Thursday, October 1

DIY Window Screens for our Ford Transit Camper Van

A while back I shared about how we convert our Ford Transit into a part-time camper with our removable bunk bed system, back door shelving unit, and insulated window shades. But there's still one more important tutorial to go! We'd be lost - well maybe not lost, but definitely bug-bitten - without window and door screens! And you know we DIY'd them for a perfect fit at a low cost. Here's all you need to know to make your own:

Check out the rest of our DIY Camper Van posts here.

I had a few criteria for our DIY screen endeavor:

  • The screens need to be easy + super-fast to put up.
  • We (including the kids) must be able to get in and out easily.
  • They need to be removable (we do use it as a regular van most of the time).
  • It can't hurt resale value - so know permanent holes or screws (even though I love this van like it's my fifth child and will never let it go).

I found a solution that met all of those needs and it only cost me about $35 to make the whole set! We can put them up or take them down in seconds, and they take barely any space to store.

I made a screen for each of the front windows, and a pair of screen "curtains" for the sliding door. The curtain panels just overlap in the middle so it's super easy to get in and out. 
Here's a closer look at the front window screens:

And this is looking out the side door (you can see where the two panels overlap):

These screens are super easy to make and super easy to customize for any kind of vehicle because you can cut them whatever size or shape you need. Plus they are magnetic, so you can stick them up anywhere there's metal which makes them perfect for vans or campers, but you can even make a set for your car windows to keep bugs out while you watch softballs games or whatever..

Here's all you need:

  • a roll of replacement screen - the amount you need will depend on your vehicle, but for our transit we used two of these 48x84" rolls. We choose ADFORS Charcoal Fiberglass screen because it's super flexible and foldable (so we can fold it for storage and it flattens back out perfectly when we need it). We also went with the "small insect" screen to keep out as many buggy visitors as possible. We spent about $12/roll at Menards, but it's also available on Amazon if you can't find it locally.
  • small magnets - we used this set from Amazon (it was about $10)
  • duct tape - we had black duct tape that was perfect to blend in with the screens, but you can use whatever you've got. 
  • possibly a needle and thread... we'll get to that in a minute.

1. Start but cutting out your screen pieces. 

I cut two pieces for the sliding door that were the full 48" wide, and long enough to cover the door opening, plus 4-6" of extra at the top. The 48" width gave us plenty of extra to overlap both the sides of the door opening where the two panels meet at the center. Note: for our van these door screen also fit the back doors if we decided to open them instead! You can make an extra set if you plan to keep all the doors open at once.

I used the scrap pieces to cut a screen for each of the front windows. You can trace the window on newspaper to make a pattern, or just hold the screen up there and eyeball it with the scissors (that's what I did). Either way, make sure you leave a couple inches of extra screen all around the window. These screens will be held up by magnets, and the magnets need to reach the metal!

2. Start attaching magnets to the screens. 

Magnets make it super easy to put the screens up and take them down without damaging the van.

You'll use the same process to attach all the magnets. For the door screens I only put magnets along the top edge (you could do the outside edge of each door if you want, but we haven't found that to be necessary at this point. Maybe if you're camping someplace windy. You'll need a second set of magnets if you plan to do the sides.). The window screens have magnets all the way around. For our Transit the screen didn't reach all the way to the metal on the front side of these windows, so we skipped magnets there (the front half of the window doesn't open, anyway). 

Start by laying a piece of duct tape sticky-side-up, then laying one of your screens so it covers up half the duct tape:

Lay magnets along the length of the duct tape (every 8" or so. it doesn't need to be exact):

Fold the duct tape down over the magnets to secure them:

Keep working your way around the screens to attach the rest of the magnets.

I chose duct tape over some kind of fabric binding for a few reasons:

  1. I wanted something waterproof. It always rains when we go camping and I didn't want to be packing up wet fabric. With duct tape we just shake them off and they are ready to pack. 
  2. The duct tape holds the magnets right where I want them. With a fabric binding you would have to sew around each magnet to keep them in place.
  3. The duct tape actually helps to create a stiffer boarder around the screens which makes them easier to put up because they want to hold their shape.

3. Sew the edges of the tape.

For our first camping trip we went with our screens just like this. They worked well, but we found that when we pulled them down to pack, the duct tape would start to peel up each time. Maybe there's a heavy duty duct tape that would hold better? But the solution I found for our screens was to sew down the edge of the duct tape:

They've been working perfectly ever since! I do not recommend doing this on a sewing machine. You don't want sticky residue gumming up your machine, and you don't want magnets near all those working parts. So I sewed it by hand. It wasn't a fun job, but it was worth it. I found that using a set of pliers to get the needle through the tape really saved my hands. And it didn't take a long time to finish this part, it just took a lot of effort to get through that tape.

Probably should have used black thread.

When we're not camping, the screens are folded and stored in a bin with our DIY insulated window shades and the collapsible bins from our DIY bunk shelving unit

Hopefully this helps with whatever kind of adventures you are planning! Here's to all the fun without all the bugs! :)



  1. Thank you so much for this post! How did I forget good ol' duct tape?! I tried to sew fabric around the edge of mine and it started out ok but quickly failed as the fabric kept pulling itself off the edge. Yours is simple and cheap!