How to Hang Curtain Rods in 7 Simple Steps

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DONT hang the brackets right next to the window

I said it once already, but it bears repeating – be sure to hang your curtain rods a good 10-12″ wider than the window itself. This allows the curtains to cover the walls when they’re open and not the window. It creates the illusion that the window is larger than it actually is and it also allows more light to flow into the room!

In a setup like ours in the bedroom, it’s hard to hang the curtains wide (since the windows are right next to the wall), but we did it as wide as we could – and sometimes that’s all you can do!

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s chat about how to hang curtains!

This is really a pretty straightforward project – it only took me about half an hour to hang these curtain rods in our bedroom. But, there are a few tips and tricks that’ll make it easier (including a genius template that I love), so let’s dive into those details.

Step 1: Determine Your Measurements

We held up one curtain panel on the rod to finalize what spot looked best and then held the curtain rod bracket in place to take measurements. Using a tape measure, we determined that we wanted to place our curtain rods 10.5″ from the outside of the window frame (weirdly specific, I know) and 3″ down from the ceiling. These are our measurements to the top screw hole in the rod bracket since we find it easiest to work with the measurements of where you’ll actually need to drill.

Step 3

Next, measure the window height. Wall-mounted rods are usually installed four inches above the window. To find your ideal placement, measure down from the ceiling to the top of the trim at the left corner of your window; mark the midway point. Repeat this in the middle of your window frame and in the right corner, then check your markings with a level.

While measuring, keep in mind the length of your curtain panels. If you can avoid it, you don’t want to have to alter the hems once you’ve mounted the rod. You may need to adjust your penciled-in placement by an inch or two to get the panels to fall where you want them. Curtains that just graze the floor or sill appear classic and tailored, while those that break slightly at the floor (from one to three inches) are also on trend.

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To give the illusion of height in the room, mount the rod even closer to the ceiling. Don’t go higher than eight inches above the window frame; any more than that looks awkward.

If you plan to puddle your curtains for a look that is extremely formal, allow six to eight extra inches of fabric to fall at the bottom. Skip this style if you plan to open and close your curtains regularly, as the bottoms will dirty quickly from constantly brushing the floors.

How to Determine the Number of Curtain Panels Needed

Wondering how many panels to add? If you want the curtains to be functional, the rule of thumb is to get enough panels to cover space at least twice the width of the window.

DONT skimp on the curtain width

Consider the width of your actual curtains when you’re purchasing, even if you don’t ever plan on closing them. We rarely pull our curtains all the way closed (we have blinds and tend to use those instead), but we always make sure to get curtains that theoretically could be pulled closed to cover the window.

Why? Your curtains will feel disproportionate if they’re really skinny or don’t bunch up at all on either side of the window. If you want to create a full, luxurious feel to your window trimmings, get curtains that can fully cover the window with even a little extra width. Many curtains have extra wide options, which is the perfect solution for those large windows.

Bottom line? Just be sure to check how wide the curtains are before ordering so you don’t accidentally end up with a skimpy-looking setup!

What is the Proper Length for Curtains

Interior designers note the bottom of your curtains should fall to the floor, and you can even let them “puddle” a bit. However, if you don’t want your curtains to drag on the floor when you open and close them, let them stop about an inch from the floor, but no more. If they do puddle at the floor, you can wash your curtains as needed.

When it comes to the width, your curtains should be at least two times the width of the window.

A Few Other Things

By using Command Hooks to hang a curtain rod without drilling into the wall, you do have some flexibility. I experimented with hanging my curtains fuller and wider, and all I needed to do was simply extend my bar past the hooks. So far, my rod hasn’t sagged at all…but if it did, I could easily add another hook along the middle.

You will likely notice that I still used my gromme

You will likely notice that I still used my grommet curtain panels…they are just hung upside-down. I hemmed and hawed about whether I should “doctor” my photos so you didn’t see them, but I opted to keep it real instead.

