The window treatments you choose can make a vast difference in the overall look and functionality of your windows. Blinds use slat systems (louvers) to control how much or how little light the window lets in. Blinds are a popular option for light control, with more than half of homeowners choosing them over other window coverings. The increase in demand for blinds over the years has led to innovations in the types and styles homeowners have to choose from. The question is: which type of blinds do you want?
If you’re in the market for new blinds, you have a major decision to make. Investing in the correct blind type, material, size, and style for your home and preferences takes knowing what’s available and what will be best for your home. Virtually hundreds of different blinds exist today. Some are more popular than others. Use this in-depth Buyers Guide, put together by the window pros at Mr. Roof, to find the perfect blinds for you.
Blinds vs. Other Window Treatments
Before you dive into the wonderful world of window blinds, learn the difference between blinds and other types of window treatments. Blinds are a tried-and-true window treatment that started centuries ago. They use slats, a corded “ladder” to operate the blinds up and down, and a wand that swivels to open and close the slats. Blinds come in a variety of materials and types. Blinds aren’t your only choice if you’re looking for ways to control the amount of light and heat from your windows, though.
Another common choice is window shades. Shades use one single piece of material instead of multiple slats. Like blinds, shades come in many different materials and types. You can only adjust shades up and down, while you can adjust blinds up and down and side to side. Shutters are also a good choice. Shutters also use multiple slats, like blinds, but they do not open up and down. Many people combine blinds with other types of window treatments, such as curtains, for further control, protection, and aesthetic appeal.
Installing blinds can give you convenience, energy savings, light control, UV ray protection, privacy, and a better-looking home. They are versatile and attractive window coverings that can match any home design and décor. If you know you want to fit your windows with brand-new blinds, you’ll need to shop smart. The main decision involves the type of blinds you’d like. You can decide other features, such as color, once you’ve chosen the type. The more you know about types of blinds for windows, the easier shopping will be.
Light-Filtering vs. Room-Darkening Blinds
Before we get into the many different blind types, learn the difference between these two major categories: light-filtering and room-darkening. Light-filtering blinds aim to control light while still letting it into a room. They are ideal in sitting rooms, living rooms, and kitchens where homeowners want to let in natural light while still having control over when and how much comes in. Room-darkening blinds are more appropriate in bedrooms, movie rooms, and other areas where the homeowner wants to block out light completely.
Room-darkening window coverings more often take the form of shades rather than blinds. This is because the single piece of material can block out sunlight more effectively than multiple slats. If you want to block out sunlight completely, blinds might not be the right choice for you. They are a great option, however, if you want to make the most use of natural light from your windows.
Venetian blinds are the most popular and common style. They have traditional horizontal slats that rely on a rope system (either string or strips of cloth) to operate the slats. When someone pulls the string to raise Venetian blinds, the bottommost slat is pressed into the one above it, and so on. It uses a tilt rod to adjust the slats for light and privacy. Venetian blinds are versatile and go great in all rooms.
Mini Blinds and Micro Blinds
Mini blinds hit the market in the 1950s. They have slats with smaller-than-average widths. The slats on mini blinds are generally about one inch thick, while other blinds range from one to a few inches thick. They operate like Venetian blinds, opening from the bottom as well as the ability to open and close each individual slat.
Mini blinds come in all different materials and colors. The smaller slats of mini blinds can make the outdoors more visible when cracked. Micro blinds are even smaller versions of mini blinds. The slats on micro blinds are about half an inch thick, making them half the size of mini blinds. Micro blinds have the thinnest slats available.
Unlike Venetian blinds, vertical blinds have slats that run vertically, or top to bottom. They use vertical strips of material or fabric the user can tilt in and out, like Venetian blinds. The wand on vertical blinds pulls them open from left to right as well as operates the louvers. Vertical blinds are most common to cover sliding glass doors or tall windows. Since vertical blinds don’t depend on a string ladder system, it’s possible to replace just one slat instead of needing to replace the entire unit.
Panel blinds, or panel track blinds, are ideal for large windows or doors, as well as for room-darkening. They operate on a track, in which panels of fabric or material move left and right to open and close. Panel blinds do not have slats. They can either use a wand to open and close, or they can be mechanized. Panel blinds can mount to the window, wall, or ceiling. Mounting inside the window frame generally gives a cleaner look.
Pleated blinds use folds of fabric to fold and stack up or down. When all the way down, pleated blinds retain a “pleated” appearance. This can offer a unique texture and look for different rooms. Pleated blinds use pulley systems or mechanical engines to open and close. Pleated blinds or shades are great for room-darkening and light-filtering depending on the color you select. Thinner materials can let light through, while blackout pleated blinds can use heavier materials to block out the sun.
The cheapest blinds on the market are made of thin plastic (often white or off-white in color) and usually consist of mini slats. They generally do not come in custom sizes or colors. They are a good choice if you’re on a budget and simply need to enhance your privacy and light control. They can bend and break easily, however, and may not be the best long-term option.
Vinyl blinds are also made of plastic, but the slats are thicker and more durable than traditional plastic blinds. They do not dent or crease as easily as other types of plastic. Vinyl blinds have smooth finishes and can come in a variety of textures, colors, and prints. Vinyl blinds are a cost-effective choice and can last a long time with proper care and maintenance. They are easy to clean.
Wooden blinds have wood slats that can tilt in and out for privacy and light control. They are heavier than other blind materials but can be easier to clean and maintain. Wooden blinds come in a variety of colors and stains. They move up and down based on the traditional rope ladder system, with one wooden slat stacking on top of the other from the bottom up.
Wooden blinds generally cost more than plastic blinds and shades, but they can come with many benefits. Wooden blinds perform well at blocking out sunlight, as the material is not transparent. They are strong, durable, and long-lasting. Wood blinds don’t bend or tear as other materials can. Wood blinds are also resistant to moisture, recyclable, and environmentally friendly.
