Curtain length guide, rules, standards, and size charts: How long should they be?

We all know a good home is because of the people in it. But what’s severely underestimated is the power of real pretty curtains! We’ve got you covered if you’ve got a new home to do up or are looking for a do-over. You’ve got the perfect curtain length guide and rules. Standard and size charts are all right here. How long should curtains be? How many are enough? We answer these basic questions right here.

curtains inside a house

What length curtains do I need?

Word on the street is that your curtains need to graze the floor. But windows are different sizes! Apartment windows are different from penthouse windows and so on. You’ll need to properly measure up the length of your requirement and get enough fabric for the perfect length. But when it comes to measuring: where do you start?

Here’s a tip: you want to go about 10 inches wider than your window. In terms of length, you want the rod to start 12 to 24 inches above the window trim.

Standard Lengths

woman looking out through curtains

If you don’t want to invest a large sum of money in custom-made curtains, you can always go standard! The sizes you will come across in the standard market are:

  • 63 inches
  • 84 inches
  • 94 inches
  • 108 inches
  • and 120 inches.

This doesn’t mean you don’t have to take measurements. It just means rounding off to the closest standard size that’s available.

It’s the 108 inches and 96 inches that work well in most homes. Anything lower usually ends up looking funny.

Pro tip: you want a look of high and might with long curtains because it adds drama and accentuates high ceilings.

Curtain lengths size chart

Before we dip into sizes, you must know the terms of the market. A relaxed gather in your curtains refers to those spread widely across the rod. There won’t be as many folds, so you’ll need relatively less material.

But a full gather will have more folds on the rod and require more fabric. Now let’s look at the curtain length size chart to get the exact idea.

Curtain width (cm)Full gather pole length (cm)Relaxed gather pole length (cm)
117117168
168168228
228228284
284284400

Length rules

Here are some more tips to keep in mind about the length:

1. Do not hang them too low.

Sure, puddle curtains are a thing. But not if you’re not able to keep up with the high maintenance it requires. You want yours to be half an inch above the floor. That is enough to cover unwanted toddler paintings on the wall and ugly radiators. A short height can reduce the appearance of the ceiling by half instantly.

2. Make them wide enough

child looking out through curtains

Length is surely an issue, but width is even more so. Don’t go and bring the exact width of your window in curtain width too! Remember, they will fold over and sway in the breeze. You’re looking for something at least 5 inches wider than your window on either side.

3. Install the rod correctly

The rod also shouldn’t be the exact width of the window. It should be higher from the window by at least 12 inches and wider than your window frame. If you decide to open up a window one day and the rod comes in the way, you know you’ve gone too low.

4. Modify where required

Apron drapes are those that are worn like skirts on only the bottom halves of windows. These are more common around the kitchen areas. They can be placed in nooks and corners where light is more acceptable during the day. It includes places like a living room nook or dining table where you aren’t seated that long.

5. Don’t hold up on the fabric

You’re going to need as much as it is needed to cover the windows and add a dramatic flair. Since the rods will be placed higher up, your measurements need to add a couple more inches. It’s done to ensure the fabric doesn’t end up short.

Here’s how you can get started:

Time needed: 5 minutes.

How to choose the right curtain length?

  1. Mark up!

    You’ll need to decide if you want puddle length, aprons, window sills, or just plain floor length. Mark the wall with chalk where you want the bottom of the curtain to end. Now mark where you want the rod to go a couple of inches from the top of the window.marking up curtains

  2. Measure up!

    Get a metal measuring tape ready, and keep a ladder or stool handy. Now depending on what look, you’re going to start measuring from the top to the top of the window where the rod will go. Make sure to have a steady footing and not end up on the floor.measuring curtains

  3. Side to side!

    Now that the length is all set up, you can move on to the width. Decide whether you want a relaxed gather or a full gather in your panels. This will decide how much coverage you need. Make your marks for the width a couple of inches extra on either side of the window as curtains will never sit straight. They’re meant for flying! Now measure up and note down your measurements.side view of curtains

  4. Round up

    If you’re going for a customized drape, you can simply hand over these measurements to your upholstery shop with some added inches considering the gathering. Maybe you are going towards a standard cut to save the money and hassle. You’re going to need to round up to the closest standard size available. Take a look at our size chart to see what we mean.curtains

Short window curtains

If your window isn’t nearly wall-sized, you will want short drapes, only enough to keep the sun out. These are also common in the bedroom for a cute cozy look. One major advantage of these is that they don’t get dirty easily since they’re off the floor. Check out some of our personal favorites below.

1. Short privacy option by RYB Home

We can’t get enough of these! The colors have so much variety. You’ve got everything from Aqua, beige and teal to the more risky lilacs and burnt orange. There are even burgundy reds. Place them in your bedroom for a nice deep sleep without the sun disturbing you because 85% of the light is blocked out. You can also expect easy maintenance since a simple machine wash is the only thing required: no crazy expensive dry cleaning!

Sale
RYB HOME
13,757 Reviews
RYB HOME
They're available in any color you like.

2. Pony dance

These don’t just look great but are super-useful too! They’ve got amazing features like triple weave fabric and the ability to block harmful UV rays shining in your home. You can expect to sleep in a dark, cool room with the light blocked out and cool air conditioning temperature locked in. The beautiful colors are endless, like Blue mist and olive green. They also have mocha and silver grey. All heights are available, ranging from 36″ in height to 84″.

