The guide gives you the information you need to choose “hard” window coverings with confidence. “Hard” is a buzz-word window covering specialists use which means manufactured window coverings that are not soft, such as drapery, curtains, fabric valances, custom Roman shades and such. Drapery-makers look after making the soft window furnishings. Hard window coverings are either custom-made (Hunter Douglas, Levelor, Graber etc.) and are available from a window covering specialist, or in a big-box store where you will find both pre-made and custom-made options.
The companion to this guide is the “Soft Window Coverings Decision-Making Guide” which is also available from Designsewlutions.ca. If you are considering drapery or curtains, or you don’t know if you need hard or soft coverings, you should refer to that guide as well as this one.
Start by getting out your “Window Coverings Wish List” ( which has been sent to you as a bonus to this guide) and check off all the things you need your window coverings to do. Then go through this guide and note the features of each type of shading. Check off the appropriate place on the guide if it matches one of your criteria. Each shading has its own specialty; several cross over each other and design becomes the differentiating feature.
When you are done, you will have enough information to make an informed window covering decision.
A definition: A shade is a window covering made from what appears to be one piece of fabric, as opposed to a blind which is a window covering made of slats of wood or a man-made rigid composite.
Window covering costs
Clients sometimes suffer window covering sticker shock. It’s can be difficult for a client to understand that the covering for the window may cost more than the actual window. But this isn’t unusual.
Window coverings are rather like tile or carpets. You get what you pay for and the price variance is staggering.
In less expensive coverings, the color may not be consistent through the product, the material used in construction may off-gas and the sun may damage an inferior product in as little as one season of sun. And what happens if the cords break – where can you get it repaired, or can you get it repaired?
So, I did some research and here are some really ball-park averages for you. The products I priced range from online budget purchases with no warranty or guarantee up to the higher-end custom-made products with a 7 year or more guarantee and warranty. These prices are all based on a 12-square-foot blind with similar lifting features.
- Metal, 2-inch venetians: ranged from $111.00 to $200.00, average $143.00 each, or $12.00 per square foot.
- Wood, 2-inch venetians: ranged from $108.00 to $600.00, average $225.00, or $19.00 per square foot.
- 3/4-inch Black-out Honeycomb cordless blinds: range from $100.00 to $600.00, average $293.00 or $24.00 per square foot.
- Fabric Roman blinds: based on $30.00/meter fabric: $250.00 or $21.00 per square foot.
- Drapes for a patio door: double lining based on fabric of $30.00/meter: $20.00 per square foot, not including the rod.
Considering that a guideline percentage of window to wall in a home is 10 percent, a 2800 square foot home could have about 300 square feet of window. At an average for honeycomb shades of $24.00 per square foot, the total cost for the house could be $7200.00 with a range from $2400.00 to $15,000.00.
The lesson? Decide what you need. Decide how much you can spend. A real general guideline is 5% of the home value is a good starting point for custom-made coverings. Pick a budget figure. Get the best product you can afford. Tell your window-covering specialist what your budget figure is because keeping it a secret wastes your time and theirs.
Pleated Fabric/Material Liquid MetalColor Nickel
When we were kids making accordion-folded paper fans, one of us stashed that information away and later figured out that with a few cords running through the folds it could become an operable window covering. And the pleated shade was born. Originating from the Netherlands, these shades are one of the most popular and inexpensive window coverings out there.
- Pleated shades appear to be a single piece of fabric, for example, whereas a wood blind is a series of slats held together with cords. The exception to the rule (there had to be one, didn’t there?) is the Roman blind, which is actually a shade.
- The addition of a reflective backing on the window side of the single-layer pleated shade increases the heat-reflecting factor and provides additional privacy. The cord holes, however, decrease the privacy coverage.
- The amount of space required on each side of the shade for hardware mounting can be as much as one-third of an inch.
- The blinds are relatively thin and they compress into a small space when in the up position – typically a 48-inch long blind stacks up into 2 1/4 inches.
- If you need day-time privacy with some heat-reflecting capabilities, and you have a limited budget, these shades are well-suited to your needs.
They are available in most big box stores where they can be cut to your exact window width, or they can be ordered through our favorite catalogue department store. Or you can have them custom-made to fit your windows. A company like Hunter Douglas will make them to fit odd-shapes like octagons or arched-shaped windows as well.
Most of the custom window covering companies have many fabrics to choose from in their pleated lines. Some fabrics are opaque, some resemble lace, some look like linen. You can have a double shade allowing you to have a sheer shade and an opaque shade on one headrail. Or you can have a shade that drops from the top and stacks at the bottom – a Top-Down shade, or you can have it go both ways for a Top-Down-Bottom-Up shade. The cover of this guide shows a TDBU shade. (Pleated, cellualar and horizontal shades are often available as TBU.)
This option is wonderful for rooms too close to the street or a neighbor; you can cover the bottom section of the window, leaving the top section open. Downside: the vertical guide cords are visible when the window is exposed.
