Portholes: The where, how, and why?


We recently installed some familiar but upgraded features in our van: porthole windows!! And we wanted to give you the low-down on our choices and give you some information if you're looking to do something similar. Our

They'll be set as the backdrop for our kitchenette area, right behind our sink. They really bring a boat-like ambiance to our little home on wheels. And we've always dreamed about having that feeling on land!

We initially tried to accomplish that in our current van via frames for the back windows. This worked out really well, and they're still one of the most recognizable features of our home, but we wanted to keep the back doors a bit more open. Since we were adding all the windows anyway, we decided to go with a more classic option, and we're really glad we did!

Where we found them

When we were looking for windows initially, we had big ideas of putting more house-like windows into the van. But, neither of us are master builders or carpenters, so we decided not to take any big risks (especially given our tight timeline). 

Instead we decided to go for something much simpler/standardized:

These windows are beautiful, and while they look super tinted from the outside (which is great for privacy), they give almost a polarized effect from the inside-out.


How we installed them

There isn't a ton different between this installation and our back window installation, except of course that these windows are smaller and rounder and have a frame (back windows are all glass). 


But that being said, there were some key differences in the installation process:

  • Double check the padding of the frame and the area in which you'll be installing the windows. It's important that you measure multiple times. It's a bit harder to measure this since there are no straight edges, so be extra careful with you measurements.
  • The frame needs a pretty flat surface to mount to on both sides. We cut away some of the internal metal (~3/4") to create the flat surface. Another option is to add shims to the inner wall.
  • The screws that came with the window frame didn't work very well, so we went and got some that were closer to the other framed windows we bought (quarter panel sliders). These were #8 1/2" sheet metal screws.
  • Unlike the all glass windows, the only material needed for sealing is close cell foam tape (pictured below) that you apply to the outer surface.

Why we went for it

We've always thought of our van as a terrestrial boat. We've always felt compelled to compare our van to a boat setting sail. Again, we tried to porthole frames, and they're great! We recommend doing that if you want the same affect with a window you already have. Keep in mind that when attaching wood to metal, the thermal expansion is not the same, so your metal door can expand more than your wood, creating issues. Plan ahead for this expansion. Our friend @longroadtonowhere has done a really amazing job with his back window hexagonal frames. Check out his build for more inspiration.

Excited to set sail in our new land boat once it's all done!!!!!