Selecting the Right Window Coverings

There are many factors that contribute to selecting the right covering for your window. The main functional reasons to install window coverings are light control and privacy. Additional factors include durability, life expectancy, cleaning, versatility, formality, attractiveness, safety, and price.

Light Control

The most difficult functional factor to control is light, and most window coverings fall in one of five categories:

Transparent describes an open window with clear glass. Few windows are left completely open unless the building is in a private setting with foliage or an overhang that block direct sunlight.

interior window shuttersTranslucent describes a window covering that is sheer or with components that are spaced for privacy. Included in this category are light fabric drapes and bamboo shades.

Filtered window coverings allow subtle transmissions of light. This grade includes medium fabric drapes and most mini-blinds.

Semi-opaque defines window coverings that almost block all light, allowing some light into the room through narrow gaps or along the edges. Indoor shutters or exterior shutters are both examples of window coverings in this category.

Opaque, or black-out, window coverings block out all light. Few coverings can completely prevent direct sunlight from penetrating the window. Some roll shades on the market claim to be able to block all light.

Shutter Tip:

If complete darkness is necessary, sometimes a combination of window coverings can be used. Shutters block most all direct light. Minimal light might enter between the side sitles and lovers, between panels, or around the edges of the shutters.


In addition to the degree of light the window covering will keep out, the amount of light a window covering will let in is just as important. A successful window treatment will convert most of the window to be transparent when desired. Many window coverings can open to allow a view of 80% or more through the window. Most window coverings are easy to use and can transform from an open to a closed position without much effort.


Privacy can be easily achieved with almost any window covering. The window treatment simply needs to be translucent or better to diffuse distinct images. Even frosted glass or glass block can give adequate levels of privacy.

Durability and Expected Life

By nature, a window opening is a harsh environment subject to direct sunlight, humidity, and fluctuating temperatures. Accompany these factors with frequent use and it is easy to understand why window coverings need to be well constructed. The overall life expectancy is usually less for fabric window treatment that can fade over time. Solid window coverings, such as shutters, have an extensive life expectancy.


All window coverings will collect dust and dirt. Fabrics are the most difficult to clean and are the most subject to stains. Furniture-quality window coverings will generally wipe clean with a light solution.

Versatility and Formality

Some window coverings work well in formal environments and others work best in casual living situations. Alternate window coverings are versatile and blend well with almost any room.

Style and Overall Attractiveness

A particular window cover might meet all of the functional needs, but if it is not attractive, there is no reason to proceed. Today's window fashions come in thousands of colors and patterns, providing a number of options for any decor.


Small children in the home can, and will, have contact with window coverings. Some treatments have cords to raise or lower for visibility. These could become a considerable hazard if they are within reach.

Window Design

Window configuration can limit the number of window coverings that can be used in a particular space. Shallow windows, trim molding with larger corner blocks, and bay (or bow) windows usually require special installations.


While there is a large discrepancy in the cost of window coverings, it is important to weigh the overall value. The term value is overused in this consumer marketing society, but when purchasing long-term household items it is necessary to consider the return on investment. Window coverings on the low end of the price spectrum generally have a short life expectancy and low durability. Higher priced window coverings, like shutters, are designed to last the life of the home and retain its original character. Although more expensive, they will not need to be replaced.

Shutters are a hard window covering that is semi-opaque when closed, but provides great visibility when open. Furniture-quality wood shutters can be either painted or stained to meet the needs of most decors. Shutters are extremely durable and have a long life expectancy, and are versatile for applications in formal or informal settings.

Continue to "Window Covering Types."