A skylight on a campervan brings in brilliant light and is great for ventilation too. Modern van roof lights come with optional thermal blinds and built-in mosquito blinds too.
If I didn’t have side windows, I would still put in one or two roof windows into a campervan, because of the quality of light they bring in. Installation of a skylight is daunting but relatively straightforward. For the installation of your roof light, you will need a good ruler with a right angle, a measuring tape, a metal drill and a jigsaw. We also found an angle grinder and a graduated metal drill bit extremely useful.
Our ambulance came with a small skylight. It was opaque and looked fairly dirty, but functioned well and seemed to be waterproof.
However on closer inspection, it was all, but fine: At first glance, it looked like leaves were stuck to the top, but this turner out to be a bodged repair job with fibreglass smeared over the fixings. It was only when we went on the roof that we saw the atrocious job of mastic around the skylight. When we removed the ceiling we saw the mouldy battens securing the skylight from below.
The ambulance skylight had to go!
What a beautiful job the original installers of this roof window have done, right?
We dithered on what to get and what size. There is a good choice of roof lights out there. In the end, we went for a Midi Heki made by Dometic. This well-established brand has proven itself in the market many times over and I like the features: built-in blind and mosquito screen.
Roof cut-out size for the skylight
With the sizing came the challenge: Our old window cut out size was 350mm x 400mm, the new size was 700mm x 500mm…but the width between the two van ribs was only 460mm. Can we cut into the rib without compromising the structural integrity?
In the end, we decided that we could, especially as Campy Van has steel reinforcement plates to level the ceiling along all its ribs in the original conversion.
Cutting the hole in the roof
Start with pilot holes
So up we went onto the van roof. (I’m not very good with heights, even as far as a van roof, so I asked my uncle to help out with the rooftop side of the job.) We figured out roughly where the new opening was to be and drilled a small pilot hole to double-check.
Then we drew the cutting line onto the roof with a marker pen, checking our right angles with a ruler.
Despite working a lot on the van by this time, taking things apart, this was my first cut into the bodywork.
I was nervous!
I shouldn’t have been!
Tools for Cutting the Roof Light
The easiest tool to use for cutting out the skylight is a jigsaw with a decent metal cutting blade. However, in our case, a jigsaw wasn’t going to fit by the front edge of the old window and we couldn’t work from below either, as it was butting right up to a structural rib. After marking out the square to be cut out we grabbed an angle grinder for the job.
Cutting the straight lines was straight-forward and for the rounded corners, we used a graduated hole drill piece.
With the hole cut, we tested the skylight frame: Perfect on the first round.
Installing a Flat Frame on a Ribbed Roof
Next challenge: The van roof has ribs for added strength. How are were going to fit a flat frame to the ribbed roof and ensure our Midi Heki doesn’t leak?
After some research and asking on SBMCC forum, I went about cutting some infill pieces from some acrylic sheet we had lying around. These were stuck in place with a flexible mastic glue, Sikaflex.
Next we applied the Sikaflex to the underside of the window frame in the allocated slot, making sure to go evenly and give it plenty.
Then we pushed the roof window’s outer frame into place, cleaning the excess mastic from places and filling in where we hadn’t put enough.
Usually, you would secure the frame down to the framing battens and ceiling cut out at this point. As we had neither in place, we weighed down the frame overnight, till we were sure the Sikaflex was well set.
It rained the next day, so we’ve had a chance to test the water-tightness of the installation. We had done a good job!
Installing the Underside of the Roof Window
Couple of days later, I got to the point of refitting the old ceiling- I measured up the to cut out for the roof window with the help of the underside cover piece and made the cut-out.
I added the frame securing brackets- screwing them into the frame and the ceiling.
The frame just clips on from below. It really is that simple!
I love the look and the function of the new skylight!
The new skylight gives a lot of light compared to the crappy old ambulance one and totally changes the feel of the internal space.
I can shade the roof window and create a cosy feeling, sleep longer. We can throw it open on hot summer days, but keep bugs away with the mosquito net. We can have our roof light cracked to a vent setting.
I’ll have to grab a picture from above too, ‘coz it looks great.