How To Guide on Purchasing Blinds and Drapes

HOW DO I SELECT A STORE?

Step 1.

First define your needs, for example are you only looking for a basic venetian blind or new ideas and drapery. You can purchase a blind for the garage anywhere but drapery or interior design services require expertise.

Step 2.

Start by looking for companies that specialize in window coverings. They will tend to have the widest selection of products, more experience and knowledge about window coverings. The Yellow Pages on the web under the categories of blinds or drapery will give you a good overview. Look carefully at the image and information on the company website as this will tell you something about the company. Remember you want to match your needs so don’t look for a company offering a guaranteed lowest price on blinds if you want quality or drapery treatments.

Step 3.

Look in your local newspaper for ads. Companies offering a sale on the type of window covering you want are obviously of interest but don’t let this be the only criteria. Other companies may have the same sale if it’s a manufacturer’s special but have not advertised it in the newspaper. Start looking in your local community for two reasons. The time required to resolve problems increases with the distance traveled and a good local based company is more likely to respond quicker and be more concerned with maintaining their local reputation. Also, it is important to support local businesses that are competitive if you want to preserve local business services in your community.

Step 4.

Ask your friends and neighbours if they have dealt with a company they would recommend. However, be careful about placing too much emphasis on a recommendation. Your friend may have had different needs than you and placed more importance on factors not appropriate to your circumstances. So make sure you ask some probing questions to qualify the recommendation.

Step 5.

Select your first choice and phone them to find out if they have the products and services you are looking for, but more importantly to see how you are received on the phone. Remember the person answering the phone may not be the person you will end up dealing with but they do represent the company and should leave you with a favorable impression. Visit the showroom of the company you selected.

Reputable, established companies will have showrooms to display the products they sell. The appearance of the showroom will tell you a lot about the company. Attractive displays , a clean and well organized showroom and friendly, helpful staff are what you want to find. If this is not the case you need to start questioning whether or not the company is going to do the job right.

Step 6.

If you are happy with your choice of company arrange to have a consultant come to your home to help you select the type of window coverings and determine the price. There is generally no charge for an in home consultation. Don’t be afraid to indicate a budget range you want to stay within as it will help the consultant select window treatments that you can afford. This will save both of you a lot of time and potential disappointment. You may find that you are happy with the product selection, price and service from your first choice company and if so go ahead and place your order.

On the other hand you may have some doubts or simply want a comparison to another company so arrange for your second choice to come to your home. This process can be repeated several times if you want but remember that if you are moving into a new home it will take about two hours for each consultation. So, keep in mind that your time is valuable and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Step 7.

You should now be in a position to make an informed purchase decision. Now is the time to start comparing prices because you can determine which company is offering the best value for your dollar. The lowest price is usually not the best value so don’t be totally focused on price. Consider all the factors, the reputation of the company, the competence of the staff, product selection, after sales service and your overall impression. Remember to make your decision relative to your needs.

If you are looking for quality custom drapery then price should not be the deciding factor unless the other factors are equal. On the other hand if you have decided to purchase a brand name blind and are not concerned about after sales and warranty service then the lowest price may be the best value.

SELECTING WINDOW TREATMENTS

The main rule is don’t be talked into something you don’t like because you are the one who will be living in the house. Window treatments can be as personal as your choice in clothes. A professional consultant is there to explain the different choices available and make suggestions but the final decision is yours. So, the purpose of this section is to give you a general overview of the main types of window coverings so you can ask the right questions to make an informed purchase decision.

How Much Should I Budget

A general rule of thumb is to count the number of windows in your home and multiply by $200. This will give you a budget for good quality blinds including taxes and installation. The more expensive types of blinds could cost two to three times as much. The cost of drapery treatments will vary widely as the fabric alone can range from $30 to $300 per yard.

However, for budget purposes a living room window valance treatment would probably be in the $500 to $1,000 range versus a full drapery treatment in the $1,000 to $3,000 range. The important thing is to start with reasonable expectations based on what you can afford. You may decide to delay purchasing the drapery treatments you want rather than compromise your choice due to budget restraints.

What Are Your Needs?

Your consultant is there to answer your questions about window coverings but there are so many variables that the discussion will tend to focus on your questions. Therefore it is important to clearly indicate which needs are most important to you and it may help to think in terms of the following categories. Keep in mind that your needs will vary by room and usually include more than one category.

Low Cost – price not quality or function is the issue, you may be moving shortly or you want to cover windows in low priority rooms such as the laundry or garage.

Quality – the opposite of price so you may be planning to stay in your house a long time or you know the benefits of buying good quality products and want window coverings that  are going to look good and operate properly for a long period of time 

Privacy – a bedroom is a good example where privacy is important or perhaps your window is overlooked by a neighbor’s window.

