How to Choose the Right Curtain Lengths (And What to Avoid)

How wide are standard curtains?

It can vary from 50″ up to 58″, and some fabrics, especially sheers, can some in double width at 108″ wide. But the standard in the U.S. is 54″.

Curtain Rods and Headers

Decorative curtain rods are meant to be seen. They come in a variety of finishes and materials, like wood, brushed nickel and wrought iron, and may have ornamental finials. If you don’t want the rods to be part of the room décor, use the adjustable, concealed rods that are usually made from white metal. Traverse rods are used with draperies that attach to the rod with hooks. Tension rods have a spring inside that holds the rod in place inside the window frame.

Curtain headers, the part of the fabric that attaches to the rod, also come in a variety of styles. Rod pocket refers to the type that has a channel that slips onto the rod. Tab tops have a series of fabric loops that slide onto the rod. Pleated curtains are used with traverse rods, and grommet tops have a row of large eyelets sewn into the top of the curtain that the rod goes through.

Typically, a curtain rod is mounted 1 to 6 inches above the window frame for drapes, on the window frame for sill- or apron-length curtains or inside the frame for tension rods, but this is also a matter of taste and design style. For instance, HGTV suggests hanging drapes all the way to the ceiling because it makes a room seem larger.


What size curtains do I need for 12 foot ceilings?

The ideal curtain length for a 12-foot ceiling is 132 inches. A panel of this size will cover the distance between the floor, all the way up to one foot from the ceiling.

How wide should curtains be for 36 inch window?

For a 36 inch window, you need curtains with a finished width at least 1.5 times that, but better are those with twice that width and even three times the width for sheers. 

Therefore, for a 36 inch window, you need two panels of 36 inches each for twice the width and a luxurious gather.

How do you measure what size curtains you need?

To measure the size of curtains you need, first calculate the width you will need, using the length of the pole or track to get a measurement, not the window, since the curtain will pull back beyond the edges of the frame. Now double the measurement you took; this will give you nicely gathered curtains that suit pencil pleat, eyelet and tab top curtains. To measure the length, decide first whether you want the curtains to drape on the floor, graze the floor or sit at window sill level. Then use the top of the track or pole to measure from top to bottom.

How to Calculate the Right Measurements for Hanging Curtains

Before you start hanging curtains, make sure the panels are wide enough to cover your home’s windows. You don’t want to be rudely awakened by a beam of sunlight that the curtains don’t block, so measure your window dimensions before purchasing or making your curtains. The total width of your curtain panels should add up to about two times the window’s width.

Choosing the correct curtain length for your windows is also important. Besides looking awkward, too-small curtains visually shorten your space, making ceilings appear lower. Too-small curtains also make the room look smaller overall. Curtains that drag on the floor could pose a tripping hazard and collect dust more easily. For the ideal middle ground, curtains should hover just above the floor.

To find the right curtain length, measure from the floor to where you’ll hang the rod (usually 4 to 6 inches above the window frame). Otherwise, hanging the curtain rod just below the ceiling is a simple design trick that makes your ceilings appear taller. Curtains come in standard lengths like 63, 84, and 96 inches. Choose one closest to your measurement, erring on the side of a few inches longer than shorter.

Additionally, be sure to choose a curtain rod that's wider than your window. This allows curtains to be pulled completely to the side of the window and makes the space feel larger. The rod itself should be 8 to 12 inches longer than the window's width, which allows for 4 to 6 inches on either side.

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Step 2: Mount curtain rod and hang curtains

After you’ve determined the proper placement, hanging curtains is easy. Use a screwdriver to install the curtain brackets; make sure the sides are even using a level. For particularly heavy curtains or rods, you might want to install wall anchors ($13, The Home Depot) to mount the brackets securely to the wall.

Place curtains on the rod. Thread the rod through the openings if your curtains have large grommets or eye holes. Otherwise, attach the panels to the rod with curtain rings or clips ($10, Target). Then set the rod into the brackets to hang the curtains.