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What is the rule for curtain length?

Curtain length is an important consideration when choosing window treatments. The most common curtain length guidelines help ensure your curtains are proportional to your windows and achieve the look you want.

What is the rule for curtain length?

How Long Should Curtains Be?

When deciding curtain length, here are some general rules to follow:

  • Floor Length Curtains – Curtains should just slightly skim the floor, typically about 1/2 inch. This helps them look elegant and frame the window nicely.
  • Sill Length Curtains – These curtains fall right to the window sill and are a popular choice, especially for kitchens, bathrooms and kids’ rooms. They add style without obstructing light.
  • Below the Sill – For a casual cottage look, choose mid-length curtains that fall anywhere from 3-12 inches below the window sill.
  • Pooled Curtains – Extra long curtains that “pool” at the floor add a romantic, luxurious effect. Allow at least 3 extra inches.

The exact length will depend on the height and style of your windows, ceiling and personal preference. Read on for more details.

Curtain Length by Window Type

Standard Windows

For regular height windows, a good guideline for floor length curtains is to allow the rod to extend 2 to 6 inches wider than the window frame on each side. This provides enough space for the curtains to cleanly frame the window when opened fully.

Having sufficient length also prevents light gaps above curtains. Floor length curtains should puddle lightly on floor without bunching too much.

Floor to Ceiling Windows

On tall windows that stretch from floor to ceiling, mounting the rod 3 to 6 inches above the window frame and extending it a similar width at both sides covers the height sufficiently for clean lines.

The extra rod extension prevents the vertical drapes form looking too narrow at the sides. Having enough side overhang also fully blocks out light gaps for added privacy.

Shorter Windows

For small windows below standard height, calculate length as follows:

  • Under 36 inches tall – Add 18 to 24 inches below the sill
  • 36 to 50 inches tall – Allow 12 to 18 inches below sill

The additional length helps shorter curtains appear well-proportioned. Place the rod few inches above the window trim as usual.

Arched Windows

Floor length curtains look lovely on arched windows. Measure at the mid-point of the arch for accurate length. Mount the curtain rod 3 inches above the top of the arch for sufficient overhang.

Use arched curtain rods for the best contour over rounded windows. This showcases the beautiful architectural shape while allowing the soft draped curtains to shine.

What Room Length is Best?

Here are some room-specific guidelines for attractive curtain lengths:

Living Rooms

Curtains should be long enough to cover most of the wall, only allowing some floor to peep through at the bottom. For 8 foot ceilings, 108 to 120 inch curtains work perfectly.


Maintain privacy with floor-to-ceiling curtains in bedrooms. Size them to break slightly at the floor without major puddling.


For a clean yet cozy effect, opt for sill length or slightly below sill curtains in kitchens. Avoid lengths that can dip into cooking areas and become safety hazards.


Moisture prone bathrooms look best with window sill grazing lengths. This allows light through the tops of windows while covering the lower halves for discretion.

Curtain Length by Curtain Type

Length can also vary based on curtain style:

Sheer Curtains

Sheer panels that filter light look lovely in standard floor to sill lengths. Hang them 1 to 3 inches below the curtain rod. For enhanced privacy, add thicker overlays in front at floor length.

Blackout Curtains

To prevent light gaps, blackout curtains should fall to the floor (just lightly skimming it). Install traverse rods to allow smooth opening and closing.

Cafe Curtains

As cute accents that cover only lower window halves, cafe curtains are sized to the window sill length. Place them high enough to showcase window tops.

Short Tier Curtains

The delicate gathered effect of tiered curtains demands more length for each tier. Figure 15 to 25 inches per tier for 2-3 swooping tiers that work with standard windows.

Long Tier Curtains

If planning 4 or more long tiers, keep each tier length between 10 and 12 inches. This allows the layers to elegantly puddle at floor level to dramatize tall windows.

Swag Curtains

Swag curtains hang in decorative upholstered “swags” over windows. The vertical portions called cascades or tails are sized from the rod to the floor for stability.

Vertical Considerations

Consider mounting height, ceiling length, and decorative updos when calculating an attractive curtain length:

Rod Height

Standard rod installation is 3 to 6 inches above the window trim. For floor to ceiling windows, place higher to allow some wall space visible at the top.

Short Ceilings

In rooms with shorter 7 or 8 foot ceilings, accommodate space by mounting curtain rods closer to trim, at just 2 inches above. This helps balance proportions.

Cornice Boards

Cornices or pelmet boxes boost height when installed over curtains. Account for their depth when measuring so floor length drapes don’t get blocked or bunched up.

Crown Moldings

If lovely crown moldings border your ceiling, factor the additional inches into your measurements. Adjust rod height so sumptuous floor length curtains enhance rather than hide the pretty detail.


Elevate side curtains into an upswept held back position to spotlight window frames. Use holdbacks installed at two-thirds curtain length for timeless elegance.

Curtain Length Considerations

Here are a few more things to ensure perfect curtain lengths:

  • Consider room sizes carefully rather than relying on standard sizes
  • Determine if curtains will be stationary or opened frequently
  • Floor length panels in kids rooms may be impractical
  • Very long or pooled curtains accumulate dust and dirt faster

Measuring correctly before installation prevents many length issues. Feel free to make minor adjustments for the ideal custom drape.

