Instructables
Picture of Make stylish yet inexpensive curtain rods
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This instructable will show you how to make strong, attractive and low cost curtain rods out of metal conduit. My goal was to make curtain rods similar to the Pottery Barn Standard Drape Rod but at a much lower cost. My biggest window needed a 106 inch bar which would have set me back $50 from Pottery Barn. Making my own rod using widely available EMT conduit ended up costing me less than $6. Your biggest variance of cost will be determined by your method of making or purchasing the finials.
 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
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The materials for this project are pretty simple and inexpensive:

- 1/2 inch EMT conduit, available in 10 or 5 foot lengths (also available in 3/4 inch diameter)
- 1/2 inch conduit straps, 2 per window or 3 if it's a big window
- L brackets, 2 per window or 3 if it's a big window
- one small nut and bolt to attach each strap to an L bracket
- two 1/2 inch pieces of 5/8 inch dowel rod
- cheap/used/salvaged kitchen cabinet knobs for the finials
- flat black spray paint

Here is my cost breakdown:

- (10ft.) 1/2 inch EMT conduit = $1.97
- (3) 2.5 inch L brackets = ($0.70*3) = $2.10
- (3) conduit straps = $0.10*3 = $0.30 (pack of 25 - $2.54 / 25 = $0.10 per unit)
- (3) screws and nuts = $0.08*3 = $0.24 (pack of 12 - 0.98 / 12 = $0.08 per unit)
- (2) 1/2 inch stubs of 5/8 inch dowel rod = $0.04*
- (1) can of generic black spray paint = $0.98
- (2) surplus cabinet knobs or other creative object for finials = ???

Total: $5.63, not counting the finials.

I had surplus cabinet knobs from when I replaced them in my kitchen. If you don't have any laying around you should be able to salvage or scavenge some at the usual places: thrift stores, yard sales, auctions, surplus construction material liquidators, or even curbside. If you actually have to buy some new they shouldn't cost much more than a dollar a piece. Of course, a truly Creative Person would create stylish finials from scratch. Maybe someone else can contribute a specific Instructable showing how to make prettier finials... Worked metal finials would be really sweet! Or if you had a lathe handy I suppose you could turn out nice wooden finials.

(*I already had surplus 5/8 inch dowel rod on hand but a new 4 foot dowel rod would only cost $1.98 or about $0.02 per 1/2 inch unit)

Tools:

Pretty basic: drill, hacksaw, screwdriver, sandpaper
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23jude made it!1 month ago

Love this! I just finished mine. I was in Hobby Lobby and came across a wide selection of knobs, all 50% off. I bought 6 at $2.00 each. Since that was the bulk of my cost, these rods came in around $5.00 apiece! It was the brackets that were going to cost me at least $15 per window, but your idea solved that problem. So glad you shared! Thanks!

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MaryJaneOK2 months ago
Perfect! I'm redecorating the rental house I live in and want it to look great but don't want the cost to be. Thank you. I'm off to the hardware store …
JustinB23 months ago

Fantastic tips on very cost-effective curtain rods!

I was able to custom-bend the conduit using a pipe bender to match angled walls in my victorian home.

I was a little particular about the finials I wanted (Fleur de Lis), so I used a 3D printer to make the custom shape and size I wanted!

I documented my project here: https://firstbuild.com/JBerg/diy-maker-curtain-rod...

blelko1 year ago
This worked great for my dining room window project - I bought 3-10 ft 3/4" EMT rods and cut to fit the 22 ft length of windows. I primed them and painted with a satin nickel, bought curtain clips from eBay and curtains from Ballard Designs. I had 4 supports across and used anchor wall screws. I did not find a curtain rod long enough to fit that space so this was perfect. You can get conduit connectors to connect the rods together. See before and after pics below - Thanks!
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barflybzzz2 years ago
Steve,
This is a great project. I was wondering, however, if there is a way to alter it a bit to accommodate a corner window. Can this conduit be bent in a 90-degree angle, or do you think I need to purchase some kind of a hinge connector? Thanks again.
SteveGerber (author)  barflybzzz2 years ago
Yes, conduit can be easily bent. It works best if you have a conduit bending tool, but you could also bend it around a pipe to help you get a smooth curve.
mdonohoe12 years ago
Hi Steve - Thank you SO much for this Inscrutable. I, too, am hanging double rods. I don't want the bulky or less clean look of hanging two brackets for each rod.

