Whether you prefer fluttering sheers that dance with the breeze or heavier, ornate draperies for a formal look, hanging curtains adds the perfect finishing touch to your windows. When deciding how far to extend your curtain rods beyond your windows, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. You need to approach each window and the window treatments on a case-by-case basis and consider several different factors. Your answer will depend on the window's size, its proximity to a wall or to other windows, the fullness of your curtains, and your personal preference.
The general recommendation is to install curtain rods so they extend beyond the window by 3 to 4 inches on both sides. You can extend the rod beyond the recommended distance if you want to make narrow windows seem wider or you're using thick draperies that need more space to stack when open.
General Installation Recommendations
When installing curtain rods, hang the rod so that it extends at least 3 or 4 inches beyond the window on each side. This allows your curtains to overlap both the window and the wall to prevent light from leaking in around the window's edges. When space is limited, factor in the length of the rod finials if the curtain rod has them to ensure they'll fit within the given space. If your windows sit closely together and there is not enough room to hang individual rods side by side, hang one long rod across all the windows on the wall.
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Stacking Width Considerations
When you push your curtains open, they "stack" on each side of the window. "Stacking width" is a term used in the decorating industry to describe the amount of rod space you need on each side of your window to accommodate open curtains.
While thin, filmy, unlined curtains won't need much stacking width, heavy, full curtains with generous pleating or gathering need more. They'll require plenty of stacking room so they don't block your window's view even when they're open. A good rule to follow is to use a rod that is one-third wider than your window when allowing for stacking width.
Options for Narrow Windows
If your windows are narrower than you prefer, you can give them the look of wider windows by using rods that extend well beyond the windows' width. When you open the curtains, stack them so that they're completely off the window but no wall is showing between the window and the stacked curtain. This gives the illusion that your window extends to the far edge of the stacked curtain. You don't want to extend the rod too far past the window, or you'll run out of curtain and ruin the effect. Stick to no more than 10 inches beyond the window on each side.
Other Installation Considerations
Assess every window in your home individually when determining curtain rod length. For example, if you have a wall of windows, you'll need a rod that extends from one end of the room to the other, and you may have no room at all for stacking width. If you're hanging curtains over a French door or sliding glass door, allow for additional stacking width so you can push the curtains completely out of the doorway to properly access or open and close the door. Hang the curtains on the rod and test out different widths, using a tape measure to check and document your preferred placement to make installation easier.