Insulation – you may have single pane windows or drafts that make your rooms feel cold. Although insulation is not a primary function of blinds and will not cure the problem there are some blinds which provide more effective insulation.

Light Control – this could range from controlling sunlight to reducing glare, heat, or fading from ultraviolet rays. Or you may be sensitive to light when sleeping and want the bedroom window to have a blind that blocks out the most light. 

Decorating – an obvious example would be the living room and dining room which you want to be as attractive as possible within your budget. On the other hand it could be a child’s room and you want it to have a bright, cheerful look.

What About Warranties?

Virtually all custom made blinds come with a warranty so what’s the difference? Quite simply a warranty is only as good as the company standing behind it regardless of what it may say in writing. The less expensive the product the less extensive the warranty coverage and the less flexible the manufacturer will be regarding interpretations of the warranty. An established reputable dealer will tend to represent established reputable manufacturers, but be sure to ask your consultant about the manufacturer of the blinds.

Also recognize that you will be relying on the dealer for warranty service so you don’t want someone who is here today and gone tomorrow. Well known brand name products are generally your safest bet for reliability and durability. Remember the adage “ you get what you pay for “, because it is true.

Types Of Blinds

A blind is a blind. Unfortunately, this is not the case although it is not uncommon to hear this phrase especially with regard to venetian or mini blinds. We have grouped the types of blinds into seven categories to highlight points you should consider. 

Roller Blinds

They are coming back in style and the blind manufacturers are offering better selections and more decorative fabrics. The older vinyl type fabrics are still available but they have a tendency to curl on the edges over time and this is generally not covered by warranty. The sun screen mesh fabric is a great choice for sunny windows that still allows you to see through the material.

The old spring style roll up system has virtually disappeared from custom blinds which now come with a much better continuous loop pull chain for raising and lowering the blind. If you plan on mounting the blind inside the window frame there will be about a 5/8” gap from the fabric to the side of the window because of the bracket system. This can be unacceptable if you wanted black out in which case you are better to mount on the wall and go at least 2” past the window frame all around. Prices are in the lower to moderate range for roller blinds.

Venetian Blinds

These blinds are more commonly called mini blinds which causes some confusion because there are really three size categories of venetian blinds. The Mico blind – 1/2” wide slat, The Mini blind – 1” wide slat and The Macro blind – 2” wide slat with some width choices between these sizes. The Micro blind will have a softer look because of the narrower slats and the slats are less obtrusive when rotated open because there is less crowning in the slat.

A good quality venetian blind will have aluminum slats with a minimum thickness of .006 mm to .008 mm for the most expensive. Better quality blinds will have a headrail and bottom rail of thicker metal than less expensive blinds. This avoids problems with sags and bends and you can judge the quality by how easy it is to twist the headrail of a small sample blind. Look inside the headrail to see if the component parts look of reasonable size and sturdiness. Less expensive blinds will be skimpy in the components. The cord lock and tilter should operate smoothly and quality is important for prolonged use especially on larger blinds.

As you go up in price you will generally find more slats for a given length which gives you better overlap and closure. Also, you will find better color selection and more options such as an anti static paint finish to reduce dust accumulation. Venetian blinds are in the lower to moderate price range.

Vertical Blinds

The selection of vertical blind vanes is constantly changing and expanding. Aluminum vanes are not very popular because they make a chiming noise . PVC (poly vinyl chloride) vanes are becoming more popular because manufacturers are now producing some very decorative patterns similar to fabric patterns They are easy to keep clean and you get a tighter closure of the vanes compared to fabric and better light blockage. The selection of fabric vanes is extensive using a variety of synthetic fibers.

The warranty from a manufacturer is normally the same for all fabric vanes in their collection regardless of price. A current trend is having sewn in weights at the bottom of the vane instead of weights with chains. The bottom chains do tend to be an aggravation over time because the clips break off particularly with kids and pets around. Sewn in weights have a cleaner look but the vanes will tend to sway more so they need to be pulled closed more gently to avoid criss-crossing.

If you want a vertical mounted inside the window frame you need a depth of three inches and the clearance of the vane to the sill will be 1/2”. You can ask for less clearance where privacy is a concern such as a higher bedroom window but don’t expect the store to guarantee the fit. Also remember that the side gap will be larger on the side where the controls will be located. Verticals mounted on the wall are less of a problem but you need to go at least 4” to 7” past the window frame to maintain privacy as the vanes will be about 1 1/2” inches out from the wall when closed. Verticals are in the moderate to higher price range.

Pleated & Cellular Shades

They have an accordion or pleated look and the selection is expanding significantly. This type of blind is generally not the kind you can see through so it is either up or down but there are exceptions. The name Pleated Shade refers to a single layer of fabric which has visible holes for the pull cord. This was the first generation model and is still available and less expensive than the cellular shade. The second generation shade is the cellular or honeycomb shade which comes as a single, double or triple cell and the cell size ranges from 3/8” to 2”. The advantages are many, better pleat retention, hidden cords, better privacy & insulation, and the flexibilty of different colored fabric for each side of the blind.