In all honesty, I thought they would be hardly noticeable once hung and would even serve as curtain weights to keep the pleats looking nice. Although they seem fairly obvious in photos, I don’t even notice them when I’m actually in the room. I’m not sure I would do this in a space where we host guests; but for now, it’s just another example of “making it work.”

Our curtains have been hung for a few weeks now, a

Our curtains have been hung for a few weeks now, and I have the utmost confidence they will stay put for the remainder of our time here. However, I do want to point out that these curtains are 100% decorative. Thanks to the blinds on the windows, we never have to pull these curtains open or shut. If you need your curtains to be a bit more “functional,” I would suggest adding an extra hooks to the center of the rod to absorb some of that weight down the bar.

Although this was a project I really had to figure

Although this was a project I really had to figure out, I am so glad I took the time to work through it. We’ve never shied away from hanging curtain rods in our rental homes the “real” way; and I’m not sure we will abandon that method entirely. But it’s really nice to know we still have options should we ever find ourselves in a home where we can’t put holes in the wall. If you can’t or don’t want to add holes to your walls too, I hope this tutorial proves useful in getting some curtains up on your windows!

See You Soon! Megan

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Width Considerations

Use these tricks to make the drapes a standard width and to create the illusion of wider windows:

  • The standard distance from the window casing to the end of the curtain rod (excluding finials) on each side of the window should be four to 10 inches.
  • As a general rule, drapes will be open during the day, so make sure the curtain rod extends at least four inches on each side of the window’s inside frame.
  • To create the illusion of a wider window, extend the rod up to 10 inches beyond the window's frame.

Illustration: The Spruce / Emily Mendoza

3. Drill Pilot Holes

Load up your power drill with a small pilot hole bit (we used a 3/32″ bit) and hold your template above your window with the top edge flush to the ceiling and the side edge lined up with the outside edge of the window frame. Then you can just drill small pilot holes through your two template marks.

A note about keeping things level: CEILINGS AREN’T ALWAYS LEVEL (I’m looking at you, duplex) so using the ceiling as your guide might seem ill-advised.

What if your ceiling is sloped and your curtains end up being sloped too?!

Don’t panic! When you’re hanging the rod close to your ceiling, you actually want the rod to follow any slope in the ceiling! It will be your eyes’ closest reference point for a straight line, so it will likely appear level even if it isn’t. That’s why a level isn’t required for this process.

In fact, putting a perfectly level curtain rod next to a sloped ceiling could actually make the rod look wrong. Or emphasize that the ceiling is wrong. So yeah, using the ceiling as your guide actually works well for wonky ceilings (again, the duplex has plenty of those).

How High to Hang Curtains

A rule of thumb (from Architectural Digest) is that curtains should be hung between four to six inches above the window frame, so install your curtain rod accordingly. When you hang the curtain rod high, it will make the window appear taller.

Things You’ll Need

  • Curtain rod
  • Brackets
  • Screws
  • Wall anchors (if needed)
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill
  • Measuring tape
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Pencil
  • Small nails or brads
  • Hammer
  • Stepladder

Step 1: Determine how high to hang curtain rods

Wondering where to hang curtain rods? It's essential to mount curtain rods in the right spot, or your perfect-length curtains might not hang properly. A rod that sits too close to the window can make a space seem smaller than it really is. To ensure perfect curtain placement, measure the depth of your window molding to determine the ideal size for your curtain brackets. You'll want curtain brackets that extend past the depth of your trim. If they're too shallow, your curtains won't hang properly.

Using a pencil and tape measure, mark the desired position of your curtain brackets, so the rod is about 4 to 6 inches above your window frame, making sure the curtains will slightly brush the floor or hover just above it. The curtain brackets should be placed about 6 inches from the outside edge of the window frame to allow plenty of natural light.

How to Calculate the Right Measurements for Hanging Curtains

Before you start hanging curtains, make sure the panels are wide enough to cover your home's windows. You don't want to be rudely awakened by a beam of sunlight that the curtains don't block, so measure your window dimensions before purchasing or making your curtains. The total width of your curtain panels should add up to about two times the window's width.

