How to Hang Curtains — Best Practices in 2024

How to Hang Curtains

Photo by Marcus Hansson / CC BY

Learning how to hang curtains is not difficult. With a few simple tools, some forethought, and perhaps a partner, you can hang your curtains in a short time. Poorly hung curtains look terrible but done right, you can hang $100 curtains and make them look like a million bucks.

My ex was on the other end of the phone. “Do you know how to hang curtains?” If you don’t know, that is ex-talk for “I really, really want you to come over here and hang curtains for me.” Being whipped even after the divorce, I stupidly gathered my tools.

What Tools Are Needed?

Most people doing the job for the first time will need:

  • A stepladder or a stepstool
  • A pencil
  • A tape measure
  • A drill (or cordless screw gun)
  • A Phillips screwdriver (or cordless screw gun)
  • A 6” torpedo level
  • A hammer

You might need special hardware to attach the curtain rod brackets to the wall. If the brackets attach where the wall is hollow, you will need a way to anchor the brackets, especially for heavy curtains. You can get self-drilling wall anchors that work well. I keep 1/8” and ¼” toggle bolts and ½” molly bolts around.

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What Do You Do First?

Get Your Curtains

You’ll need to know the lengths and widths of your windows, so you know what size of curtains you want to buy. Use a tape measure and determine the size of panels you will need. Remember your curtains will hang in folds and pleats when they are closed, so buy sets of panels larger than the widths of your windows.

Nothing is absolute with curtain design. If you hang your curtains wider than usual, the window will look more expansive. If you hang your curtains lower or higher than normal, the window will seem taller.

Likewise, length and width can be minimized to reduce the apparent size of windows as much as possible.

Curtains can stop at the top of the sill or extend down below the sill. They can extend from the floor to the ceiling. They can stop right at floor level, hang a few inches higher, or run longer and bunch together like a puddle on the floor.

Another detail to consider beyond color and size is the purpose your curtains will serve. Thermal curtains discourage drafts from the windows. If you want to use your curtains to block light, some curtains filter varying amounts of light. On the other hand, sheer curtains allow sunlight to light and warm a room.

Note the patterns on curtains hang so they are visible from the inside. If you want your curtain patterns to be visible from the outside, you can buy two sets and hang them back-to-back.

Get Your Curtain Rods

Get the right kind. Curtain rods come in as many different styles as curtains. The metal circles on the top of curtains are grommets and call for decorative wooden or metal rods. Some curtains have tabs on the back for clips or to have a narrow rod run through them. Some curtains are the conventional pocket style. They slide on a rod or attach with curtain hooks.

Width is the next issue. Some rods are one piece. Remember they will extend beyond the edges of the curtains, so get rods that are about 4” wider than the measurement you used to size your curtains. Other rods are not so tricky. They are adjustable. 4 standard sizes range from 28” to 170”.

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Get To Work!

You have an idea of where you want the curtains, and now you need to center on the bullseye. To do that, simply take the curtain and hold it up to the window.

Verify it will be wide enough (the second person is really beneficial at this stage). Hold the panels up on each side, so the bottoms of the curtains are hanging just where you want them, then make a light pencil mark around the top corners of the curtains to identify the spot.

Next, connect the curtains to the curtain rod and hold them up to the marked positions. Have your partner step back to look. In my case, that was my ex. Adjustments are made up or down, broader, narrower. When she said we were good to go, we moved on.

When hanging a solid rod, note the center of the rod and the center of the window, align those points, and set the brackets accordingly.

Attach the Brackets

You have a marked position on each side of the window. Start on the right. Line the bracket up on the inside of the corner mark, use a pencil to mark the holes, then think about the next step.

If you are lucky enough to hear a solid and not a hollow sound as you tap the wall where the bracket goes, drive the screws through the brackets into the walls, and that is that. Usually, you’ll get that hollow sound.

I dislike plastic wall anchors. I am more inclined to use mollys, especially with heavy curtains. They are hardware that can be driven into the wall like a nail. Then, tightening the bolt in the center causes flanges to spread out against the inside of the drywall. The only time I might drill a small hole and tap in a wall screw anchor is if I am hanging sheers or light curtains.

Once the bracket on the right side is installed, attach the curtain rod to the bracket and move to the left side. Use the marks there as a guide to position the curtain rod while it is attached to the bracket, using the level on top of the curtain rod to fine-tune the placement so the rod is level. Mark the bracket holes. Step back and eyeball the situation. This is a measure twice and install once kind of a step.

Does it look like the same distance up and out from the window? Use the tape measure and check the right side then the left. You want to get both a distance up and out from the corner of the window. If the measurements are the same on both sides, install the bracket. If they aren’t the same…well, I’m lucky. I can blame it on my ex.

Curtain rods across wider windows have a center bracket, too. Once the curtain rod is attached to both side brackets, measure to the center and hold the center bracket under the rod. Push up slightly on the curtain rod, mark the bracket holes, and install the bracket. You want the bracket to bear the weight of the curtain rod and not bow in the center.

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It’s Curtains For You!

It’s time to slip the curtains on the rod, however they attach, and install the rod on the brackets. Step back and use a critical eye. Did you get it right? If you’re not sure, ask somebody for their opinion. I call my ex in to look. She has no problem telling me if I did anything wrong.

What About Variations?

A valance or a swag will use a rod that extends out from the wall further than the rod for the curtain. Double rods are available to install both curtains and sheers. Café curtains have a rod across the window about halfway down. The installation idea is the same as above. Good luck!

  • With his grandpa and dad as carpenters, Forest grew up loving the process of building, and through the years, he’s done it all. Concrete wrecking crew member, building maintenance supervisor, one-time Indiana-licensed asbestos abatement supervisor, moving company crew runner . . . Needless to say, he’s very, very familiar with power tools.

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