The Washington Design Center


Measuring Your Windows For Drapery

Measuring Your Windows For Drapery

Featured Photo: Byron and Byron window hardware available at Duralee

Whether you are sewing your own window treatments, having them custom-made, or buying them off the shelf, one of the most important steps is having proper window measurements.

John Robshaw Fabrics for Duralee
John Robshaw Fabrics for Duralee

Before you get started measuring your windows, there are a few important things to remember:

  • Always use a retractable, metal tape measure. Cloth measuring tapes have too much of a margin for error.
  • Take precise measurements, then round down to the nearest quarter of an inch.
  • Don't assume that a window that looks the same has the same measurements. Measure them all.
  • As you are writing down your measurements, be sure to indicate which number is the length and which is the width. Mixing those measurement up is a common mistake.
  • When buying drapery, the width is always stated first.

Ink from Robert Allen Design
Ink from Robert Allen Design

Measuring the Width of Wall Mounted Drapery

For drapery that is mounted on rods installed outside of the window frame on the wall, you will begin by measuring from one edge of the window molding to the other horizontally. You will now have to decide how much you want your drapery to extend to either side of the window frame. Traditionally drapery rods will extend two to three inches past the window on both sides. Add the extension to your measurement. Now you have your raw width measurement. You will need to multiply this number by one and a half or two, depending on how full you want your curtains to be.

Drapery Hardware from Fabricut
Drapery Hardware from Fabricut

Inside Mount Width Measurement

If you have ornate molding around your windows that you would rather not cover up, you may opt for curtains with an inside mount. Simply measure from one inside edge of the molding to the other. Again, multiply by one and a half or two to get the desired fabric fullness.

Drapery Fabrics from Osborne & Little
Drapery fabrics from Osborne & Little

Measuring Length

The length of your drapery will first depend on where you place your drapery hardware. There are several options. You can install your rod just above the window molding. Alternatively, placing your rod closer to the ceiling will make your windows look larger. The overall length will depend on what look you wish to achieve. Traditional curtains fall to four inches below the bottom sill. But you can also opt for a more modern look with floor-length curtains. Or, you can go for the luxurious look by having your curtains puddle on the floor. Whichever style you choose will determine the final length of your drapery.

Grisaille drapery fabrics from Scalamandre
Grisaille Fabric from Scalamandre

Before measuring length, go ahead and install the rod so you will have an accurate starting point. For traditional-length window coverings, measure from the rod to four inches below the bottom sill. For floor-length curtains, measure from the rod to one inch above the floor. For the puddled look, measure for floor-length curtains and add six to ten inches. Remember, if you are sewing your own window treatments you will need to add four inches for top hem and rod pocket and four inches for a deep hem at the bottom.

Cathay from Oscar de la Renta III collection for LeeJofa

Getting the proper measurements for your windows is crucial to getting the look you want from your window treatments. You will be doing yourself a favor by measuring accurately before you purchase curtains or begin a do-it-yourself window treatment project.