Measuring for Curtains: From Rod to Fringe and Beyond

measuring for curtains

D. Palmacci

It may seem a simple task, but properly measuring for curtains requires precision and attention to detail.

Whether you’ve just moved into a new home or you’re looking for a change, new window treatments are an exciting way to pull together a room’s design. But achieving that soft, gathered look takes some work. Precision and patience are essential when measuring for curtains of any length or style. Fortunately, anyone can do it with the right tools and tips. While you’ll have to procure the tools yourself, we’ve got the tips for you right here.

measuring for curtains

Preparing to measure and install

Before measuring or installing curtains, make sure you have the proper tools. A metal tape measure is a must-have, as a fabric tape measure can provide inaccurate readings. You’ll also want to have an electric drill and screwdriver on hand, and if you have one, a stud finder can be helpful, though not necessary if you have mounting brackets.

Another thing to consider before getting started is what kind of rod will work best for your curtain type. If, for example, you’re hanging thermal curtains, you’ll want a thicker rod that can support them. On the other hand, if you’re only hanging sheers, you can get away with most any rod, and in fact, a thicker rod might look excessive paired with the dainty fabric of sheer curtains.

Measuring for rod and trackmeasuring for curtains

Installing the rod or track is the trickiest part of measuring for curtains. To get started, you first need to know the width of the window, but that’s not ultimately the measurement you’re looking for.

“A common mistake people make when hanging a curtain is to install the pole the exact width as the window,” says Atlanta interior designer, Lee Anne Culpepper. “When installing the curtain rod ALWAYS extend the pole at least three inches beyond each side of the frame.” (Not including the decorative pieces on the end of curtain rods.)

Culpepper gives three reasons for the additional width: It makes the window appear larger, it lets in more light, and it prevents shadows from appearing on the sides of the window.

As for distance from the window, the rod or track should sit about six inches higher than the top of the window (not the window frame).

Measuring curtain width02-measuring-for-curtains-from-rod-to-fringe-and-beyond

Width is another place where measuring for curtains requires a little attention to detail. Most curtain widths take into consideration the entirety of the fabric laid flat. However, that means that if you purchase curtains based on rod or window width, the material would be flat when closed. To achieve a bunched or gathered look, you need curtains that are at least 1.5 times the width of the window or rod.

For example, let’s say you measure for curtains to cover a 60-inch window. You don’t want curtains that are 60-inches wide, rather, you’d want them to extend to at least 90-inches between the two panels, and probably no more than 180-inches, depending on how bunched you want the fabric to be. Tab-top curtains usually require slightly less width, but in the end, width doesn’t have to be an exact science as long as you’re happy with how much extra material there is.

Measuring curtain length

Curtain length needs to be more accurate. Even if you measure for curtains that will “puddle” on the floor, you don’t want to have too much extra material, or yourmeasuring for curtains puddle will look more like a pile. Fortunately, curtains come in standard lengths, so to achieve your desired look, all you need to do is to round up to the next length. So, if you have a window that’s 69 inches, you would purchase 72-inch curtains if you wanted them to hang just at or below the window sill.

Just like with the width, you don’t want to use the window itself to determine the length of your curtains, rather, you want to measure from the top of the curtain rod to your desired length. Traditionally, curtains hang at sill level, apron level, or floor level. So if you measure for sill level, you would measure from the top of the rod to the top of the sill. For apron-level, you’d measure from the top of the rod to the bottom of the apron. And for floor-length, you’d measure from the top of the sill to the floor, and include any additional length you want for puddling.

Additional tips for length: If you’re measuring for pinch pleat curtains, start from the eye of the curtain ring instead of the top of the rod. Also, remember to take multiple measurements for length as floors and sills are not always level. If that’s the case, use the smallest measurement as your length marker.

Once you figure out the measurements you want for your curtains, take a look at some of our favorite designs:

We love the vibrant colors of this Leah Grommet Curtain Panel Pair.

The Park Designs Sarasota Curtain Panel Pair offers an air of tradition to any room.

For curtain rods, you can’t go wrong with the simple elegance of the Camino by Achim-Embrace 3/4″ Decorative Curtain Rod.

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