Van Build Weekend #1 : Roof vent and window install

We bought the van at the beginning of September and a couple days later, we were flying to Florida. Needless to say we were unable to get started at all before the end of the month. We had done a lot of planning before actually buying the van, but we still had tons to do and a myriad of scary decisions to make.

However, on the last weekend of September, we finally got started (softly). We cleaned the van from top to bottom. It used to haul motorbikes and was quite dirty and some spots were broken (including our windshield, which we had to change). After that, we took the van to be serviced at the dealership and proceeded to fix our backdoor latch which was destroyed. For this, Bobby used Bondo on the latch and I used weatherstrip on the side of the door. Now our door works and closes like a charm. If this process is something you might be interested in, please let me know and I’ll write about it.

The following weekend (October 2nd-3rd), we started making scary holes in our van. Cutting a hole with a jigsaw through your recently purchased van might be the scariest thing we ever had to do! I’ll walk you through our process and what we used.

The process :

Our process for both holes were the same :

  1. Make a cardboard template for both holes
  2. Measure 100 times (make sure it’s the right size and that it is LEVEL).
  3. Place the templates with tape and make markings on the metal
  4. Tape the markings with painter’s tape
  5. Cut the holes with the jigsaw
  6. Sand the openings with metal sandpaper
  7. Paint opening with Rustoleum to avoid any future rust
  8. Apply butyl tape around window/fan
  9. Place fan/window in the hole and screw to frame fange
  10. Apply sealant (self-leveling lap sealant for the fan and transparent roof sealant for the window).

I wish there was no steps 11 and 12 but this is not the reality of van building.

  • 11. Let the heavy rain prove that you still have holes in your sealant
  • 12. Panic and apply more sealant all over

Yes ! We had 2 main issues after installation. First issue is that when we made our template for the window, we did it from the wrong ring. This resulted in a hole that was too small for the window to actually fit. The day after we had to cut the hole all over again to the right size. Hopefully, we didn’t make an irreparable mistake and cut the hole too big.

The second problem we encountered was that we had leaks. The silver lining in this is that we were lucky enough that it rained the exact day we installed both the vent and the window. So that same night we already knew some of the sealant wasn’t applied perfectly in a couple of spots and were able to fix this right away. The next rain confirmed our van is totally waterproof now!

NB : for the fan, we added a wooden ring on the inside of our van – in which we screwed the fan. The reason why we did this is because the fan is not really made to lay on the flimsy and thin metal of a van roof. It needs a bit of support. That was a simple process as we just screwed 4 pieces of wood together that I held in place while Bobby was screwing from the top of the van. I would recommend you do the same in your van!

The products we used :

Fan : Maxxair deluxe 7500K – we paid $300 for this but it’s a big deal for us to have proper ventilation and air flow knowing our dog Nola will be in the van sometimes when we are not with her.

Window : We bought a teardrop window from a RV surplus shop in Texas. We spent $200 on this and it will allow us to have a wonderful airflow throughout the van. We picked a 42″ by 12″ just because it will work great with our kitchen design (106 x 30cm).

Other tools and misc : Jigsaw, butyl tape, lap sealant (fan), roof sealant (window), rustoleum paint, metal sanding paper, – all screws were included in the fan and the window packages.

We bought most of the things from Amazon/letgo/ebay.

As I said at the beginning of the article, cutting holes in the van is one of the first things you will have to do if you want a fan or a window and it’s probably the scariest decision you’ll have to make. But once you see your window on the wall, it makes it all worth it! If it’s your first time doing anything like this (like us!), mistakes WILL happen and you need to be prepared for it. The most important is to always remain ingenious and find ways to fix them.

Below is timelapse of us working on the window :


Coco and Bobby

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