The cover picture of this guide shows the TDBP versatility.
Duette® Fabric/Material Whisper™Color Chiffon
Hunter Douglas introduced honeycomb shades in 1985. To say they caused a stir is an understatement. Really new ideas expressed through really innovative design is rare and honeycomb shades were both.
- In cross section they are shaped — in their purest form — like one cell of a honeycomb.
- The angles of the surface create air pockets that trap the air. They are insulators against cold air transferring through the window into the room in winter and heat transferring into the room in the summer.
- They are available as single, double and even triple honeycomb shades, in cell sizes from 3/8-inch to a whopping two inch.
- Optional reflective backing increases the heat reflective properties.
- An opaque coating on the fabric, applied on the inside of the cell can make them room darkening.
- Typically made of polyester, the shade can resemble fabric from the weight of a delicate sheer all the way to a nubby textured natural.
- Nothing earth-shaking happened to honeycomb shades until Hunter Douglas introduced the Architella shade in 2010.
They added a second honeycomb within the honeycomb, creating 3 inner insulating pockets. and followed that with a second inner cell. The first Architella was tested at providing an R-value of 7.7 and more, the additional pockets have increased this rating by 20 percent. So these are the still the most energy-efficient manufactured window coverings. Consider that up to 25 percent of your heating bill goes directly out your window. These shades do what they say they will do.
Honeycomb shades can be mounted inside a widow frame with little clearance, some only need 1 1/2 inches of sill depth for a flush mounting.
With several types of lift systems, they are also available as a top-down shade.
They can be combined so you actually have 2 shades on one headrail — one sheer for daytime privacy light filtering and one opaque for sun-blocking or night privacy.
Some companies make a variation which is mounted vertically, making them perfect for patio doors because they also compress into a very small stack.
Solar and Sun Shades
Designer Screen Shades Fabric/Material Indian Basket 5%Col
Here’s the skinny on the options available on solar roller shades which affect their look and operability: roll, valances, cassettes and lift systems. You should understand what these are before you go out to buy shades.
Regular roll causes the shade to roll off the roller from the front back toward the window. It places the shade fabric close to the window and is especially useful if mounting space is limited, or you have other window treatments to contend with. The downside is that the aesthetics aren’t that great. If you ask for a reverse roll, the shade rolls off the roller from the back toward the front with the fabric falling in front of the roller. When up, this roll looks a bit tidier.
Valances are 2-sided additions — sometimes they have returns if they are outside mounted — which conceal the roller and roll mechanism. They look like a short valance and are typically covered with the same fabric as the shade.
A cassette encases the roller mechanism and the shade, so when the shade is in the up position it is not visible. The big advantage to cassettes is they create a sleek headrail profile, and you don’t have to look at the roller mechanism. The big downside is they can be very cumbersome — a typical cassette is three to four inches from front to back and from top to bottom.
Lift systems: This is a can of worms, and this is where the cheap models fail quickly and where the technologies of the higher-end companies shine. The basic roller operates on a spring mounted inside the roller bar. Continuous chain driven systems work well but the chains pose a significant safety risk unless they are secured in place which makes them more difficult to operate. One company offers a tension driven continuous pull cord — it’s wonderful — but it’s expensive, too. And, of course, there is motorization.
This snazzy picture illustrates how much view-through there is at night when solar shades are in place.
- These shades are made for blocking sunlight, they are not privacy shades.
- Unless they have an openness factor of 0, you can see through them.
- If you want to protect your floors, drapes, furniture and home cooling bill, you need to put something on your windows that will reduce the effects of the sun. You paid a lot of money for all of these things, don’t be foolish and think an inexpensive off-the-shelf shade will give you the protection you need. You need solar shades.
Here is what you need to know when shade shopping.
- Shades should have the “openness” factor listed on the label or sample swatch. This indicates how much of the fabric you can actually see through. If you took a piece of blackout fabric, (which you can’t see through and therefore has a 0% openness factor), and punched holes through 15% of the surface, you would be able to see through 15% of the fabric. This fabric would then be listed as having a 15% openness factor. In this climate, a 5% or 7% openness factor is what you should look for.
- In addition to this measurement, consider the Tv measurement, which indicates light visibility, and refers to how much light is being allowed through. I know this sounds like the openness factor but it isn’t. The Tv is affected by the color of the shade; a light-colored fabric lets more light through, a darker fabric lets less light through, but oddly enough, dark shades seem to be easier to see through than light-colored shades.
- Then you have the Ts, Rs and As measurements. These 3 numbers will add up to 100 and refer to the amount of transferred, reflected, and absorbed solar energy. This is a big deal. For example, a dark gray solar fabric from the line of shades I sell with an openness factor of 5%, has:Ts12, Rs 8, As 80, the light gray of the same fabric measures: Ts 27, Rs 57, As16. The darker fabric allows less energy to transfer into the room, reflects much less, and absorbs a whole lot more energy than the light colored one. (It will feel much warmer to touch). The darker one has a Tv of 21, the lighter has a Tv of 14, so the lighter-colored one allows more light through.
