If you’ve just purchased a new home or decided to spruce up the one you’ve been living in for a few years, you will probably focus on painting the walls a new color, decorating with new soft furnishings, or even replacing some of the old furniture.

However, once all that is done, odds are you won’t be able to shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right and your home still doesn’t look like it came out of an interior design magazine, no matter how much time, money, and effort you put into redecorating.

The reason? You forgot about the window coverings. High-quality window coverings that fit perfectly will make a world of difference in any room – they will complement and complete the design, and add style to your home.

The Blind and Shade Measuring Guide

Window coverings that fit your windows perfectly give you optimum light control – if the blinds or shades are smaller than the window frame, they will not cover the window properly and light will get in even when the blinds are closed. The level of privacy you get also depends on how well the window covering fits.

Getting the Job Done

Phase one is deciding what type of window treatment checks all the boxes for you based on the look you are trying to create, your budget, and which room you are going to install it in. Do you want the classic look that shutters or wood blinds provide? Or is your style more modern and clean which lends itself more to sleek roller shades or cellular shades? Do you want something that offers a warm cozy look like natural shades or fabric Roman shades or draperies? Figuring out which product is best for your home and style is the first step.

Inside Mount vs. Outside Mount

Based on how they are installed, blinds fall under two categories: inside mount and outside mount.

Inside Mount Blinds or Shades

These are installed inside the window casing. Measurements here have to be precise because there is no wiggle room. The important elements are the window openings. Inside mount blinds cannot be wider than the window frames. They are perfect if you also have curtains or draperies. Something to consider with inside mount window coverings is the wood trim inside the window.

Do you know how large the bracket is that the blind or shade will go in?

This affects where you can install the window coverings. If your window has several levels of wood trim inside the window frame, you have to know where you can install it to get an accurate measurement. If your windows are sheetrocked only, you have to make sure the window is “square” which means it’s the same width at the top of the window as it is at the bottom and it’s the same height on the right as it is on the left. Windows are very often “out of square” which makes it very difficult to get a precise measurement.

Outside Mount Blinds or Shades

The outside mount blinds are installed above the window frame – this allows for the blinds to be wider than the window frame which gives you better light control and privacy. The downside is that they can’t be used together with curtains or shades. Outside mount window coverings give you a little more flexibility with the measurements, but completely cover up your window trim. If you’re installing above the window trim at the top of the window, you have to allow for the shade or blind to clear the trim which often will require a spacer behind the brackets to push the blind or shade off the wall enough so that the shade fabric or blind slat doesn’t hit the trim when you’re operating it.

Valances and Returns

Valances are used to cover the mounting systems of a window covering. They are used with both outside mount blinds and inside mount blinds. In the case of outside mount window coverings, the valance also comes with returns – the parts that cover the sides of the mounting system. Inside mount window coverings can also have returned if the bracket is not installed completely inside the window opening.

Sometimes the window is only deep enough for half of the bracket to be inside so smaller returns are needed to cover the part of the bracket that is showing. There are different kinds of valances that offer different looks. Cassette valances, contour valances, and fascia valances are the options for roller shades. Classic, majestic, and craftsman valances are options for blinds. Again, choosing the correct valance for your style and decor is important to make sure you’re getting the right look for your home.

Choosing the Right Tools for Measuring for Blinds

The success of your window measuring project depends on the tools and equipment you use. To make sure everything goes smoothly we use the following tools:

  • Steel measuring tape – While there are several types of measuring tapes on the market, each is better suited for a different kind of job. A steel measuring tape is the best for this project.
  • Pen and paper.
  • Step ladder – A step ladder is the safest way to reach the top of the window frame for accurate measurements.

Measuring for Inside Mount Blinds or Shades

Tip: Because inside mount blinds are installed inside the window opening, you should ensure your window is deep enough for mounting the window treatment. If this is not the case, consider switching to an outside mount window treatment or an inside mount valance with returns (instructions below). For inside mount window coverings, you also have to allow a deduction for the product to fit inside the window opening. If you order the blind or shade the exact size of the opening, it will be too wide to fit inside. If you deduct too much, there will be gaps on the sides.

