How High (and Wide) Should You Hang Curtains…?

Make quick work of measuring and hanging curtains with these easy tips. Learn how to find the perfect curtain panel size and hanging height for your window treatments

By Jessica Bennett Jessica Bennett Instagram Jessica Bennett is the digital assistant home editor at Better Homes & Gardens. With a knack for writing and editing, she covers decorating, home improvement, cleaning, organizing, and more for BHG.com. With nearly five years of combined experience in digital and magazine journalism, she has contributed over 800 articles for BHG.com to date, and her writing on interior design and decorating has been featured in 16 national print magazines, including Do It Yourself, Country Home, Beautiful Kitchens & Baths, Secrets of Getting Organized, and more. Jessica received a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University. She also completed a secondary major in French language studies. Prior to graduation, she was inducted into the Kappa Tau Alpha honor society, which recognizes academic excellence in the field of journalism. She is currently pursuing an interior design certificate from the New York Institute of Art + Design. Learn about BHG’s Editorial Process Updated on May 10, 2022

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Instructions

  1. Determine how wide and long your curtains need to be for your window (visit full article for detailed instructions)
  2. Use a drywall anchor to attach the curtain rod brackets to the desired location.
  3. Place the curtain rod onto the brackets.
  4. Adjust the curtain to the correct size.
  5. Hang the curtain onto the rod with curtain rings.

Video

3. Drill Pilot Holes

Load up your power drill with a small pilot hole bit (we used a 3/32″ bit) and hold your template above your window with the top edge flush to the ceiling and the side edge lined up with the outside edge of the window frame. Then you can just drill small pilot holes through your two template marks.

A note about keeping things level: CEILINGS AREN’T ALWAYS LEVEL (I’m looking at you, duplex) so using the ceiling as your guide might seem ill-advised.

What if your ceiling is sloped and your curtains end up being sloped too?!

Don’t panic! When you’re hanging the rod close to your ceiling, you actually want the rod to follow any slope in the ceiling! It will be your eyes’ closest reference point for a straight line, so it will likely appear level even if it isn’t. That’s why a level isn’t required for this process.

In fact, putting a perfectly level curtain rod next to a sloped ceiling could actually make the rod look wrong. Or emphasize that the ceiling is wrong. So yeah, using the ceiling as your guide actually works well for wonky ceilings (again, the duplex has plenty of those).

How High to Hang Curtains

A rule of thumb (from Architectural Digest) is that curtains should be hung between four to six inches above the window frame, so install your curtain rod accordingly. When you hang the curtain rod high, it will make the window appear taller.

Tools Materials Needed

Apart from your curtain rod and the included hanging hardware (brackets, screws, wall anchors), there are very few items you’ll need to hang it quickly:

  • Power drill
  • Small drill bit (like 3/32″) to make pilot holes
  • Larger drill bit (like 3/16″) to make wall anchor hole
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Pen or pencil
  • Scrap cardboard sheet (like the one that came with your curtain panels)
  • Stool or stepladder

Drapery Sizes

Consider the right size, length, and width drapes for your space. There are many store-bought options or your room may require custom-made drapes to meet specific heights, room, or window specifications.

  • In the majority of cases, the ideal length for drapes is long enough to just kiss the floor. Obviously where you hang your curtain rod will have an impact. If you’re purchasing ready-made drapes, it will be a bit of a balancing act to determine what length to get and where to hang the rod.
  • For a traditional, formal look, consider drapes that puddle a couple of inches on the floor. This look isn’t as popular as it once was but it’s inherently luxurious and can still work in formal spaces.
  • Do not allow your drapes to hang above the floor. When they stop a couple of inches above the floor, it can make the ceilings look lower.
  • For drapes to look full, the panels should have a combined width of at least double the width of the window. If you have two panels, each one should equal the width of the window.
  • Keep in mind that some fabrics hang differently than others, so light fabrics may require more fullness, while heavy fabrics may require a little less.

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Step 1: Determine how high to hang curtain rods

Wondering where to hang curtain rods? It's essential to mount curtain rods in the right spot, or your perfect-length curtains might not hang properly. A rod that sits too close to the window can make a space seem smaller than it really is. To ensure perfect curtain placement, measure the depth of your window molding to determine the ideal size for your curtain brackets. You'll want curtain brackets that extend past the depth of your trim. If they're too shallow, your curtains won't hang properly.

Using a pencil and tape measure, mark the desired position of your curtain brackets, so the rod is about 4 to 6 inches above your window frame, making sure the curtains will slightly brush the floor or hover just above it. The curtain brackets should be placed about 6 inches from the outside edge of the window frame to allow plenty of natural light.

What is the Proper Length for Curtains

Interior designers note the bottom of your curtains should fall to the floor, and you can even let them “puddle” a bit. However, if you don’t want your curtains to drag on the floor when you open and close them, let them stop about an inch from the floor, but no more. If they do puddle at the floor, you can wash your curtains as needed.

When it comes to the width, your curtains should be at least two times the width of the window.

HOW HIGH SHOULD YOU HANG CURTAINS?

It’s recommended to hang curtains higher than the window to make the ceiling look taller and the room feel larger.

So, don’t hang the curtain rod at the top of the window; give it some space, let it breathe.

Try to have the curtain rod at least 3″ above the window opening and if your window has trim have it at least 3″ above the trim. The higher you can go, the better.

But do not place the curtain rod higher than 12″ from the window opening or trim. It might look awkward if you go too high.

And remember to let the ceiling breathe too, so leave at least 3″ of space between the ceiling and the curtains.

SIDE NOTE: The example image is 3″ from the ceiling.

Once you’ve decided how far the curtain rod will be from the window opening, or trim, you’re ready to move on.

How Height Impacts Curtain Rod Placement

Use these tips to make sure you place your rods at the right height:

  • For standard drapes that hang on either side of a window, the typical height is halfway between the top of the window casing and the ceiling. This applies if there are more than 12 inches between the window trim and ceiling. 
  • For cathedral ceilings, leave approximately four to six inches above the window trim as a guideline. 
  • No matter what the ceiling height, the minimum distance from the top of the window casing to the curtain rod is two inches.
  • To create the illusion of height, mount the drapery rods close to the ceiling. This is particularly important to do if the room has low ceilings.
  • Use these same rules when the windows are arched.

The Spruce / Almar Creative

The Drip Cap

  • Hanging curtain rods high above the window frame adds height to the wall and works best with long panels or drapes.
  • Hanging curtain rods lower–generally just a couple of inches above the window frame–is more traditional, and works best when the window frames and ceiling molding are close together.

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