Van Build | Roof Vent and Awning

If you haven’t thought too much about ventilation, you may want to start. Airflow through your van is one of the best ways to regulate temperature. And what better way to increase it than with a skylight!

Not only will a vent increase airflow, but it will also reduce moisture build-up and bad smells from gassy human by-products after a delicious meal.

The biggest decision to make is whether to install a fan or not. Obviously, going with the fan type will provide more ventilation but this comes with a higher price tag. As for sizing, we suggest installing the biggest vent possible that fits between the ribs of your roof. You certainly don’t want to be cutting or modifying these ribs as they provide the structural integrity of your van.

We thought picking the brand would be the easy part but it turns out we were wrong. After researching on the internet, we quickly found there weren’t many options out there… quality options anyway. We decided to broaden our search to caravan stores, and managed to visit a local camping show that happened to be on this particular weekend, lucky right? After all this, we were still surprised at the limited amount of options. All we came across were the brands Fiamma and Dometic. So after a bit of a debate, our sights were set on Fiamma. For no other reason than Dylan’s bias based on his ancestry…

We opted for no fan as more of a skylight feel was saught after, and we figured the ventilation would be good enough. You may want to know if we would change our decision? And the answer to your question is yes, if we could go back, we would get a fan. Not that the ventilation is bad, but it could be better. And to be honest, Dylan can’t sit still for more than 10 minutes so staring out a skylight is not his cup of tea anyway. Seemed like a good idea at the time…

The plan is to mount a small fan in the vent to make up for our mistake and before you jump to conclusions, yes a cable was run for this exact situation. We aren’t just pretty faces…


The first thing you need to do is measure, as seems to be the general consensus with every part of the van build so far. Start by using the manual for dimensions, don’t just guess! Measure from a consistent reference point. Whether that be the back of the van, front of the van, or follow what we did and use the small humps on the roof. There is no perfect method for completing this, just take care and make sure what you are using as a reference is consistent from both on top and inside the van.

Most vans have these silly little humps which serve no purpose (different to the ribs mentioned earlier) and can make sealing your roof vent a nightmare. But in our case, they actually came in handy when we were measuring and luckily enough, our vent fit perfectly between these humps avoiding the need for spacers. It seemed as if the vent was purpose-made!

The actual process was quite simple, as nerve-racking as it was. Using the humps as a reference, we marked out the four corners both top and bottom, and proceeded to drill them.

Picture of roof

Drilling The Corners

Double-check first!!!! I think I checked 86 times before proceeding! Well worth it in the end as I basically had no margin for error.

Once I was happy… I wasn’t happy, I was about to cut a hole in the roof of our van. I was freaking out! Let me start again. Once my mother told me to stop being a sook and get on with it, I bit the bullet and started drilling… no turning back now!

After drilling the corners, we checked that the dots we marked on the underside of the roof had disappeared in the form of a hole. To our surprise, we managed to nail this! All four corners lined up and we were ready to move onto the next step… cutting!

Roof vent dimensions marked and ready to cut

Now for the scary part

Before you cut the roof, join the dots to provide a guided cut line and place several layers of masking tape along them. This ensures the protection of the paint from flaking.

We watched videos of people using angle grinders, but this just looked difficult and dangerous. If you can, use a Jigsaw instead. Also make sure you have a sheet metal blade installed, as using the wrong blade will cause the Jigsaw to snag and potentially damage your roof. If a grinder is the only option, be careful and lay some mats down, there will be plenty of sparks!

Some friendly advice, if you have never used a Jigsaw before, find some scrap wood or metal and practice before attacking your van.

Start from one hole, cutting along the line, and don’t stop until you reach the next hole. It really is that easy! Repeat until you have a big square hole in the roof of your van.

Did we say there was no turning back before? There definitely isn’t now!

Cutting the roof for vent
hole cut out in the roof

Check your vent fits. If it doesn’t, remove and slowly trim the edges of the hole until it does. Once you’re happy, remove the tape and clean the metal shavings away. Sit the roof-vent in and mark the mounting holes for drilling. After that, remove the vent one last time and pre-drill all the holes. Before you get ahead of yourself, spray paint the bare metal to avoid rusting in the future (this step is optional but something we recommend doing). Wait for the paint to dry, and finally, you are ready to mount!

