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Hanging drapes and valances: a custom installation - without paying an installer.

So, you're probably thinking, What's so difficult about putting up a curtain rod and hanging some drapes? You take the rod out of the package and follow the instructions."

With most curtain and drape installations, you're light. And when the drapes are hung, they won't look bad. They will, however, look like 98 percent of the windows in your neighborhood.

But if you want your windows to be the envy of everyone who sees them, then install drapes, a valance and sheer curtains.

My wife and I recently redecorated our living room and installed just this type of window treatment combination. It's really a boost to our decorating ego to have visitors tell us how much they love what we did with the windows. And we still feel proud every time we walk into the living room and see what we accomplished.

You won't need a degree in interior design to install drape panels (the vertical panels on both sides of the window), a valance (the horizontal, fabric-covered header that hides all the mounting hardware and curtain rods) and sheer curtains (to provide privacy). What does make this installation different, though, is that the valance, and sometimes the drape panels, are stapled to a board attached to the wall.

Installing the valance board is a lot like putting up shelves and brackets. There's some measuring and drilling, but not much else. Even a novice can do this project in just one weekend.


A professional installer can usually put up a three-part window treatment on one window in about 20 minutes and will charge $40 to $50 (or more) per window. Fifty bucks doesn't seem like a lot considering that the fabric alone will cost several hundred dollars. But if you have four or five windows to do, you can save a few hundred dollars by doing the installation yourself.

I installed the sheer curtains, drapes and valance in our living room in about 40 minutes. Not bad, considering the window is 9 ft. long and I'd never attempted this installation before. Plan to spend about an hour per window.

You probably own all the tools you'll need: an electric drill, a 5/16-in. and a 3/8-in. drill bit, a Phillips and a straight-tip screwdriver, a tape measure, a 2-ft. level, a heavy-duty stapler, 5/16-in. and 3/8-in. long staples, 1-1/2 in. x 1-1/2 in. angle brackets, hollow-wall anchors and a stepladder.



Make sure you buy the right materials. There are two important things to remember:

* Board-mounted window treatments are sewn differently than rod-hung drapes. Board-mounted treatments have a stapling strip, 1 in. to 5 in. wide, along the top. When you order your window treatments, make sure there's a stapling strip.

* To determine the length of the drape Panels, here are some general guidelines: If the drapes are for the living room, dining room or den, they're usually made full length and are designed to hang 1 in. or less off the floor - like the drapes in our photos. If the drapes are for a bedroom or kitchen, they often come only to the bottom edge of the window trim.



The size of the mounting board depends on two things: the width of the valance, and how many curtain rods you need to hide.

For the windows shown, we installed sheer curtains mounted on a curtain rod that extends 2 in. from the wall. The drape Panels were hung on a separate curtain rod. This rod extends 4 in. from the wall (Photo 4).

To get all of the window treatments evenly spaced front to back, we used a 1x6 board as the mounting board. A 1x6 is actually only 3/4 in. thick and 5-1/2 in.

The distance that a rod or board extends from the wall is called the "return." The 5-1/2 in. return of the mounting board, along With the 4-in. return of the drape panel rod and the 2-in. return of the sheer curtain rod, as shown in Photo 4, gave us our evenly spaced, or "stacked" look.

To make the mounting board go unnoticed, prime and paint it the same color as the wall. (We painted our board bright yellow here, so you could see it better.)



Secure the mounting board to the wall with 1-1/2 in. x 1-1/2-in. angle brackets. The number of brackets you need depends on the length of the board. Here's a rule of thumb: A board that's shorter than 3 ft. needs two brackets; after that, add one bracket for every 2 ft. of additional length.

Attach each bracket to the board with wood screws (Photo 1). The screws usually come with the bracket. If they don't, use No. 8 x 3/4-in. wood screws.

The two end brackets should be attached about 10 inches in from each end of the board. Then, evenly space the remaining brackets between the two end brackets.

Once the brackets are attached, position the board over the window and mark on the wall where the other bracket screws will go (Photo 2).

The height at which you'll install the board depends on the design of the valance. Make sure that the installed valance hangs down enough to cover any curtain rods. Most mounting boards can be installed with the bottom of the board 3 to 4 in. above the top edge of the window casing.

If there's a wall stud behind where the bracket will go, you can secure the bracket to the stud with a 2-in. drywall screw. If there's no wall stud, you need additional anchoring support. Use a stud finder to determine if there's a wall stud behind the bracket. I like the electronic ones, which seem to give the most accurate results. They cost about $20 at home centers and hardware stores.

The best type of anchor to use for additional support is an expanding hollow-wall anchor (Photo 3). These work great on drywall and plaster walls; however, the length of the anchor will differ depending on the wall surface material (see "Wall Fasteners," Nov./Dec. '91, p. 76).

Install these anchors by drilling a hole in the wall that's the same size as the anchor's shank - the necessary hole diameter will be on the anchor package. Insert the anchor into the hole and tighten the screw to expand the "wings" of the shank. Now, remove the screw (the anchor will stay in place even when the screw is out), position the bracket and board over the anchor and then reinstall the screw to secure it to the wall.

Before installing the mounting board, however, hang the drapes and sheer curtains on their rods and put them in place.


How the valance is sewn or constructed will determine how it will fit around the mounting board. Position the seam - formed where the stapling strip and the front of the valance are sewn together - over the top edge of the mounting board. It's good to have a helper to hold the valance in place while you staple.

Secure the valance to the board by stapling along the stapling strip every 4 in. (Photo 5). Either 5/16-in. or 3/8-in. long staples work well on two to three layers of materials. Use 1/2-in. staples if you have to secure more than four layers of material.

Now position the valance's comer panels (if your valance design has them) over the corner of the mounting board and valance (Photo 6). Secure the panels with staples. Make sure the folded edges and comers are tight and square before stapling.
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Author:Prestly, Don
Publication:The Family Handyman
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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