Disclaimer- I am not a professional. I am a moderately skilled DIYer looking to share some of my experience in building my own campervan. This is not a comprehensive guide. This page should not be your only stop in researching window installation.
One of the first priorities in converting our campervan was to install windows for light, views, and ventilation.
Safety was also a priority. I found that pulling out of blind driveways was nerve wracking because of the lack of peripheral vision of the cargo van. Making left turns at an angle meant that I often couldn’t see oncoming traffic to the right. Adding windows made driving in heavy traffic, lane changes, and pulling out of tight driveways much safer.
Adequate ventilation is a huge concern for a small sleeping space. Waking up with the ceiling dripping from condensation is not ideal. Sleeping in a humid, unventilated space isn’t great either. Being able to crack a window and open the roof vent creates a nice updraft that all but eliminates condensation. The awning windows provide great ventilation especially when coupled with a roof fan.
I picked up the CR Laurence windows from Amazon and immediately spent hours researching window installation on the internet. I found enough online resources to be comfortable in tackling the project, but step-by-step guides were scarce.
The first hole you cut in your van is the hardest. Measure 10 times, take a deep breath, and cut once.
Installing the Windows
I got my CR Laurence windows from Amazon for $535 (including shipping), delivered to my door in two days.
Installing the CR Laurence windows was pretty straightforward. The CR Laurence windows follow the factory window cut outs. You “just” need to cut around the factory window stamps to make the opening, file/grind off any burrs, test fit, prime and paint any raw metal edges, and systematically clamp the window to the opening. Simple!
First steps- Following tips I found on the Sprinter Forum, I started by drilling small holes from the inside around the factory window cutout.
I added a few extra holes in the corners to help trace the window template to the outside. You can see in the pic below that the outline of the window is taking shape.
Once I drilled all the way around the factory opening, I covered the outside of the cut with tape to protect the paint from the foot of my jigsaw when I made the cut. Then I used a level and sharpie to draw the straight edges of the window opening on the van.
Once the window template was transferred to the outside, I carefully cut out the opening with a fine toothed metal jigsaw blade. In my case, I chose to do most of my cutting from outside the van since the foot of my jigsaw could sit flat against the outside of the van. On the inside, there were raised parts that made it a trickier free hand cut from the inside. That said, I did try to cut the corners from the inside, following the edge of the factory cutout. When that wasn’t possible, I drilled a few extra holes and traced the curve by “connecting the dots.”
As I was cutting, I used lots of wide blue tape stripes to keep the cut metal from rattling and sagging into the van.
Note that you will have to cut through the two stiffeners for the window opening as well.
After the hole was cut, I went back with a file and angle grinder and cleaned up any cutting imperfections, and burrs. I started with the slider window and was a bit conservative on the first cut. I ended up having to grind down some high spots and cut a bit closer to the factory template. It took a few test fits with my lovely assistant holding the window from the outside while I marked high spots on the inside. After a few passes, I had a perfect fit and the window slid in easily.
The next step was to apply primer and paint to any exposed metal. Rather than deal with a ton of masking and overspray, I just put a stripe of tape around the edge of the cut. Then I sprayed self etching primer into a jar, and used a disposable paintbrush to paint all exposed metal edges. None of the edges are visible once the window is installed, but need to be protected from moisture and rust anyway. I also painted the edge with a couple coats of Arctic White paint for good measure.
I let the paint dry overnight and finished in the morning.
The CR Laurence window is designed to clamp to the window opening with a trim ring and screws.
Note- I found an internet resource that recommended spraying a mist of water to the outside of the window so that the CR Laurence rubber gasket would “slide and squish” as the trim ring was tightened (instead of sticking to the metal). This seemed to work great to allow the gasket to move and distribute evenly.
To install the window, I had my lovely girlfriend hold the window in place from the outside while I screwed in enough screws to hold the window in place. Then we worked around the window slowly adding the remaining screws. She pressed firmly from the outside while I tightened down the screws. I also popped out the mosquito screens and opened the window so I could reach through in the window corner and pull the window tight while screwing it down.
Last step was the garden hose test. I sprayed the window for several minutes around the edges and didn’t get any leakage inside.
As with most of these projects, the first one takes twice as long as the second. I estimate that I spent 2-3 hours for the first window, plus paint drying time. I was slow and conservative on the first window. The second window (driver’s side) took less than an hour (plus paint drying time).
Of course I didn’t count the hours of research and prep I put into the installation.
- I’ve been happy with the CR Laurence windows. The added ventilation is great, and the windows look great. You can leave the windows open in all but wind-driven rain.
- The CR Laurence windows do stand off the sides of the van a bit. There is the potential for dust to build up in the few inches of overlap. I’ve read that some people caulk around the edge of the window, so that moisture and algae don’t get a foothold. I haven’t seen a need to do that, but I am in a dry climate. If I lived in Seattle, or in a damp forest, I’d consider sealing up the gap.
Concerns and criticisms
In my installation, the driver’s side lower rear corner didn’t appear to snug up as tightly as I’d like. It looks fine, and I’m probably the only person to notice that it seems off by 1/16″ or so.
I have heard second hand reports of (lower operable) window mechanism failure, particularly in the door. No idea if this is common, but we don’t open the slider door window except when parked. My guess is that opening and closing (slamming) the slider door with the window open creates significant stress on the window mechanism. I also don’t drive with any of the CR Laurence windows open for the same reason. Louvered windows aren’t engineered for bufetting winds at freeway speeds. If I need ventilation, I open the Maxxair roof fan and/or crack the rear windows (coming in another post). Works great without stressing CR Laurence windows.
Hopefully this was helpful! As I stated in the beginning, I am not a professional. I do all my van building in my driveway. Installing windows is a project most confident DIYers can accomplish.
Please leave any comments or feedback below! I would love to hear how your window installation went.