Curtains and drapes are essential design elements that can transform the look and feel of any room. A properly sized curtain rod is key to ensuring your window treatments hang beautifully. But with so many options, how do you determine the right curtain rod length?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to select the perfect rod length for your space.
The first step is to accurately measure your windows. You can measure window width in one of two ways:
- Casing to casing – Measure from one side of the window casing to the other. This will give you the minimum width needed.
- Frame to frame – Measure from the inner edge to the inner edge of the window frame. This will provide the exact glass width.
Be sure to write down the measurements and label each window if doing multiple windows. Use a steel tape measure for precision to 1/16 of an inch. Double-check measurements for accuracy before moving on.
Determining Curtain Rod Length
Once you have the window widths, it’s time to calculate the curtain rod length. The ideal formula is to:
- Add 20% to the window measurement
- Add 3-6 inches on both sides of the window frame/casing
Adding this extra length prevents curtains from covering the entire window when opened. It allows sunlight to stream in while still enabling privacy.
The added length also gives a grander, more elegant look to your windows. For the most versatility, choose adjustable telescoping rods that can contract or expand to fit multiple windows.
Common Curtain Rod Sizes
While custom lengths are available, most home projects can be accommodated by standard curtain rod sizes:
- 28-48 inches – Best for small windows like in bathrooms or laundry rooms. Can support lightweight sheer panels.
- 48-84 inches – Fits average room windows around 48 inches wide that are installed in pairs. Ideal for light to medium-weight curtains.
- 60-120 inches – Accommodates larger windows, French doors, and sliding glass doors up to 108 inches wide. Sturdy enough for thicker, heavy curtains.
- 120-160 inches – Extra-long rods covering very large picture windows or spans up to 158 inches wide. Require multiple heavy-duty support brackets.
- 170+ inches – Requires splicing two rods together. Needs heavy mounting brackets and anchors for stability with the longest lengths.
Rod height is largely a personal preference, but here are two popular options:
- 2-3 inches above window trim – Provides a streamlined contemporary look, ideal for modern spaces.
- Halfway between trim and ceiling – Creates balance and draws the eye upwards, giving an airier feel.
Consider the room height and existing decor when deciding. Allow a minimum of 4-6 inches of clearance above the window frame for stacking folded curtains.
Curtain Weights and Rod Diameters
The diameter or thickness of the rod impacts the weight it can hold:
- 5/8 inch rods – Best suited for lightweight sheers, scratch-resistant aluminum is ideal.
- 3/4 to 1 inch – The most common standard size, accommodates light to medium weight fabrics. Sturdy metal works well.
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch – Provides excellent support for heavier curtains and lined drapes. Often crafted from wood or iron.
- 2-inch and up – Heavy-duty rods made of thick gauge metal or solid wood hold the very heaviest drapes without sagging. Require robust brackets.
Properly spaced mounting brackets prevent curtain rod sagging and instability. Follow this general bracket spacing guide:
- Rods under 48 inches – May not need any ceiling brackets if lightweight curtains are used.
- Rods 48 to 60 inches – Require at least one bracket in the center.
- Rods 60 to 90 inches – Need two evenly spaced brackets.
- Rods 90 to 170 inches – Require three to four brackets for optimal support.
- Rods over 170 inches – Must have a bracket every 3-4 feet or wherever a rod joint occurs.
Inside vs. Outside Mounts
There are two primary mounting techniques:
- Inside mount – Brackets attach to the window framing. Rods sit against the wall.
- Outside mount – Brackets attach to the wall above the window. The rod is positioned away from the wall.
Inside mounts have a clean, tailored look, keeping the window as the focal point. Outside mounting works well when hanging rods higher or if walls lack adequate bracing for anchors. Adding extension brackets provides clearance.
Specialty Curtain Rod Styles
Unique windows and desired aesthetics give rise to specialty rods options:
Double Rods – Allow two curtain layers. Sheers are placed on the front rod, blackout curtains behind.
Traverse Rods – Curtains glide sideways on clips that slide along a metal rod. The easy operation covers wide spaces.
Wraparound Rods – Curved rods that hug the window frame edges for light blocking. Require extra mounting considerations.
Tension Rods – Lightweight spring-loaded rods with adjustable ends press into a window frame. No mounting is needed.
Smart Rods – A telescoping rod with rounded finial ends mimics a permanent rod when extended. No brackets are required.
Curtain Design Considerations
Factor in your curtain fabric and style when selecting rods:
- Rods should extend 3-6 inches past the curtain width for proper stacking.
- Consider the finished curtain length – sill length, floor length, or puddle.
- Match heavy rod diameters to thick or heavy fabrics and lighter rods for sheers.
- Average flat panel curtains require double fullness for proper draping.
Rod Finishes and Decor
From classic to contemporary, rod decor ranges from minimalist to opulent:
- Simple finial balls or spear tips allow curtains to take center stage.
- Elaborate finials, rings, and brackets complement ornate rooms.
- Coordinate with existing décor – bronze rods for rustic styles or nickel with cool grays.
- Contrast finishes can make rods pop – oil-rubbed bronze rods on white walls.
Take the time to accurately measure windows, calculate lengths, and select the proper rod hardware for your curtains or drapes. With the guidelines above, you’ll be able to determine and install the perfect standard curtain rod sizes to beautifully frame your windows.
Why is it recommended to add an extra inch or two when measuring for curtain rods?
Adding an extra inch or two on each side when measuring for curtain rods allows enough space for the curtains to stack back nicely when opened. This prevents the curtains from completely covering the window when drawn open.
What type of curtain rod is best for heavier fabric curtains?
Heavier fabric curtains require a thicker, sturdier curtain rod to support the weight without sagging. Curtain rods with diameters of 1 1/4 to 2 inches work well for heavier curtain fabrics.
What are the most common standard lengths for curtain rods?
Curtain rods come in a variety of standard lengths to fit most windows. Some common sizes are 28-48 inches for small windows, 48-84 inches for average double-hung windows, and 120-170 inches for large picture windows.
When installing extra long curtain rods, what is needed for additional support?
Curtain rods over 120 inches long may require additional wall anchors and support brackets placed every few feet to prevent sagging from the weight.
How does the type of curtain fabric determine what curtain rod diameter is needed?
The diameter of the curtain rod should match the weight of the curtain fabric. Lightweight sheers only need 5/8 inch rods while heavy fabrics and lined drapes require rods 1 1/4 inches or larger.
Why should you measure the window frame to frame rather than casing to casing?
Measuring window frame to frame gives the exact glass width needed. Casing to casing includes extra space between the glass and may result in selecting too wide of a curtain rod.