How to Use Tension Rods to Hang Curtains

Tension rods are among the unsung brilliant inventions that have the power to transform lives -- or at least your humble dwelling. Renter with a "no-damage" clause in your lease? Tension rods let you curtain a window, a closet or that hideous open cupboard under the sink. The rod just wedges in between two walls or partitions and pops out when it's time to move or change decor.

Window Dressing

The kitchen window over the sink needs a cafe curtain. The elaborate nursery drapes and multiple rods over the windows will be replaced by simple fabric panels fitted inside the window frames. The bathroom window in the shower needs a privacy screen, but you can't damage the tile. The front door sidelights are candidates for fixed-in-place gathered sheers, secured at top and bottom. Don't drill holes, install brackets, bang in nails or otherwise damage the wood or plaster; squeeze a tension rod into the space for instant curtains. Types of curtains that work for tension rods include those with a sleeve at the top to slip over the rod, curtains with tab-tops or tie-tops, curtains with Velcro tabs or fold-overs, and curtains with rings that slide over the rod. You can adapt practically any style curtain to work with a tension rod. Just be sure the curtain isn't too heavy for the rod, or the weight will pull the whole thing down.

On With the Show

Pick the right-size rod for the job by measuring the opening and buying a rod that fits within the parameter of the space. The window width should fall within the listed minimum and maximum extensions of the rod. To install the rod, twist the ends in opposite directions to either lengthen or shorten it to slightly longer than the area it will span. Then compress the rod to wedge it into the space. You could create a playroom stage with very theatrical stage curtains by wedging a tension rod between two fixed bookcases or across the opening of an alcove, and dressing the rod with matching floor-length curtains. Use velvet if you want to be impressive, re-purposed old living or dining room curtains for a quick fix. But a very long expanse of space will probably require a support hook or some other central support so the tension rod won't sag in the middle and ultimately collapse on the star or the audience.

Mop and Bucket Brigade

Tension rods are useful for all kinds of household hacks. Wedge one in a kitchen cupboard as a paper towel holder or for "S" hooks to hang cups. Wedge one under the sink, and hook the spray tops of window cleaners and other household cleansers neatly over the bar. Squeeze a spring rod under the edge of a loft bed to curtain off the space under the bed as a playhouse, closet or "private" homework station. Put a rod up in the bathroom for drying hand-washables overnight. Tension rods will hold any craft supplies that come on a tube: ribbons, trim, washi tape, wrapping paper. Keep a few rods with holiday decorations for hanging banners and buntings, holiday lights and garland, or rows of baubles in the firebox of a decorative fireplace. Place small rods in drawers for hanging files or for separating different types of stored supplies or kitchenware into organized "channels."