My question is do you think a two hole EMT strap (picture attached) connected first to the bracket and then to another strap would work? Not sure about the strength of the connection of strap to strap.

Hope that makes sense.
Thanks, Monica
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SteveGerber (author)  mdonohoe12 years ago
I happened to have a couple of those U straps on hand so I tried making a double bracket. Unfortunately it seems a bit weak to me. It might not bend too bad with very light weight curtains. The middle U strap seems to be the weak link as it is made of thinner metal. I think it would probably work ok if you would bolt all three metal pieces to a piece of stiff metal or hardwood.
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Wow. You happened to have everything there to test it? You rock.

Now that I see it I can tell I wouldn't be confident that it would hold. I think I'm going to have to spring for some double brackets and be happy the big ole savings on the rest of the project.

Thanks so much for you help, Steve.
Pamccr2 years ago
Can you bend conduit pipe? I have an unusual bay window and cannot use store-bought rods.
SteveGerber (author)  Pamccr2 years ago
Yes, you can definitely bend metal conduit. It is helpful to use a pipe bending tool in order to make a smooth curve and avoid crimping the tubing.
Chellie172 years ago
Hi Steve,

I'm so glad to have found your site. In desperation, with many cold windows to cover, I also came upon the idea of using EMT conduit but thought I might be a bit crazy and wondered whether it would work. I now have confirmation from your site that it can work! What I had been searching for before starting my idea was finials. Searching through a craft store I saw a few possibilities but none that I really liked. Your idea of the cabinet knob was brilliant. So, thank you!

I want to put up a double curtain. Do you have any ideas how I might make the bracket into holding 2 rods?

(I have searched through the internet and 6 stores and none of them sell double curtain rod brackets alone! I think they are trying to force one to buy the whole lot with rods. Home Depot said they used to carry a Levelor double bracket but don't anymore.)

Thanks,
Chellie
SteveGerber (author)  Chellie172 years ago
Hi Chellie,

One way to set up a double rod system would be to make two brackets for each end, one large and one small.

- Steve
Hey I never thought of that...thanks so much for the idea! I was so focused on it being 2 on 1 bracket. I did, however, find double brackets in London, reasonably priced, and I may order them. Going to compare prices for total for each option.

BTW, for everyone, there's also a website called www.knobsandhardware.com and they have some nice "finials" between $1-2.
I was so happy to find this site and your instructable! Your instructions were great! Today's project was small and simple since Kevin had to go to work @ 4. I found these curtain rods in the Pottery Barn November issue and thought they were perfect for this room. But at $89 for an XLarge (120"max & we needed 144") I couldn't do it (not to mention we needed two of them & two short ones). So I was determined to find something similar but less expensive on the web. BINGO! I found something better! instructables.com had an instructable from a guy (Thanks Steve) who wanted the same rod and finial I did from Pottery Barn and saved himself the money by making them! So off to Home Depot we went. We bought some EMT conduit (Electrical Metallic Tubing 3/4"), dowel rod, L brackets, spray paint (oil rubbed bronze to match our fan-Steve, I bought one that was primer & paint in one) and some kitchen cabinet knobs ($0.99ea). It cost me more than $6 which is what the instructible suggested for one, but for under $35 (<--Home Depot's asking price for one 144" rod) we made all four! And that makes me so happy :-) now I just need to iron the curtains...maybe I'll buy a streamer tomorrow...
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SteveGerber (author)  VickyMayonnaise2 years ago
Great job! Thanks for sharing! I'm happy that you found my instructable useful. :)
and yes the dowel rod we bought was slightly bigger (7/8ths?) and fit perfect
mpate23 years ago
HI Steve my windows are 128" wide. If conduit only come is 10' lengths at its longest do you have any other suggestions? Thank you so much for you time! :o)
SteveGerber (author)  mpate23 years ago
I would suggest that you buy two 7 foot conduit rods and then cut them down to about 68 inches each. That would give you an extra 4 inches past the window on each side, but you way want more. Then make a butt joint in the middle using a small piece of tight fitting dowel rod. Plan to install one of the L bracket hangers in exactly the middle to support and hide the joint.
We made all our curtain rods with this instructables. It was very inexpensive. I think it was $10.00 for all four windows. I used the 5/8 conduit and it was sturdy enough to hold up to the weight of the curtains.
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aurical3 years ago
I made these for two large bay windows (86" wide) in my living room. I just wanted to share some of the things I did differently...

