Curtain Rods & Curtain Tracks: Which Do I Need To Hang My Curtains?

Using curtain rods or tracks for your home

Curtain tracks and rods or poles (collectively known as 'curtain hardware') are far more than just functional accessories to attach curtains to windows. They also enhance interior design, add decorative appeal and ultimately form part of the finishing touches to your home.

While you might be tempted to choose your curtain hardware as an afterthought, you should be thinking about these items when first weighing up your curtain options to ensure the consistency of your design vision.

In this guide, you'll find an in-depth breakdown of the difference between curtain tracks and curtain rods. We also explore the types of accessories you'll need to complete your installation, and of course, which curtain type is best suited to installation with rods, tracks, or both.

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Rods vs Tracks: What's The Difference?

While both curtain rods and curtain tracks are used to hang curtains from windows, they differ greatly in the way they function and the types of curtains they are used to install.

Curtain Rods & Curtain Poles

Curtain rods are essentially a length of either hollow metal pipe or solid timber. They're finished with decorative ends called finials, which also function to prevent the curtain from sliding off the end. Curtain rods are a decorative option for installing your curtains and can be used to hang a variety of different curtain header types, including eyelet curtains, rod pocket curtains, tab top curtains, pencil pleat curtains and pinch pleat curtains. To open and close curtains installed on a rod, simply pull the curtain across the length of the pole by hand.

At Spotlight you can find a great range of expandable curtain rods which means there's no cutting to size required. Constructed from lightweight metal poles that nest one inside the other, all you need to do is simply telescope the curtain rod out to the length you require.

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Curtain Rods & Curtain Poles

Curtain Tracks

Curtain tracks contain what are known as track gliders. These sit inside a groove in the track and move along its length. Pleated curtains like pinch pleat curtains or pencil pleat curtains are attached to curtain tracks using hooks. The curtain hooks loop through the back of the curtain and are secured by placing the hook through a hole in the bottom of the glider. At Spotlight, you can find extendable curtain tracks in two main styles:

  • Hand Drawn Tracks: As the name suggests, curtains installed on this track type are opened and closed by hand. You can attach curtain flick sticks or curtain pull wands to the carrier arms on the track to aid with opening and closing the tracks. Using a flick stick will also help prevent any dirty marks building up on the curtain fabric.
  • Cord Drawn Tracks: This track type contains a series of cords and pulleys as part of the hardware. To open and close your curtains, pull the operating cord at the side. This option offers ease of operation but takes a little more work to install, and you must ensure the cords are secured at least 160 cm above the floor to comply with child safety standards.

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Curtain Tracks

Visible vs Hidden Curtain Hardware

Curtain hardware (i.e. curtain rods and curtain tracks) can make a visual statement in your home. When choosing your ready-made curtains you will need to factor in the type of hardware needed to install your preferred curtain type. At the same time, consider whether or not you want the curtain hardware to be visible or not.

Curtain rods are generally used when you want your curtain hardware to be visible. You may want to accentuate a colour theme or material as part of your home decor, and select a rod colour or finial style accordingly. Tracks are used when you want your curtain hardware to be invisible. Pleated curtains will usually cover the front of the track. Tracks can also be hidden under a window pelmet for a classically traditional finish. No answer is right or wrong - it's just a matter of your taste and design objectives.

What Hardware Goes With What Curtain Type?

Eyelet Curtains: Use A Rod

Eyelet curtains have metal or plastic ringed "eyelets" (sometimes called grommets) at the top of the curtain. They are hand operated and easy to open and close. You can find blockout eyelet curtains, room darkening eyelet curtains, thermal eyelet curtains and sheer eyelet curtains in Spotlight's extensive ready-made curtains range.

Choose them because... No hooks or tapes are needed! Simply gather the curtain in an "accordion" style, thread the rod through the eyelets, and you're ready to go!

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Eyelet Curtains: Use A Rod

Tab Top Curtains: Use A Rod

Tab top curtains have exposed loops of fabric (tabs) that you can see on the curtain. You can also find concealed tab top curtains, where the tabs are stitched at the back of the curtain header. Concealed tab top curtains have an elegant folded style top that will conceal a little more of the curtain rod. Tab top curtains are available in sheer, blockout and room darkening materials.

Choose them because... You have decorative rods that you want to show off. No hooks, eyes or other fixings are needed.

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Tab Top Curtains: Use A Rod

Pencil Pleat Curtains: Use Tracks Or Rods

Pencil pleat curtains take their name from the closely gathered folds of the fabric that look like pencils laid out side by side. Three drawcords at the back of the heading tape create the gathering. This means you can tighten or loosen the folds so they perfectly fit the width of your window. You can install pencil pleat curtains on tracks or rods, depending on the functionality and aesthetic you desire.

