Successfully install curtain track

When you come to install curtain track remember it exists for one purpose - to support your drapery. There are just a few details you should think about. Get them right, and your drapery will look great.

This section is about fitting track on its own, not cornice boards, rods or poles. You'll find details about those on the pages about installing rods and poles, and cornice boards. 

Decision time!

Plastic or metal?

Plastic track is fine for light to light/medium weight curtains. Anything heavier and I'd suggest you use corded metal tracks. If your drapes are interlined, definitely use metal track.

If you're planning on having heavy curtains with a just a track, I'd suggest looking at using a pole or a top treatment.

Why?

Because I think metal tracks are a bit unsightly. I prefer to use a pole or rod, which is designed to be seen. Or a top treatment, which hides all the track mechanism. But if you don't mind seeing the metal curtain track, go ahead.

How to install curtain track

plastic track bracketAn example of a plastic track bracket

Top or face fix?

Top fix is where you screw the track brackets onto a horizontal surface such as a ceiling or cornice board. This is useful if your window reaches up to the ceiling and there's nowhere to attach to the window frame. The other situation is where you're going to fix the track to a mounting board.

Face fix is where you screw the brackets onto a vertical surface such as a wall when you install curtain track.

Track projection

details of curtain track in postionTrack projection. This illustration shows a board in position to hold a top treatment, but the same principle applies to tracks and/or poles.

Make sure your curtain track projects far enough away from the wall if you're face fixing. Sometimes the window sill or radiator projects into the room, so you may need to improve the track projection.

The vertical yellow line from (A) shows where the track would need to be positioned so the drapes clear the window sill.

The line from (B) shows where the track should be so it clears the radiator.

Sometimes when you install curtain track you'll find it isn't practical to bring the track out as far as you'd like. (I prefer not to have brackets deeper than about 6" (15cms). Any more than this and the track projects too far into the room.)

You'll often have to compromise in this situation and have the track projecting as far as possible.

Track on its own, or with lath?

curtain track with lathCurtain track with lath

Some metal tracks have adjustable brackets which allow you to locate the track a suitable distance from the wall. This helps the drapes to hang clear of the wall.

If your curtain track has quite small brackets then I'd suggest you use a wood lath.

This is simply a piece of wood, usually about 2" (5cms) by 1" (2.5cms) and almost as long as the track. This is fitted to the wall and the track to the wood. Paint the wood the same color as the wall.

There are a number of advantages to using this method

  • You'll need far fewer screws to fix it securely. For an 8'0" (2.70m) width three or four long screws will secure the lath, but you'll need about 8 - 10 track brackets.
  • It's much easier to fix a lath level than get all the track brackets level. (Drill holes in the lath, hold it up on the wall so it's level, and mark the hole positions.)

What fixings should you use?

The objective is to get firm fixings which will easily hold the weight of the drapery.

If you can locate wall studs, then you can screw straight into them. However, life is never as simple as this (at least it never was for me!), so you'll often need to use other methods.

Plastic anchor (rawlplug)

If you're drilling into brick, drywall or an equally firm substance you can use plastic anchors (also known as rawlplugs). You need to have the correct size of anchor and screw for this to work correctly.

Drill holes in the required position. Use a drill bit size as recommended for the size of screw and plug you're using. Insert the plugs into the holes using a hammer. Screw the bracket firmly in place.

Molly bolt

For other types of walls such as plasterboard use molly bolts. These are special fixings where the rear section expands behind the wall to secure them in place.

  1. Mark the screw positions on the wall.
  2. Drill a hold in the wall slightly smaller than the diameter of the bolt.
  3. Tap the molly bolt into the hole with a small hammer. Tighten the screw, and as you do so the back of the bolt expands. Keep on tightening until the bolt is firmly in place. (Sometimes you need quite a bit of force to complete this part.)
  4. Remove the screw from the bolt. Insert it through the correct hole in the bracket and into the bolt. Screw the bracket in place.

Summary

Fixing your curtain track securely is a key feature of drapery. If you're in any doubt, consult a professional. Don't take chances!


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