I was able to get the EMT cut at Home Depot. I had to wait around for a long time for someone in the plumbing department to show up and use the pipe cutter (and then he said he wasn't supposed to cut EMT) but I was able to get away without having to buy a hacksaw. Note that the pipe cutter narrowed the inner diameter of the cut ends. I had to file down the lip before I could get the dowel in. Luckily I had files at home.

My store didn't have 5/8 in dowels, so I got 1/2 in instead. It fit snugly into the EMT without sanding. I applied a little wood glue to the ends of the pipe to make sure the dowels wouldn't fall out.

I tried drilling holes into the dowels at first but could never seem to get it centered. After 2-3 tries I gave up and decided to glue them on instead. I didn't really stress test them, but they seem to be very securely fastened. It may have helped that I was using wooden cabinet knobs. Metal knobs probably would have required something stronger (e.g., epoxy)
WarMace3 years ago
Thanks! Your tutorial just saved my family a bunch of money putting treatments on a huge front window.
Hey for the non-sewable curtains you could use your hot glue gun on heat safe fabric and a tape measure to calculate and measure before you cut. Careful to add the extra inches for seaming and folding the holes for the rod. Seam up ends with the hot glue. And glue the pieces together. Great Ideas on the rods!!! Thanks
Another tip: To make your diy curtains hang properly, purchase some medium to large sized washers to insert into the corners of your curtains--makes them hang properly. Good curtains always come with weight hangers. To install: first, make sure that the washers will be the correct size for the type of fabric that you'll use. Next, either spray the washers with some type of rust-protectant or simply wrap them in duct tape. Before you make the final fold for the corner, simply sew the washer in and then make your final fold to complete the corner. Your curtains should hang very nicely and you won't have rust stains ruining your nice fabric!
Some decorators use "curtain chain" that does the same purpose. It runs the total width of the curtain. An inexpensive substitute can be found at the hardware store, I'm sure.
lauris Pinky2123 years ago
Ball chain. It's the very same stuff. Also what they use for lamp pulls and dogtags. Most hardware stores will have it cheap.
tgriffin23 years ago
Wonderful ideas!

Three comments:

One: That suggestion to get stuff at "DiscountRods.com" well, that place sells fishing rods, not curtain rods, so don't try it. And, the site doesn't seem to work for fishing rods, even.

Two: Once I was even poorer than I am now and I made a houseful of cafe curtains for much needed privacy in a rental house surrounded by close neighbors on a busy street using a glue gun, bungie cord, eye screws and clearance fabric. I cut the fabric a bit longer than half of the window, measured out a string of bungie along the top and one for the bottom, released a line of hot glue along the upper and lower seam and encasing the bungie cord at the top and bottom seams, without getting glue on the cord. Let it dry. Put four eye screws into each window at the mid and bottom of where I wanted the cafe curtain secured. Tied the bungie ends to the eye screw and tucked the knot ends into the curtain seam (after trimming). I made sure to pull the bungie tight enough to appear that there was actually a tension rod holding it up before knotting it). Those curtains stayed up there the entire four years I lived there. I also did it at my consulting office with lace to block the unsightly parked cars and show only the nice view of the mountains. Once, however, the bungie popped and snapped a bald client in the head with the tension! Hahahaha! Scared him terribly! Hahahahah!

