Some Advice Before You Install the Windows:
Okay, so you have just installed your fans, time to install your windows! Our first bit of advice is to plan your build ahead of time. We had chosen and bought our windows before knowing what we wanted our van to look like, and we ended up having to build around the large T-Vent window on the driver’s side, which was a pain and cut down on a lot of interesting, more space-friendly designs.
Also, having windows in general has both pros and cons. The pros of windows are that they allow you to look out, they allow natural light into the van, and they can let in fresh air and create a nice breeze for you. However, windows can also let in/out more heat because they are an uninsulated space, they take more time to install and more expensive, and they can make your van less stealthy. They also open you up to more places of weakness for break-ins, etc. Consider these before choosing if you are going to buy and install windows, and if you are, how many.
We will say that overall, we do like our T-Vent Window and bunk window very much, and would probably reinstall windows again. In order to find great ideas for builds, we highly suggest that you look on YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. People are so creative! Take the elements that you love about certain van builds and add them to your own! We got our windows from Van Windows Direct, and both of our windows are CR Laurence brand. Of course, there are other places to get windows, and other brands of window, so choose at your own discretion.
Materials for Window Installation
- Sheet Metal Blades
- Painter’s Tape
- Straight Edge
- Butyl Tape
- Pilot Hole Bits
- Drill Bits
- Metal Paint Scraper
- Dust Masks
- Safety Glasses
- Tape measure
- Extension cord
- Garbage Bags
- Razor Knife
- Work Gloves
- Metal File
- Rustoleum Primer
- Foam Brush
- Hand Vacuum
- Tupperware to hold screws
- Paper Towels
- Blankets/ Towels to protect the cab!
- Ladder (or step stool, depending on how tall you are)
** We spent a lot of time looking for a special window primer and adhesive that the sticker on our bunk window said that we needed… But that sticker must have been misplaced or otherwise incorrect because that was NOT needed (or appropriate) for the clamp ring windows. Don’t waste your time!
Protect Your Van from Metal Shavings
Hang up a wall of blankets and set up garbage bags under the window. Also try to cover up any holes under the window so that you don’t get any metal shavings in hard to reach places. We used painter’s tape to do this also. Again, prevent rust!
Installing the T-Vent Window
Support Beam Removal
Firstly, the T-Vent window goes in the panel right behind the driver’s seat. In this area, there is a metal support beam right in the center. You will have to remove this beam. To do this, take a metal paint scraper and a hammer, and cut through the 4 metal connectors. Next, you will take a razor knife to detach the foam adhesive holding the metal beam in place.
Next, remove the clamp ring from the back of the window, and trace around it to create a cardboard template. Cut out this template with a razor knife or scissors. Put this template onto your wall, right in the panel behind the driver’s seat. It should fit ~about~ perfectly within this panel, where you only have to cut through one sheet of metal. If you have to cut through multiple sheets, you’re doing something wrong. Tape it there with painter’s tape. Next, with a marker, make small dots around the edge of your template. You will use these as a guide to make pilot holes.
Using your drill and pilot hole bits, create pilot holes on the dots that you made around your template. You will use these to “connect the dots” on the outside of the van, which is where you will actually be doing the cutting with the jigsaw. Once all of your pilot holes are done, you will go to the outside of the van with a ladder, a straight edge, and a marker. You will make a line between each dot so you know where to cut. You will need to freehand the rounded corners. Then, use painter’s tape to outline where this cut will take place. Again, using the painter’s tape is the best way to visually guide your blade. Next you will use an increasingly large pilot hole bit to make a least a few of your pilot holes larger so that you can easily fit your jigsaw blade into the holes. We even made some large pilot holes further inside our line, because sometimes it felt easier to cut from different angles.
Cutting Out the Panel
As a note, you will tape and cut from the OUTSIDE of your van. The outside of the van is a flatter and smoother surface for cutting. Using the jigsaw, cut out the panel, and as you cut, use painter’s tape to hold the metal in place to keep it from shaking ~as much~ when you cut. When you are done, see if your window fits. If it does, awesome. If not, see where you need to expand. If you need to expand your hole, do this only a small bit at a time! Remember, it’s easy to take away material but it is NOT possible to put material back once it is cut away. With a metal file, file down the hole until it is smooth, and there are no large metal pieces. Next, with a foam brush, add primer around the exposed metal to prevent rusting. Let this dry.
Clamp Ring Windows
Okay, so now we have to talk about the window. The windows that we bought are clamp ring windows. This means that your window juts out a little in the back and has a detachable metal ring that screws into the window. Since the window fits into the hole from the outside of the van, and the clamp ring fits onto the window from the inside of the van, the window + clamp ring literally CLAMP the skin of the van, thus keeping the window in place. That’s it! No primer, no glue. Just the clamp ring, and the screws. **Just for the record, our bunk window had a sticker on it which talked about primer and polyurethane, but we absolutely did NOT need those things for this project!**
To install your T-Vent window, first, carefully flip your window onto its front. (Please, have some cardboard and other cushioning down!) You will now see the back or “inside” of the window, where the clamp ring is located. You will need to pre-drill holes into your window for your screws. There are already holes in your clamp ring, so just line up the clamp ring (there should be 2 holes at the bottom of the window to get you started. I put in two screws to hold the clamp ring in place). Drill these holes with a bit that is visibly SMALLER than the width of the screws they give you. This ensures that the screw, while it will be easier to “start” it will also have something to bite into. Once all of your holes are pre-drilled, remove your clamp ring. Have one person put the window in from the outside of the van. You may need to help them get it in exactly the right spot. While your partner is outside holding the window in place, bring the clamp ring, screws, and drill inside. Put the clamp ring on the window, and screw in all of your screws. That’s it! In our particular window, it looked like our hole was JUST a little bit big, because we saw some of the gasket on the window, and if we were worried about that, we probably could have filled it in with butyl tape. That stuff is amazing.
Installing the Bunk window
Depending on where you decide to put in your bunk window, removing the support beam and creating your template will be the same. The only thing that will be different for the placement of the bunk window is that there is no obvious place for the bunk window to go, which means that you will have to do more measuring to get it to be in the place that you would want it. Once it has been placed appropriately though, the process is the same. The only thing that is different for the bunk window is that it is completely flat while the body of the Ram Promaster is slightly curved. Unfortunately, we ended up with major leaking in this window.
So, with that being said, the big advice we have for you and your bunk window is this: Firstly, have good tools. Particularly good bits and a powerful drill. (We’ve talked about this!) Secondly, use butyl tape around the edge of your bunk window cut the first time. This should stop any leaking from happening. You can also clean off the butyl tape from the outside later, if you feel so inclined. Since putting the butyl tape on our window, we have had no issues. You could also do this for your larger window, but we did not find it necessary.
Before you are done with your windows, make sure to do a thorough spray test around the edges of your windows to ensure no leaking. You don’t need any special tools, just a hose and a water hook up. If you have leaks, you will either want to make sure your screws are tighter, of make sure that you put some butyl tape around the edges of your cut. (N.B. You would have to remove your window to do this.)
Are you a visual learner? No problem! Here is the video of Zak and I going through our window installation.
Looking for more projects? Check out our Van Build page!
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All the best & happy exploring!