How to Measure for Curtains

Updated on February 18, 2018
lindacee profile image

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

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?

Save yourself a trip back to the store by measuring to get the right size curtains.
Save yourself a trip back to the store by measuring to get the right size curtains. | Source

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.

Basic Considerations

  • 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.

Example of curtains that exceed the width and height of a window.
Example of curtains that exceed the width and height of a window. | Source
  • 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.

Start with the window width and make adjustments to account for rod placement.
Start with the window width and make adjustments to account for rod placement. | Source

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.

Measure from top of window to floor and account for rod height.
Measure from top of window to floor and account for rod height. | Source

Additional Considerations

  • 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.

Decide on the finished style of your floor-length curtains.
Decide on the finished style of your floor-length curtains. | Source
  • 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.

There are different ways to measure for curtains based on their heading style.
There are different ways to measure for curtains based on their heading style. | Source

Measuring for a Variety of Soft Window Treatments

© 2012 Linda Chechar

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    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      19 months ago from Arizona

      Kati - Stitched, those are great measuring guides!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      20 months ago from Arizona

      Sue Goody, if you want to cover the entire window, you would at least need a total of 710 inches or 19.75 yards or 18.1 meters of fabric for French pleats. Upholstery fabric is typically 54 inches wide so it would require 6.25 panels of 95" long by 54" wide. The total fabric amount includes a 3 inch hem on top and bottom and seam allowances. I'm assuming it would require 4 curtains. Each curtain width would depend on the bay window dimensions. Now this isn't exact but it gives you a rough idea. Hope this helps.

    • profile image

      Sue Goody 

      20 months ago

      My window is a bay it measures 95’’ high and is 130’’ long I want French pleats. How much meter of fabric do I need?

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      CassyLu, hopefully you can use this info to fix your curtain issues. :) Thanks for the vote and share! Take care!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image


      7 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      I wish I would have had this when we moved into our new house LOL Our curtains couldn't be more wrong! Voted up and shared :)

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Teaches, I've done the same thing. It's even doubly bad when you order a custom size and get the measurements wrong and there's a "all sales final" policy! :(

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Leah, yep, with kids around you got to be careful with the length. I know your valances will be measured perfectly and will look wonderful! Happy to know you found this Hub to be useful. Thanks!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Carol, glad I could help! Oooh you have a boat! Sounds wonderful. I know the curtains will turn out great! Thanks for the read, vote and share! Take care. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      I have made the mistake of not measuring correctly and had to return curtains as a result. This is very helpful in knowing how to make sure you get it right the first time. Voted up.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      7 years ago from Western New York

      This is a very useful hub. I need to make some new valances for the boys' playroom and this will help me get a good measurement. I always choose floor-length curtains because my kids tend to step on/pull on longer ones!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      As always great hub with super instructions and information. I am thinking about making some curtains for the boat as the ones there are really ugly. I will bookmark for information. Thanks for sharing UP and Share.


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