How to measure your window for curtain poles

Terry Baskeyfield | Updated

There’s nothing worse than finding what you think is the perfect curtain pole for your window – everything from the perfect style to the perfect size, shape and colour - only to get it home to find that it won’t fit your window. This could be for any number of reasons, so to avoid your enthusiasm turning into disappointment; it’s worth taking a few moments to consider what limitations there might be on your choice and whether or not you can actually fit a curtain pole at your window at all.

Importance of accurate measurements

If you are going to the trouble and expense of ordering custom made curtain poles then you will be able to specify your exact finished pole length. The plus side to doing this is that your pole will come already cut to your specified length and you will not need to trim or cut it to size. You will simply need to correctly space and fit the brackets and then fit the pole, finials and curtain pole rings where appropriate. However, if you get your measurements wrong at all, custom made items are not usually returnable. Not a problem if your pole is too long, you will simply have to cut it down to size yourself and a disaster is avoided. But, if your pole is too short then there is little or nothing that you can do.

Measuring Window Width

Assessing your windows for poles

The first step to establishing whether or not you will be able to fit a curtain pole at your windows rather than a curtain rails or tracks is to assess your windows. Take a good look at them and consider how much room you have above and to either side of the window in question. Also check if there are any obstructions near the window such as closely fitted wardrobes or cabinets; or an adjacent wall maybe, if the window is very close to the corner of the room. Architectural details could also affect the position of your curtain poles and tracks so look for things such as picture rails or decorative architrave (a decorative wooden trim sometimes used around the window frame) and consider whether these will prevent you from having a pole or just affect where it can be fitted.

Hanging Curtains On Wooden Pole

Unlike tracks, poles have decorative fancy bits on the ends called ‘finials’, rather than just end caps and usually have much bigger and longer brackets than tracks, depending on the style of curtain pole that you use. You will need to ensure that the space available above and to either side of the window will accommodate the space needed for these fittings. If, for example, you have a window that is very close to or actually in the corner of a room, then you may have room to fit the supporting bracket for the curtain pole but not the finial. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t fit a pole however, as it is perfectly acceptable to take the curtain pole flush (right up to) the side wall and to have only one finial on the pole at the end that is not restricted by the wall.

I have no wall space above my window, can a pole be fitted to my ceiling?

If you have a window that is very close to or actually meets the ceiling of your room, then wooden curtain rails are most likely not an option. Wooden curtain pole brackets are not designed to be top-fixed (fixed into the ceiling rather than the wall). The brackets on wooden curtain poles are quite long as they are designed to hold the curtain pole a good distance away from the wall, usually anything from 6 to 10 centimetres. If the brackets were fixed into the ceiling therefore, the pole would be suspended the same 6 to 10 cms from the ceiling, leaving an uncomfortable looking gap between the ceiling and the top of the curtain pole, which would not be covered by the curtains once they were hung. So, does the same apply to metal and brass curtain rails and is it possible to ceiling fix those? Well yes and no.

Three Brass Curtain Poles

Standard metal curtain poles have angle brackets (a bracket cast with a 90 degree bend) with a curve or cup at the end which the metal pole rests in. The pole is then normally secured into place with a discreet tightening screw known as a grub screw. These brackets are either a single bracket in a fixed size or are in two parts and are adjustable in length and again, with either option, can hold the curtain pole anything from 6 to 10 cms away from the wall – so would not be suitable for top fixing into a ceiling as this would again create an uncomfortable looking gap above the pole.

Also, if this type of metal bracket is turned into the upright position and fitted into a ceiling, the cup shaped curve that holds the curtain pole would be facing forwards rather than upwards and the curtain pole would have to be offered ‘into’ it rather than ‘onto’ it. The entire weight of the curtain pole and the curtains on it would then be completely reliant on the small tightening screws in the pole brackets to keep them securely in place, which is not at all advisable. You don’t want to invest time, effort and money into purchasing and fitting a new curtain pole and curtains, only to find that the pole works itself loose from the brackets with everyday use and falls down on a regular basis.

