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November 09, 2007

How to install a curtain rod

Sour Drapes - Hints on curtain hardware


There are two kinds of people in the world: the kind who use towels  for curtains, and the kind who go to the trouble of installing proper drapes. Up until now, I’ve always been a towel girl. Tacking up towels is my way of being optimistic about moving to a better place soon.

But at last I’ve landed in a house I like well enough to fix up with real curtains. This is the equivalent of landing a man and then trying to fix him up by correcting him whenever he’s wrong about directions or grammar or clothing. You're finally investing in a stock that you’ll never want to trade up on, so it’s worth the effort.

Coincidentally, the curtain industry is as old as the institution of marriage, ostensibly because what people do after they’re married requires curtains by law. But curtains have come a long way since they were a greasy animal hide tied across a cave entrance. For one thing, they can be staggeringly expensive compared to, say, a greasy animal hide. Also, they’re now called “window treatments” by those in the know, although you still won’t catch most people saying “I feel frisky; let’s close the window treatments.”

If you paid handsomely for your window coverings, or even if you didn’t but you still want them to look great, here are some installation hints from a reformed towel devotee:


Think about your window for a moment. Builders don’t just cut a hole in a building and call it a window. They have to reinforce the edges of the opening so the rest of the wall doesn’t collapse into the space.

Header_diagram To that end, they put a stout miniature beam in place across the top edge of the window. This “header” carries the load of the building across the span of the window opening. Technically, you’re supposed to screw into this header when you’re mounting curtain hardware, because merely screwing into drywall may not offer enough support for the weight of the fabric and/or hardware.  But screwing into wood isn’t always practical.

For example, if your window has wide trim, the header may not extend beyond the trim. You don’t want to mount curtain-rod brackets through the trim into the header. So you can try to find a stud that’ll work, but you probably won’t find one in the very spot where you’ve chosen to mount your bracket. 

Ezancors In this case you MUST use hollow-wall anchors to keep the screws from chewing up the drywall and then falling out, taking your drapes with them.  (By the way EZ Ancors, shown on the right in metal and plastic, are the best kind of anchors - they screw right into the drywall and will never pull out.  The metal ones are the most robust.)

Toggle1 If you have lath and plaster walls, toggle bolt anchors work best.  For a very readable manifesto on wall anchors of all kinds, please visit The Natural Handyman website - even if you're not a man, or you're not handy.

Curtains_put_you_in_a_better_mood_t Traditionally, window height is set to match door height in a room. If your windows are set lower than the door height, your curtains may appear heavy and oppressive. Try raising the level of the curtain rod to the height of the doors to provide a feeling of balance and expansiveness. Also, the higher you set your curtain rod, the farther you can extend its width on either side of the window trim without the proportions looking dorky.

013_detail_1_position_the_mounting_ Position your mounting brackets by running an imaginary 45-degree line off the corner of the existing trim. Most trim is mitred, so just extend the line of the joint and place your bracket somewhere on that line according to what feels right to your eye. Copy the position of that bracket at the other corner of the window, then drill and mount the hardware.

If you're not that great at eyeballing, use a level to mark the screw holes so you know the brackets are plumb.

There are a zillion configurations of mounting hardware. Read the manufacturer’s directions once and then follow your own instincts. One warning: If the instructions say to use a level to establish the rod’s horizontal position, IGNORE this advice. Most walls are not perfectly plumb and most windows and ceilings are not perfectly level. If you religiously set the rod using a level, then the window trim may look crooked, or the ceiling may appear wonky, probably because it IS. So it’s critical to align the rod with the trim or the ceiling, whichever is CLOSEST to the plane of your rod, thus avoiding the embarassment of a crooked rod.

DETAILS - Marking the spot where the bracket goes

013_detail_3_use_a_straight_edge__2013_detail_4_mark_a_reference_lin_2 Use a straight-edge against the trim to mark vertical and horizontal references. 

013_detail_5_transfer_the_same_markTransfer the marks to the opposite corner of the window.

TIP:  If you're using the hammer-in style of drywall anchors, you'll need to pre-drill a hole.  It's very easy to make a mistake on the hole size, so here's a tip:  When selecting a bit prior to drilling, test the anchor itself in the empty hole in the drill index, to see if the hole is a good snug fit for the tubular anchor. There’s nothing like the disappointment of an oversized hole.

Final Tip: When you’re mounting window hardware you need to be in a finicky mood, with the kind of anal, pinched concentration you had the last time you decided to alphabetize your freezer contents. Believe it or not, there is a use for that state of mind.

P.S. If you're making drapes instead of buying them, here's my illustrated guide to easy, lined panel curtains   



Wow,what an incredibly beautiful photograph!


I like the 45 degree mitre extension idea! Don't know why I never thought of it. It would have saved me some $ on wall putty... Funny how you didn't mention the bedsheet window treatments I used to see in college. Must be a regional thing..



I totally agree with Eric. The Photographs are awsome!.

take care,
with love Abi


Thanks for this Mag! My hubby has been promising me curtains since we got married in August and I can't take being on "show" anymore in the living room. Now I can do this without his input! Thanks again!


Bob, you must live in a temperate part of the world. Here in Ontario we need the highest R-value we can get so it's a towel or blanket over a bed sheet for any self-respecting college student!


Congratulations on being a newlywed Corey - I think it's usually 5 years that's the 'curtain anniversary', so if you get your curtains within in the first year, you're way ahead of the game!


Pretty much anywhere in the States is temperate compared to Ontario, I suppose; even Minnesota, where I grew up (& went to college way back when). The bedsheet also explains why I didn't know about the 45 degree mitre, even many years later in our house!


how do you restring a curtain rod? This one doesn't work properly,the pulley works one direction not both, meaning the curtians don't seperate. Do you have a diagram on how to fix?


I love your web sight. I like to see ladies do it them selves. By doing so all you ladies are taking money from those egotistical male contracters and handymen that like to rip off ladies. I am proud of all of you for taking a stand!!

Curtain Rods

as above example sowe can also install curtain rods. but it is not difficult but it take very accuracy in it.

furnace filters

Thanks for the info. I literally am trying to install two different sets of curtains right this moment! Awesome read!


How do I install curtain rods on interior walls of exterior walls that are constructed of wall board over cinder-block? There is a a small breathing space between the two?
I've been unable to find the wooden window and door frames and studs they should be installed in.
Some of these exterior walls were a combo of poured concrete and cinder block. Maybe the windows and doors were all set into the concrete openings versus wood framing?
I'm from VA but now live in Florida ... different types of construction methods...!??

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