Last updated: August 5, 2021

Curtain rails are a modern and simple alternative to conventional curtain rods. Whether classically operated by hand, with a drawstring or electronically, the curtain rail sets your curtains perfectly in scene. Multi-track curtain rails allow you to combine different fabrics and colours. This way you can easily control the incidence of light in your home and turn your window into a real eye-catcher.

With our big curtain rail test 2021 we want to help you find the best curtain rail for you. We have compared different curtain rail systems and show you all the advantages and disadvantages. With the help of our detailed explanation of important purchase criteria, we simplify the purchase decision for you.




Summary

  • Curtain rails are a sleek alternative to the traditional curtain rod. The curtains are unobtrusively attached to rollers that slide in the curtain rail.
  • Different operating systems differ in how the curtains are pulled. You can pull the curtains in the classic way by hand, move them with the help of a cord or operate them conveniently by electronic control.
  • Since curtain rods are very unobtrusive, the focus is on your curtains and showcases them as part of the room design. The option of multi-track curtain rails allows you to combine different fabrics.

The Best Curtain Rail: Our Choices

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a curtain rail

What is a curtain rail?

A curtain rail is a guide system for curtains and drapes that offers a modern alternative to the traditional curtain rod. The curtain rail is a plain rail that is attached to the ceiling. Rollers run inside the rail, and you can attach your curtains and drapes to them inconspicuously.

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Curtains are a great way to accentuate your home.
(Image source: pixabay.com / Jaafoura)

Curtain rails are inconspicuous and often hardly visible. Compared to curtain rods, they can make a big difference in room design because the focus is on your curtains.

The curtain rail is suitable if there is not much space above the window to mount a curtain rod.

Curtain rails can be used at home in the living room, bedroom or dining room. However, they are also used in vehicles. They can be very useful in caravans, trucks or boats when you want privacy.

In addition to the classic use in front of windows, you can also use curtains as room dividers.

Curtain rods are available in single or multi-track versions, so you can create a multi-layered design for your window area with different curtains. Curtain rails are particularly suitable for panel curtains.

How much does a curtain rail cost?

Prices for simple single or multi-track curtain rails without special accessories range from €15 to €35. Some products are available for as little as €5, while fine models can cost up to €130.

Type price range
Curtain track approx. 5-130 €
Corded track approx. 60-200 €
Electric track approx. 200-1500 €

The different systems for operating the curtain rail vary greatly in price. Slingshot rails, where the operation is regularly moved by hand, are the cheapest. Cord pull rails cost between €60 and €100. Electric tracks, where the curtains are controlled by pressing a button, cost between 200 € and 1500 €.

What alternatives are there to curtain rails?

If curtain rails are not right for you, there are several alternatives that we present below.

Type Description
Curtain rail A curtain rail is the classic suspension for curtains and drapes as we all know them. The curtain rod is fixed to the wall and the curtain is pulled through the rod by means of tabs or rings. In contrast to the curtain rail, the curtain rod is usually found in a single-run design. This means that curtains are usually only hung in one layer on a curtain rod, in rare cases in two layers.
Curtain rod with inner runner A curtain rod with inner runner is a combination of curtain rod and curtain rail. The curtain rod has an inner runner in which there are small rollers to which the curtains are attached. In this way, the curtains slide back and forth inside the curtain rod, just like with the curtain rail. This alternative uses the look of the curtain rod and combines it with the curtain rail system.
Rope system As an alternative to the curtain rail, you can stretch a rope above the window to which you can attach curtains. This is a simple solution, but only suitable for light curtains and drapes. Wire ropes offer a somewhat more stable option here.
Roller blind As an alternative to curtains, roller blinds can be used to cover windows. These can often be easily attached to the window by means of a click system or clamping. Classic roller blinds are made of wood, although there are beautiful versions made of thin bamboo rods. Folding roller blinds, also called "pleated blinds", are also a popular alternative.
Frosted glass or frosted glass film windows can also be protected from unwanted glances by frosted glass. As an alternative to installing frosted glass windows, you can easily cover your windows with frosted glass film.

The following video shows how you can easily weave a macramé curtain on a wooden pole.

Decision: What types of curtain rails are there and which is the right one for you?

