows for my campervan? This is all down to personal opinion and use. Are you going for a stealth camper? If so you may want to keep the window small and discreet, whereas, if you are going for all out campervan mode you will install two massive F – off windows so you can soak up every bit of scenery on your trips and also let as much natural light into your new home as possible.
One thing to remember is that when the sun beams on your Van its going to get very hot, so bear that in mind when choosing the tint on these windows, we would recommend going with the darkest tint available as you will be getting plenty of light from the front cabin or alternatively you can slide the door open. Dark tinted windows also prevent passers by looking into your van if you are parked up in a busy area – like who wants people peering into your bedroom window when your trying to sleep?
Lastly, save yourself a lot of time and hassle and opt for a window installation kit rather than buying all the items separately! These will typically cost between €200 – €300 depending on brand and size.
Before you get started with this job, make sure you have all the correct tools as listed in our tools list. This will save you a lot of time in the long run and also plan the work out. Have plenty of tea breaks and think about the task you working on. This is a job which you do not want to rush. The job from start to finish will typically take about 4 – 5 hours if done slow and steady.
- Angle Grinder
- Metal File
- Safety Goggles
- Ear protection
- Stanley Knife
- 10mm drill bit
- Mastic gun
- Window Kit (this will usually include the window itself, rubber edging, glue to secure window)
- Alcohol Wipes
- Masking Tape
- Hammerite Paint or similar
- First step is to ensure you have all the tools to carry out the works as this is not a job you want to be stopping once you get going!
- Offer the window up to the side of the van (or where you intend to install it) and measure both the inside and outside to ensure you are happy with the proposed location – Remember measure twice cut once
- If you are working on your own you may want to make a cardboard template of the window to allow the ideal installation location be found without lugging round a heavy window.
- If you make a cardboard template you can trial many different options and check both inside and outside of the van for any obstructions or obstacles you may meet. We highly recommend doing this!! It will only take 10-20 minutes to make up your template and save you loads of time in the long run and also eliminates any room for mistakes.
- Once you are happy with the location of the window, use a marker to mark out the line of the window which will need to be cut with the jigsaw. You may need to remove any lining from the internal area of the van but chances are if you are doing these works you have you van stripped and it is a shell on the inside. Also a top tip is to put masking tape around the proposed window ope so you can use your marker on this and it will ensure it doesn’t wipe off the van.
- Now before we start going head first into this with a jigsaw, make sure you take a trip to your local hardware and buy a good quality hard wearing metal cutting blade for your jigsaw. This usually cost approx. £15 but it will pay for itself in the long run. Nothing worse than being half way through cutting out your window ope and the blade breaks half way through.
- Once again measure everything and make sure you are happy with the location before we go at it with the drill and jigsaw! (You only get one shot at this!)
- Drill your 10mm holes in the 4 corners of the windows – making sure to keep inside the cut line. This will allow us to fit the jigsaw blade in the hole and begin the cutting
- Check inside as you may need to cut through struts inside the van using the angle grinder before the jig sawing begins to make sure it doesn’t knock you off the marked line. Make sure you are only cutting the strut of the van and don’t go too deep and cut the metal.
- Begin jig-sawing out the template of the window. Always start from the bottom and work your way to the top. This will avoid the metal twisting and buckling and falling and injuring yourself. Remember once cut this edge will be razor sharp so make sure you are wearing your gloves.
- For the next step, you’ll need a second person to help you carefully remove the cut panel from the van (make sure you are BOTH wearing gloves)
- Now you are ready to file the edges of the cut line to get rid of sharp metal edging
- Paint the edges of where the panel has been cut out. This will prevent corrosion in the area at a later date – Trust me it’s well worth it, you will thank yourself in years to come!!
- Install your rubber edging piece and carefully tap it into the edges making sure it is secure and fits all the way around the edge.
- The window is fitted from the outside but before we fit it we need to make sure the area where the glue will be bonding is clean from dirt and grease. Wipe this area down using alcohol wipes or similar and make sure it’s as clean as a whistle.
- Apply the glue to the window using the mastic gun, lather it on thick – Remember it needs to be very thick to account for the rubber edging trim. Cut the nozzle of the glue nice and big so you can get the volume of glue out quick and fast.
- As soon as the glue has been applied to the window you are ready to offer the window to the van and hold it for as long as physically possible!! Get someone to help you do this
- You can manoeuvre the window around until you are happy with the position but try to keep this to a minimum as you glue with be getting thinner and thinner.
- Once you have pressure held the panel for 10-15 mins use masking tape to secure it while it sealant dries out.
- Once secure allow this to dry out for a minimum of 24 hours or as per glue manufactures instructions before lashing buckets of water over it to test it
- The final but probably the most important step which can be done on the same day is to remove all the metal filings for the cutting and filing from the inside of the Van. If these are left in the Van they will not only corrode but also corrode the metal bodywork around them. This can be a major headache a couple of years later down the road when all the walls of the van are insulated and carpeted out.