Choosing the correct curtain length for your windows is also important. Besides looking awkward, too-small curtains visually shorten your space, making ceilings appear lower. Too-small curtains also make the room look smaller overall. Curtains that drag on the floor could pose a tripping hazard and collect dust more easily. For the ideal middle ground, curtains should hover just above the floor.

To find the right curtain length, measure from the floor to where you'll hang the rod (usually 4 to 6 inches above the window frame). Otherwise, hanging the curtain rod just below the ceiling is a simple design trick that makes your ceilings appear taller. Curtains come in standard lengths like 63, 84, and 96 inches. Choose one closest to your measurement, erring on the side of a few inches longer than shorter.

Additionally, be sure to choose a curtain rod that's wider than your window. This allows curtains to be pulled completely to the side of the window and makes the space feel larger. The rod itself should be 8 to 12 inches longer than the window's width, which allows for 4 to 6 inches on either side.

Related: 19 Impactful Ways to Dress Multiple Windows in a Row

low table and patterned curtains Credit: Nicholas Johnson

HOW WIDE SHOULD A CURTAIN ROD BE?

Most people know the rod should be at least the size of your window. 

However, if you want the curtain to look expensive, the window to feel larger, and allow more natural light into the room, make the rod wider than the window.

It’s recommended that the curtain rod brackets be placed at least 6″ from the window opening but not wider than 12″.

TIP: Place the brackets 12″ away for a more dramatic effect.

For example, if the window is 36″ wide and you want to place the brackets 12″ away, you would add 12″ + 12″ + 36″ for a total of 60″ plus 1″ to 2″ more for an overhang, resulting in a total of 62″.

SIDE NOTE: If you want to save money, make your rod and brackets using this DIY curtain rod tutorial. It will cut the cost in half. The rod and brackets in the image were made using this tutorial.

6 Pro Tips for Styling and Hanging Curtains

1. Fake high ceilings by hanging your curtains as high as possible.

If your apartment feels a little cavelike, try hanging your curtains closer to the ceiling. This will immediately create the illusion of more ceiling height.

2. Find a classic design that won't go out of style.

“Making a decision on curtains that are somewhat permanent is daunting,” says interior designer Melissa Warner Rothblum, who runs the L.A.-based firm Massucco Warner Miller with partner Julie Massucco Kleiner. The big consideration: finding a design that doesn’t feel fussy and won’t go out of style. “People assume drapes are old-fashioned,” says Kleiner, “but they don’t have to be. Sewing multiple fabrics together for a custom look or adding tape trim for a unique pattern gives them a modern edge.”

3. Opt for curtains that graze the floor.

Keep an eye on proportion—the length should just touch the floor. “The mistake done most often are drapes that are cut too short by a handful of inches,” says Rothblum, “and it doesn’t look like it fits.” Make sure the fabric just hits the floor or ends under an inch above. If what you need is in between curtain lengths available, choose the longer one. Your dry cleaner or tailor can always hem them if they are too long.

4. Do choose a fabric that compliments the vibe of the space.

Make sure the fabric matches the room. Sheer fabrics, such as linens, let in more light and feel more casual—perfect for spaces like living rooms. Heavier fabrics, such as velvets, will block light and provide privacy. If you live in a colder climate or an old building, heavier window treatments can also help block some of those pesky drafts.

5. Coordinate your hardware with the curtain fabric and the room’s existing metals.

Your rods and finials should complement your curtains. Heavier curtains call for more substantial rods, while sheers can be placed on slimmer rods. If you have metal accents elsewhere in the room, such as a gilded pendant light or brass-framed coffee table, consider a similar material or finish for the curtain rods or finials.

6. Order curtain fabric samples.

You always want to aim for fullness with a fabric that hangs nicely so the curtains don’t look lifeless. You can do this by holding the top of a fabric sample and seeing the kind of natural body it has.

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