The thin cords used in pleated and cellular shades sometimes cause problems with the gripping of the cord lock systems on larger shades. If you require a larger shade purchase the option for a continuous loop pull cord which raises the shade on a roller type system. This eliminates the cord lock problem. Pleated and cellular shades are in the moderate to higher price range.

Wooden Blinds & Shutters

Wooden blinds are available in 1”, 2” & 3” wide slats and the selection of stain finishes is comparable to other wood products. The majority of wood blinds are made from bass wood or ramin wood which provides light weight, a tight grain and good structural stability. The top quality blinds will have fewer imperfections in the wood and the slats will have been cut to size and holes routered before applying stains and finishing coats. This process seals the wood better. Wooden blinds are in the higher price range but you can have the same look with a faux wood which has become the most popular selling blind and is less expensive than a wood blind.

Shutters are available in wood or polyvinyl and the most popular louvre sizes are 2 1/2” to 3 1/2”. Wood shutters can be color matched to any finish and shaped into angle or arch windows. However, they are more expensive and have a longer delivery time in the range of six weeks. Polyvinyl shutters have a very durable finish with extended warranties and delivery times in as little as two weeks. Shutters are in the higher price range.

Specialty Blinds

There are three general categories of specialty blinds. The most common are specialty shapes such as angle and arch windows. You can purchase special shapes in venetians, verticals and pleated/cellular shades . However, they will be considerably more expensive and have limited functions or be stationary.

The second category is skylight blinds which are available in venetian, pleated & cellular shades and customized mesh sun screen fabric. The venetians are generally not satisfactory because installation on a slope prevents proper closure of the slats. The pleated shades can develop problems with pleat retention if not raised regularly. The cellular shades work the best in a skylight but the mesh sun screen fabric is the least expensive although it is a stationary application.

The third category of specialty blinds is a new generation of blinds that combine the operation capability of a blind with the appearance of a drapery or sheer treatment. A two in one package. These blinds are being developed by Hunter Douglas and have brand names such as Silhouette, Vignette and Luminette.

All the types of specialty blinds are in the high price range and delivery times are usually in the four to six week range. 

Which Is The Best Brand?

There are a number of major blind manufacturers and they all brand name their products and put this information somewhere on the blind. Each manufacturer has strengths and weaknesses by product line and their market presence varies by region. Consequently, most dealers will represent at least two or three manufacturers to ensure a good selection and price range. When you are selecting a store be sure to ask what manufacturers they represent and this will give you a good indication of market presence. Also, be sure to ask your consultant which brand they recommend for a given type of blind. The safest bet is to buy from established reputable companies and then if something is not right you are more likely to have the problem satisfactorily resolved.

Why have an In Home Consultation?

Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of such an opportunity if there is no extra cost? You are going to receive better advice if the consultant can see the setting which may lead to other suggestions you didn’t consider or identify installation problems. A second benefit is that most companies will guarantee the fit of the blinds if they have done the measuring. Of course it may be more convenient to bring your own measurements to the store if you are only looking for one or two small blinds.

How Do I Measure For Blinds?

If you want to mount inside the window start by measuring the depth of the window frame up to the point of any obstructions. For example a patio door may have a 2 inch depth to the frame but the door handle may reduce the unobstructed depth to 1/2 inch. Next measure the width and height in three locations which will be at the corners and the middle, but watch for wows in the frame so you find the narrowest opening. Make sure you use a metal tape measure and record all your measurements to 1/8 inch. Do not make any deductions as the store will ensure the correct deductions are made for clearance. Also make note of the width of any decorative mouldings and the distance to obstructions on the wall in case the type of blind you want has to be mounted on the wall.

Why Have Professional Installation?

A professional installer will deliver the blinds to your house, unpack the boxes, check for shipping damage, install the blinds, make adjustments if necessary and check that they are functioning properly. If there are any problems or missing parts he will take care of the situation. You could also do this if you have the time, tools and expertise but you will also need to take the blind back to the store to get any problems corrected. Remember that installing one blind with a hand screw driver may not be a problem but doing say ten blinds will guarantee you a sore arm. If you are purchasing drapery treatments have them professionally installed to ensure they look their best.

SELECTING DRAPERY TREATMENTS

Deciding On a Style

Drapery can be confusing because you have such a wide selection of styles and fabrics plus the option to create a unique look. However, it is helpful to start by identifying a general style that you like such as: 

Tailored – clean straight lines that give the treatment a tailored look. Examples are cornice boxes, roman valances and box pleating.

Poufs – the most common are blousson or cloud valances where the fabric is gathered and falls into casual shapes resembling clouds.