So, if you are shade shopping, decide what you need them to do. Write this down and buy accordingly. If the shade supplier can’t tell you what the ratings are on their shades you may want to consider shopping elsewhere.
A fairly new shade option is shade fabric attached directly to the outside of the window — on the window frame. A swivel snap allows the shading’s removal; they are rolled up and stashed for seasonal storage. Your drapery seamstress can make these for you at a substantial saving over manufactured roller shades.
Venetians, or Horizontals
Macro Fabric/Material AluminumColor Timepiece
These are not your Grandmother’s blinds. Not by a long shot. Those were so heavy a small child could (and sometimes did) swing on the cords. When the blinds were down and the closed, you could see through the disproportionately large guide holes. Every bit of dust in the house stuck to the slats, the cords frayed and heaven help you if one broke — which happened. So these blinds have a really bad reputation, and generally it is well-deserved. But wait! Read on.
- Metal venetian blinds now tend to have a built-in static barrier. Dust does not stick like it used to.
- Cleaning involves either a swipe with the vacuum cleaner wide brush head or a dusting with a wool duster. A note here about dusters: Most dusters move the dust off the surface and into the air where it whirls around and lands on the surface somewhere else. Dust sticks to wool dusters. Clean the wool duster by either twirling the duster handle between your hands, or, if the head is removable, by throwing it into the washing machine. And you can also spray the closed venetians with a static-repellant spray. These two things will help you stop hating the cleaning of venetians.
- Aluminum venetians are so much lighter than in previous years. They are easier to raise and lower, pulley systems are not required and the cords rarely break. The slats are thinner and therefore stack up into a smaller space. For example, a 48-inch long blind of two-inch slats stacks up into just under five inches.
- A new way of threading the slats onto the guide cords eliminates the large guide holes, and, when the blinds are in the closed and down position, there are no visible guide holes. Better privacy and better light control.
A beautiful white venetian with a supplied wood-look valance rivals shutters for a clean, country or beach decor. And at a substantially smaller price tag. Choose your venetian color to match your trim color and never have to worry about the color scheme in the room changing.
In terms of price, venetians are still economical. If you want privacy at an affordable price, these are the blinds for you.
Silhouette® Fabric/Material Chateau™Color Dijon
These are beauts; a hybrid of a horizontal and a sheer.
- When in the open position, the view is through two layers of sheer, when closed the view is blocked by light filtering, or light blocking, fabric.
- The vanes can be tilted to control light entry, and are available cordless and as a top-down-bottom-up shade.
- Some companies sell the same product as a vertical product. Great option for sliding doors with flanking windows. This photo is the Hunter Douglas Luminette, the companion to their Silhouette.
Luminette®Fabric/Material Voyant TranslucentColor Daylight
Somner® Fabric/Material EastonColor Birch
I once had occasion to sell a lady vertical blinds for her wall to wall windows overlooking downtown. Huge window. She insisted on pink plastic. It was one of those instances where, had I been more experienced, I would have just put my foot down and said, “No, that’s not going to happen on my watch.” But I didn’t. She was happy with them, however, and didn’t mind the noise they made as they clanked into each other. The beauty of them, for her, was they stacked back into the window frame quite nicely, they matched the color of the walls and they provided total black-out when they were closed.
Such is the love/hate relationship most of us who sell these things have with these things – the vertical blind.
- Substantial black-out properties
- Ease of operation
- cCn be mounted inside or outside the window frame
- Can draw left or right – perfect for patio doors, or split in the center.
- Can be made to span a considerable width
- They carry a lower-mid-range price.
- Motorization of verticals is affordably priced by some manufacturers.
- The vinyl ones clank together when they are opened or closed, or when the wind blows on them.
- They should not be positioned over a heat register.
- The fabric ones are often chained together along the bottom- deadly for pets and small children.
- Their biggest disadvantage overall has to be their ho-hum utilitarian appearance.
- They don’t come in many pretty prints, and there are just so many variations on molded plastic, which more often than not looks like molded plastic, that can be conjured.
However, they are also the basis for a wizzard window treatment called the privacy sheer. A sheer curtain is woven through the slats of the blind and attached to the top of each vane. When the blinds are drawn and the vanes are tilted to the open position, this sheer creates soft coverage between the slats.
- The hardest of the hard window coverings: shutters are very specific and very expensive.
- They should be custom-made by a professional because there is NO wiggle room on inaccurate measuring. With almost everything else in the window-covering world, 1/8-inch may not make or break the whole treatment (tight fitting inside mounts notwithstanding..) but in a shutter it can mean they don’t open and close.
- If the windows are not perfectly square, the shutters may not fit or function.
- BUT they deliver a very specific design punch.
- Opening for cleaning the window can mean moving furniture
- The amount of visual space the slats take when tilted open seriously effects the view-through.
BUT they deliver a very specific design punch.
All window coverings in this article noted with fabric choice are from Hunter Douglas.