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A Quick Guide to Window Covering Terminology

Shopping for window treatments for the home can be a bit overwhelming because you may find that there are more options available for curtains, shades and blinds than you ever imagined! Trying to describe what you want to someone who will be making custom blinds or curtains for you can also be difficult if you don't know the right terminology to use to describe the features you want. To make shopping for window coverings easier, note a few terms and phrases that will be helpful.


Never assume that window coverings will block sunlight from coming into a room, even if they're dark and thick; if you want maximum light blockage, you need blackout blinds or curtains specifically. These will be made to fit a window snugly and close completely, so they don't let any light in through gaps between slats or panels. Blackout curtains and blinds may also have a backing that helps to block sunlight when these window treatments are closed.

Head rail

A head rail is the piece at the top of horizontal blinds that holds the controls for the blinds, and which also hides the tracks. A head rail can be large and decorative, so that it helps to anchor the blinds and make them look more attractive when pulled open.

Inside versus outside mount

Shades and blinds can be inside or outside mount; as the name implies, inside mount means that the head rail mentioned above is installed inside the window frame. Outside mount is when blinds are installed outside the window. You need to choose inside or outside mount based on the appearance you want from the blinds, and if you prefer a more compact look versus something that makes the windows look larger and more prominent.

Top down, bottom up

The phrase, 'top down, bottom up', refers to a style of roller blinds that can be opened at both the top and bottom. These blinds can be very useful in areas with lots of sun exposure, as you then have better control over the area of the windows you can cover with the blinds, while keeping other sections of the blinds open for needed sunlight.

Braided ladder

A braided ladder is a piece of thick string that runs vertically through horizontal blind slats. This ladder can help to keep blinds from sagging, and it can also break up the look of the blinds, adding a bit of fabric and a nice vertical line against those horizontal pieces, so your home's blinds are more attractive overall.