Ruffles – describes the look of which the most well known style is priscilla sheers with ruffles running down the full length of the sheers.

Traditional – perhaps a better description would be time proven favorites. Examples are pinch pleat sheers and drapes or swags & jabots.

Trendy – this encompasses whatever the latest look might be such as wrought iron rods with tab top panels of fabric. You may also be looking for something different or creative.

Selecting The Fabric

People have a natural tendency to start looking at the fabric first but it is better to decide on a style first. The reason is that the fabric must be suitable for the style. For example, swags will drape in smooth curves with a soft fabric versus a stiffer fabric will tend to kink. Patterns also come into play as a vertical stripe in the pattern will not likely look good in a swag.

Your consultant will help you select the right type of fabric so you should focus on style and colors. It is also helpful to think in terms of the type of pattern you like such as plains, tone on tone, stripes, abstract or floral. Plan on visiting the store before the consultant comes to your house. This will allow you to see the full selection of fabrics available and select a few sample books that catch your eye. Your consultant can add other books of a similar look so the focus is on final selection in your home.

The price of fabric will vary widely from say $30 to $300 per yard. Solid color fabrics will generally be less expensive than prints. The better quality fabrics are usually 100% cotton versus poly/cotton blends. The better quality fabrics will have the pattern color dyed into the fabric and will show through to the back of the fabric. Less expensive fabrics use a heat transfer process which usually does not show as much through to the back of the fabric. Your consultant will be able to help you narrow down the choices once you have gone through your need analysis. 

NEGOTIATING THE PRICE

So you have gone through the process of selecting your window coverings and fall over in a dead feint when your hear the price. Well you’re not alone, most people do not have a good idea of the costs because it is not something you purchase frequently. This is one reason why it is useful to specify a budget range. The good news is there is generally room to negotiate on the price if you are willing to make some compromises. Your consultant will have factored in any large order discounts that would apply to the size of your order.

Remember that you are purchasing custom window coverings so you can choose to spend less or more. For example you could lower the price by selecting mini blinds instead of pleated shades without sacrificing quality. Or maybe you decide to take your second choice in vertical fabric which is half the price of your first choice. If the price is still too high then you need to look at a less expensive type of blind or drapery treatment. Your consultant will explain the trade offs so you can make an informed decision. There could also be an opportunity to extend the payment terms rather than compromise on your selections. The normal payment terms in the industry are a 50% deposit with the balance due on installation.

If you are making a larger purchase of several thousand dollars you may be able to negotiate say three equal payments over a longer period to coincide with your pay days. The bottom line is that everyone likes to find a good deal and nobody likes to work for nothing. The best deal is one where both parties feel they have been treated fairly and equitably.

TIPS ON CLEANING BLINDS & DRAPES

The best tip is to dust your window coverings regularly, say whenever you vacum your carpets. A natural lambswool dust wand works well because the oils in the wool act like a magnet to pick up the dust. It’s fast and easy to use and the duster can be washed out and reused. Another method is to use a soft brush attachment on your vacum hose.

However, if you are like most people and do not dust your blinds regularly you may need to take more drastic action. Venetian aluminum blinds can be washed in the bathtub. Put a towel in the bottom of the tub, put in warm water and a very small dab of dishwashing liquid mixed in very well. Use the detergent sparingly because it is concentrated and could discolor the paint finish if not throughly diluted. Let the blind soak, rinse off and hang up to dry. Do not try to wash or dry clean vertical fabric vanes unless you realize that you may end up having to buy a new vertical.

Small stains on pleated or cellular shades or fabric verticals can usually be removed with a wet cloth and gentle rubbing. If this doesn’t work they need to be professionally cleaned. If your sheers are made of polyester which is usually the case then they can be washed. Wash in warm water on a gentle cycle. Do not put them in the dryer, simply hang them back on the drapery rod damp to dry. Don’t forget to remove any drapery hooks before washing. Some drapery fabric is washable but you are better to have any drapery treatments professionally dry cleaned to retain a good look.

The store where you purchased your window coverings will be able to recommend a professional cleaner. Remember that damage due to cleaning methods will not be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty so be careful.

 

CHECKLIST

I am mainly concerned about:

__ Low cost __ Insulation __ Privacy
__ Quality __ Light Control __ Decorating

I am interested in blinds:

__ Roller Blinds __ Pleated Shades __ Verticals
__ Micros __ Cellular Shades __ Specialty Blinds
__ Minis __ Wooden Blinds
__ Macros __ Shutters

I am interested in drapery:

Style

Pattern

Colors

__ Tailored __ Plain _________
__ Poufs __ Tone on Tone _________
__ Ruffles __ Stripes _________
__ Traditional __ Florals _________  
__ Trendy __ Abstracts _________

 

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