Curtain rails can be divided into three guide systems. Rollers run along the inner run of the curtain rail, to which the curtains are attached. The systems differ in how the rollers are moved in the inner run of the rail. The three types include:

  • Curtain rail
  • Curtain rail with cord pull
  • Electric track

In the following, we will show you all the advantages and disadvantages of slingshot tracks, curtain tracks with cord pulls and electric tracks so that you can make the right decision when buying.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a slingshot track?

A sling track is the regular form of curtain track. With a slingshot track, the curtains can usually be pushed back and forth by hand.

Advantages
  • Cheap
  • Stable
Disadvantages
  • Operated by hand
  • Uneven distribution of the curtain

Thus, the sling track represents the simplest system of curtain track and is the most robust in contrast to the two following systems. A disadvantage of pulling the curtains by hand is that the curtains may be unevenly distributed on the track.

What distinguishes a curtain rail with cord pull and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

In a drawstring curtain rail, the rollers to which the curtains are attached are moved by means of a drawstring. The cord is attached to the end of the curtain rail and can be operated by hand.

Advantages
  • Convenient operation
  • Uniform pulling of the curtain
Disadvantages
  • More expensive
  • More susceptible to defects

The cord pull allows curtains to be moved evenly. This allows for a balanced appearance of the curtains. A disadvantage in contrast to the simple sling rail is that the mechanism of the cord pull is more susceptible to defects and also more expensive.

What are the characteristics of an electric track and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

With electric curtain tracks, the curtains are moved automatically by means of an electrically driven cord pull. The mechanism is conveniently controlled by a switch on the wall or by remote control.

Some electric curtain tracks can be connected to your home automation system. This allows you to open and close your curtains even when you are not at home. This can be helpful to regulate the room temperature by avoiding strong sunlight. You can also simulate your presence at home to prevent burglary.

Advantages
  • Most convenient operation
  • Uniform curtain pull
  • Connection with home automation system
Disadvantages
  • Very expensive
  • Difficult to repair

The electric track is the most luxurious and also the most expensive of all variants. One disadvantage of the expensive electric tracks is that they are more difficult to repair in the event of a defect than the purely mechanical systems.

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate curtain rails

In the following, we show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many curtain rails. The criteria you can use to compare different curtain rails include:

In the following paragraphs, we will explain what the individual criteria are.

Single or multi-track

Multi-track curtain rails are suitable for combining different curtains.

In contrast to curtain rods, curtain rails are characterised by the fact that they are often not only single but multi-track with up to 5 rails. This allows you to combine different curtains with each other. You can hang one layer of curtains on single-run curtain rails, just like with a normal curtain rod. Alternatively, there is the option of multi-track curtain rails, which have several rails. You can run different layers of different curtains on them.

For example, in one track you can hang light curtains that give a little privacy but let in a lot of light. In another track, you can then attach curtains made of a heavier, light-proof fabric. This way you have the perfect combination of curtains and drapes for day and night.

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With multi-track curtain rods, you can influence the light in the room by combining different curtains.
(Image source: pexels.com / Lukas Rychvalsky)

By using different fabrics and colours of different curtains, you can create real eye-catchers in your room design using multi-track curtain rails.

Wall or ceiling mounting

Curtain rails are available in various designs. They can either be attached to the ceiling in the classic way or they can be mounted on the wall. By mounting on the wall, you can attach your curtain rail directly above the window.

When mounted on the ceiling, the curtain starts at the top of the room, which creates a different visual effect. By choosing where to mount the curtains, you can influence the design of the room. For example, using long curtains that start at the ceiling can make a room appear higher.

Flush-mounted or surface-mounted

Curtain tracks can be attached to the ceiling in different ways. A distinction is made between flush-mounted and surface-mounted rails. Flush-mounted curtain rails - or curtain rails for grooving - are recessed into the ceiling.

They are flush with the ceiling and hardly visible. This is a very elegant and simple solution for installing your curtains. For this variant, however, the curtain rail must be installed before the ceiling is plastered.

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The right curtains give a room that certain something. Long curtains from the ceiling to the floor make a room look particularly high.
(Image source: pexels.com / Naim Benjelloun)

Surface-mounted curtain rails are traditionally mounted on the wall or ceiling. There are very thin curtain rails that barely protrude from the wall. You can achieve almost the same result as with a flush-mounted curtain rail. To conceal surface-mounted rails, you can fit a panel in front of the curtain rail. Read more about this in the following section.

