Blinds 101: A Primer for the Beginning DIYer

aluminum mini blinds

Who knew there was so much to learn about window blinds? Admittedly, I never paid too much attention to them as a key design feature in a home, but boy, have I learned a lot since joining the team of pros here at Select I thought I’d share a few basics with those of you who may be like me – not the greatest DIYer (hammers and I – not a good thing), and a practitioner of measuring and centering using the ever-reliable eyeballing method. (Measuring tape? We don’t need no stinking measuring tape.)

Lesson One: Actually, you do need a measuring tape.

Measuring window depth
The depth of a window refers to how shallow it is. Measure the depth from the inside bottom corner of the window frame to the outside edge of the wall.

Biggest thing I’ve learned is you need to take three (count ‘em) measurements of both the width and height of each window you want to cover (even if they look the same, they’re really not) to get an accurate measurement.

Another important measurement to take is the depth of your window. This means how shallow it is, which is important because most window covering products have minimum depth requirements so you can determine if you should order them as inside or outside mounts. Oh, and sill-y me. I forgot to mention, if you have a window sill (a narrow shelf attached to the bottom of a window), don’t measure that as part of the depth.

Mounting Mania

Inside mounted coverings are mounted or installed with the headrail inside, or within, the window frame or casement. (The headrail houses the mechanical components that operate the blind or shade. For other pieces/parts involved in installation, here are some great visuals.) Another important distinction here is that between the window frame versus any decorative trim that may be used around the window. When measuring for an inside mount, you do not include any trim in your measurements.

Inside mount looks clean.
 Inside Mount

Outside mounted treatments are installed – you guessed it – outside the window frame or casing, with the headrail usually positioned about 3-4” above the top edge of the window opening.

Outside mount blinds helps reduce the halo effect.
 Outside Mount

You may also come across the term ceiling mount. No, it’s not a hot new design trend to hang a window treatment from the ceiling. It’s a way to install coverings that are too narrow for an inside mount by screwing the mounting screws through the brackets into the top of the window frame rather than on the sides. That’s a little advanced for Blinds 101, so if you want more details, check out this article on mounting horizontal blinds that are too narrow.

Decisions, Decisions

After you have all the measuring done, now comes the fun part – selecting which product(s) you want. When you go the custom DIY route (vs. an in-home window design service), there are SO many affordable options to choose from. Your first choice is whether you want blinds or shades (or shutters or drapes, but we’re talking Blinds 101 here, so let’s stay focused on that). The two terms are frequently used interchangeably, but technically, there is a big difference.

A blind has slats (also known as louvers) that are raised and lowered (or, with verticals, moved side to side) with a corded or cordless (best if you’re hanging them around kids) lift system. (There are several other kinds of lift systems available, like continuous cord loop and motorized, but that’s for our next lesson.)

Faux wood blinds
These gorgeous faux wood horizontals come with a tilt want or tilt cord to open and close the slats.
Top down bottom up cellular shades
Like the name suggests, these cordless top down bottom up cellular shades can be pulled down from the top and/or up from the bottom for customized light and privacy control … and some pretty cool design looks!

Window shades are made from a continuous piece of fabric or material. You also have various lift systems to choose from, and features like top down bottom up lifts to open and close them.

That covers some of the basic basics. There won’t be a test, but if you have any questions, we have a great Help Center on that houses hundreds of resources to answer them. Or just call one of our window treatment gurus for real expert advice on selecting, measuring, installing and caring for your window coverings.

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