Installing Window Shades tout
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How to Install Window Shades

They look good, control light, and add insulation

Gain control of the natural light entering your home by installing cellular window shades. These readily available window treatments permit you to change the ambiance and appearance of a room --from bright and cheery to dimly lit and peaceful--in just seconds.

Cellular shades, which are also called honeycomb shades, feature two layers of pleated polyester fabric that are fused together. These easy-to-install shades are sold at home centers, lumberyards and design centers in dozens of sizes, colors and styles. For this project, we installed cordless shades that don't have an annoying pull string. To raise or lower the shade, you simply grasp its lower rail and push up or pull down. Note that cellular shades aren't just for windows; they can also be installed on French doors.

Cellular shades are custom-cut to size, so be careful when you measure and record the dimensions of your windows.


Steps // How to Install Window Shades
1 ×

Window Shade Overview

 
Step One // How to Install Window Shades

Window Shade Overview

installing a window shade
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

To measure your windows for any shade, you first have to decide how you're going to install them. There are two basic methods: inside mount and outside mount. The inside mount is more finished-looking. To measure for this installation, first determine the width by taking the distance between the two side jambs. Measure at the top, bottom, and middle, and use the smallest of the measurements. For the length, measure from the bottom of the head jamb to the top of the stool (sill) on both sides and at the center of the window; again, use the smallest measurement. Then, double-check the measurements one more time before ordering, since all sales on custom-cut shades are final.

Warning: Window shades with pull cords can pose a strangling hazard to small children. Although most manufacturers use safety breakaway tabs and avoid cords that form a loop, for greatest safety order cordless shades.

(Click "enlarge this image" to read illustration labels.)

 
2 ×

Mark Bracket Positions

 
Step Two // How to Install Window Shades

Mark Bracket Positions

marking the screw holes for a window shade
Photo by Shaffer Smith Photography

Remove any existing curtain and drapery hardware that might interfere with installation of the cellular shade.

Check the hardware that comes with the shade to make sure all brackets and mounting screws are included.

Next, measure 2 inches in from each side jamb and make a mark on the head jamb above the window.
 

 
3 ×

Mark the Screw-Hole Locations

 
Step Three // How to Install Window Shades

Mark the Screw-Hole Locations

attaching a mounting bracket for a window shade
Photo by Shaffer Smith Photography

Hold one of the metal mounting brackets up against the head jamb, keeping it aligned with the 2-inch pencil line.

To ensure that the bracket is square, line up its front lip with the front edge of the head jamb.

With the bracket held firmly in place, mark two screw-mounting holes with an awl.

Repeat this procedure for the other bracket(s).
 

 
4 ×

Bore Pilot Holes

 
Step Four // How to Install Window Shades

Bore Pilot Holes

boring pilot holes for a window shade
Photo by Shaffer Smith Photography

Use a drill fitted with a 1/16-inch-diameter bit to bore pilot holes at each screw location. Hold the bit perfectly straight as you bore up into the head jamb.

If drilling into a stone or concrete lintel, use a 1/4-inch-diameter masonry bit and insert a lead anchor in each hole.

Vacuum up all the sawdust you've created.

Tip: For windows greater than 44 inches wide, install a third, center bracket.
 

 
5 ×

Attach the Mounting Brackets

 
Step Five // How to Install Window Shades

Attach the Mounting Brackets

attach mounting brackets
Photo by Shaffer Smith Photography

Hold the bracket in place, making sure that you align it with the screw pilot holes bored into the head jamb.

Fasten the bracket with two pan-head screws.

Install the remaining mounting brackets.

Tip: If necessary, install extension brackets to project the shade past any obstructions, such as a window handle.
 

 
6 ×

Check the Brackets for Level

 
Step Six // How to Install Window Shades

Check the Brackets for Level

checking the window shade's brackets for level
Photo by Shaffer Smith Photography

Hold a level across the two mounting brackets to see if they're level.

If your level isn't long enough to span from one bracket to the next, cut a straight-edged board to fit the opening.

Hold the board firmly across the two brackets, then place the level against the bottom edge of the board and check the bubble.
 

 
7 ×

Insert a Thin Wood Shim

 
Step Seven // How to Install Window Shades

Insert a Thin Wood Shim

inserting a thin wood shim when installing a window shade
Photo by Shaffer Smith Photography

If the brackets are out of level by 1/8 inch or less, proceed to Step 7. If the distance is greater, loosen the screws on the "higher" bracket.

Slip a wood shim or pieces of thin cardboard between the bracket and head jamb.

Tighten the screws and check the brackets for level again.

Repeat if necessary, then trim off the excess shim with a utility knife.
 

 
8 ×

Clip the Shade into the Brackets

 
Step Eight // How to Install Window Shades

Clip the Shade into the Brackets

installing the shade
Photo by Shaffer Smith Photography

Loosen the small screws, called brace screws, on the bottom side of the mounting brackets.

Next, lift the shade up to the head jamb and hook the front edge of the shade's head rail onto the protruding lip of the two brackets.

Swing the rear of the head rail back toward the window and tighten the brace screws to lock the shade into the brackets.

Tip: When tightening the brace screws, be careful not to catch the fabric in the bracket.
 

 
9 ×

Test the Operation of the Shade

 
Step Nine // How to Install Window Shades

Test the Operation of the Shade

testing the shade
Photo by Shaffer Smith Photography

With the brace screws firmly tightened, check that the shade works properly.

Grasp the center of the bottom rail and slowly pull straight down to extend the shade all the way to the stool, or sill.

Again with your hand in the middle of the rail, push up to raise the shade. Stop at several points along the way to check that the shade remains at the desired height.

Tip: If the shade looks a bit short, leave it fully extended for a day or two until the fabric relaxes.
 

 
 
 

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