Choose them because... Pencil pleat curtains offer great versatility when it comes to styling. Combine them with decorative rods that coordinate with your decor, or with easy-to-operate cord-drawn tracks. They work equally well across classic and contemporary decorating themes.

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Pencil Pleat Curtains: Use Tracks Or Rods

Pinch Pleat Curtains: Use Tracks Or Rods

Pinch pleat curtains have two or three folded pleats sewn into the header of the curtain. As such, they cannot be adjusted to the width of your window, so make sure you choose a pair that fits as closely as possible to your window width. Much like pencil pleat curtains, you have the versatility of using rods or tracks for hanging.

Choose them becauseā€¦ Pinch pleat curtains add a formal yet classic touch to home interiors, and are perfect if you want to make a focal point of your decorative rod.

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Pinch Pleat Curtains: Use Tracks Or Rods

Rod Pocket Curtains: Use Rods!

As the name suggests, rod pocket curtains are specifically designed to be threaded onto curtain rods. It features a narrow opening or pocket at the, and once in place will create a lightly gathered curtain heading. Rod pocket styles are typically found in lightweight or sheer fabrications.

Choose them because... Rod Pocket Curtains are best suited to hanging on windows where you don't want to draw the sheer curtains open regularly, as the bunched-up fabric can be difficult to glide along the rod.

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Rod Pocket Curtains: Use A Rod

Curtain Heading Type & Curtain Hardware Quick Guide




Required Accessories





Rod Pocket




Tab Top & Concealed Tab Top




Pencil Pleat



Rod: Rod Rings & Gathering Hooks

Track: Gathering Hooks

Pinch Pleat & Inverted Pinch Pleat



Rod: Rod Rings & Pinch Pleat Hooks

Track: Pinch Pleat Hooks

S Fold



S Fold curtains must be installed on specialised S Fold track

Curtains & Tracks FAQs

How Do I Install My Curtain Tracks Or Rods?

Many of Spotlight's curtain rods and tracks are supplied with instructions, brackets, screws and other accessories needed for installation. You can also find individually sold rods and brackets such as 16 mm conduit curtain rods and stayed brackets, which are perfect for installing sheer or lightweight curtains. To complete your installation, you'll need a drill, screwdriver, spirit level and marking pencil. Check out our guide on how to hang curtains for tips on correctly securing your curtains to your curtain hardware!

How Do You Hang Pleated Curtains On A Rod?

Similar to hanging pleated curtains on a track, you can hang pencil pleat or pinch pleat curtains on a rod using curtain hooks. Instead of putting the hook into a track glider, the hook sits in the base of a curtain ring which is threaded onto the curtain rod. The curtain rings not only hold the curtain, but are designed to facilitate easy opening and closing your drapery. Many of Spotlight's rod sets have the necessary rings included, giving you the option of hanging just about any type of curtain from them.

What Diameter Rod Do I Need For My Curtains?

Curtain rods come in a range of different diameters, with some being more suited to different weights of curtains than others. Expandable rods will list two diameter sizes, indicating the diameters of the telescoping poles. The larger the diameter, the better the rod will support heavy drapes such as blockout curtains. 19/22mm, 22/25mm and 25/28mm sizes are all great options for heavy/wide curtains and ideal for any kind of eyelet curtain.

What Length Rod Or Track Do I Need?

Determine the length of the curtain rod or curtain track you'll need by accurately measuring your windows. Check out our handy guide on how to measure your windows here! For expandable rods or extendable tracks, adjust the hardware to a final length that extends 15 cm - 25 cm past each side of the window frame. This will help maximise the amount of light you get into each room.

What Is A Curtain Pole Track?

Otherwise referred to as a decorative track or a multifunctional curtain pole track, this curtain hardware style offers you the decorative aspect of a curtain rod combined with the smooth operation of gliders from a curtain track. They're the perfect option for when you want to add colour or texture to your decor while still showing off both curtain and hardware to their full potential.

Shop Curtain Rods, Curtain Tracks & Curtain Accessories Today!

At Spotlight there's a huge range of ready made curtains and hardware to discover for every room in your home. Find the right curtain rods and curtain tracks for your drapes, and complete your installation with curtain hooks & rings to suit any pleated curtain header style. You can also find curtain accessories like tiebacks & holdbacks to add a stylish and practical touch to your window furnishings.

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For extra large or tricky-to-fit windows, Spotlight has a comprehensive Made to Measure service, where you can have your curtains custom-made in any size, colour, heading type and fishing of your choosing. Find out more about made-to-measure curtains and book a FREE measure and quote today!



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