What You Need to Know to Install Drapes and Curtains

Drapes and curtains are for privacy and decor. Additional purposes are sound deadening and insulation, or blocking the transition of heat or cold through glass depending on the weather and season. All of us have our own reasons for opening or closing curtains. My reasons are generally for daylight and the view. I like to look out the window and see sloping hills, waving grass, trees, and clouds bubbling over the horizon. I watch deer feed and squirrels run skinny branches as they scurry back and forth. Hummingbirds sip at a feeder centered on the front window. I open the heavy curtains every day. I expect my curtains to be mounted solidly on the wall and operate trouble free for years. As a professional home builder I understand what it takes to get this done. I’ll tell you what you need to know to mount your curtain rods or to recognize a good job when a professional mounts them for you.

Backing blocks begin with the house framing contractor.

So many things stem back to the framing of a home. Framing consists of the “sticks” assembled as the frame of a home. These sticks are called studs, trimmers, corners, tees, rafters and joists. It generally takes one to two weeks to frame a home and “dry it in”–meaning to install the roof decking and give it a certain degree of water shedding ability. A thoughtful and conscientious builder will require his framing crew to install backing blocks for common things to be installed later–such as towel bars, shelves and–yes–curtains. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen.

Where curtain backing blocks should be installed.

Walls are formed from studs which are generally upright 2 X 4 boards installed at 16 inch centers. A window may be installed at any location on a wall. A stud and trimmer is installed at each side of the window opening. A trimmer is simply a shorter 2 X 4 which a header rests on. The header spans the opening and supports anything above it. Exterior headers are usually 2 X 6 or larger. I use 2 X 12 to completely fill the space above the opening. A backing block for drapes, curtains and valances would be installed between the studs on each side of the window opening level with the bottom of the header. This would provide solid backing for screws. If this is the way your home was framed you’re in great shape. If not–you have a few options.

Solid mounting with no backing block.

The header is basically a solid block above the window. It rests on a trimmer and is nailed to a stud. This solid wood including the stud and trimmer extends three inches to each side of the window. You can screw here as long as you don’t go above the header. Headers usually extend six inches or more above the window opening. If you need to screw above the header you can still use the stud–which goes all the way to the ceiling. The stud is between one and half inches to three inches on each side of the window opening. This sounds complicated but it’s actually quite simple. Harder to tell about than do.

Options when you have no backing blocks.

One last option is a decorative board attached to the wall surface that spans numerous studs above the window and extends as far to the side as needed. Screw curtain rods and valances to this board.

If all else fails and you have to screw into a hollow wall then you have no choice but use a plastic screw anchor that expands behind the drywall for extra strength. These should last for awhile under normal use. Drywall is paper backed gypsum. Gypsum provides mass, paper provides strength. You can understand that paper isn’t very strong. Any cut or tear in the paper weakens the drywall. If the anchors pull through the paper then you may have no choice but cut the drywall, install a backing block, repair the drywall–and go on (but this is another article!).

More from Gerald:

How to Add a Mantel to a Fireplace

Add Insulation to Your Attic or Floor

Solar Heating With Aluminum Soda Cans

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