Cover

If you have chosen a surface-mounted curtain rail, you can conceal it with the help of a cover. The cover is placed in front of the curtain rail and extends slightly beyond the beginning of the curtain to hide the rail and the upper part of the curtain. Some curtain rails already have a blind.

However, you can also buy blinds separately and attach them in front of your curtain rail at any time. Fascias are usually plain white plastic or metal. However, they are also available in a wooden look or with ornaments and stuccoes. This allows you to incorporate your blinds into the design of the room and the look of your curtains.

Material

Curtain rails are available in wood, plastic or metal. Metal rails are very robust and therefore durable. When choosing the material, also consider the fabric of your curtains or drapes. Heavy fabrics require a robust rail. Think about what suits your interior design. Rails made of aluminium, for example, can look very elegant in a modern flat. In an old flat, you could opt for a curtain rail with a stucco trim.

Dimensions and shape

Measure the length of the curtain rail you need. Add about 30 cm to the width of your window on each side. The overhang allows you to slide the curtains completely to the side later to open the window without obstruction. For heavy curtains and drapes, use a wider rail that is strong enough to support the weight of the fabric.

Curtain rails come in different shapes. The classic curtain rail is straight. But there are also corner solutions or U-shaped rails for use in round arches. Furthermore, bendable curtain rails offer the possibility to flexibly adapt the rail to any room.

Facts worth knowing about the topic of curtain rails

How do I hang a curtain rail?

Curtains should always have sufficient distance to the wall.

When hanging your curtains, make sure there is enough space between them and the wall. This is important to prevent the formation of moisture and to be able to tilt your windows without problems. It also makes the curtains look nicer. The distance between the wall and the curtain should be at least 10 cm. If you want to install folding curtains later, you should allow for a distance of up to 15 cm.

Attach your curtain rail not only to the left and right edges, but also in the middle. This ensures that your curtain rail can withstand heavy fabrics and the additional strain of opening and closing the curtains.

You can attach LED strips to your curtain rail. This will showcase your curtains as part of your interior design and give them a sophisticated effect.

To hang your curtain rail, it is helpful to have someone to help you. This is how you drill your curtain rail into the ceiling:

  • Pre-drill a hole in the wall: To drill a curtain rail into the ceiling or wall, you should pre-drill a hole.
  • Pre-drill hole in rail: If the curtain rail does not already have holes, you will also need to pre-drill your curtain rail. Make sure to drill the holes in the web between the runners. Otherwise the screws in the runner may cause problems later when the curtains slide.
  • Dowelling: Place the dowels in the pre-drilled hole. Place them on the hole and tap them in lightly with a hammer.
  • Screw on the curtain rail: Hold the curtain rail in the intended position and screw it on.

In the following video you can watch in detail how to install a curtain rail. If you do not want to drill through your curtain rail, there are special devices that you can attach to the wall or ceiling. The curtain rail can be easily attached to these hangers.

How do I shorten a curtain rail?

Curtain rails that are too long can easily be shortened. A normal hand saw is sufficient for wooden or plastic rails. For metal rails you need a metal saw. It is best to clamp the rail for sawing. Put a cloth over the clamped area to protect the rail. After shortening, you should sand the sawn edge.

What do I do if my curtain rail jams or squeaks?

If your curtains do not slide properly in the rail, you can simply lubricate them. Run a bar of soap or a candle through the track. Alternatively, you can put a little oil on a paper towel and run it through the track.

Do not use too much oil and dry with kitchen paper. Other reasons for a curtain track jamming may be that the curtain fabric has become caught in the track or that you are using unsuitable rollers for the track. To find the cause, it is helpful to slide the rollers back and forth in the rail without the curtain.

What accessories are available for curtain tracks?

  • Rollers: There are many rollers for curtain rails that offer different ways to attach your curtains. The most common types are hooks and clips.
  • Panel carriers: There are also panel carriers that you can attach to the runner. Panel carriers are wide pieces to which you can attach panel curtains, usually with Velcro. Roman blinds can also be attached to panel carriers.
  • Stoppers: Stoppers are small plastic pieces that you attach to the end of the curtain track to prevent the rollers from falling out of the track. Rollers and stoppers are usually included in the set when you buy a curtain rail.
  • Connectors: Connectors are intermediate pieces that you can attach between two curtain rails to ensure effortless sliding between the rails. There are also curved pieces that you can fit between curtain rails. This way you can pull your curtains effortlessly across the corner.

Image source: Belchonock/ 123rf.com

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