And there you have it – a comprehensive guide to calculating curtain lengths for elegance and functionality no matter what your windows or rooms demand!

Key Takeaways: Curtain Length Guidelines

  • Floor length curtains should skim the floor slightly
  • Standard windows look best with 2-6 inches extra rod overhang on sides
  • Arched windows need arched rods set 3 inches above top of arch
  • Bedrooms suit complete privacy with floor-to-ceiling panels
  • Account for cornices and other structures when measuring
  • Consider room use, traffic, ceiling height before deciding length
  • Measure meticulously for perfect custom floor length every time!


Determining ideal curtain length by window type and room allows your drapes to hang beautifully. Whether you prefer puddling floor length romance or crisp practical lines, follow the measurement rules above. This ensures your curtains fit flawlessly and enhance your windows with style and functionality for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1: How long should curtains be for 8 foot ceilings?
A1: For 8 foot ceilings, 108 to 120 inch long curtains work well. They will elegantly skim the floor when hung correctly.

Q2: Where should curtain rod be mounted on window?
A2: Standard mounting height is 3 to 6 inches above the window or window trim. Adjust up or down slightly if needed to fit floor length panels.

Q3: Do floor length curtains have to exactly touch floor?
A3: Not exactly. They should lightly graze the floor, hanging about 1/2 inch below the curtain pole for best draping effect. Too much puddling looks messy.

Q4: What happens if curtains are too long?
A4: Overly long curtains bunch up too much fabric on the floor, look unbalanced, and collect dust. They can also get dirty or become tripping hazards.

Q5: What if curtains are mounted too high?
A5: Mounting rods too high leaves an awkward gap between the top of curtains and the ceiling that ruins proportions. It can also allow light to filter in from above.

Q6: How do I figure out curtain length for bay windows?
A6: Measure each bay window section separately at rod level. Then cut panels to the longest measurement to ensure cohesive draping across the entire bay shape.

Q7: Can you put floor length curtains in kitchens?
A7: Yes, but sill length or just below sill panels are safer. Floor length kitchen curtains can dip into cooking zones and become fire hazards. Opt for washable fabrics as well in messy kitchens.

Q8: What length curtains for 9 foot ceilings?
A8: For 9 foot ceilings, adjust length up to 132 – 144 inch panels for perfect floor skimming height. Add even more for puddling effect if desired.

Q9: How long are 120 inch curtains tip to tip?
A9: 120 inch curtains measure 10 feet tip to tip. This allows elegant floor skimming length for most standard 8 foot ceilings when subtracted from ceiling height.

Q10: What size rods for 96 inch curtains?
A10: For 96 inch curtains, use extension rods at least 104 to 108 inches wide to accommodate. This provides the minimum 2 inch overhang on both curtain sides.

Q11: Can you put floor length curtains on bunk beds?
A11: Certainly! Long draping curtains add coziness to bunks. Measure from the top bunk to the floor, adding an inch or two for floor gap. Safety pin very long panels to bedding to prevent tangles.

Q12: What length sheer curtains for patio doors?
A12: Use floor length sheers on patio doors for softness. Measure patio door height and add 18 inches more length for a gently pooling effect. Wider width panels work best on broad sliding patio doors.

Q13: What is the 80 inch curtain rule?
A13: The old guideline said curtains should be 2 to 3 times the window height for pleasing proportions. So for many 30 to 40 inch tall windows, 80 inch long curtains (twice the height) works beautifully.

Q14: Can curtain rod be thicker than brackets?
A14: Certainly. In fact small 1 inch brackets can hold heavy 2 inch poles easily. Just ensure bracket anchors have screwed deeply and tightly into sturdy framing behind wall drywall.

Q15: What are ribbon length curtains?
A15: Ribbon length describes very short tiered curtains in lengths of 12-16 inches per tier. The delicate tiers resemble rippling ribbons, lending this term to the style. They complement cottage windows beautifully.

Q16: How long should curtain holdbacks be?
A16: Holdbacks pins or ties for draping swags should be placed at two-thirds fabric length for best visual balance. So for 90 inch long curtains, place holdbacks at around 60 inches from top.

Q17: Can you put blackout curtains in baby room?
A17: Definitely. Blackout curtains in nurseries give babies a dark, womb-like environment for better naps. Choose natural fabrics so rooms breathe properly despite darkness.

Q18: What length for curtain tiebacks?
A18: There are no set rules but 24 to 30 inch long tiebacks work on most average curtain styles and lengths. Adjust longer or shorter to coordinate with your specific curtains when tied back.

Q19: How long should bathroom blinds be?
A19: Size bathroom window blinds to match the exact frame height for privacy and light control. Add in an optional 2 inch sill/bath clearance gap if preferred without needing actual floor length.

Q20: How do you measure for custom length curtains?
A20: Hold measuring tape vertically at edge of desired rod installation area. Measure from that spot to where curtains should break at floor. Add 1-2 inches for bespoke floor length panels.

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