The precise method you use to fit curtain track will depend on the type you are installing.
There is a wide variety of curtain tracks available, ranging from simple plastic or metal track which provides a neat nconspicuous method of hanging curtains to decorative metal rods or wooden poles which are designed to be a feature of the window treatment. Curtain track has a series of small-wheeled runners, from which the curtains hang by means of hooks slotted into their heading tape. Rods and poles usually have rings which slide along them to carry the curtains, but some, too, have runners concealed in the bottom of the rod or pole.
In addition, small curtains may be hung on wire threaded through the hem at the top and stretched between two hooks. Nets, in particular, are often supported in this way. Check with your supplier on types of track available. Track is fixed by a series of small brackets through which you drive screws. Usually, there is a hole in both the back and the top of the bracket, so that they are suitable for back or top fixing. Poles or rods usually have only two, much larger and stronger, brackets which are fixed near each end.
They are suitable only for back fixing. Pole and rod brackets are much more decorative than those of track and are meant to be seen as part of the design. Long poles or rods (usually those over 1200mm/48in) may reguire an intermediate bracket; check with the manufacturer’s instructions about this. Curtain wire must be fixed inside the window opening or reveal. Poles and rods should be fixed above and outside the reveal, as they are not seen to advantage otherwise. Track can be fitted inside or out, depending on the look you want.
Fixing inside the reveal
There are two advantages to hanging curtains inside the reveal. One is that because the curtains are shorter you need less fabric; it could be much less. The other is that it is normally much easier to make a fixing inside the reveal. Most windows have frames of timber (even steel and aluminium frames are usually set in a timber surround) and the track or wire can be fixed to this. All you need to do is make a pilot hole for the fixing screw or hook and then drive it home; this will be even easier if you drill the holes with an electric or hand drill first. There’s also the fact that radiators are often sited underneath a window and you will restrict the emission of heat if you cover them up with curtains hung outside the reveal. There are exceptions as to this ease of fixing however. Normally these involve steel windows which are fixed direct to the brickwork of a window opening, so there is no timber surround. Frames like this may incorporate a device for supporting curtain fittings; there may, for example, be integral hooks from which wire can be stretched. But otherwise, there are two courses open to you. With one, you can drill holes in the steel and fix to the frame with nuts and bolts, incorporating rubber or plastic washers to ensure weathertightness. This is a rather labourio’-js job and you may instead decide to adopt the alternative method of fixing to the top of the reveal. This involves cutting into the lintel, which may be a straightforward or rather complicated business, depending on the material from which the lintel is constructed. If you are in any doubt, you should seek professional advice.
Fixing outside the reveal
You may decide that you do not like the idea of short-length curtains fitted inside the reveal; and that you would prefer the elegant look which floor-length curtains can give. If you opt for full-length curtains outside the window opening, the installation normally becomes a little more complicated because you will be involved in making fixings into a wall. If you want the track, rod or pole to be situated immediately above the reveal you will have to take the lintel which supports the brickwork above into account. In some cases, especially in Victorian houses or even older ones, the lintel may be a timber one. Making fixings into this is just as simple as making them into a timber frame. However, many old houses have lintels of solid stone and in more modern houses the lintel will probably be of reinforced concrete (and in high-rise flats the walls may be of this material). The age of your house will give you some idea as to what type of material is used for the lintels, but how can you be sure? In some cases you can see the lintel from outside the house and you will be able to tell just by looking. But if the lintel is concealed you will have to determine the type of material used by other means. You should make a test boring with a drill and bit. You will soon know whether it is stone or concrete on the one hand or timber on the other. (Don’t worry about this test hole being unsightly; you can cover it up later on.)
Boring into stone and concrete is a different matter from drilling into ordinary masonry. You will get along better with an electric, rather than a hand drill and best of all would be a hammer drill. A two- or multi-speed drill that allows you to work very slowly will make the job easily manageable. If you don’t have a slow-speed hammer drill, then you can adopt the following procedure when dealing with concrete which consists of sand, cement and aggregate with, in the case of reinforced concrete, iron bars in the middle.
A bit in a rotary electric drill will cut easily into sand and cement; difficulties will arise when it meets a stone for it will then bore no further. So you should bore in the normal way with your drill and when it seems to slop making progress (a sign that it has come up against a stone) remove it and insert in the hole a percussion bit or jumping bit. To remove the obstruction, strike this a sharp blow with a club hammer and it should cut through or dislodge the flint. Then carry on drilling in the normal way.
Any reinforcing bars should be too far from the surface for you to come up against them. An alternative solution is to aim to avoid the lintel altogether. For this you fix the rod, pole or track slightly higher up. You will then be dealing with bricks, or in the case of a modern house, building blocks, which are very easy to cut into. In fact the problem with building blocks is that they are soft and it is not always easy to get a sufficiently firm fixing in them. However you should be alright with curtains; the fixing has to withstand a certain amount of force when the curtains are drawn but they need nothing like the support of, say, wail-mounted kitchen cabinets. One question which wiil concern you here will be the height of the lintel.
Once again, you may well be able to see it from outside and you can then measure it. When it is concealed, working out its height is a more difficult matter, but in general, 150mm (6in) is normally the minimum thickness for a lintel and 300mm (1ft) the maximum. So if you fix your track, pole or rod more than 300mm (1ft) above the top of the reveal it should be clear of the lintel. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule but it is generally the case. Again, you could make a test boring first to make absolutely certain. If you are using curtain track you could decide to fit it even higher than this, right at ceiling level in fact. Floor-to-ceiling curtains look very striking in any room. You could go further and install curtains to cover an entire wall, even though the window may be comparatively small. It’s an expensive treatment but can be a really attractive one, giving the illusion that you have enormous picture windows.
It will also make the room much warmer and cosier in winter since the curtains will provide extra insulation. If you do position the track at the top of the wall and there is no cornice, you can avoid drilling into the wall Instead, you can top-fix the track to the ceiling by driving screws through the plaster and into the joists above First, of course, you will have to locate the joists. Sometimes you can actually see them bulging through the plaster. Or in an upstairs room you can look for them in the loft, in a downstairs room, look in the room above The fixing nails of the floorboards (assuming they are not hidden beneath a floorcovering) will show you their position Or again, you can test out their position by tapping the ceiling with your knuckles. There will be a distinct difference between the hollow sound when you strike the ceiling between the joists and the solid feel as you hit the part immediately below one. If ait else fails you will, once again, have to make a series of test borings.