The most satisfying projects for DIY RVers are often those we have zero experience with. That’s especially true for tasks that appear complicated at first glance.
The only window we’ve ever had to replace was under warranty, so of course we didn’t do the job ourselves. With our RV now over 11 years old, our fogged kitchen window required some thought on how to go about repairing or replacing it.
Making an appointment at an authorized Newmar dealer is always an option. That’s especially true for things that seem as though they might be beyond our abilities. That’s why the very first task us DIY types tackle is figuring out if we can do the job ourselves.
An aversion to repair shops is a pretty standard trait among full-timers. Beyond the substantially higher cost of having someone else do the job (labor usually costs more than parts), we often end up working on our laptops in the customer waiting room or a nearby coffee shop, neither of which are particularly comfortable for us. And don’t even get us started on repair appointments that take more than one day, which can prevent us from sleeping in our own bed for one or more nights.
Luckily, window replacement isn’t the kind of job that takes multiple days. Even so, our mindset with any repair or maintenance task is to first determine if we can do it ourselves.
Since we’d never replaced a window before, we didn’t really know what was involved. A little research led to the realization that this is an amazingly easy job, perfect for DIYers, even if you’ve never done it before. We also learned that there are several options, including repair of the current window, either by a professional or through the use of a do-it-yourself repair kit.
We decided against a repair for several reasons. First, the DIY repair kits we found are surprisingly expensive (typically around $300) and can also require the purchase of a special tool (add about another $100). Depending on size, the available kits generally contain enough supplies to repair several windows. But we only have one that’s a problem (and the first one in nearly 10 years that’s fogged), so we don’t feel the need to stock window repair equipment “just in case” we have a possible future need. And sending it out for professional repair typically requires special packaging and shipping, which not only adds to the cost, but if it breaks in transit due to our non-expert packing job, we’ll have to replace it anyway.
Another reason we didn’t go the repair kit route is because the window has to be removed anyway, so why not just replace it with brand new for approximately the same cost, and less work? Finally, we learned that our window might not be a good candidate for repair anyway, as we’d left it fogged long enough that it now had large water droplets inside, which can cause permanent etching of the glass. So why go to the expense and effort of repairing it ourselves, if the end result would be a window that was still flawed?
Once we decided to go with replacement vs. repair, the next option was to purchase the exact same OEM replacement from Newmar. But the price was even higher, with our small (15″ x 30″) kitchen window coming in at about $425. And while we have had only two windows fail in over 11 years (this one, plus the first one under warranty), we’re aware that the OEM brand doesn’t have the best reputation, with many people commenting about problems in online forums. So we thought we’d take this opportunity to search for a superior replacement… and maybe save some money in the process.
By coincidence, our friends Cherie & Chris of Technomadia completed an extensive renovation of their classic GM bus last year, including new windows. With their specialized needs, it’s no surprise that they required custom-made windows, which were made by a company called Peninsula Glass.
Another coincidence is that Peninsula Glass is located in Vancouver, WA, a town we visit often due to two other awesome RV suppliers being located there: Tough Top Awnings and Roadmaster. We were headed to Vancouver to connect with both of them, so we stopped by Peninsula Glass to learn more. It turns out that they can custom make just about any size and shape RV window, and even fill orders for single units.
While we were there, we got a tour of the factory and learned that not all windows are created equal. While the cost of the final custom-made window was about the same as OEM, the list of superior quality features was long. And it was obvious from looking at their finished products that we’d be stepping up to a much higher level of window vs. the “builders grade” that came from the factory. Not that the original windows aren’t okay, but we accept it as a given that mass-produced RVs have to keep prices in check, so they generally don’t use the very finest equipment available.
So we decided to take this opportunity to upgrade from our “Chevy” window to a “Mercedes” level for about the same price. Check out the video for a factory tour, and a detailed step-by-step tutorial on how to replace RV windows.
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