Window Blinds

Window Blinds Buyers Guide

Blinds are one of those things that most people don’t put a lot of thought into until something is wrong. Unfortunately, that happens more often than most people would like but a lot of problems can be avoided by making sure that the best blinds for your needs grace your window sills.

There’s a lot more to the realm of window blinds than just buying a white set that roughly fits your window. Read on and we’ll uncover the information you need to ensure that you’ve got the right blinds for your home.

Why Use Window Blinds?

While blinds are common in many homes, they’re only one of the many different types of window treatments available.

Blinds have an association with being “cheap” due to the prevalence of plastic, Venetian style blinds in rental properties. It’s true, as well, that if one chooses to go down this route that cheap blinds are… well, they’re inexpensive, effective, and there’s less hassle involved than curtains or shutters.

However, if one takes the time to look around there are actually high-end blinds available for pretty much every type of home styling. Wooden blinds, for instance, look great when combined with neutral toned walls and hardwood floors.

With careful choice blinds are a great option, especially if you’re willing to look past the basics. There’s a surprising array of them available and a little bit of education goes a long way in ensuring that a person ends up with the best window blinds for their home.

What Types of Blinds Are There?

When someone is looking for a great set of window blinds, the first place to stop is to figure out what kind of blinds they think would suit the room. Different decor and privacy needs call for different types of blinds, after all, and there’s a lot of them.

Venetian Blinds

Undoubtedly the most common type of window blind, these blinds are formed from horizontal slats. They’re usually made of light metals like aluminum but wood and plastic options are also available.

Most people are familiar with them. You can pull a drawstring to bring them up to their housing or lower them and there’s a handle which twists to shut the blinds.

They offer great privacy and are fairly cheap compared to many of the other types of blinds. That said, many people find them less than durable as the metal can bend or break quite easily. They’re usually on the cheap side of things, making them great for tight budgets, and they’ll fit most rooms and decor well enough.

Vertical Blinds

Vertical blinds are also familiar to most people. They have slats which run from the bottom of the window or glass door to the roof that can be slid to side with a handle. Twisting the handle orients the vertical slats, allowing them to be controlled for lighting and privacy.

The slats can be made of cloth, plastic, metal, or wood. Prices vary a lot more on these than with standard Venetian blinds, mostly depending on the overall quality of the blinds and the materials which are put into them.

The discerning buyer will make sure that they have appropriate hardware before buying some. These include weights to hold the blinds in place and a good connection for the handle since it may need to move a considerable amount of weightj.

They don’t close up quite as well as Venetian blinds but they’re great for keeping the sun out and suit tall windows and glass doors quite well.

Roller Blinds

Roller blinds are a simple type of window covering: they consist of an opaque cloth which is drawn down. It extends from a round housing, releasing the blinds causes them to roll back up.

Since they’re made of cloth the quality of these blinds varies wildly. Still, they’re also available in a wide range of different designs which can make them a great aesthetic pick. For those who are careful to find a truly opaque fabric they’re also good for keeping out sunlight and prying eyes.

Roller blinds are a bit more durable than those consisting of slats, but care should be taken to make sure they’re the right option for one’s home.

Pleated Blinds

Pleated blinds are similar to Venetian blinds but have a key difference: they’re covered in cloth so the owner doesn’t have to go pull them shut.

They tend to be rather durable in the long run since the slats are protected by the cloth from the usual perils like cats and fumbling children’s hands. Unfortunately, like roll up blinds, once they’re down that’s the light level you’re stuck with.

Being non-adjustable isn’t too big of a burden for most people, however, and they remain popular. Most people will find good use for them in rooms without too much sunlight but with a need for privacy.

How to Pick the Right Blinds

Once someone has figured out the right type of blinds, there are some key factors to keep an eye out for to make sure they’re the right fit.

It’s a good idea to check out all of the following qualities before comitting to a final purchase.

Materials

The material a blind is made out of is one of the biggest factors that go into selection. In addition to looks, the material will affect the base price and durability of the blinds. All of the following materials are common:

Plastic: The cheapest and least durable of the various materials used for blinds. While plastic is an economical choice, they tend to break easily. If you’ve ever seen a set of Venetian blinds missing the pieces on the outside of the cords that hold them in place you know exactly what we’re talking about. Still, if cheap is the name of the game plastic is a suitable material.
Wood: Wooden blinds are most often unpainted, instead treated with a varnish or stain which deepens the color of the material and helps it to maintain a natural look. They can be rather expensive, depending on the type of wood used, but they’re durable and quiet. Those with hardwood floors may want to make them match off as closely as possible to maintain a clean look in the room.
Synthetic WoodMetal: For Venetian blinds this is top of the line where durability is concerned… provided that one uses a thick enough gauge. Lower gauges are thicker and heavier. Thinner blinds have a tendency to kink, unfortunately, but can often be bent back into place. Metal blinds are quite noisy so keep that in mind if considering them as an option.
Cloth: Cloth is very dependent on both the company and the material. Two pieces of cotton from different manufacturers can vary in thickness and durability for instance. For the most part, the biggest concern for the owner is whether the cloth is synthetic or not. Most synthetic fabrics are water resistant, making them easier to clean, but they may not last as long as high-end natural cloths like linen.

