Window Treatments How-To

Articles about window treatments are in decorating magazines and on websites everywhere. I have "cherry picked" the ones that I think are the best, and will be adding more window treatments resources and other related items as times goes on. Check back often for the latest! Because "I Do Windows"!

Size Does Matter.

Your window top treatment's length, width & depth are very important. And I offer you this information merely as guidelines. Read it very carefully and use it as a basis in determining what your windows need.

You are standing in your room and can best determine based on these guidelines your exact requirements. Something a little longer or shorter might appeal to you. That's great! Have fun! Don't sweat the small stuff!


Measurements & How To Determine The Size Of Your Top Treatments:

Most window top treatments that you purchase range between 15" - 24" in length. When you make your own, you get to determine how long they will be. The general rule of thumb here is your valance length should be roughly 1/5 of your total window length, or window treatment length.

Things to consider when determining your finished valance length:

How High Will You Mount Your Valance Above Your Window?

The general rule of thumb is 2-5" above window frame. Most often, this will have your hardware mounting into wood. Which is a good thing!

BUT . . . if your ceiling isn't overly high, you might want to take it all the way up to the ceiling or crown molding line to add height and drama to your room. If your windows vary in height a little bit, use the highest window as your guide.

Note: You don't want your top heading of your valance or under draperies (where all the construction and heading tapes are) to be visible from outside your window. So be sure to allow for that when mounting your hardware. Often times you might want to use another horizontal line you already have going on in the room.

For example: If you have tall trim pieces above your doors or extra tall doors, you may want to line your window valance with the top of those. Or if you have a cathedral ceiling, use the ceiling line of the low wall as the horizontal line around the entire room.

Do you have an open stair rail above, like on a balcony? Maybe you could carry that floor line across the rest of your room. Stand back and look around your room and see if you have a line that could or should be continued.

How Long Should Your Valance Be?

Now that you have an idea where you want the top of your treatments, you need to decide on the finished length. Note: How to measure.

** If your window treatment includes draperies, sheers or any other long treatment, you measure from the line where you will mount the top of your valance, down to the bottom of the window treatment. Then divide that number by 5 for an average valance length.

** If you are mounting a valance by itself, or over a blind that is mounted in the window, you measure from the top of the window trim, to the bottom of the windows lower trim. Then divide this by 5.

Now that you have a rough idea what you're going for, get some paper (be careful if you use newspaper because of the ink) or scrap fabric and start trying out different lengths. While you're at it you can also try some different shapes too. Just shape the bottom edge of the paper, and tape it up.

Stand back and see how you like it. Again, look at other horizontal lines. The lines of furniture, wainscotting, wallpaper border, the lines of the window panes etc. Use these lines as guidelines.

You want to be able to see out your window without ducking, but you also don't want to see the wood at the top of the glass (or the top of the window opening if you have no trim) either, so keep that in mind too. Stand back a ways when determining this.

Swags And Cascades Or
Valances With Jabots

General rule here is that your swag is 1/5 of your window, or 1/3 the length of your cascades. As before, consider other horizontal lines in your room when determining the length of your cascades or jabots.

Your cascades have a short point (the point next to or overlapping the swag) and a long point (the outside edge). The short point should generally be 1-2" longer than the bottom of your swag if your cascade or jabot is 48" long or less. If your cascade or jabot is over 48" your short point should be roughly 1/2 its length.

How Wide Should Your Top Treatment Be?

Your top treatment needs to be wide enough to allow clearance for the functioning of the treatment that it covers and all its hardware. So get out the metal tape measure again and determine what you need for clearance.

Again, if you are going over just the window and a blind, your top treatment just needs to clear the side trim by a half inch or so. If you have it too wide your treatment and window give the effect of a " T " and will look odd from a distance.

How Deep Should Your Top Treatment Be?

(How far should it stick out from the wall - referred to as the 'return' or "projection".)

The best way to determine this is to take your tape measure (metal one) and measure out from the wall to the outside of the existing window treatment, such as mini blind, rod pocket curtains or drapery.

Then to this measurement add 2 inches for clearance. You want to be sure you have room to operate the treatment underneath.

Most top treatments have a 5" return. This allows for going over one layer underneath, such as draperies. If you are going over verticals, be sure the vanes are turned open when you measure, so you can be sure they will clear the top treatment.

Note: If you are measuring for the return on a cornice or other board mounted treatment, remember that it's the measurement from the wall to the inside of the front board that is critical.

Building your cornice out of 1" boards (which are actually 3/4") you lose 1 1/2" in width and 3/4" in depth from the wood.

by Komee Carpenter
Copyright 2004-2009 All Rights Reserved


Tab Top Valance

Wood cornice - it's a flower, but the basic design would work for just about any style

How To Make A Roman Shade

This is a series of videos on making a roman shade and a roman shade head rail. You can also use these instructions for making a roman shade style valance by simply making the pleats fixed (permanently tacked in place) and making it the length you need for a valance.

Making a Roman Shade Part 1

Making a Roman Shade Part 2

Making a Roman Shade Part 3

Making a Roman Shade Part 4

How To Make A Roman Shade Headrail Part 1

How To Make A Roman Shade Headrail Part 2

TIP: You don't have to use a headrail (board) for your Roman Shade. You can make a rod pocket and mount it on a flat or round rod, and you can also hem the top, and attach tabs and hang them from a decorative rod. It just depends on what you happen to have on hand.