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

Measure to make sure you get the correct size for curtains and poles to dress windows to perfection

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. Investing in beautiful bespoke curtains can be pricey, but on balance will certainly be worthwhile. They wear well and add a touch of luxury and comfort that can lift the whole room.

Why not turn your hand to making curtains yourself it’s not as difficult as you think. Or you can opt for ready-made curtains which reflect the latest seasonal colours or prints and can be a much more economical solution, allowing a more regular change of windows treatment ideas.

How to measure for curtains

living room with white wall and couch

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Dominic Blackmore)

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.

Most 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.

To measure up you will need:

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil and paper
  • Calculator

living room with peacock blue coloured wall and sofa

(Image credit: Future Plc/ Simon Whitmore)

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 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 either side for accommodating the fabric when it is pushed to the sides.

3. Make sure your measurements are accurate

room with white wall and curtains

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

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

curtains on window and table

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Tim Young)

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.

Read-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 which are.

What is the proper height to hang curtains?

'This is very much dependent on the overall look you want to achieve but in the majority of cases, the fabric should always fall to or ‘kiss’ the floor' advises Debbie Leigh design manager at ILIV (opens in new tab).

'For a romantic or traditional look you could consider drapes that puddle a couple of inches on the floor. However, you do need to consider the potential of them getting a little grubby at the bottom.'

'Most importantly, avoid your curtains stopping a couple of inches above the floor. Not only does it look like you’ve got the measurements wrong, but it can also make the ceilings look lower.'

What curtain fabric to choose?

Knowing which fabric design to choose is more of a tricky dilemma, but if you’ve done a colour 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.

room with white wall and curtain on window

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

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.

Top tips for hanging curtains

bedroom with curtain on wall and frames

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Don't scrimp when it comes to investing in curtains because they really can make or break a decorating scheme. 'Curtains need to be full and fabulous to create impact' says Debbie Leigh, Design Manager, ILIV. 'Extend the curtain pole beyond the width of the window to allow more light into the room and make a room feel larger.'

'Hang the curtains high for a professional-looking window treatment. There is nothing worse than curtains that don't touch the floor- its like wearing trousers that are too short! This will instantly give your room an illusion of extra ceiling height which in turn feels very luxurious. Ideally the pole or track should be positioned a minimum of 4 inches and a maximum of 12 inches above the top of the window.'

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Will you be using this method to measure for curtains?

Jennifer Ebert