That is frustrating as well as dangerous! Standard metal curtain poles have angle brackets (a bracket cast with a 90 degree bend) with a curve or cup at the end which the metal pole rests in. The pole is then normally secured into place with a discreet tightening screw known as a grub screw. These brackets are either a single bracket in a fixed size or are in two parts and are adjustable in length and again, with either option, can hold the curtain pole anything from 6 to 10 cms away from the wall – so would not be suitable for top fixing into a ceiling as this would again create an uncomfortable looking gap above the pole.

Also, if this type of metal bracket is turned into the upright position and fitted into a ceiling, the cup shaped curve that holds the curtain pole would be facing forwards rather than upwards and the curtain pole would have to be offered ‘into’ it rather than ‘onto’ it. The entire weight of the curtain pole and the curtains on it would then be completely reliant on the small tightening screws in the pole brackets to keep them securely in place, which is not at all advisable. You don’t want to invest time, effort and money into purchasing and fitting a new curtain pole and curtains, only to find that the pole works itself loose from the brackets with everyday use and falls down on a regular basis. That is frustrating as well as dangerous!

White Curtain Pole Bracket

The bay curtain pole rings are specially designed too. Instead of being a full circular ring they have a section of the ring cut away to create a ’C’ shaped ring. The gap in the ring that is created by this cut away, allows the ring the pass the cut away brackets. Full rings which completely encircle the curtain pole, as they would on a normal curtain pole, would not pass the ceiling mounted brackets. This would therefore prevent the curtains from actually working and opening and closing.

Our bay window curtain poles include different sized sections of pole that are suitable for cutting into the smaller sections of pole that you normally need to go round a bay window so it may be that you need longer sections of pole for your straight window. So, rather than purchasing a bay window pole and having to get longer sections of pole to go with it, it would be more cost effective to purchase one of our metal eyelet curtain poles (these don’t include any curtain pole rings, which reduces its cost) in the correct size for your window and then to simply purchase just bay pole brackets and bay pole curtain rings as additional extras.

How to hang made to measure curtains

When you’re ordering made-to-measure curtains, that is exactly what you’ll get - curtains made to your measurements. The number of widths off fabric in each curtain and the finished length will be determined by whatever measurements you provide your made to order specialist with; and with made to order curtains it is a lot more sensible and practical to fit your curtain poles for eyelet curtains first before ordering your curtains, so that you can provide the final width and finished length measurements accurately.

Measuring Blind Fabric

This also means that there is no limitation, other than any physical reason or obstruction, on what height you can fit your curtain pole at.

  1. The norm is usually about 15 to 20cms (6" – 8") above the window where space allows. If the top of the curtain pole is positioned somewhere between these recommended distances then the pole is normally high enough for the curtain header tape on the back of 3" pencil pleat curtains for example, not to be visible below the top of the window recess from the outside of the window.
  2. If you have a curtain heading which is deeper than this such as 6" or 9" pencil pleat tape or 6" deep hand tailored pinch pleats, then consider fitting the pole a little higher so that the bottom edge of the curtain heading is not lower than the top of the recess and therefore visible from outside.
  3. If there is not enough wall space above the window to mount the pole at the recommended 15 to 20cms (6" – 8") above, then the pole can be fitted lower, so long as there is enough room to accommodate the size of the brackets that have come with your pole.
  4. Often, only 8 to 10cms (3" to 4") above the window is enough space to fit a curtain pole into. Just double check the size and shape of the curtain pole brackets before you start any fitting and before you cut your pole to size; and be aware that you may see the bottom edge of your curtain heading from the outside of the window.
  5. This is a small price to pay however, if it means that you can fit the curtain pole of your choice. If there is ample wall space above the window, then the pole can be fitted higher than the usual 15 to 20cms (6" – 8") above the top of the window recess. Doing this can change the proportion of the window in a very pleasing way, as it gives an illusion of more height to the window, creating portrait proportions, which are a window dressers dream! Judge the distance by eye and go for what looks right with this, preferably getting someone to offer the pole up to the wall for you and to hold it at different heights to help you decide.