Sale
PONY DANCE
15,314 Reviews
PONY DANCE
These are very decorative.

3. Amazon Basics with grommets

Step away from the boring solid curtains with dull tones. Bring in the Amazon basics lovely printed short blackout curtains in an array of patterns and colors. They’ve even got grommets to accommodate all your fancy rods. If you want to pull them back during the day, there’s a velcro tie. 100% blackout ensures your beauty sleep is achieved. The best part – it’s got the technology to survive any season. It’ll keep your room cooler in the summers and warmer in the winters. Isn’t that neat? If that doesn’t convince you, the 38K happy customers sure will.

Amazon Basics 
39,500 Reviews
Amazon Basics 
Amazon's got you covered!

How wide should they be?

Consider that they should cover your window neatly and still put up a nice flair in the room with its gathered folds. They should be more than the measurement of the window. As a rule of thumb, if you plan to close them during the night, get the fabric in double or even 2.5x the width of the window. It will drape nicely, and you won’t find yourself pulling them tightly shut at the slightest breeze.

If you plan to keep your drapes open and are just planning to do up the window a little, you can buy fabric that is 1.5 times the width of the window.

beautiful curtains

FAQ

Here are some burning questions everyone has about their upholstery.

Where should curtains fall?

They should ideally fall about 1/2 inch above the floor. This makes it seem like they are floor length but also don’t get dirty because they aren’t touching the floor. There are other styles that ignore this rule—for instance, the apron style or puddle fall. Short ones are also rule breakers and are more practical for bedrooms and bathrooms.

Puddle curtains will be extra long and will run a couple of inches of fabric on the floor for an accented look. These are great if you want to create a romantic or vintage vibe. They are quite common in heritage hotels for the same reason.

What lengths do curtains come in?

Standard-length curtains are a great option if you want to renovate your home for less money and quickly.
You can get short ones like a 63″ or an 84″. However, the suitable ones are usually 96″ and 108″ since they are the appropriate lengths. Others generally end up looking awkwardly short.

How much longer should the curtains be than the window?

Width-wise, the curtain rod should extend well beyond the window. It is usually 4-5 inches on either side. In terms of length, you will want to have something nearly touching the floor. So that means about half an inch above the floor, so they don’t get dirty. If you’re going for a puddle-gathered look, they will extend 4-5 inches on the floor for an accentuated look.

How far should the curtain hang below the windowsill?

It depends on where the window is and what look you are going for. If you’ve got a bedroom window, you can have short curtains extending slightly off the windowsill. That means around 1-2 inches. It can also be applied to kitchens, where you can employ the use of apron curtains that only cover half the window. This enables you to keep an eye on the kids playing in the front yard while doing the dishes.

How high should you hang curtains?

Your rod should not go directly above the window frame. Instead, it should be put up a couple of inches above the frame to make the windows look bigger and the ceiling looks higher. As a rule of thumb, you can install the rod about 3-6 inches above the window frame. No more than 6 inches is recommended. They might otherwise look off, especially when the bright light filters through them.

Should curtains touch the floor?

Unless you’re going for a puddle gather like in hotels, castles, and mansions, your curtains should not touch the floor. If you let them slide on the floor, there’s no end to the errands you’ve just added to your list of usuals. You will need to wash them more often because the floor will make their edges dirty. You will also need to vacuum and clean more strenuously in that area. Trash and dust are likely to gather behind and stick to the curtains.

Can you use short curtains on tall windows?

You certainly can! But remember that they shouldn’t be trailing off at an awkward length. In kitchens and bathrooms, it’s more common to have short curtains on a small window. The length is only about one or two inches extra of the window sill.

Can you use long curtains on small windows?

Yes! This is a trick often adopted to give off the impression of larger windows. Although you shouldn’t keep the curtains too oversized, it’s a good idea to keep them high above. If you have got different-sized windows in the same room, pick one size and stick to it. Your rod can settle around 5-6 inches above the window frame, but all of them should ideally end at the same point.

How do I clean curtains?

This depends on the fabric you have. You can easily spin them in the machine if it’s light satin. But they will probably need a dry cleaning session if these are heavier. Although most light fabrics are super easy to clean, they cannot be put in the wash directly. You will need to take out any hooks and any other metal fittings. Anything with grommets will need additional care, and it’s best you hand wash them.

When should you not hang curtains?

If you’ve got a breathtaking view that shouldn’t be missed, you can probably skip the curtains. Maybe you live in a relatively stranded area like a farmhouse. You can skip them since privacy won’t be a concern, especially in the living room. You could also go without them if you haven’t got too much natural light. If you live in a blocked apartment with little sun, it’s probably a good idea to let the sun in and skip the curtains.

If you’re going for a modern contemporary vibe, you can skip them too. Penthouses with large open spaces and glass windows from floor to ceiling are common. Curtains would certainly get in the way of that view!

What to consider when buying curtains?

The first one on the list is the purpose. If you know the purpose of the curtain is to block out light, you’ve got to go for the heavier fabric. Plain, old satin won’t do. A sheer curtain works nicely if you’re only looking for decorative purposes. Your purpose decides the fabric. But you should also consider the room in question. What is the size of the room? Do you need to make it look larger or taller? That will decide the size.

The color is tricky. If you’ve got strong shades of wall colors, it’s best to stick to something neutral in the curtains. But they can just as easily become focal points if you don’t have one. Pair velvet ones with sheer ones, and your windows will look straight out of a fairytale.