When you decide to fit a skylight in your van conversion, you can pay someone to install it for you, or you can commit to doing it yourself. After getting quotes for how much it would cost to have someone else install our windows and skylight, we took the plunge ourselves and committed to cutting some holes in the side of our van.
The primary reason we decided to install a skylight in the van was because we want to make sure that it will be as light as possible inside. As well as this, it will also provide additional ventilation whilst cooking, and will allow more air into the van on warm nights.
We bought the Dometic Seitz Mini Heki, which comes with a built in fly net and blind. We opted to not go for a skylight with a built in fan, as we're going to install two roof vents at either end of the van which will be powered, so that one can draw air in and one can draw air out (this will help with airflow and decrease condensation).
As with the windows, professional van builders will use a nibbler tool or a pair of electric shears to cut through sheet metal. We watched some YouTube videos on how to install a skylight and windows with the tools we already owned, to save money on buying new tools.
Products, tools & consumables needed:
• Hole saw or stepped drill bit
Drilling and cutting the hole
Firstly we laid everything out on the roof, to work out where everything would go. This included our three solar panels, two vents and the skylight. Once we were happy with positioning, we set to work on cutting the hole for the skylight.
Installing the skylight was much easier than the windows, as it's a square, so you only need to cut four straight lines instead of the curved profile of the windows. We started by drilling four pilot holes, and then widened the holes to 24mm using a step drill bit. You would usually do this job with a hole saw, but we didn't have one of these and the step drill bit did the job fine.
Once the four holes were drilled, we joined the dots with the Jigsaw. I think Dale is pretty happy that the Jigsawing jobs are almost over! It's definitely the noisiest job, and as we don't have a nibbler it's seen quite a lot of action. Luckily it didn't need to be out for very long, as it was quite a quick process cutting straight lines between the four holes.
When we cut the van windows in we put masking tape all around the outside of where we would be cutting to avoid marking the van with the Jigsaw. This time we just put gaffer tape on the Jigsaw itself and this had the same effect, and saves time and tape (thanks Pete!).
Filing and painting the edges
As we haven't been using a nibbler which leaves a clean edge, each time we've chopped a hole in the van using the Jigsaw we've needed to file the edges down so that they're smooth. Filing creates a more even and level surface, which improves the chances of creating a reliable seal. We then applied Hammerite to the edge to reduce the risk of anything rusting.
Levelling the roof
As the top of the van isn't flat, we used mastic tape to create a level surface to adhere to. This is super important as if the surface that you're attaching to isn't level, 1) you'll struggle to adhere in the first place as you won't have many points of contact, and 2) you'll end up getting water ingress. Mastic tape kind of feels like a cross between Blu Tack and play-doh, so it's great for moulding into whatever shape you need. We added a few strips of mastic until the edge was completely level to make sure water wouldn't have a path to get in.
Attaching the skylight
Once the mastic tape was on, we used a sealant called Sikaflex EBT to stick the skylight to the mastic. This is an all weather sealant so is perfect for preventing leaks, and it's what most people use for this kind of job.
To be extra safe (can you tell we were worried about leaks?!), we then applied a layer of Dicht-Fix all around the skylight and mastic tape. This is a gluey grey paint reinforced with carbon fibres, so in case of any gaps between the skylight, the mastic and the van, everything is completely sealed. Applying the Dicht-Fix gave us a lot of confidence that everything we covered in it would be sealed, as it forms a really thick, reinforced layer over everything painted.
Once the skylight was installed on the roof, the frame which the fly net and blind sit on could be attached to the inside using some metal clips. Where we chose to install the skylight meant that we had to cut the plastic frame in order for it to fit. We trimmed the edges off with a circular saw, but as we're cladding the inside of the van, we'll make a frame for the skylight so this won't be visible.
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