Curtains and blinds block out light and drafts, as well as giving you more privacy. But they can also be a distinctive design feature - introducing colour, pattern and texture into any room in your home. Curtain tracks and poles, too, come in loads of different designs to suit every style of interior. But if you're going for ready-made curtains it's a good idea to choose them before you buy your track or pole, as you might find they're designed to be hung from a particular type of fitting.
Tools & materials required
Before you drill into a wall, always check for pipes and cables with an electronic detector. Never drill directly above or below a light fitting or power socket.
Looped blind cords are a potential hazard to babies and small children, so fit a safety device to hold the cord taut or out of reach. Avoid placing a cot, bed, playpen or high chair within reach of a cord, or positioning any furniture near a window that a child could climb to reach a cord.
How to fit a roller blind
Roller blinds come in lots of colours, designs and sizes. You'll need to decide if you want your blind to fit inside or across the top of the window recess, and measure up before you go shopping. If your blind is going inside the recess, remember that you'll need a little space either side so it works smoothly. Many blinds can be cut to size, but do check that the manufacturer recommends this.
Measure the width of the recess - remembering to leave enough space either side for of the blind (check the manufacturer's instructions on how much to leave). Make sure you check for hidden pipes or cables, too. Then mark the positions of the brackets in the upper corners, using a spirit level to make sure they're level.
Unroll the blind and mark the width on the cardboard roller tube. Cut through the tube with a hacksaw - using an off-cut of wood to protect the surface below if you need to.
Measure and mark the width on the reverse of the blind with a pencil. Use a straightedge to draw a faint cutting line along the length of the blind and carefully cut along this line with a pair of sharp scissors.
Fit the side control into one end of the blind and the dummy pin into the other. Push these home by pressing against a hard surface or tapping gently with a hammer.
Position the control bracket on the side you want to operate the blind from. Use a bradawl to make your starting holes and then drill into the window frame. After that, fix the brackets with the screws supplied. If you're fitting your blind to a PVCu window frame, you'll need to use self-tapping screws.
Slot the blind into the two brackets and test that it works freely.
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Look out for the latest blinds with a special thermal coating. They'll help to insulate your home, keeping the heat in - and your bills down.
How to put up a curtain track
To let in plenty of light, curtains need to run clear of the window. To make sure yours do, you'll probably need to fit your track to the wall above the window recess - although you can also fit it within the recess.
If you're hanging your curtains over a bay window, use flexible curtain track. The screws that come with your curtain track may not be long enough to fix the track securely, particularly if your plaster is old and slightly crumbly. If this is the case, you can either use longer screws and wall plugs, or screw into sound ceiling timber.
Start by measuring the length of track you need to hang your curtains. If the window is wide and the curtains are thick, the track will need to extend further than if your material is lightweight. Cut your track using a fine-tooth hacksaw, then mark the fixing position for the first bracket 25mm out from the vertical edge of the recess and 50mm up. Repeat this at the other end and then mark the remaining bracket positions at equal intervals - measuring 50mm up from the top of the window recess each time. Use a long spirit level to make certain your marks are level.
Check there are no hidden pipes or cables, then drill the fixing holes and put in wall plugs the correct size for your screws. Screw the brackets into position. The bracket latches that the track fits into should face forward.
To fit the end stops, slip one over each end of the track and tighten the retaining screws.
Place the track into the slot in one of the end brackets and push into the bracket latch until you hear a click. Then clip the track into each bracket in the same way.
How to put up a curtain pole
Curtain poles come in metal, wood or plastic, and can make your curtain fittings more of a decorative feature than standard curtain track. The curtains hang from metal eyelets, rings or loops of fabric. You can adjust the length of some curtain poles, while you can cut others to fit using a fine-tooth hacksaw. If you want to hang very heavy curtains or your plaster isn't completely sound, you might need to use longer screws than the ones you get with the pole.
Top tip - Matching holdbacks
Curtain holdbacks in a matching style add an extra touch of sophistication to your room. Fix them after hanging your curtains to make sure you get them in the right position.
The end brackets for your curtain pole should be at least 50mm from either end of the recess. Mark the positions for the two end brackets and then check they're level with a long spirit level.
After you've made sure there are no hidden pipes or cables, drill at the marked positions with a masonry bit. Insert some wall plugs and screw the brackets into place.
Assemble the pole (cutting or adjusting the length as necessary), then slide it through the brackets. Leave one curtain ring on the outside of each bracket, with the remaining rings between them.
How to hem curtains
There's no need to be put off from buying the ready-made curtains you want, just because they're not the right length for your windows. With an iron-on hem you won't even need a sewing machine.
The first thing to do is decide how long you want your curtain. Measure the drop from the curtain pole or track. Consider the type of fitting and style of curtain you have, as this will affect the eventual length.
Lay the first curtain face down and flat, so you're looking at the reverse side. To allow for the hem, measure the length of the drop plus 100mm from the curtain tape. Mark this with chalk or pencil onto the fabric. Use a long ruler to get a straight cutting line and double-check your measurements. Then do the same with the other curtain, cutting off any excess fabric with sharp scissors.
Set the iron temperature to wool/polyester. With the curtain face down, measure 50mm from the bottom and fold the fabric. Fold it over another 50mm, using pins to hold it in place. Then iron along the folds so you have a crisp crease.
Remove the pins and lift up the fabric along the crease. Lay the iron-on hem adhesive strip inside the fold, adjacent to the crease. Do this along the full width of the curtain and cut the strip off at the end, making sure it reaches right to the edge.
Check that the adhesive strip is lying flat and sandwiched neatly in the fabric. Then run the hot iron over each section, holding and pressing it for 6-10 seconds. Work your way across the width of the curtain, taking care not to stretch the fabric. Allow two minutes for the adhesive to set before you move the fabric. Repeat this process for the other curtain.