Updated: Aug 18
Installing a window in your van conversion is an absolute necessity! It brightens ups the interior and improves ventilation by letting in fresh air. It is also a legal requirement in the UK by the DVLA when converting a van into a campervan. In this guide I will show you how to very easily install a window for your van conversion! I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for many years, I'm the van conversion instructor at Udemy, author of The Van Conversion Newsletter, and the proud owner of a beautiful self-build campervan called Beans. So let's jump in and have a look at how to remove rust from your van!
These are the supplies you need to install a window in your van
(Click on any item to purchase it)
The window bonding kit contains the following:
Window types you can install with this DIY guide
Tinted and clear windows
Normal and sliding windows
I have a solid window with 80% tint.
5 steps to install a window in your van conversion
Now that you have the windows and tools ready, let’s start the window installation process.
Step #1: Drill
First things first, measure the window and indent from the edges so we know the size/shape to cut in our van. You can also use the window template (normally it is drawn on the cardboard box the window came in) and place it in the location where you will insert the window. Mark around it to get the cut line.
Drill the pilot holes in the van. Do it by drilling the holes from the inside of the van around the edges of the cut line. Make sure you put a tarp on the ground to catch all the metal shavings (swarf) that comes off.
Make sure you use a drill bit that will cut through metal; you can use cobalt drill bits to drill through the steel metal of your campervan. They are resistant to abrasions and drill efficiently, they also dissipate heat quickly.
Tip: The metal shavings rust. So, make sure that you remove all the metal shavings to prevent rust from cropping up in your campervan.
Step #2: Cut a hole in the side of your van 😱
The best and easiest tool to use for this job is a jigsaw. It cuts corners very nicely. Ensure you are using a jigsaw blade that can cut through metal. To cut a nice window hole, hold the jigsaw very firmly (it tends to wander, which can cause damage not only to your van, but to the jigsaw itself!). Cut your way around the pilot holes until you cut out the complete shape of the campervan window.
Tip: When cutting, take intervals to add a few drops of tapping and cutting fluid to the cut. This reduces the heat at the blade and allows a straighter cut. WD-40 works perfectly for this.
After removing the cut-out, file the edges down to reduce the burs and remove the loose metal shavings.
Apply metal paint to the exposed edges to prevent rust and leave it to dry.
Step #3: Prep the van for bonding the window
You will prep the van for bonding in 3 easy steps;
Clean it with rubbing alcohol
Apply glass activator
a) Use rubbing alcohol to clean the area on the van where we will stick the window. Rubbing alcohol is an antiseptic, a surface disinfectant, and a stain remover. These qualities make it a good cleaning agent. Spray/rub it directly on the metal surface where you will fix the window and on the window and let it dry off.
b) Apply a glass activator with a microfiber cloth (comes with the window bonding kit). The glass activator enhances the bonding surfaces of the glass (glass and metal), activating the adhesive on contact. It is the one responsible for keeping the campervan window properly bonded to the metal around it. Apply the activator to both the van and the window.
c) Next, apply the primer to the van where the window will be placed (to the edge of the metal). The glass primer chemically alters the glass surface, increasing its surface energy and making it more receptive to adhesive bonding.
Take note of making it a thick strip that is not larger than the window itself. It is a dark black color that won't come off your van (like paint). Allow about 15 minutes to dry.
Tip: If I were to do this again, I would have applied masking tape. The black is just like paint.
d) Next, apply glue on the van. Do this generously! Glue can be quite thick, so warm it up in warm water for easy application. Apply it continuously around the metal edges without leaving any gaps.
Step #4: Install the window!
Place the window over the big hole! It is a lot easier if there are two of you to handle both ends of the window when placing it on the glue.
When the window is in place, push it firmly on the glue to seal well all around. Tape it to the van so it doesn’t slide and leave it to stick for several hours.
Step #5: The last step is to apply sealant!
Most window installation instructions don't mention using sealant because silicone can corrode the window adhesive glue if they touch. However in my opinion, sealant is really important to ensure a waterproof seal! Just make sure it is right on the outside and doesn't touch the glue on the interior.
Any sealant will do. Sealants effectively seal up or fill up any gaps between surfaces and close off any spaces that may occur.
In my case, I used Everbuild general purpose sealant. It adheres to smooth surfaces and non-porous materials. It has an anti-fungal component that makes it mould-resistant in humid areas. It forms a permanent flexible rubber seal.
To apply it, mask around the area while applying a thin bead. Finally, wet your finger and trace over the bead to smooth it over.
I hope you found this guide to installing a window for your van conversion useful! You are well on your way to a beautiful self-build campervan! Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion.
If you're converting a van but unsure of how to do it, you could also check out the Van Conversion Course on Udemy. In the course, you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!
Until next time,