Overall Construction

Blinds should last for a long time, but in practice that’s not always the case.

While a cheap blind can work now for a lower price, chances are that within three or four years all of the replacement blinds needed would have given the purchaser something which would have lasted for much longer overall.

Like many things it’s a matter of longevity versus upfront costs.

Don’t just pay attention to the slats and top frame either. The connections for handles and quality of drawstrings can also make a big difference. Most of us have seen a blind which refuses to open or close fully at some point and these relatively minor issues can be avoided entirely by making a good investment in the first place.

Automation

For those who are willing to go above and beyond with their blinds, automation features are one of the things to look out for.

They come in a few varieties. Some are just push-button, eliminating the need for the drawstring which most people are familiar with.

New to the market, however, are smart blinds which can be controlled through wifi and a phone app. Some are even compatible with IFTT, allowing the owner to choose a time for the blinds to automatically open or close.

Motorized blinds of any type are much more expensive than their manually operated counterparts, of course, but they’re also convenient and generally much higher-quality than cheaper blinds.

Availability of Custom Sizes

While not relevant to every person, for those with odd sized windows being able to purchase a blind that fits just right can make life a lot easier. In any case, the window should be measured before hand, allowing a good fit rather than having to buy an oversized blind or make due with multiple blinds that are shorter than the length.

Sizing Blinds for Your Windows

When someone is picking out blinds they’ll need to make sure they have the right sizes available for their windows.

There are two basic ways of mounting blinds: in-frame and out of the frame.

In-frame designs should match the window’s dimensions. If a window is 36” wide, then a 36” wide blind is what’s needed and care should be taken to make sure that the height also matches. The measurements should be taken from the inside of the window frame in this case.

Putting blinds in frame makes them low-profile and less obtrusive, providing a cleaner look when they’re closed. However, when pulled up they can make a window look shorter than it actually is due to the housing sitting at the top of the frame.

Outside frames are a little bit more variable and easier to install for those with the DIY bug. When placed outside the frame the blinds should overhang roughly 1 ½” to 3” for the best effect. This includes both the width of the frame and the height.

For the best look the overhang should be the same in all three dimensions. So, for a 36”x48” window a 42”x 51” blind would be appropriate since it would extend 3” in each direction once centered and installed.

From the interior this can make a window seem wider and it can also draw the eye away from an unattractive window frame. They also tend to be less effected by wind coming in through the screen since it acts as a buffer.

Which a person goes with is largely dependent on their taste, but in-frame blinds are more likely to stump the installer than those placed outside the frame.

Professional installation services can be found easily, and may be the best choice for those who aren’t handy enough to install their own window blinds, usually at a relatively low cost.

How Much Should Window Blinds Cost?

Prices vary a lot when it comes to blinds. Even those in the same material can vary by multiple times.

On average, the cost per window for run-of-the-mill Venetian blinds will range from $10-$25. Better ones in wood or metal can run up to $100-$150 per window prior to installation.

Custom sizes will usually run about twice the cost of blinds which are made for standardized windows. Keep that in mind when figuring the cost.

High-end window blinds from well-known designers are often hundreds of dollars per set. It’s not uncommon to see them run over $1000 per window in some cases.

The costs stop there for those who are able to do the job themselves, but one should expect to spend roughly $10-50 per window if professional installation is needed. That’s a general guideline, of course, but most installing companies make their money off of selling their customers the blinds as well with a stiff markup.

Window Blinds FAQ

Q: Should I opt for professional installation of my blinds?
A: For the most part, blinds can be installed with nothing more than a screwdriver. Things are a little bit more complicated for in-frame installation but nothing which someone handy with tools shouldn’t be able to fix.

Q: Should blinds be the same color as the walls?
A: Most interior designers prefer blinds which are of a different shade than the walls. Lighter shades are usually preferred, if a wall is cream for instance then a set of bright white Venetian blinds will look great. In other cases, such as wood blinds, matching them with flooring or trim can help bring the room together.

Q: What other window treatments are there?
A: Window treatments generally consist of shutters, blinds, curtains, or shades. There’s some overlap between them, pleated blinds could be considered a shade for instance. Blinds tend to be the cheapest and offer the least hassle, but high-end blinds can be just as impressive as any other way to block sunlight and gain privacy in the home.

Q: Which way are Venetian blinds supposed to be turned?
A: It’s largely a matter of personal preference whether you tilt the shades on the blind up or down. If privacy is the biggest concern then turning them up generally blocks more view due to the curved shape of the blinds. On any floor where someone would be looking up to the window, however, it’s recommended to turn them downwards to block the view.

Q: Are window blinds insulating?
A: Window blinds do offer some insulation when closed, helping to maintain the temperature of a room. They’re not the best option for this, however. If insulation is a primary concern then thick blackout curtains or modern cellular shades are both better options.

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