How to Measure for Curtains
Curtains are the crowning touch to windows. They add softness and color to a room. Curtains block light, provide privacy and help insulate your windows in ways blinds and shutters can’t. You’ve made the decision to purchase curtains, but have you really thought about what that decision really entails?
Curtains are relatively easy to install, but they come in a wide variety of sizes – so be prepared to be confused! Understanding how the sizes relate to your window dimensions is imperative to getting the finished look you want. Advanced preparation and the right measurements will ensure you order or purchase the correct size curtains for your windows.
What You Will Need
Metal tape measure - Use a metal retractable tape measure to take your window measurements. Metal tapes are rigid and lie flat across window openings. You will get a much more accurate measurement with metal versus a cloth measuring tape.
Pencil and notepad - You can sketch a rough drawing of your windows and jot down the corresponding width and length measurements.
Level - If you need to install a curtain rod, this tool will ensure your curtains are positioned evenly across the window.
- Choose where you want to install your curtain rod. You might find it easier to install your hardware before purchasing your curtains. This way you have a starting point from which to determine your finished panel sizes. This method works best if you plan on ordering custom size curtains.
- Typically, curtain rods should be hung above your window frame or opening and extend beyond the side molding or opening. Hanging curtains higher and extending the width prevents light from coming in when the curtain is closed. It is a designers’ trick to create visual drama by changing the perceived size of a window.
- Here is another reason for curtains to extend beyond the sides of your window opening: when your curtains are open, the panels will stack back to each side, clearing the window. This is particularly helpful when hanging curtains over a sliding glass door.
- The length is totally up to you. As you may have noticed, current design trends favor floor-length curtains. I'll discuss the different looks for floor length curtains later. If floor-length is not to your liking, you also have the option of sill-length or just below sill length.
How to Measure for Curtains and Rods
1. Measure the width of your window opening, including the frame, if applicable. Add at least 3 inches on each side. This measurement will represent the horizontal width you will need to cover.
You don’t want your curtains to lie flat across the window when closed, so you will need to account for fabric fullness. For standard fullness, multiply your window width measurement by 2. Multiply by 3 for extra fabric fullness. This horizontal measurement will represent the width of your finished panels.
2. Measure the window opening or frame from the top down to the point where you want the bottom hem to fall. Add at least 4 to 6 inches (depending on your desired curtain rod height) to that measurement. This vertical measurement represents the length of the curtain panels you will need to purchase or order.
- Ready made curtain are always stated in width by length dimensions that are stated in inches. For most curtains, the length is measured from the top of the fabric panel to the bottom of the hem. Note: the header fabric above a rod pocket casing and above a grommet are not included in the finished length measurement. Manufacturers measure these types of curtain panels from the point where the curtain rests at the top of the rod.
- For floor-length curtains: You have several styling options. They can lightly brush the floor, “break” like a pair of trouser cuffs, or create a romantic “puddle” of fabric on the floor. Puddling is not advised for functioning curtains. This effect is better suited for stationary curtain panels. Make note of any extra length required to achieve your desired look. That will be added to your length measurement.
- Take your curtain header style into consideration when measuring for rod placement and curtain length. For rod pocket, grommet and tab top curtains, measure from the top of the rod location to the floor to determine the finished curtain length. For pleated curtain panels, measure from the bottom of the ring eye to the floor. If you plan to use clip rings, remember the top of the curtain will start at the bottom tip of the clip.
Measuring for a Variety of Soft Window Treatments
Questions & Answers
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