Bug-proofing: installing screens in your van

It was early March in Florida: The weather was gorgeous, but the temperature in the van was sky high — even at night. No problem, we thought, we’ll just crack the windows!

Then we spent the next half hour killing mosquitoes. You can still see a few blood spots on the roof of the van. :/

Most van dwellers follow good weather. That means mosquitoes and other bugs can be a problem year-round, whether you’re in Oregon, Michigan, Louisiana or somewhere in between. Even reading in the van with a small light can attract harmless-yet-annoying numbers of moths.

After that night killing mosquitoes in Florida, we set out to install screens in our van windows. (We first showed them off in an updated video tour of our van, Red Delicious.) Here’s a how-to in case you need help keeping the bugs away, too.

 

Chris all screened in

 

How to Install Screens on Your Van Windows

Step 1: Measure the windows you want to screen off.

  • The windows on the sliding doors (the middle row) roll down and help cool the sleeping area, so that’s what we decided to screen off.
  • The back row windows are just those little wings that pop out, so we decided it wasn’t worth it to screen them.
  • Important! Measure the dimensions of the full area you’re trying to cover — including the strip of car interior around the window, not just the glass itself. Add about 2-4” all around just to give yourself some room for error.

Step 2: Buy some screen and duct tape.

  • We opted for a roll of window screen that you can get from a hardware store. It’s like a replacement if you need to fix screen that has been ripped and is sold in a roll for $10-20. Make sure it’s large enough to cover the area you need it to.
  • If you wanted to buy mosquito netting, that is also a possibility. We liked the firmness/structure of the screen because it was easier to cut and install, but feel free to experiment!
  • You’re going to install these using duct tape. It’s the only tape with strong enough adhesive to stand up to the heat of a car, but isn’t so permanent that it’ll ruin anything.
  • We tried clear tape the first time and it only lasted a month. You’ll still need to replace the duct tape once a year, but that’s not bad!

 

Installing screens

 

Step 3: Cut screen to size, then tape in place.

  • Re-measure the area you’ll be covering before you cut the screen. Cut the panels of screen large enough so they can be held in place by both tape and a shut door.
  • You’ll want the tape to adhere to metal wherever possible, not fabric. Your door will hold at least three sides in place. It’ll extend the life of the tape and make sure no sneaky bugs get in through loose tape.
  • Cut short (6-8”) pieces of tape. You’ll want these at the ready since you’ll be busy holding the screen in place. If you want, you can loosely tape the top corners in place so it stays centered.
  • Tape all the way around, layering over each piece of tape for added security. Use scissors to trim excess screen as needed.
  • Try to keep the screen taut so it looks neat and doesn’t develop ripples in the tape that could allow bugs in.

Step 4: Enjoy and maintain.

  • Roll down your windows and enjoy your bug-free haven!
  • You might need to replace the tape every 8-12 months. Use Goo Gone if there is any adhesive left behind.
  • Consider a mosquito net to go over the back of the van if you leave your trunk/liftgate open often.

Do you have any other ideas for keeping bugs out of your van? Did you try something different when installing screens? Any other tape ideas? Please share in the comments!

  6 comments for “Bug-proofing: installing screens in your van

  1. 2016-09-06 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks for tips. we hope to do some traveling in our van this fall winter . Enjoyed your video of the insides of van

  2. Ken Wheeler
    2016-09-09 at 5:29 pm

    Made screens for my Sienna by getting magnetic rubber tape from the hardware store. put it on the metal around the window. Added a 1/16″ x 3/4″ aluminum strip over the plastic panel behind the window. Used barge cement to glue screen to this and then coated the screen magnetic frame with truck bedliner. Turns out the magnetic tape isn’t strong enough to keep it flat or drive with it on. I use 1/2″ dia. magnets to overcome this. Work and look good.

  3. 2016-11-20 at 8:21 am

    Duct will eventually become problematic as it gets sticky with age. My wife used flexible mosquito netting and made sleeves for the front doors. We used flat mosquito netting for the side pop out windows and held them in place with rare earth magnets.

  4. Sheila Cunningham
    2017-02-26 at 12:50 am

    We’ve stuck the hook side of velcro straps around windows
    Then you just press on the screening (the softer stuff)
    You can take it off for a rinse and reinstall as many times as necessary

  5. 2017-03-31 at 11:59 am

    Oh man Vanlife in Florida? We lived there for a year and went camping once, the tent next to us had an ac uniti! Lol. The bugs are fierce there for sure. I’ve been wanting to add screens to our van too! Thanks for the details. We are traveling through Oregon now so not bugs yet, but summer they are coming! Haha

    • Tamara & Chris
      2017-04-01 at 4:28 pm

      Glad to help!! And yes, camping in the south is pretty much all RVs with A/C, satellite dishes and more… Have fun in Oregon! It’s beautiful there.

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