How To Install a Window or Vent in Your Van or Camper

Feeling a little stuffy inside your adventure or work van? Here's how to transform your space with a window.

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Next Project
Time

2 to 3 hours

Complexity

Intermediate

Cost

$150 to $1000

Introduction

It feels counterintuitive to cut a hole in the side of a perfectly good van wall, but it's pretty amazing how much the extra ventilation and light will transform your space. This task may feel daunting, but it's relatively straightforward — and in the end, well worth it!


Tools Required

  • Angle grinder with steel cutoff disc
  • Dremel tool with steel cutoff wheels
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Permanent marker pen
  • Safety glasses or a clear face shield
  • Screwdriver or screw gun (to tighten screws to window frame)
  • Tape measure
  • Work gloves

Materials Required

  • 100-grit sandpaper or a flat file
  • Cardboard (for template)
  • Masking tape
  • Rust-Oleum paint or similar
  • Van window

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

Locate and Mark Window Placement

  • Decide where to install the window.
  • Mark where each corner will go.
  • Survey the window space in the interior van wall. Make sure there are no obstructions like structural supports, wires, sensors or materials that could catch fire.

White Dodge pro master van before renovationsKaruna Eberl for family Handyman

Step 2

Mark the Cutout Hole

  • With the manufacturer’s window template and a permanent marker pen, carefully trace the outline for the hole on the outside of the van body.
  • If no template was provided, carefully trace the window to create a cutout pattern for the hole. Many windows have a flange that pinches the body of the van, and your cutout hole must be smaller than the flange to have something to pinch.

Pro tip: To ensure the window hole is straight and in line with the van body, measure from a straight edge on the van. Do not use a level because the vehicle’s body is not level.

cutting a whole for a new window in a white van doorKaruna Eberl for family Handyman

Step 3

Cut the Hole for the Window

  • Double-check to make sure that the cutout mark is where you want it.
  • Wear gloves, along with eye and/or face protection. Also, have someone watch from the inside of the van to make sure nothing catches fire.
  • Take the angle grinder and carefully cut the four straight sides of the window cutout, stopping just before the curve of each corner. Hold the angle grinder securely, resting one hand on the side of the van to guide it. When completed, you’ll have four lines cut on the four sides of the window cutout, stopping at each corner.
  • Use the Dremel tool with the cutoff disc to carefully complete the curved cutouts around the corners.

Pro tip: Hold the metal in place with magnets while you complete the corner cuts so the panel doesn’t fall out.

cutting a whole for a new window in a white van doorKaruna Eberl for family Handyman

Step 4

Smooth Out and Seal the Cutout Hole

  • Use sandpaper, a file or emery cloth to carefully smooth any jagged edges on the cutout hole, which could cut your hands or fingers.
  • Paint the cut edge with a rust-resistant paint or coating. This will prevent rusting under the window flange.

Step 5

Install the Window

  • Install the window in the opening, as per manufacturer instructions. The window pictured here is a flange and retainer ring window, the most common type of attachment.
  • Have a helper hold the window against the opening on the outside.
  • Go to the inside to ensure the window is centered in the opening.
  • Hold the retainer ring against the inside of the window and install the screws through the retainer ring and into the window frame. Start at each corner, then move to halfway between each corner, on all four sides.
  • Insert the remaining screws and tighten them until the retainer ring has pulled the window frame and sealing gasket tightly against the van body.
  • Check the operation of the window and make sure all screws are tightened.

Pro tip: If the window doesn’t have weather stripping attached, put a small bead of sealant along the edge of the cutout hole.

close up of a new window installed in a white camper van doorKaruna Eberl for family Handyman