Three: I have purchased a house for the first time and will be moving next week: 22 windows! I plan to upgrade to black bungie and experiment with irrigation system tubing over the bungie to provide body and appear more like the Pottery Barn iron rods. I am also coming up with some way of imitating those adorable iron clips with the rings.
dmohammed3 years ago
The dowel rod is a great idea for light weght sheers at a small distance. I wouldn't recommend anyone to use this for sheers/curtain longer than 36", one tug or snag of the curtain the dowel will snap in half.

If you do a little research on google for "discount curtain rods" , you will find 2 to 3 sites that have great quality rods at cheap prices.
http://yssmart.com
http://discountrods.com
http://swagalore.com <--Some maybe expensive but if you search their clearance theres quite a few cheap sets.

Pinky2123 years ago
Steve, I haven't made these YET, but I'm thinking we could skip the little dowel stubs, depending on the type of "finial" used. Christmas balls (the part where the Christmas hook attaches to the bulb) would work very well. Of course, they are fragile so as long as you don't have kids throwing balls in the house hitting them, you'd be okay. I'm thinking other things could be attached using something like Gorilla Glue or, perhaps, Crazy Glue. If there is some reason that things could not be glued directly to this type of pipe, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

If this curtain rod would be used in a child's room how about attaching a small toy, like a Hot Wheels car, a small doll, wooden alphabet blocks, Scrabble letters, a bunch of pencils, thin markers or crayons shoved in the rod, pieces of a game where some of the pieces are lost so the game is useless? In Dad's Man Cave, if he's a golfer, put a golf ball on the end for a finial. For a hunter, an empty cartridge or a bunch of empty cartridges glued together, a small basketball, football, soccer ball for the team sports player (or observer LOL) would customize the rod.

Orbs or other shapes, depending on the shape of the baloon) can be made from starched string or yarn wound around a balloon inflated to the size you want the finial to be. Let it dry, pop the balloon, and glue the orb to the end of the pipe.

Styrofoam balls could be painted (special paint needed) or decorated in a variety of ways and attached.

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I'm sure you and anyone who reads this will be able to come up with many of your own.

Thanks VERY much for posting this. I just knew there had to be an inexpensive and simple way to make my own curtain rods but not having building construction experience, I was unaware of the products you used. I'm sure there are many a homeowner for whom you saved many dollars on new curtain rods. We should all get together and buy you a lobster dinner. LOL Seriously, thanks for posting such a great idea that was well done in the sharing here.
SteveGerber (author)  Pinky2123 years ago
No reason you can't attach whatever you want to the ends as finials. Just make sure you can still get your curtain on and off the rod. My curtains just have a small sewn pocket along the top so I have to be able to remove my finials to get the curtains on or off.
Pinky2123 years ago
Steve, me again! I've been wondering about the clip rings rubbing on the rod and taking off the paint if I'd open and close the curtains once a day. Is it your experience that this doesn't happen without using the clear cloat? Or if it happens with the clip rings, does it happen even with the clear coat? Would you recommend using a paint specifically made for use on metal? That type would probably be costlier but if the paint rubs off too easily, it would probably be worth it. Please advise. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise.
SteveGerber (author)  Pinky2123 years ago
I'm not using clip rings. My curtains just have a sewn pocket along the top so the cloth rubs against the painted tube and picks up a bit of the black paint. But it's inside the pocket so not really visible. I would think that metal rings would wear the paint more but the wear will be on the top of the tube so it won't be visible. I think that clear coat would help reduce the wear somewhat.
gohiyudi5 years ago
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SteveGerber (author)  gohiyudi5 years ago
Sweet! Nice work! I like those INDEX LILJA finials from Ikea and they're cheap too. :) Did they happen to fit exactly onto the 1/2" conduit? Another way you could connect the joint in the middle would be to drive a tight fitting dowel rod of about a 4 inch length 2 inches deep into one end and then work the other rod onto the remaining 2 inches to connect. That way you would just have a barely noticeable seam between the two rods which you could hide behind a bracket. By the way, if you decided to paint the rods you may want to spray a second coat of matte clear coat over the black paint. I discovered that the paint gradually rubs off onto the cloth of the curtains. It's not really a big deal since it's inside the rod pocket at the top of the curtain and since you're using rings it doesn't really matter anyway in your case. Thanks for posting the picture! :)
I've been forgetting to ask: Did you use a primer before painting the rods? I'm wondering -- if you didn't -- if that would prevent the paint from rubbing off either on the curtain or when clip rings rub against it. I don't have experience using spray paint on metal but sometimes on decorating shows on HGTV, they use primer and other times, they don't. If you have experience with that, please let me know. Thanks for sharing -- again!
Steve, I prefer your dowel rod method since it is less conspicuous. I've wondered if a dowel couldn't be used as a connector. Now I don't have to "wonder" about that any more! Thanks for sharing.
Oh! I just LOVE that you shared that the rods can be bent! How wonderful it would be to make a rod that extended around the corner of a window to give more softness to a room! Lovin' that! It would be especially nice in a feminine bedroom decor, but I could see it in a log cabin, too, with faux leather or suede fabric! OooLaLa! I've got to jot this down in my decorating ideas notebook!
Pinky2123 years ago
I'm not going to create an Instructable for many reasons, one of which is my health. BUT, you can make inexpensive churtains by going to a thrift chop, finding what you need there. If the curtinas you find have pinch pleats and you don't want them, cut them off straight across, and using either a hot glue gun (as another person suggested) or hemming tape or other bonding material that is sold by the yard which you'd have to cut into strips, fold over at the top an amount enough to accomodate your rod + 3/4" and fasten the edge using the hemming tape or other fusible web material.

