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How to Hang a Curtain From a Cornice Board

Cornices are upholstered boards that act as "furniture" for your windows and are an elegant top treatment. However, if privacy or light control is an issue, you may need to add draperies or curtains underneath them. Find out which types of window treatments are the best solution for your problem and how to install them.

Kirsch Superfine Traversing Rod-used by professional installers.
  1. Ensure there is enough room underneath the cornice board. One of the biggest problems that any installer or DIY-er will run into when installing drapery panels underneath a cornice board is insufficient room for mounting hardware and/or fabric when it is "stacked back," or in layman's terms, bunched up at the sides. A basic rule of thumb to remember is to allow 2 inches of space between the back face of the cornice board and anything underneath it for each layer of drapery. That means if you have blinds projecting 1 1/2 inches out from the window recess, you will need a minimum of 3 1/2 inches of space on the inside return (side piece) from the wall to the back face of the cornice board for one layer of drapery to hang correctly. For two layers, it would 5 1/2 inches.

  2. Determine the type of drapery you are planning to hang. Is it a rod pocket? A pinch pleated panel? Rod pockets can be identified by having two rows of stitching (one about 1 1/2" from the top edge, and one about 3 1/2" from the top edge) running across the narrow side of your panel. This will be your rod pocket and ruffle. Pinch pleated panels can be identified by flat sections alternating with groups of three pleats tacked together approximately 3 1/2 inches from the top edge of the panel. It is important to determine the header type for several reasons. Rod pocket panels are meant to be non-moving, stationary panels. Some people think that it's perfectly fine to grab these and slide them open and closed on the rod. Not only does this end up ruining your panels over time, with exposure to the oils in your hands, but it also places unnecessary stress on the rod pocket, causing the pocket to stretch and for the stitching to pull out. Moving draperies should be pinch pleated and mounted on a traversing rod.

  3. Purchase the hardware. Most of the hardware needed for a project like this can be purchased at your local home improvement center or department store. For rod pocket panels, a simple white metal rod is ideal (however, if space or convenience is an issue, you can use tension rods). For pinch pleated panels, it's a bit trickier---are they going to be drawing to the left, the right or out from the center? This will determine which rod you will buy. You will also need to purchase drapery pins to insert into the back of each pleat, so count how many pleats you have.

  4. Open the tension rod up to the necessary width, slide your panels on and squeeze the rod in underneath the cornice. For standard white rod (for stationary rod pocket panels) or traverse rod (for pinch pleated panels that will "traverse" back and forth by use of a pulley system) installation, it's a bit more labor intensive.

  5. Reach underneath the cornice and unscrew it from the angle irons (L-brackets). Make sure you have help taking the cornice down as it can be heavy. For either type of rod installation, start by measuring your panels from the bottom hem to either the center of the pocket (in the case of rod pocket panels) or 2 inches from the top of the pinch pleated panel. Mark this height on your wall 1 inch in from the interior width of your cornice board. Using the drapery rod mounting hardware as a guide, drill starter holes and insert the appropriate size mollies for the screws that came with your hardware. Install mounting brackets with appropriate screws.
    If you are mounting a multilayered treatment, make sure you follow the "2 inch out" rule---start your outermost layer 1 inch in from either side of the inside of the cornice. Measure 2 inches in from either side of that measurement for your next layer, and so on. Remember that your projection or side rod depth will have to increase for each layer, with the innermost rod closest to the wall, and each following layer projecting out at least 1 to 1 1/2 inches to allow for proper movement, not to exceed the space allotted by the back face of the cornice.

  6. Slide the rod through the pocket (for a rod pocket installation), hook the sides onto the brackets and remount your cornice. If it's a pinch pleated panel, insert pins into the back of each pleat as well as the flaps on either side of the panel (the overlap). Install onto the rod, putting only one pin per glide (those plastic white things with the holes in them). If the rod is long, or the panels heavy, enlist help in lifting the rod and snapping onto the brackets, as the rod may twist or break. Once your draperies are in place, remount your cornice onto the angle irons and your window treatment is complete.