How to Hang Curtains and Curtain Rods

by Michael Franco
bird s eye view of a window curtain rod mounted to the frame of the window

Installing Curtains at a Glance

  • Tools and materials: Curtain rods and hardware, curtains, stud finder, drill and bit, wall anchors, level, tape measure, pencil, ladder
  • Step 1: Measure curtain length
  • Step 2: Measure windows
  • Step 3: Screw in rod brackets
  • Step 4: Hang curtains
  • Step 5: Secure rods

Windows looking a little ... bare lately? The right set of curtains can make a dramatic design statement — or a subtle one, if that’s more your thing. Plus, they help keep nosy neighbors out of your private life. Win-win!

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Hanging curtains is something you can do yourself with just a few tools. First, we’ll walk through how to install your curtain rods, and then we’ll hang the curtains.

Tools You’ll Need

There are a few basic tools needed to hang your curtains. The most important are the curtain rods and their hardware. Some rods come equipped with the necessary screws and brackets. You will need a drill and drill bit, stud finder and level to hang them. If your rods or curtains are particularly heavy — or if you have to secure them to drywall — you may want wall anchors as well. You’ll also need a tape measure, pencil, ladder and, of course, your curtains.

Choose Your Materials

Curtains are a versatile, fun design element. There are several different styles of hardware and lots of color and material options to choose from. You’ll probably want to choose your curtains first and then coordinate your hardware with the color and style. Choose a fabric that complements the room, and decide on a classic design.

Next, decide how long you want your curtains to be. Do you want them to brush the floor or settle in pools of fabric below the window? If your curtains are too short, it can make the room look smaller and the ceiling seem lower. Be careful if you decide to let extra material gather on the floor; the layers of fabric can become a dust collector and a tripping hazard.

The length can be slightly adjusted when measuring your windows to install the rods. Common lengths of curtain panels include 63, 84, 95 and 108 inches. Choose one as close to your measurements as you can. It’s best to get them a few inches longer rather than shorter.

You will also want to consider the width of the curtain panels. You want to make sure the entire window will be covered by the curtains. A good rule of thumb is to purchase panels that are twice the width of the window.

Install the Rods

Measure your windows and purchase a curtain rod that is 8 to 12 inches wider than your window. This ensures the entire window is covered by the curtains so you can open them completely to let in natural light. Then decide how high you want your curtains to sit. Hanging your curtains as high as possible — at least 4 to 6 inches above the window frame — will give the illusion of big windows and high ceilings. Mark the desired height of the curtain tops with a pencil.

Next, it's time to install the curtain rod brackets. You'll want the curved area of each bracket (where the rod will sit) to line up with your pencil marks, so you might actually need to screw the top of the bracket a little bit higher. If you’re using any rings or clips to hang the curtains, add the length of those to your measurements. If you need to, move the brackets up a bit to account for the length.

Use your stud finder to find the studs where you’ll install your brackets. Use wall anchors if you are drilling straight into drywall. Once one bracket is installed, use a level to mark the top of the other bracket. Some curtain rod brackets require two screws each; always be sure that the bracket is level on the top and bottom before putting in the second screws.

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Hang the Curtains

Depending on what type of curtain you have, hanging methods may vary. For example, if the curtain has large eyeholes, you could just thread it directly onto the rod. If not, you can use curtain clips or rings. It might be easier to attach the curtains to the rod before securing the rod on the brackets. This is a must if you hang the curtains directly on the rod. If you are using clips or rings, be sure to space them evenly.

Once the curtains or rings are on the rod, place it in the curved part of the brackets and use the small screws there to secure the rod and keep it from moving right to left when you open and close the curtains.

Pro Tips

The most important part of hanging curtains and curtain rods is getting the measurements right. If your curtain rods are too close to the top of the window frame, your windows and room may appear smaller. Try to place curtain rods at least 4 to 6 inches above the window frame. The same goes for the width of your curtain rods. Aim for rods that are 8 to 12 inches wider than your window on either side. This is important, especially if you plan on closing the curtains for privacy or darkness.

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