Faux Wood Blinds
Faux wood blinds boast the same appearance as real wood blinds, but they use plastic polymers instead. Faux wood blinds may consist of real wood that’s coated with a polymer, or they may be made entirely of plastic. Some are lighter weight than genuine wood blinds, while others are actually heavier. Faux wood blinds might be the wiser choice if you live in a humidity-heavy region.
Faux wood blinds cost less than the real deal, making them a more attractive option for many buyers interested in the wood look. Like real wood blinds, faux wood options are also long-lasting, durable, recyclable, easy to clean, and moisture-resistant. They come in the same variety of colors and shades as real wood blinds, although you’ll lose some of the uniqueness of real wood blinds.
Aluminum blinds are simple, sleek, and modern. They use metal instead of plastic or wood. Aluminum blinds are durable and less susceptible to bends and breaks than plastic blinds. They have a clean, versatile look that can match most décor. They come in a variety of color and style options. Unlike plastic blinds, aluminum blinds are relatively easy to repair. Most people choose to repair rather than replace aluminum-style blinds.
Shōji Japanese Blinds
Traditional Japanese shōji blinds use translucent paper over a wooden or bamboo frame or lattice. They generally use natural, neutral colors such as beige and cream, although they can come in other colors as well. Shōji blinds gently diffuse light for subtle control. Some shōji blinds pull up and down in a fold-and-stack style, similar to pleated blinds. Others do not have the option of moving up and down.
“Roman blinds” are actually shades. They are a traditional type of window covering that uses fabric or similar materials. They operate like Venetian blinds, using a string to pull the material up or release it down. Instead of stacking slat upon slat, however, Roman shades fold the material in on itself when raised. When raised completely, Roman shades create a chunk of material at the top of the window. Instead of using a traditional wand and/or string to operate, Roman blinds use sidewinders or special control mechanisms that use bobble-chains.
Roller blinds are also technically a type of window shade. They use one piece of fabric that wraps around a tube at the top of the window. Unlike Roman blinds, roller blinds don’t fold and stack when raised. Instead, they use a sidewinder to roll the fabric neatly onto the spool at the top. This prevents the block of fabric at the top of the window you get with Roman shades. Roller blinds use a plastic chain to lift and lower the fabric.
Designing Your Blinds
Once you know what type of blinds you want, you can move on to decisions such as the color, design, size, and shape. The style and material of your blinds will determine how many options you have in terms of color and design. For example, homeowners have more versatility with fabric-based window coverings in terms of color, pattern, and design because an enormous range of fabrics exists for window shades. Ask yourself the following questions to help design your blinds:
- What is the architecture of my home? The architecture of your home can help you determine which blinds, shades, and other window treatments will be the best fit. Sleek and stylish aluminum blinds, for example, would match the architecture of a modern art deco home. If you want a formal look, go with something like Roman blinds.
- What is the theme of the room? Don’t only look at the style of your house when designing your blinds – look at the theme of the individual room as well. Choose a material, color, and pattern that will match the overall look and feel you want for the room. Fabric shades in soft colors might be best for a room you want to let lots of natural light into, for example.
- Do I want my blinds to stand out or blend in? You have the opportunity to make your blinds a beautiful, stand-out feature in any room. Choose the color, texture, and style of your blinds carefully. Picking fun patterns or bold colors can make your blinds part of the décor, while choosing simpler styles and neutral colors can make them disappear into the background, focusing attention on other elements of the room.
Your blinds aren’t just functional; they can be fashionable, as well. The right blind design can upgrade the entire look of a room. You may want to work with a professional interior designer to choose the ideal blinds for your space – especially if you have dozens of possible options according to the blind style and material you chose. Ask to see a lookbook of different blinds in different rooms for inspiration.
Choosing the Correct Size and Shape
You’ve picked out the perfect blind style, material, and color/pattern – now you have to select the right size to fit your window or door. Pre-cut blinds already come in certain dimensions to fit common window sizes and shapes. Pre-cut blinds are generally cheaper than custom, but they might not be the right fit for all windows. If you have more unique windows or doors in your home, you might need to go the custom route. Getting custom-cut blinds can be an excellent way to achieve a polished, high-end finished look.
The type of blinds you need in your home depends on the size and location of the window. If you have an arched window or skylight, you’ll need blinds specifically designed for these spaces. High window blinds, for instance, should have motors to operate them up and down. Door blinds should be thin and light for easy door opening. If you have an oversized window, you might do best to install two. or more, smaller sets of blinds rather than one large one. Smaller blinds are easier to manage and operate than longer, heavier sets.
Trust a professional contractor to outfit your home with blinds if you want the simplest, most stress-free installation possible. A professional can help you tailor a set of blinds to your exact needs. This is important if you want to avoid common mistakes such as choosing the wrong size and having to exchange your purchase. Unless you use a professional, it’s up to you to measure your window or door, select the perfect fit, and install your blinds.
Motorized vs. Traditional Blinds
One of the decisions you’ll need to make when buying blinds is whether to invest in motorized or traditional operation. Traditional blinds depend on strings, pulleys, wands, and other means to manually move the slats in, out, up, and down. Traditional non-motorized blinds are cost-effective and the most common type. They don’t rely on motors, batteries, or remotes to operate for years on end. However, they may need replacement if the rope or ladder system breaks.
Motorized blinds, while generally more expensive, have many benefits over manual blinds, especially in unique situations. Motorized blinds use motors and remotes or buttons to move the slats and open or close the window coverings. They are ideal for hard-to-reach or high windows, such as skylights. They are also a great choice if you want to have control over your blinds without tinkering with strings or wands.
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