How to install curtain rods – easy steps for success

Make window treatments stylish from top to toe. Here’s how to install curtain rods

Blue dining room with white curtains, black curtain rod
(Image credit: Jake Curtis)

Details count when you’re planning window treatments – and one of those details if you’re opting to hang curtains is the curtain rod. 

The curtain rod may be a major feature of your window treatment ideas or a little less prominent, depending on which type of curtain heading you select, but either way it does have an impact on the finished look.

Installing a curtain rod isn’t difficult so if your existing design has been compromising the look of your curtains, or if you’ve never dressed one of your windows with drapes before and are ready to, our guide has all the information you need to install one.

How to install curtain rods

Before you install a curtain rod, you’ll need to be sure it’s suitable for the job. ‘When installing a curtain rod, the diameter of the rod, the length of the rod, and the weight of the fabric that will hang from the rod, all need to be taken into consideration to make sure the drapery will have enough support and withstand normal functioning,’ says Kelly Simpson, senior director of design and innovation at experts in blinds, shades, shutters, and drapes Budget Blinds.

The wall needs to be sound, too. ‘Make sure you are installing into sturdy walls, and always use anchors, especially if you will be opening and closing the drapery,’ says Maggie Griffin, founder and principal designer of Maggie Griffin Design.

Be sure to check the specification of the rod with your supplier when you purchase, then follow our steps to install a curtain rod.

Calming, neutral modern living room with abstract square patterned curtains, light wooden flooring, rounded paper lantern shade, curved cream sofa, floor lamp, leather lounge chair, marble coffee table on rug

(Image credit: Jake Curtis)

You will need:

1. Plan the position of a curtain rod

You’ll need to mark the position of the curtain rod brackets but first consider how high to hang curtains. Unless you have a cathedral-style ceiling, one option is to go high to make windows look bigger, or more specifically, taller. Maggie Griffin recommends, ‘Drapery hardware should always be mounted as high as possible under the crown molding.’

Alternatively, providing the ceiling height permits the curtain rod to be installed above the window frame, follow the rule of thumb of installing it 4 to 6 inches above the window or, if you have 6 to 12 inches between the ceiling and window frame, fitting it halfway between the ceiling and the top of the window frame. 

Unless you are hanging curtains without drilling, you’ll also need to plan where the curtain rod brackets should be placed, which is typically 3 to 6 inches to either side of the window.

Use a pencil to mark the position of the curtain rod brackets on the wall.

2. Install curtain rod brackets

Take the first curtain rod bracket, check it is level with your carpenter's level, then mark the position of the screw holes with a pencil on the wall. Repeat for the bracket on the other side of the window.

Bear in mind that an additional bracket may be required. ‘A center bracket is necessary when you have anything more than a single window,’ says Maggie Griffin. ‘This helps keep the rod from bowing.’

If a center bracket is needed, measure and mark the center point between the left and right brackets. 

Drill guide holes for the mounting hardware and be sure to fit wall anchors to create sufficient support. Use either a screwdriver or drill to fasten the brackets to the wall.

3. Position the curtain rod

Position the curtain rod in the brackets as a check, then remove it to put the curtains on to it, or to first attach the curtain rings to it, then the curtains to the rings, depending on the type of curtain heading.

Lift the rod with curtains onto the brackets. If the bracket has screws to keep the rod in position, tighten them to secure it. 

Double check that the brackets remain secure once the rod and curtains are in place.

Do you need a drill to install a curtain rod?

You will need a drill to install a curtain rod. This will allow you to fix the curtain rod brackets to the wall. You should also have a level so you can check that the brackets are level, and a stepladder is also essential. You might also want to call on a friend to help you put the curtain rod plus curtains in place once the brackets are on the wall as it can be a little awkward.

If you don’t own a drill, or are renting a home and are not permitted to drill into the walls, but want to hang curtains, you can hang curtains without drilling through a variety of strategies.

Should curtain rods be hung on the window frame?

You can hang a curtain rod on a window frame, and you may need to if the ceilings in your room are low. However, if circumstances allow, it is always preferable to hang a curtain rod on the wall above the window, which will make the window seem taller, as well as to select a curtain rod that is wider than the window. This allows the open curtains to be stacked away from the glazing.

If you do have to hang the curtain rod on the window frame, consider options such as tap in brackets plus rod, which are easily fitted to the frame, or a tension rod, which has springs that hold it in place.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.