How to measure for curtains - tips for measuring windows to hang curtains and poles

Always measure to make sure you get the correct curtain size to dress windows to perfection

curtains in country style living room
(Image credit: John Lewis)

Want to know how to measure for curtains? There is no doubt that curtains and window treatments can be the crowning glory of a room, helping to bring together all the elements of your space. 

Whether you are looking to dress a bay window with beautiful bespoke living room curtain ideas and blinds or are opting for more economical ready-made curtains that reflect the latest seasonal colours or prints, knowing how to measure for curtains will ensure the investment is a good window treatment idea.

'Whether looking for a simple Roman blind, or a luxurious gathered and insulating ceiling-to-floor flop-over frill door curtain, choosing window treatments can be a daunting process.' confirms, textile designer, Tori Murphy, who is the owner of her own Textile and lifestyle brand.

How to measure for curtains

Living room in brown and pink color scheme, with grandmillennial twist

(Image credit: Future PLC/Blackmore Photography Ltd)

There is no reason to be worried about measuring your windows for curtains; it’s actually very straightforward. The only awkwardness is being able to reach your windows if the size and shape of them is very large.

Most windows are rectangular or square so the only measurements you need are the length and the width of the window. The only additional information required is the kind of fitting you favour, whether it be tracks or poles and how full you would like the curtains to be hung.

Generally, ready-made curtain ideas will come in standard sizes and if they are unlined allow you to adjust the lengths; all stores that sell curtains or fabric can advise on sizing and suitability of fittings, so as long as you have the basic measurements you can get started right away.

You will need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil and paper
  • Calculator


curtains and Beatrice sofa

(Image credit: Dunelm)

1. Where do you want to hang the curtains?

Take a look at your window and decide where you want the curtains to hang from. This may be dependent as to what is around your window. This could include a wooden or plastic frame, the proximity of other walls or the ceiling. Most long, flowing curtains look best on the outside of the window frame, hanging down the wall, allowing you the full length of your fabric.

If you have a recess (the area set back within the window) this may be better suited to blinds or light net curtains. Decide if you want to use a curtain pole or a track and check there are the right proportions and space to fix these fittings.

2. Ask for help

If your window space is very high, you will require some assistance, to read the tape measure and hold a step-ladder. It is preferable to put your fittings, such as poles and lines, up first in order to take accurate measurements. Bear in mind the fitting needs to be the width of the window plus a little extra area on either side for accommodating the fabric when it is pushed to the sides.

3. Make sure your measurements are accurate

yellow curtains in dining room

(Image credit: John Lewis )

If you are using curtain poles, measure from the bottom of the curtain ring to the floor – this will give you the final drop measurement. The width measurement will be the length of the curtain pole, but don’t include the finials as these are just decoration.

With a track, the measurement should be taken from the top of the track to the floor and the width is the full length of the track across the window. For curtains with tab tops, the length will be from the top of the pole to the required length.

If you opt for curtains with a heading, bear in mind that the measurement needs to include the distance from the eyelet to where you want the top of the curtain to be. As a rule the heading looks better covering a track and poles need a heading height of about 2cm above the eyelet, to just above the pole, or just below the pole, depending on personal preference.

4. Consider all options

green curtains in bedroom

(Image credit: ILIV)

If you are opting to make curtains, bear in mind pattern repeats, most fabrics will list these details. The fullness of the curtains will be more dependent on the width of your window. Will the window space need two curtains or just one to sweep across the width?

Modest windows wouldn’t need much extra fullness, perhaps one and a half extra widths whereas larger windows may require up to two and a half extra widths of fabric. Most fabric is usually 137 - 140cm wide, plus you will have to calculate in pattern repeats and at least 25cm extra for the hems. All interior shops selling curtains can advise you on how much fabric to buy.

Ready-made curtains will be geared towards standard sizes and usually have a slight fullness. They are often unlined, so won’t necessarily offer as much warmth or privacy as those that are made-to-measure or self-made.


What is the proper height to hang curtains?

The proper height to hang full-length curtains is a crucial element in defining the aesthetics of your space. 

Debbie Leigh design manager at ILIV explains. 'While it ultimately hinges on the specific ambience you aim to create, there's a fundamental rule of thumb: your curtain fabric should gracefully touch the floor, creating an elegant, tailored appearance.'

Current trends tend to lean towards full-flowing curtains that pile and gather at the floor and create an element of quiet luxury.

What curtain fabric to choose?

Knowing which fabric design to choose is more of a tricky dilemma, but if you’ve done a mood board this may ease the decision as to the type and shade of the material.

Take a good look at the position of the window within the room; smaller windows will obviously require less elaborate dressing. Larger windows can happily accommodate heavier materials and fuller swags.

If the overall look of your room is quite calm, plainer, more natural fabrics can come into their own. Opting for more timeless designs is sometimes a better idea, particularly if you are having curtains made, you may have to live with them for a long time, so classic designs will adapt to any changing room plan.

Alternatively curtains can be the one show-stopping element, a strong motif or print can make a subtly decorated room really come alive. Resist the temptation to have too many prints in one room. If the room features a busy wallpaper consider trying plain curtains to tone it down –  reflecting the shades and patterns of the room with cushions rather than with the curtains.

Plain curtains certainly aren’t dull, the texture of a fabric can be equally as important as the colour. Imagine sumptuous velvets, crisp linens and luxurious silks, the beauty of modern fabrics now is that they come in user-friendly practical mixes, ideal for all style curtains.

check full length curtains

(Image credit: The Range)

How do I know what size ready-made curtains to buy?

Generally, read-made curtains are sold in pairs and the sizes stated refer to the size of each curtain as width x drop. 

To calculate the size of the curtain you require, Steven Ban Fabrics recommends that the total width of the curtains should be no less than one and a half the width of your window. To achieve a full and luxurious look, SBF suggests increasing the fullness to double the width of your window.

artisan bedroom with curtains

(Image credit: Dunelm)

What types of curtain length are there?

Windowsill curtains sit about 1cm above the windowsill. 

Apron curtains come down below the windowsill and are good for heat retention.

Floor-length curtains drape down to the floor and generally sit about 1cm above the floor.

Puddle curtains are usually 1-3 inches longer than floor-length curtains

Deputy Editor

Jennifer is the Deputy Editor (Digital) for Homes & Gardens online. Prior to her current position, she completed various short courses a KLC Design School, and wrote across sister brands Ideal Home, LivingEtc, 25 Beautiful Homes, Country Homes & Interiors, and Style at Home.