| Our Citroen Relay Van Build
The idea of cutting the hole for a van window was one of the most daunting things for us. But, like everything, once we came to do it, we’d done enough research that we felt confident to crack on. However, we did have a couple of problems to overcome before we could start. So, the key lesson we learned was, with every job you do, consider how it will affect everything else.
If you’d prefer to watch, here’s our video…
Plan where your van windows and locks are going to go.
We knew fairly early on that security was a big thing for us. An extra cost, but we decided to have additional locks put in by professionals. But we forgot about our van window. We had the locks fitted but then realised that the sliding door lock was sitting right in the way of where the large bonded window was meant to go. Disaster!
We started thinking of ways around it… The first idea, to move the windows to the other side of the van. But we really didn’t want to as we’d already decided on our perfect layout. We didn’t want the window behind the kitchen, and we had already started on the sound-deadening. We had also cut the beam out of the side panel in preparation for the back window.
(Side note – the reason to have to move both windows is due to current DVLA guidelines. In order to convert a vehicle into a motor home you have to have two windows on the same side.)
We then spoke to the lock company, but they weren’t 100% sure whether the lock could be moved. Plus it would mean filling in the old lock hole, so we got researching, to find a smaller window that would fit our LWB van’s sliding door panel.
A Fixed SWB Van Window Fits a LWB Van
There are so many options for van windows out there, and it can be so overwhelming. And they have been made specifically for different models, and areas on the van – we weren’t sure what to do. We didn’t want to buy a random van window that’s been designed for a VW, for example, because the curvature of every van is different.
Eventually we came across a few mentions of the SWB Citroen Relay van window potentially fitting a LWB van. Although nowhere actually confirmed 100% that it would fit, we had to give it a go. Luckily, I found JustKampers online which ended up being just 20 minutes away from us. So, I ordered the window, jumped in the car, and went to get it.
Relief! We held the new van window up to the door panel, it sat flush against the panel and the lock had plenty of space.
Create Cardboard Van Window Templates
For both van windows we found it best to draw scaled rectangles and then deal with the curved corners after. So, we measured a million times, then drew out our rectangles on large pieces of cardboard. We then carefully cut just on the outside of our line with a long Stanley knife.
Fixed Privacy Window – For fixed privacy window, it’s important to be accurate but, as the window fits over or against the hole, if it is out by a millimetre, it’ll be fine.
Small Slider Window – You need to be more accurate with the small slider van window because it has a flange that fits inside the hole. So, measure a million times, then measure again.
For the corners of the template we used a Flexicurve to ensure we had the correct corners.
Decide where you want your van windows to go
Fixed Privacy Window – This was easier as this window is made to fit inside the sliding door panel, so there’s not a lot of choice. This means you can line it up with the curves/lines of the van.
Small Slider Window – This window can go anywhere. Before cutting any holes, make sure that where you have planned to put it, isn’t going to interfere with the internal fixtures of your van. For example, where the bed is going, or the cupboards or shelves etc.
Mark out the area for the van window
Firstly, you need your templates to mark out where to cut. Top Tip: Use masking tape around the edge of the template so you can easily mark around it in pencil once it is stuck up.
Fixed Privacy Window – Tape the cardboard template in position; we used the template on the outside as it was important that the window fitted inside the panel of the sliding door. So, we double checked the measurements against the features of the van to ensure it was straight.
Once you have your window marked up on the outside, pop inside and visually check that you’re happy with the positioning.
Top Tip: To double check positioning on the inside, and to avoid internal struts/beams; drill two horizontal pilot holes through the middle of the template from the outside. Then, you can move the template inside, match up the holes and see where the window is going to fit. This way, you can adjust to ensure it fits perfectly from both sides.
Small Slider Window – The priority for this window was where it was positioned inside. We did it in the same way, but we marked out the area and drilled the pilot holes from the inside instead. This is because it was important that we got it in the right place to fit with our layout and interior design plans.
Top Tip: When you create your template, clearly mark on either side the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ so when you move your template in and out, you know which side you should be seeing. If you flip it, for example, when you put it up in the van, it may not accurately represent where the window will be. You don’t want to then make adjustments to find they’re wrong later.
Cut the holes for your van windows
Once you have triple checked the measurements, and you’re happy with your masking tape, it is time to cut the holes for the real ones.