Vent hole with drill holes marked out


First things first, thoroughly clean the area to allow for the best seal. Then use natural cure silicone and don’t be modest. Cover the bottom of the vent and press it down into the hole. Before the silicone sets, screw the vent down using stainless steel screws and clean the silicone away from the edges. This not only makes for the best seal, but it also keeps the job tidy and makes it look a little more professional.

This may sound stupid, but the best way to smooth the silicone is to spit on your fingers and wipe it away. Remember to keep a rag handy!

Pro Tip: I cut small pieces of timber for the screws to pull up against the underside of the roof.

Vent sitting in hole
How I used the wood as a medium to screw into

There you have it. Just wait for the silicone to set and test it out with a hose! (I waited 48 hours which brings me to another tip. Don’t attempt this if there is rain in the forecast!)


Everywhere you look right now you will see a 4WD, Van, or SUV with an awning. We’ve even seen Toyota Camry’s with them… come on, who goes camping in a Camry? You can’t even stand under it!?

All jokes aside, they are a great addition and serve their purpose very well! The only downside is stealth camping. It’s pretty obvious that a van parked in a beautiful (illegal) location with an awning is a campervan. A dead giveaway if it’s set up. Nevertheless, this should come nowhere near close to stopping you from installing one.

Being from Australia, Kings awnings are installed on everything and we have only heard positive things. In a small van where you can reach the roof, we would definitely recommend looking into these as the prices are unbeatable. But what if you can’t reach the roof? Like on a Crafter where the roof is 2.3 meters high. Unfortunately, your options are more limited, and you guessed it, more expensive.

The same issues were faced in finding the correct awning as with the roof vent, and for the same bias reason, we chose Fiamma. The Fiamma F65s is specifically designed for our van, however, the price was just enormous. So we found a cheaper option in the Fiamma F45s and had some stainless steel brackets made to suit for less than half the price… go figure!?

These brackets are designed to mount where the roof racks would be and replicate a flat wall. You’ll need these for the F45s awning as it’s designed to mount to a flat surface.

Once the stainless steel brackets were complete, it was just a matter of removing the plug in the roof and bolting it on. Insertion rubber was used as a soft medium between the two metal surfaces and likewise with the roof vent, natural cure silicone was used as a sealant.

Bracket bolted to roof for awning
All brackets for awning installed

After the brackets were installed, it was just a matter of bolting the F45s wall mount clips to the brackets and lifting the awning on. Yes, it’s that simple!

Well, there is always a catch. The awning weighs roughly 28Kg’s and ours being 3 meters long would prove an arduous task even for the strongest folk out there. So unless you’re Superman you may want to ask for some help.

Awning mounted on the van

With a little help from the old man, we were able to lift the awning up and secure it in a matter of minutes. All that was left to do was install some small locking screws in the bottom of the bracket to keep the awning in place.

Time to test…

Awning first test

We absolutely love this awning! Super robust, simple, and takes about 1 minute of your day to set up. I would recommend this to anyone with a large van or who is happy to spend the extra cash! One of the best and most used features from our Van Build to date!

Now that you’re finished, it’s time to clean… I’m not kidding, you need to get all the metal shavings off your roof as they can result in chipped paint and small rust marks. Building a van can’t be all fun and games.

Cleaning the van roof
Posing for a photo on the roof of van

Or can it? Who said cleaning can’t be fun?

Summing up, this was the scariest part of our van build as we have never attempted anything like this before, so time to reward ourselves with a beer!

Still had no idea whether it would leak or not…

We (mainly Dylan) were able to complete this in a day and, to be honest, most of that time was spent second-guessing the measurements.

Equipment used:

  • Fiamma crystal 40 x 40 roof vent
  • Fiamma F45s 3 meter awning
  • Stainless steel brackets
  • Small wood offcuts
  • Rust guard spray paint
  • Insertion rubber
  • Masking tape
  • Natural cure silicone
  • Stainless steel screws
  • Stainless steel bolts

Tools used:

  • Drill and drill bits
  • Jigsaw
  • Socket set
  • screwdrivers
  • Tape measure
  • Level

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