Make Stylish Yet Inexpensive Curtain Rods

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Introduction: Make Stylish Yet Inexpensive Curtain Rods

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.

Step 1: Materials

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

Step 2: A Rough Preview

In these pictures you can see a rough preview of the curtain rod and brackets (unpainted) as they are intended to fit together. (Note that I'm using a very short scrap piece of conduit just to make the rod a little easier to fit in the photo.)

Step 3: Assemble the Support Bracket

This is pretty straight forward. Just bolt the conduit strap to the L angle. You may also want to saw off the tip of the bolt that sticks out. I sawed the bolt tip off with my hacksaw but it wasn't nearly as easy as sawing the conduit.

Step 4: Do Some Cutting With Your Hacksaw

Measure your windows carefully and then add 6-8 inches so that your rod extends several inches past your trim on both sides of the window. I measured 100.5 inches from trim edge to edge so I added 6 inches and cut at 106.5 inches to give me 3 inches of overhang on each side. Mark and cut your conduit, (it's really pretty easy to cut with a hacksaw,) then sand or grind off the rough edges.

Now try twisting your 5/8 inch dowel rod into the conduit. It will probably be a little tight so you may need to sand it just a little. Don't try to use 1/2 inch dowel or it will be way too loose. Once you have a good fit, clamp it down and saw off two little 1/2 inch stubs. These will be used to attach the finials to the conduit.

Step 5: Drill a Couple Holes

Drill a hole through each dowel rod stub. The hole size should match the screw that goes into your cabinet knob. Try to drill the hole exactly in the center of the stub and as vertical as possible. It helps to use a drill press but you can do it with a hand drill too.

Once you have the hole drilled you should be able to insert the cabinet knob screw and attach the cabinet knob to the stub.

Step 6: Spray Some Paint

When spray painting the pieces, it helps to mount them on some scrap wood to keep them from constantly falling over or sticking to your newspaper/cardboard spray mat. Personally I like flat black the best, (it helps hide minor scratches.) but there's no reason you can't choose whatever color you prefer. A little paint makes a huge difference in how finished the project looks!   You may also want to put a final clear coat over the colored paint as I've noticed over time that normal friction will rub the paint onto the curtain sleeve.  (This isn't as much of an issue if you hang your curtain with rings.)

Step 7: Hang Your Curtain Rod on the Wall

Once your paint is completely dry (24 hours) you just have to screw your brackets to the wall, stick your finials in the rod and clip the rod into the brackets. It's best to screw into a stud, of course, and generally there will be a stud (or two) right beside the window. Also, be careful to line the rod up right in the middle BEFORE you clip it into the brackets because the little bump on the brackets will scratch the paint off the rod if you try to move it after it's clipped in.

That's it! Now we just need someone to create an Instructable on how to make no-sew $5 curtains... ;)

3 People Made This Project!

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80 Discussions

Nice work! Have you noticed paint flaking off and shedding onto the curtains over time from the scraping grommets? Thanks!

I made seven of these. Great project. Thank you for your instructable. It saved us a lot of money.

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I made this!! Went to Lowes and got everything I needed. I used wooden cabinet knobs for the end pieces. Painted the whole thing bronze, put them up in my bedroom, living room and dining room (total of 6 made). Hung my beautiful new curtains and sat back to admire and take the compliments!! THANK YOU!!

Great tutorial Steve. Well explained and well illustrated. I am thrilled as I am moving and wanted to hang curtains across 17 feet. This will allow me to do so beautifully and economically. I will post a picture of the completed project. Thanks for sharing your great idea.

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 …

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...

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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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.

1 reply

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.

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

two hole emt strap.jpg
2 replies

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.

double_bracket.JPG

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.

Can you bend conduit pipe? I have an unusual bay window and cannot use store-bought rods.

1 reply

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.

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

2 replies

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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2 replies