How to hang ready made curtains

There is no such thing as a typical window or an average window size; and personal preference often determines whether our curtains are to be long or short as well. For this reason, ready-made curtains are available in a number of pre-determined sizes, which aim to cater for the most popular window sizes. The majority of ready-made curtain designs are available in three different widths – 46", 66" or 90" wide; and each width option is available in three different drops – 54", 72” or 90” long. This gives you 9 different size options in total, for example 90 x 54 curtains or a more common option 90 x 90 curtains

Gold Eyelet Pole

  1. If you’re planning to have curtains which come below the sill length but not to the floor (for example a 72” drop maybe), then the height of the pole is not too crucial.
  2. If you are hanging curtains which need to stop at sill level or at floor length though, then the height of the pole is much more crucial and needs to be considered with regard to the ready-made curtain length that you are purchasing. If you have somebody lined up to shorten the length of your curtains for you or you can do them yourself, then again you have a little bit of lea way with the height of the pole.
  3. For example it may be that there is only one position where you can fit your pole above your window and it gives you a finished curtain length of 85”. The ideal situation here is to buy a pair of 90” long ready-made curtains and shorten them to the required finished length of 85” for a perfect custom fit. If on the other hand you’re not able to shorten the curtains yourself or you’re on a tight budget maybe and don’t want to incur any extra cost for having them shortened then, where space allows, careful measuring and positioning of your pole could be the solution by simply working - backwards!
  4. Rather than fitting your curtain pole first and then taking your final drop (length) measurement, measure the exact length of your new ready-made curtains (or even your own existing or new made to measure curtains if you already have them) and put your pole up at the correct height for the length of the curtains.
  5. Depending on the heading type on your curtains, there are two different methods of doing this, so here are two easy examples of how to do it using 90” drop ready-made curtains:

How to hang curtains with gathered or tailored headings

For curtains which have a heading tape at the top which needs to be gathered prior to fitting, or for hand tailored headings such as pinch-pleat or goblet headings, you will need to use curtain pole rings on your curtain pole to attach the curtains to. The curtains attach to the pole rings with curtain hooks or stab hooks, which are hooked through the little hook eyes at the bottom of the curtain pole rings.

The top edge of the curtains will sit flush underneath the bottom edge of the curtain pole rings.

  1. Measure your curtain length from the very top edge of the curtain to the bottom of the hem. Unless you want your curtains to touch the floor or to knock up a little, the norm is to leave a 1cm (or ½") gap between the bottom edge of the hem and the floor.

Eyelet Curtain Pole

  1. Add the ½" gap to the 90" curtain drop and this will be the distance that the bottom edge of the pole rings need to be above the floor – i.e. 90 ½".

  2. Now, with one of the curtain pole rings threaded onto a section of your curtain pole, measure the distance from the top of the pole to the bottom edge of the curtain pole ring and add this to your new calculated measurement - e.g if the distance from the top of the pole to the bottom edge of the curtain pole ring is 2" then your new measurement will be 92 ½" (90" curtain drop + ½" clearance from floor + 2" top of pole to bottom of curtain ring = 92 ½") Measuring 92 ½" up from the floor will now give you the correct height position for the top of your curtain pole.
  3. Offer the pole into one of the pole brackets to establish where the brackets will sit in relation to the top of the pole (this will differ somewhat for wooden curtain poles and metal curtain poles), then mark and drill the wall for all the necessary brackets and fit your pole.
  4. You will now be able to hang your 90" drop curtains without any need for alteration to their length.

How to hang eyelet curtains

Knowing how to hang eyelet curtains differs from other types of curtains. For curtains which have eyelet rings at the top you will not need curtain pole rings, as the metal eyelet rings slide directly onto the pole.

