How to hang curtains – 4 easy steps to put up eyelet or pencil pleat curtains

Installing the curtain rod at the right height is a must when you hang curtains yourself. An easy, achievable and budget-friendly DIY.

Woman hanging up patterned white curtains
(Image credit: Getty Images / JGI/Jamie Grill)

Curtains are an important design feature of most rooms. A must-have in the bedroom to stop light, increase insulation and to add your own stamp to a home too. And, if you want to know how to hang curtains yourself, properly, rest assured that this is an achievable DIY job. There are some fundamental points to learn and to pay attention to such as the best height to install your rod to hang curtains from, how wide the panels should be and so on.

One of the most popular types of window treatments around, you’re guaranteed to always find a gorgeous style of curtain, whether you want a pop of color, a pared back motif or another look to suit your interior design personality and the era of your home. What’s more, putting up curtains yourself is budget-friendly and shouldn't require a professional.

How to hang curtains

Raymond Yang, home decor industry veteran and founder of Deconovo says 'When installing any type of window treatment, it is important to measure the windows accurately. Draw the dimensions of the window. Measure the width and height with a tape measure. You must measure each window separately even if there are multiple windows that appear to be the same size to avoid surprises later. Each dimension should be measured in three places, and you should then record the largest measurement. This is especially important in older homes with hand made moldings.

Before calculating the size of curtain required you must decide if you want to mount your curtains inside or outside of the frame. Mounting curtains within the window frame minimizes the size of curtains required and emphasizes any decorative moldings. Mount curtains outside of the window frame if your frames are unattractive or you prefer to cover the molding. This is also the best method of hanging if you want to achieve a blackout effect or if you are installing thermal curtains to help insulate the room.'

Here is a full list of the materials and tools you'll need: 

  • The best curtains
  •  A drill 
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Step ladder
  • Curtain pole 
  • Hardware (if not already included with your curtain pole)
  • Wall anchors if your curtains are very heavy

1. Measure up for your curtain rod

Securing the curtain rod properly is the first step and it's essential to get this right for your space. 

It depends on the drop/length that you want for your curtains. Most hang curtain rods four to six inches above the window frame to make a space appear bigger. 'Curtains should be installed at least 4 - 6 inches above the window. This draws your eyes up, making the room look and feel bigger.' Advises Dori Turner of This Full Life 5. And, 'Curtains should be allowed to hang on either side of the window when open so the rod should go past the window trim at least 6 inches on both sides.' So this is where you'll want to install brackets. It's essential the brackets sit in the right place as if they are installed too close to the window trim, your curtains or drapes won't hang correctly and you won't make the most of natural sunlight when there are open either.

So measure out 6" from the window trim and above the window, then mark up where the rod should extend to on each side. 

Note when it comes to the right length, it's down to personal preference or which living room curtain ideas you're trying to recreate of course. But, ideally you'll want your curtains to come just a couple of inches above the ground. If you want your drapes to pool then you can leave them long but not that they will easily pick up dirt and ruin more quickly. Turner adds 'Do you want the hem of your curtain to hang at the base of the floor or pool at the bottom? The standard size curtain is 84" but unless you have low ceilings you'll want to select 96" or 108" depending on the height of your rod.'

A lovely look is to go 2-3 inches below ceiling level, and have your curtains fall all the way to the floor. Width-wise, you want your curtain panels to be double the width of your windows. Ensure you know how to measure for curtains to get the look right for your space.

2. Mark up and install your brackets

Use a stud finder if you can to determine whether you need wall plugs or not. Though Turner says you should always use them 'you don't want your rods coming out of the sheetrock!' Especially if your curtains or drapes are particularly heavy. Mark up where to drill the brackets into the wall with a pencil and ensure the brackets are level on both sides.

3. Attach your curtains to the rod

Remove any finials from your curtain rod then,

For eyelet curtains: You want to make sure the lining isn't showing so ensure the end folds away from the window when threading them onto the rod. And to stop the curtain sliding all the way across the rod, leave the end eyelet outside of the bracket. 

For pencil pleats: Secure the cords together at the end then work your way across the curtain panel to gather the material. When it's even, knot the cords on the other side and fold them out of sight. Tail-end down, insert the curtain hooks at even intervals across the curtain panel and repeat on the other panel. Then attach them to the pole rings or set them on the track depending on what you've bought.

4. Steam your curtains

For an interior designer-esque finish, steam your curtains once they are up. If you don't have one, you can use your best steam iron to give them a once over before you hang them up especially if you've just taken them out of a packet. Make sure you keep them looking good with the latest techniques on how to clean curtains properly.

Mistakes to avoid when hanging curtains yourself

Kelly Marohl, owner and designer of The Greenspring Home blog says that the three most common mistakes when it comes to hanging curtains are:

  • Hanging the curtain rod directly above window
  • Hanging the curtain rod at the same width of the window, and/or
  • Buying curtains that are too short

'A common mistake is not having the rod wide enough on both sides of the window, so that your curtains are forced to be hanging partially in your window, blocking light and thus making your room feel smaller.' Adds Marohl.

'If you have standard 8 ft ceilings, you’ll want to order 96” curtain panels. If you have 9 ft ceilings, you’ll want to order 108” curtain panels. Both will be slightly long (2” or less) but you can either hem them or let them pool. Do not let them pool unless you have curtains made with high-quality/thick fabric, otherwise they will not create that gorgeous puddle look you want. Curtains should always be less than an inch above the floor or they should kiss/graze your flooring. They should never be too short. Don’t skimp and use 84” panels, they make the room look so much smaller.'

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Camille Dubuis-Welch

Camille is Acting Editor at Realhomes.com and joined the team in January 2020. As an interior design aficionado, when she’s not developing evergreen content and furiously researching keywords, she is most definitely finding new ways to spruce up her rented space, usually involving a houseplant or two. She loves the challenge that comes with making a room look stylish and feel homely, and her ultimate goal is to renovate the house of dreams, somewhere marvellously sunny with a wild and lavish garden, of course.

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