Tom used his favourite gadget, the hole punch thingy (link below). He then drilled pilot holes (big enough to fit the jigsaw blade through) in the four corners of the window.
Top Tip: Start on the sides and bottom line, leaving the top edge until last. This way you are working with gravity. Otherwise you’ll end up having a big flappy (and dangerous) piece of sheet metal in your way as you cut.
Ensure you put enough pressure on the jigsaw whilst you cut to stop it from jumping out.
Once the holes are cut; file down the rough edges, clean with meths and seal the exposed metal edges with Red Oxide Paint.
Small Slider Window – As this window has a flange, it has to fit inside the holes. You may need to file down (or nobble) the edges until it fits. But better for it to be too small than too big.
U-Trim – to use or not to use?
Before we go ahead, it’s important to note the headache we had with the U-Trim. When you buy a van window it is recommended that you buy a length of U-Trim to fit around the edges. But, nowhere actually tells you why…
We had so many questions: Do we put it on first? Do you have to use U-Trim? Won’t it stop the window from sitting flush against the van if we put it on first? The small window has a flange – do you still need to use U-Trim?
So, we called a couple of window companies and it turns out, U-Trim is purely aesthetic. So, if you’re planning on covering the inside with a frame or a shelf, or you’re going to clad right up to it, it’s not necessary.
We decided to fit the windows first and decide after if we wanted to use the U-Trim.
The Window Installation!
Thoroughly clean the edges of the window holes and the edges of the windows. Your van window bonding kit should have a cleaner with it, but ours didn’t last long, so we continued with meths. This will ensure a super tight, secure adhesion.
Top Tip: Wear latex gloves to keep the areas you’ve just cleaned, clean and free of oily fingerprints and dirt.
Applying the sealant
Fixed Privacy Window – Tom applied a good bead of the sealant all the way around the middle of the edge of the window.
You can use window suction handles or grab a friend, partner, parent, neighbour or passing stranger – the more the merrier.
Move the window into position, line it up as close as you can and then push into place. While Tom took care of watching the top of the window, I was in charge of guiding the edge.
Small Slider Window – Apply the bead of sealant around the edge of the window. Top tip: Don’t apply too much sealant. We put a little bit too much on, which meant it got squeezed out when we fitted the window which also blocked up the little vents.
Clean any sealant residue off with meths and double check that the window’s built-in vents are clear.
For both windows: Apply firm pressure all around the edges to ensure all corners and edges are stuck.
Use Duct tape to secure both windows in place whilst it sets. And don’t move the van or drive for at least 3 hours. We left it overnight to ensure it was properly set.
That’s it, you are ready to install your very own DIY windows! Good luck!
What do I need?
Here are some key products we used… (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
- Fixed SWB Window
- Small Narrow Rear Side Window
- Methylated Spirits
- Flexible Curve
- Contour gauge
- Metal file
- Metal Cutting Jigsaw Blades – Irwin – Bayonet Fitting – 100mm
- Uhapeer 26pcs Countersink Drill Bit Set
Thank you for reading our blog, we hoped you enjoyed it and we certainly hope it was helpful. If you did, and you haven’t already checked out our other blogs, please stick around. Or find our videos on our YouTube channel, where you can leave your questions and comments, and follow our van build series.
Can I install the windows in my van?
Yes! Some people prefer to get the help of professional window installation companies because they don’t have the DIY experience or the tools. But when we started our van build we hadn’t ever done anything like this. Tom had never cut holes in a van, let alone install a window. There are plenty of resources, that will help to guide you through it, and hopefully that includes our blog and video.
What tools do I need to install a van window?
We have listed all the tools and products you need to install a van window. And if you don’t have a tool, you can always see if a friend or neighbour has one you could borrow so you don’t have to buy one. Although I am sure it will come in handy time and time again if you are doing a van build.
What is a bonded van window?
A bonded window is one that is bonded with the frame, sitting flush against the van. It doesn’t have a frame and often will be fixed – it doesn’t open. Although there are bonded windows that have sliding opening in if ventilation is what you need. They are an extremely popular choice for van conversions as they give it a smart finish and are a little easier to install for a DIY van builder. The downside is, they are single glazed which means they won’t be as insulating as traditional double-glazed motor home windows.