Curtains are an integral part of your home’s interior design, but just as important as these are the poles or tracks you use to hang them.
Available in a variety of different sizes, styles and designs, curtain poles are key to achieving a stunning look in your home. And to help you choose, we’ve put together a handy curtain pole and track buying guide, so you can find the perfect fit for your curtains.
What’s the difference between curtain poles and curtain tracks?
There’s quite a significant difference between curtain poles and tracks, despite the fact they both offer the same function. Firstly, curtain poles are meant to be seen, which is why you’ll find them in a whole host of designs that will complement your curtain designs. In contrast, curtain tracks are used with clip on gliders, which enable you to hide the track behind your curtains.
Curtain poles are often made from wood or metal and come complete with finials (decorative features to either end). Because of their design, curtain poles are suitable for a number of curtain designs, including pencil pleat, tab top and eyelet styles.
Curtain tracks tend to be made from metal or plastic and can only be used with curtains that have heading tape. Tab top or eyelet curtains aren’t suitable for a curtain track.
What measurements do I need for my new curtain pole?
Start by measuring the window or recess where you’re hanging the curtains. For the average window, you’ll need to allow 20cm on either side of your pole so you can easily open your curtains without blocking the window. Therefore, the total size of your curtain pole/track will be the size of the window + 40cm.
Ideally, the track or pole should be hung 15cm above your window or recess, too, so you might want to take this into consideration when choosing the length of the curtains you’re going to hang.
Top tip: If you’re hanging a curtain pole, don’t forget to take into account the finials on either end. These decorative features won’t be included in the overall dimensions provided on the packaging, so you’ll need to allow for these at either end of the pole when you’re hanging it.
What type of curtain pole or track do I need?
Curtain tracks are pretty straightforward, and are only available in fixed sizes. Therefore, if you have a particularly large window you may need to buy two tracks to accommodate the additional width.
Alternatively, curtain poles are available in a few different designs to suit various requirements. These include:
Extendable poles: These are a popular choice because you don’t have to mess around cutting the poles down to achieve the right size. Created using two poles (one smaller one which slides into a larger one), these can be altered to suit the specific width of your window. Once you’ve achieved the desired width, the pole is fixed in place using the brackets.
Fixed poles: The clue’s in the name with these curtain poles – rather like curtain tracks these come in fixed sizes, so if you need a smaller size you will need to cut them down. Or, for larger requirements, you can place more than one pole together using a connector (sold separately). The majority of these fixed poles are in wooden or metal styles.
Bay window curtain poles: Hanging curtains can be a little tricky when you’re dealing with bay windows. Due to the various angles/curves they have, you’ll need to find a curtain pole that’s designed specifically to suit this style of window. Thankfully, there are a number of designs available, and these aren’t just limited to plastic curtain tracks.
Does it matter how heavy my curtains are?
When choosing a curtain pole you’ll need to consider the weight of your curtains. Thicker, bigger curtains require a more substantial pole that can withstand their weight.
For example, if you’re using thick curtains or ones that are tall (door height), you’ll probably need to choose a pole that’s suitable for heavier curtains. As a general rule of thumb, poles that have a diameter of 19mm or less will be able to take light- to medium-weight designs, while those with diameters of 28mm or more are perfect for heavier-weight curtains.
Curtain rods (e.g. café rods) are normally only suitable for lightweight curtains, voiles, nets and so on.
What kind of curtain pole material should I choose?
There is a wide range of finishes available when it comes to curtain poles, which gives you plenty of choice to find the perfect fit for your interior design scheme.
Wooden poles are ideal for more natural, traditional finishes, suiting cottage-style interiors, rustic designs and country houses. Painted finishes, vintage and antique brass effect styles are also perfect for conventional looks.
For modern interiors opt for metal poles in gloss finishes or matt, brushed-effect finishes – e.g. chrome, satin silver or black.
What’s the best way to hang my curtains?
When you’re using curtain hooks to hang your curtains, you can use any curtain pole (with the supplied rings) or track. However, if you’re using tabs or eyelets, you might need to opt for a pole with a smaller diameter so you can draw the curtains with greater ease.
How do I assemble and fit my new curtain pole?
The tools you’ll need include a screwdriver, drill, spirit level, tape measure and pencil. And if you’re cutting down the pole, you’ll also need a sharp hacksaw. It’s also highly recommended to file the end you have cut afterwards to remove any sharp edges.
When installing on a masonry wall, you’ll need raw plugs. Make sure the drill hole is the same size as this so you’re getting a tight fit to secure your pole. Alternatively, when installing on cavity or plasterboard walls, you’ll need to make sure they’re strong enough to withstand the pole and curtains. Sometimes, installing a wooden batten on the wall will give it the extra support it needs.
Finally, make sure you leave room for at least one ring, tab top or eyelet between the finial and the bracket. This will ensure the edges of your curtains remain in one place and don’t move across when you’re drawing them.
How do I fit my new curtain track?
You will require additional fixing points when putting up a curtain track as they need more support than metal styles. And if you do need to cut two tracks down to achieve the right length, be sure to cut equal amounts off either end of the two tracks, rather than cutting down the middle of one of them. This will help retain the rigidity and support of the curtain track once hung on the wall. The end caps of these curtain tracks are incredibly easy to take off and refit once you’ve cut it down to the desire length.
How do I fit my bay window curtain pole or track?
Curtain poles or tracks that have been specially designed for bay windows will bend with ease as you’re installing them. Simply start at one end (if you’re using one track), bending and fixing the curtail rail with brackets as you go. Then, once you reach the other side, trim off the excess rail.
Alternatively, if you’re using two tracks, start fixing these rails in the centre of your bay window before moving to the edge of it. This will help you achieve an equal width with both, cutting the excess bits off either end.