Step 1: Measure the window width inside the window opening in three points: top, middle, and bottom. Write down all three values and find the smallest measurement; then, round it down to the nearest 8th of an inch.

Step 2: Measure the height of the window opening from the top all the way down to the window sill. You will need three measurements: one on the right, one in the center, and one on the left. Take the largest measurement and round it down to the nearest 8th of an inch.

Step 3: Measure the window diagonally. If the diagonal measurements are different by more than 3/8 inch, you should consider outside mount blinds for better light control and privacy.

Measuring for Outside Mount Blinds or Shades

Step 1: Since the width of outside mount blinds does not depend on the width of the window casing, you can decide how wide you want your window covering to be. We recommend that the blind should overlap the window opening by at least 1-1/2 inch on each side for optimal light control.

Step 2: You also have a bit more freedom when deciding on the height of the blinds. Decide where on the wall you will install the blinds (ideally at least 1-1/2 inch above the window casing) and measure the distance between that point and the window sill or the point you want the blinds to reach.

Measuring for French Door Blinds

Tip: If you are looking to install blinds on your French doors, you need to remember that the mounting system will be installed on the door frame – it is neither an inside mount nor an outside mount so measuring for blinds is a bit different in this case. Door blinds and shades should also come with “hold downs” which attach the product to the door at the bottom so that when you open and close the door the product doesn’t flop around. These also have to be installed precisely so that the blind or shade isn’t stretched too much and is in a bind and not too loose so that the blind or shade hangs correctly.

Step 1: To find the width of the blinds, measure the width of the glass and add 1-2 inches on both sides. Remember to take into account the door handle – the position of the handle might influence how much the blinds can overlap the door frame. Levered door handles typically interfere with the blind or shade and where it can be installed on a door.

Step 2: To correctly measure the height of the blinds, start measuring 2-3 inches above the glass all the way down to 2 inches below the glass. Make sure you allow enough space outside the glass on the door so that when you install the product, you don’t drill into the glass and crack it.

Measuring for Inside Mount Valances

Flush Inside Mount

Inside mount valances are manufactured with straight-cut edges on both ends. Because of this, they look best when they are mounted flush to the window casing. To find out how wide the valance should be, measure the top edge of the window casing.

Partial Recess Inside Mount

If the window casing does not have enough depth to fit the blinds you want to install, you can opt for a valance with returns. Measure the width of the valance as described above, and choose a return length that covers the difference between the flush mount requirement and the window’s depth. Valances can be cut to fit if you have the correct saw.

Measuring for Outside Mount Valances

Once you have measured your window for outside mount blinds, figuring out the length of the valance you need is easy – the value will be slightly bigger than that of the blind. You will also need returns for your outside mount valances, which need to cover the distance between the valance and the wall.

Tips & Tricks for Measuring for Blinds

The first trick is using a steel measuring tape that features unit breakdowns – on these tapes, every inch is denominated in 8th’s, 16th’s, or even 32’s for a more accurate measurement. When measuring a window for blinds, rounding down to the nearest 8th is always the correct way to measure.

Measuring for Plantation Shutters

Shutters can also be installed inside or outside mount. Shutters have a frame that can fit inside the window frame and can also sit on the trim. Measuring for these is tricky because you have to allow for how the frame is going to fit with your wood trim and with a window sill. Some frames cannot sit flat on the window sill because of the lip on the bottom part of the frame.

Also, half of the shutter louver’s width is off the back of the shutter so you have to allow space so that the louvers do not hit your window when you tilt the louvers. Wider width louvers need more space to keep from hitting the window.

Having Your Windows Professionally Measured

A window covering professional from Van Gogh Window Fashions can measure your windows for you and can use their experience to ensure the correct measurement and a precise fit. Don’t waste your time and money measuring your windows yourself. Our design professionals can come into your home and make product suggestions based on your decor style, your needs, and your windows.

We can make sure you get the correct valances and that your returns fit correctly and look tailored and finished. We have fabric samples that you can look at in your home with your furniture and your wall colors to make sure they match and to make sure you’re getting the style you want. Our job is to make sure you’re happy with your window coverings and we do that by making sure they fit well and look fabulous. Let us take care of all the details.