Burlap is relatively inexpensive and looks great when you fringe the bottom. BalladDesign.com, a high end home decor venue, has these for lots of money. Take a look anyway because you'll get an idea how neat they can look! Remember, though, burlap comes in a few different weights/ To get the look of a decorator curtain, use one of the heavier weights.

I've used old lace tablecloths, old rayon, old silk, and old cotton tablecloths with clip rings for curtains. They are especially cool if you're not going to be pulling them closed, using them as a side curtain with some type of blind that you can raise for light control.

If you're lucky enough to have old wool blankets, especially those with a pattern, or old quilts, these can be used with clip rings, too. An old matellase (a woven raised pattern) bedspread or other types of fabric bedspreads can be used, too. Slipcover throws are big, too, and should be considered.

Anything you can use with clip rings can be made to put directly (shir) on the rod, EXCEPT quilts or othings that would be too bulky to gather.

Check garage sales and flea markets for anything made with large pieces of fabric. Just be sure to leave the fleas and bed bugs at the market. LOL
Thanks for this great project. I live in northern Canada and only have ONE hardware store close by...and all home decor is only available from Sears! I will be using painter's drop cloths for my curtains.If you want a cheap no-sew curtain, get these and some curtain clips and VOILA! They also look great with bamboo blinds...Here is a picture of someone else's drop cloth curtains - just be aware that all drop cloths will not look "exactly" the same even if you purchase the same brand and size. The best part is they are already hemmed! (Also, the best way to wash is straight from the washing machine and HANG DRY for the least amount of wrinkles, I would pre-wash as well as they will shrink a little.)
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Frank, thanks for mentioning the painter's drop cloths! I'd completely forgotten about them and have been struggling with how to be thrifty while changing my decor. The window that is my biggest challenge is 103" wide and I want a covering at least 84" long, preferably 90". Being the painter's cloths come in various sizes AND because they are all cotton, they can be dyed or bleached so I can customize 'til my heart's content! They could be stenciled, trimmed on the edges with beads, braid, ribbon, etc. I'm a seamstress but can appreciate the value of a product, and the painter's cloths definitely give a lot of bang for the buck! I'm going for a white color design choice, and these will give another texture to the room, something a monochromatic color scheme depends on for success. Thanks!
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