How To

How to Measure for Curtains


14th April 2014

Few things finish a room as well as a lovely set of curtains. In fact, new curtains can give an old room a new lease of life.

Even though the current trend for window dressing has moved towards blinds, curtains provide several benefits you just don’t get from blinds: they provide warmth, give total privacy, block out unwanted light and, of course, look timeless and elegant. 

Whilst curtains are a stunning addition to any room they can also look truly awful if not put up properly! Read our step-by-step guide and learn how to successfully measure up for new curtains.

Be prepared!

To hang your curtains successfully there are two important measurements you must take – width or ‘gather’ and length or ‘drop’. To do this you must first have the right tools for the job.

You will need...

Top Tip: it is essential you use a steel tape measure when measuring up for curtains. A fabric or plastic tape can stretch over time and will not provide the accurate reading you require to obtain the perfect drop.

Measuring for curtain width or 'gather'

1. Stand on your step ladder to be at eye level with the pole or track, use your steel tape to measure its width and make a note. If you are measuring a curtain pole do not include the finials in your measurement.

2. You must then work out the required ‘gather’ for each curtain.

Gather is a stylistic feature but it prevents your curtains from being a flat, taut piece of material across a window. It’s somehow more aesthetically pleasing to see a full, pleated curtain at a window. To achieve this your curtains need to be wider than their track or pole. The extra fabric is ‘gathered’ up using the strings in the curtains tape to create an effect of ‘fullness’.

For medium gather: take the width of the pole/track (from Step 1) multiply it by 1.5 and divide by 2 – this gives you the required width of each curtain.

For heavy gather: take the width of the pole/track (from Step 1) multiply by 2.5 and divide by 2 – this gives you the required width of each curtain. 

Measuring curtain length or ‘drop’

3. Next, work out the required drop of your curtains. Whilst this is very much a case of personal taste there are three generally accepted lengths, or drops, for curtains:

  • to the sill;
  • below the sill;
  • to the floor.

To the sill: measure from the pole/track to 1.25cm above the sill.

Below the sill: measure from the pole/track to 15cm below the sill.

To the floor: measure from the pole/track to 2.5cm above the floor (this prevents curtains dragging).

For tab-top or pleated curtains make a note of your measurement as it is - this is the required drop for the type of curtain.

For eyelet or ring-top curtains write down your measurement then add 3.5cm to allow for the distance between the eyelet and the top edge of the curtain - this is the required drop for the type of curtain.

4. Quick and convenient, most people opt to buy curtains ready-made. Widely available in a huge selection of colours, fabrics and patterns they can be cheaper than their made-to-measure counterparts.

However, there are several things to bear in mind:

  • Sizes quoted on packaging are approximate, not exact;
  • You may need to have them shortened which adds to the overall installation cost;
  • Ready-made curtains only come in certain sizes;
  • You get what you pay for in terms of quality and finish.

5. Ready-made curtains aren’t always the cost effective option when buying curtains. Many independent curtain makers will make them out of fabric you provide – allowing you to set a budget for the project from the outset. Bigger curtain making companies have a selection of in-house fabrics to choose from; whilst this works out more expensive it gives you access to exclusive fabrics not available elsewhere on the high street.

Whether you opt for ready-made or made-to-measure, an accurate steel tape measure is your first step to successfully measuring up your home for beautiful new curtains.

Take a look at our range of everyday tape measures and find the perfect tool for your DIY project.

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