Updated: Mar 15, 2021
I’m so excited to finally move-on to the window-installation series!! In this post, I’ll tackle the easiest of the three types of window installs we had to make.
I’m dividing the series into three separate posts based on the method of installation:
3.3: The Trickiest – Installing Side Windows that Don’t Fit the Factory-Size Cut-Outs
All of our windows, expect our rear cargo door windows are t-vent or vented windows. If you want more information on how we decided where to place our windows, how many windows, factors to consider like loss of insulation, type of window, etc., that was all explained in a previous post: https://www.onanimperfectjourney.com/post/van-build-diary-3-measure-twice-execute-once-fitting-windows-into-the-layout
I highly recommend reviewing that post if you’re still deciding on placement. Your layout will determine the size of the windows, too. So, give that post a good look through to help you ponder all the variables!
Here, we will primarily be going through the installation process, which is different for all three types of windows that we got. We started with the C.R. Laurence sliding door window because it was the easiest.
Why was it the easiest?
It fits the factory cut-out built-in to the van so you know exactly where to cut
No gluing or priming or micro-adjusting for alignment is required
You just cut, cure, and screw into place!
Without further ado, here's the post and a quick disclaimer that there are some affiliate links- I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase through the links provided. (Learn more here) Thanks for supporting On An Imperfect Journey!
Tools, Equipment & Supplies
C.R. Laurence Sliding Door Window – comes with internal frame, and all hardware
Painter’s tape and plastic cover to collect metal shavings inside
A Phillips’ screwdriver and hammer (you can also use a pick instead of the Phillips for one of the steps below but will still need the Phillip’s later on)
A whiteboard marker or grease pencil
A Jigsaw – getting a strong, reliable jigsaw is really important – it can make the difference between cutting a window in 45 min. and cutting it in 20.
Rustoleum and applicator (brush or sponge)
1) Prepare the Area
You also want to prep the jigsaw. Line the whole metal plate with painter's tape so it doesn't scratch the paint of the vehicle as you're cutting.
With painter’s tape (the wider it is, the easier you can cover all openings) and plastic (we used our large Costco trash bags), tape up all openings and crevices in the van door, nearby walls and cover the van floor to protect from metal shavings.
We learned another little trick from Mathers on the Map (we love their videos!): Get thick painter’s tape and tape it in the form of a box around the area you’re cutting. The sticky parts will catch many of the metal shavings before they even drop on the plastic covering you’ve made.
2) Create an outline for the jigsaw to cut along
From the inside of the van, you can see exactly the outline of your cut. However, if you’re going to use a jigsaw, which I strongly suggest if you aren’t used to cutting metal, then you have to make the cut from the outside. The jigsaw will not make it around the corners without scratching up your van even when covered in painter’s tape (see step 3) (we learned this from experience!).
To precisely mark the cut-line on the outside, take a pick or a long nail (otherwise just grab your Phillip’s), and knock it hard with the hammer, making small dents all along the factory window cut-out. I would mark it up ever ½” to 1” along the straight edges and ¼” along the curved edges to help guide the jigsaw more precisely on those curves.
You don’t need to hit too hard but just make sure you’re creating a dent on the other side. Also, mark as closely as you can to the edge, even a millimeter smaller than that outer edge and the window will not fit into the hole. You’ll end up having to do a lot of filing to widen that hole, which is a pain.
On the outside of the van, you will now connect the dents (connect-the-dots!) with your whiteboard marker or grease pencil and you now have an outline to cut from!
3) Cut the Hole
Side Note on Saws, Generally: the pros use a recirculating hand saw. They even suggested that we use one. We got one and it was just too much for us. Here's a shot of me trying it on the sliding door window. It was so strong and I struggled to see well where I was cutting (as did Marino). . .
So, we just went with what all the beginners go with – the jigsaw.
Side Note on Jigsaws: We just happen to be lucky to have had two jigsaws laying around . . . rather, a friend who moved back to Florence left us one, and my dad had one. I’m not sure why, but Marino decided to start with the one our friend left. He then decided to try the one my dad had. We used our friends' jigsaw on this window, so it's pictured here but used the other on other windows.
Now, if there is one thing my dad knew a lot about, it was tools. The difference was amazing! The strength and smooth cutting power of the one my dad left us made cutting into metal feel like you’re slicing through a piece of paper in comparison to the other. So, I will strongly recommend, if you have to buy one and don’t already have one, go with this one (it's SUPER AFFORDABLE):
Find a comfortable starting point and drill a hole to start your cut from. The hole should be on the inside edge of the cutout. Cutting on the outside of your outline will mean cutting too wide! Grab your jigsaw and cut away, following your outline the whole time.
If this is your first time cutting, I would suggest starting with one of the vertical edges along the straight part. You don’t want your first cut to be a curved edge – although once you’ve start straight, cutting on the curve will feel more comfortable. You also don’t want your first cut to be the parts where you have to cut through two pieces of metal – which happens along the middles of the top and bottom edges. Give yourself a simple and easy first cut. Then complicate it with the rest.
This is what we did to give ourselves an opportunity to practice cutting first:
Also, as you cut more and more, the metal begins to vibrate more too. So, tape the cut pieces to the frame as you keep going, like this:
Just keep going until you're done:
If this is your first time, it will be stressful - there is no avoiding that. But the satisfaction of getting it done is awesome!!!
CAVEAT: For the next few steps, we were so excited to keep moving that we didn't document any of it. So, since we LOVE Kevin's video's from Mathers on the Map, we'll refer you to them (from 6:10 on, are the steps we missed documenting ) . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSBA1c4F9Zc&ab_channel=MathersOnTheMap AND, we'll get better at documenting in the future, we promise!
4) Smooth the Edges & Test the Fit
File the window opening on all sides making sure to leave a smooth surface. Grab your window and check to see that it fits the cut. If it doesn’t, note where you need to file it down a little more and file away.
Once the window fits, you’re good to clean up all the metal shavings, remove the plastic and painter’s tape. Just make sure you clean all the metal debris. You don’t want it sticking around and causing a rust problem later on.
5) Treat for Rust
With the applicator (we used a sponge applicator), apply the Rustoleum to the cut edge and let dry (approx. 1 hour).
6) Screw in the Window!
You will need someone to help you out on this part. Grab the metal frame, Phillip’s, and the screws that C.R. Laurence provides. Fit your window into the cut out and have the other person hold it so it doesn’t fall out as you’re trying to screw the metal frame into it. Once you’ve got a few corner screws and a screw on each side, they can let go and you can go at it solo again.
IMPORTANT: do NOT tighten the screws all the way one at a time. Rather, screw them in a little at a time until you have all the screws in. Then keep going around and around, tightening them more and more.
Once you’ve gone as far as you can go manually, grab the drill and give them all one last tighten and that should be it! You don’t need or want the glass to be touching the metal. It is properly installed if the window lines up with the exterior of the outside groove.
7) Test for Leaks!
It’s nerve-racking, I know. Just do it. It will feel so much better when it is all said and done. Because of the way the C.R. Laurence windows are designed, the major likely reason for a leak is if you didn’t tighten it well enough and the seal isn’t tight. Hopefully this doesn’t happen. If it does, make sure to unscrew the screws carefully so you don’t strip them. The window comes with a few extra just in case though.
And that’s about it! First window down! 5 more to go!
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