D.I.Y: Re-seal Your RV Windows
Given the question of “how hard is it to re-seal your RV windows”, at first glance it seems harder than it really is. The high-level overview is that the windows act like a “sandwich”, where the window housing is on one side, the window frame is on the side, and the RV siding material is in between. Below are the steps to get your windows all sealed up right!
Step 1: Remove Trim and Screws
If your windows are like ours, the inner window has a small piece of trim covering the screws. There’s a small gap between where the trim piece starts and ends, so this makes an ideal place to begin pulling it out. Once you have removed the trim and all screws are exposed, you can go ahead and remove all the screws. Try as best as you can to not strip these screws as you remove them, otherwise you’re going to have fun like I did trying to find the right screw size to replace them with. Unfortunately for us, the previous owners weren’t as kind-hearted to the future maintainer, so many screws with stripped or sometimes even just outright broken.
Step 2: Remove the Window
Once the screws are removed, you can remove the inner moulding piece. Be sure to take note of which way is up to make sure you can put it back in the same way so the holes line up. Now it’s time to remove the window. This step is much easier if you have a helper since one person can push while the other holds the window stable while it comes out. The previous layer of butyl tape is pretty sticky, so this step can take a little jiggling to get it out. Start working from the top down, otherwise if you get the bottom out first, things slide down easily, which is bad news when working around jagged edges of cut fiberglass or aluminum. Pushing from the top ensures the window will tilt out as you pull on it vs. sliding.
Step 3: Clean the Window Frame and Hole
This step sounds the easiest, and many people in videos just breeze right through this with a nice quick shot saying “see look now it’s time for the next step.” Here’s where we’re not going to sugar coat anything: this step is rough. Butyl tape is a sticky, gooey, tarry, stringy mess. Add some sealant/caulk around the outside and there’s a whole lot of mess to deal with. We used a lot of Goo Gone Pro Power and a ton of towels to help us remove it in addition to just scraping off what we could. We also did this in the middle of summer. The colder the temperatures, the easier the butyl tape is going to be to remove. This step is also the most important to be sure it’s done right, as any leftover tape could cause an improper seal and leakage. The more thorough you are in removing the old tape, the better off you’ll be after finishing the job.
Step 4: Add New Butyl Tape
Grab some new butyl tape and put it around the inner lip of the window frame. We tried to bring it inside the curve as well to ensure that everything was well covered when the frame is pushed back into place. This is another task that goes much easier with 2 people, but certainly isn’t impossible with 1. With 2 people, maneuvering the window while maintaining a solid piece of butyl tape is easier than cutting/tearing and readjusting to a new angle.
Step 5: Put the Window Back and Re-attach the Screws
Put the window frame back in the hole. Be careful as you get it in place to avoid pushing the butyl tape against the RV exterior until you’re sure the window is back in the proper position for the inner frame and holes to match up. Ours was pretty easy to line up with the paint / frame that we only had a few minor moments of needing to readjust the location slight to get the holes to fit.
Step 6: Seal Around the Edges
Go around the edge of the windows with a small bead of sealant. Be careful with this stuff as it is not very forgiving: it’s thick, it’s stringy, and it dries fairly fast, so keep your bead small and work in small sections to avoid stringy messes everywhere. It’s probably even worth doing a couple of test beads on a cardboard box or something similar to get a feel for the thickness/viscosity. A handyman we were working with laughed at my first few attempts saying how ugly they were, but when he started using it realized he was having similar issues with the stringy, sticky mess it made. I saw a good tip that really helped, which was to use a bit of painters tape on both the frame and the outside of the rv to create a nice “line” where the sealant would stay after pulling the painters tape off. But I give you this tip with the first suggestion of “work in small sections because if you don’t and try to pull off all the tape after you’re done, you’ll find the tape will have a better bond with the sealant than the paint and it will pull all your painstaking laid sealant off and you’ll have to do it all over again.
Step 7: Reattach Trim
This part was arguably the part that I hated the most. “Put the trim back in the channels” is a perfect example of one of those things that’s easier said than done. Ours didn’t want to go back in easily and was easy to not quite be fully seated and therefore would often fall out halfway through. Our rig is old and vintage looking already, so we decided to skip this step on a lot of windows in favor of a more barebones / riveted look. We don’t mind the exposed screws and feel like they add a little to the style. Those with newer rigs may disagree, and to them I say “have fun putting the trim back!”