Men Doing Manly: Hanging Curtains

Let’s start this post with a vocabulary lesson.

I wish I had cool blinds like this. Shades: Those spring-loaded vinyl things that roll up on a rod and constantly fall on your head after you pull them too hard.

Blinds: The accordion-like things that have the fun-to-play-with string that makes them go up and down and the turning stick to adjust the light direction (and optimize spying).

Curtains: The things that are hung on rods above the window that can sometimes be used to keep light out, depending on thickness and color.

Growing up in my house, the curtains were totally off limits – you couldn’t touch them. My parents had these white, lacy curtains that served little function beyond accenting the window frame, relying on vinyl shades to keep the light out, despite the fact that these vinyl shades did not reach the bottom of the window frame or completely cover the sides. These shades constantly perplexed me: if the shades are meant to keep the light out, why don’t they cover the entire window? When six-year-old Neal was watching Batman the Animated Series on the family couch, why did the light of the setting sun penetrate what should be the impenetrable barrier of the shades, blinding me as effectively as the Dark Knight blinds Edward Nigma with smoke grenades?

Coffee Themed Curtains for the Dining RoomWhen I moved in the fall of 2012, I discovered my new dwellings came with a similar problem: the sun would penetrate the windows (through blinds this time) while watching The League or, despite it being 18 years later, Batman the Animated Series. As such, for Christmas I asked for big, thick, brown curtains. Ask and thou shalt receive! After opening them, I expertly installed the curtains, allowing me to observe the severe pounding Mr. Freeze received in Dini’s “Heart of Ice” without stripes of light hiding the screen.

I recently moved again, to a condo I hope will become my home as opposed to just another dwelling. I transferred the curtains from my old place to my new place, and purchased some new ones to cover the abundance of windows. I also had to replace some blinds that were damaged from the previous occupant. After spending three nights over two weeks properly attending to my windows, here are some thoughts for those of you who wish to watch Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill banter behind animated figures in peace:

  • Measure the interior size of windows before purchasing blinds or shades. I knew I had standard sized 36-inch windows, no custom jobs or anything that should be too troublesome; however, even if a window is a 36-inch frame, the internal space of the window can vary by manufacturer or window style.
  • Blinds come in standard sizes, sort of. There are two ways to put blinds in your windows once you have a measurement: you can have custom blinds cut or you can use standard sized inserts. Standard size is a cheaper option, and returnable. This is the option I went with. Keep in mind that standard sized blinds will fit windows over a range of sizes. For example, I measured a 29.5-inch space and chose 29-30 inch blinds.
  • Have some form of filler when mounting your blinds. If you have the standard sized blinds, have some form of filler to put between the blind and the blind mount. I used napkins, but cardboard pieces or note cards will suffice as well.
  • You don’t necessarily need a level to hang curtains. I chose not to use a level to hang my curtains; instead, I used the window frames as a point of reference and hung the first screw of the mounts an inch under the top of the window frame. This will ensure the curtain rod is at least in line with the window frame, and will not clash if the window frame itself is not precisely level.
  • Don’t drive screws with an electric drill; use a screwdriver instead. Growing up, I’ve always wondered why people use screwdrivers when electric drills exist. After hanging ten sets of curtains in two different apartments, I get it. Electric drills are great for drilling, but will often strip your screws at inopportune times if you aren’t careful. This makes it difficult to put the screws in the wall and nearly impossible to get them out. I bought a ratchet screw driver with a magnetic tip, which helps hold the screws in place. These tools are incredibly useful for the 12 or 13 dollars they cost, often coming with multiple bits.

I’m definitely not a professional handyman, but I can work my way around the house. One thing to keep in mind: never rush any task that involves using tools. If you take your time to do things right the first time, you will succeed. If you do it rushed, you’ll cause yourself more time and more headache.

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