  1. Measure your curtain length from the very top edge of the curtain to the bottom of the hem. For our example this should measure 90" in total. However, you will notice that the eyelet rings stamped into the top of the curtain are not flush with the top edge of the curtain, but are set down a little; usually by approximately 1 – 1 ½". This 1 – 1 ½" stands up above the curtain pole because the inside edge of the eyelet rings rests on top of it. To establish the measurement to the top of the curtain pole, measure from the bottom of the curtain hem to the top inside edge of the eyelet rings. In our example that should be about 88 ½" (90" – 1 ½" = 88 ½").

Metal Eyelet Pole

  1. The soft, deep folds in eyelet curtains are designed to hang in tall slim columns and therefore the curtain hem should not be allowed to touch or knock up on the floor as this would distort the pleats, so it is essential to leave a clearance gap from the floor to the curtain hem. Also, eyelet headings don’t have any degree of adjustment in their length as gathered or tailored headings do, so an accurate measurement for the height of the pole is again essential.
  2. The norm is to leave a 1 – 1.5cm (or ½" – ¾") gap between the bottom edge of the curtain hem and the floor. Add the ½" gap to the 88 ½" drop from the underside of the eyelets to the hem and this will be the distance that the top edge of the pole needs to be above the floor – i.e. 89".
  3. Measuring 89" up from the floor will now give you the correct height position for the top of your curtain pole.
  4. Offer the pole into one of the pole brackets to establish where the brackets will sit in relation to the top of the pole (on metal poles the top of the bracket is more often than not flush with the top of the bracket), then mark and drill the wall for all the necessary brackets and fit your pole.
  5. You will now be able to hang your 90" drop eyelet headed curtains without any need for alteration to their length. 

Creating optical illusions by considering you window proportions

If you have plenty of available or unhindered wall space around your chosen window, then your choice of style, size and diameter of curtain pole is unlimited really too. You can be as creative, frivolous, creative and enthusiastic as you like with your choice of curtain pole. When you do have this option available to you it’s worth considering the proportions of your window though before you make your final decision on what size pole to order; and how you could possibly create the optical illusion of altering those proportions.

Eyelet Curtain Pole And Curtain

Here’s two quick examples to get you thinking.

Portrait Windows - If you have a tall slim window (portrait) in a good wall space and you want to keep or accentuate the upright, slim look of the window then mounting your curtain pole a good way above the window (judge this by eye) but not more than about 15 to 20cms to either side and take your curtain length down to the floor; you will make the window look elegantly tall and narrow. If you mount the curtain pole only about 15cms above the window but a good 30 to 40cms to either side (or more if preferred and available) on the other hand, you will be creating the illusion that the window is much wider than it actually is, giving it more landscape proportions.

This is a good way of being able to use more fullness and fabric in your curtains to add colour and detail and also a good way of keeping the curtains well off the window when they are in the open position to maximise the amount of natural light filtering into the room.

Landscape Windows - If you have a wide but not very tall window (landscape) in a good wall space and you want to keep or accentuate the width of the window proportions then again, only mount the curtain pole about 15 cms above the window and anything from 15 to 40 cms to either side to maintain or further emphasise its wide, landscape proportions. Floor length curtains are always more dressy and elegant, particularly in living rooms and master bedrooms, but installing short curtains in this situation will make the window look even wider should that be your desired effect.

If you want to avoid the window looking any wider than it already is though and wish you had a taller more portrait proportioned window, then mount the curtain pole a good distance above the window (again assess this by eye) and only take it an additional 15 to 20cms to either side of the window. This starts to give the illusion that the window is actually taller and narrower than it really is and hanging long curtains to floor length in addition to this, will further add to the illusion of height rather than width.

Pole size calculator

If you are struggling to choose the right size then we do have a pole size calculator, which is available here, as well as on the product page of our curtain poles. This will guide you through the process and just requires you to enter your window width and it will then advise you on the most appropriate pole size.

 

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