The traverse rod is a staple in the soft window coverings industry . . . but that simple machine strikes fear in the hearts of many. I have even be told (and by more than a few window treatment professionals) that they won’t design something with traverse rods because they just don’t quite know how to deal with them. With some simple rules and an understanding of how it works, it can become the tool it was meant to be instead of something to be feared.
The traverse rod consists of five basic parts:
1. The rod
2. A set of pulleys
3. A set of master carriers
4. Loose carriers
5. The cord that connects the carriers
Traverse rods are not interchangeable between brands. This means that brackets fitting a Kirsch rod will not fit a Graber rod. You must keep the parts for the brands separate. Although the parts may be similar, they do not fit rods of another brand.
The most frightening thing about the traverse rod seems to be where to hang it so that the length of the draperies will come out right. I hope that I can dispel that fear for you. Let me start at the beginning: The pins.
PLACING PINS AND BRACKETS
Let’s change the rules. Ever since I started in this business I was told that the pins for traversing draperies should be set at 1 1/2 inches from the top of the drapery. This practice came about a long time ago when traversing draperies were used without top treatments. At least, then, the rod didn’t show when the draperies were closed . . . an improvement, because these are utilitarian rods, and they are not pretty! They don’t fit the décor of most modern homes and, in my opinion, they are not attractive.
Needless to say, if the draperies are used without a top treatment, you must continue to set the pins at 1 1/2 inches from the top. However, if you are using the traverse rod underneath a top treatment, as it is customary to do today, you don’t have to stick to the 1 1/2-inch rule.
I much prefer to set the pins at the very top of the drapery. This allows the drapery to hang under the rod enabling the installer to break the buckram to the back. This way, the draperies do not have to fight the front of the rod when they are opened and closed and the draperies may hang more freely. It also will allow you much more moving room for the pins if an adjustment of the length is necessary. Again: these pins won’t show if they are behind the top treatment . . . so why not give it a try?
So, now we know that the pins are placed at either the top of the draperies or 1 1/2 inches down from the top. This pin placement will determine where the bracket will be placed on the wall. Determine the finished length of the draperies. This is the length from the very top to the bottom of the hem. Gravity will have an effect on this measurement, and in order for this to be taken into consideration it is best to take them up the ladder, let them fall to the floor, make a mark on the wall and measure to that mark.
If the draperies are pinned at the top, add clearance to the finished length and place the bottom of the bracket at that point. If the draperies are pinned at the 1 1/2-inch point, add clearance and place the top of the bracket at that point. Horizontally, the brackets should be placed just inside the pleat-to-pleat measurement of the pair, being sure to make adjustments for the overlaps. Remember, the overlaps overlap. Most overlaps in our industry are 3 1/2 inches, and this measurement should be added to the width of the pair only once.
THREE TASKS BEFORE HANGING
Now that you have your brackets in place, there are three things that you need to remember to do before you may hang the draperies:
First, remove the extra carriers from the rod. This is done by way of a gate that you will find on the back of the pulley housing. This is an important step, as extra carriers left in place will cause the draperies to not stack properly.
Second, you must secure the cord on the underlap carrier. This will center the carriers so that the draperies open and close to the center each time. There is a “finger” on the back of the underlap carrier and the cord is looped over it. This keeps it in place and doesn’t allow the carrier to slide on the cord. The No. 1 callback on installations is failure to secure this cord. The draperies will open and close properly on one side, but will slide on the cord on the other and cause that to open only partially.
Third, attach the cord tension pulley. It should be placed below and just inside the horizontal width of the bracket. The height of the pulley is determined by the length of the drapery. For floor length, it should be placed near the floor where it can be hidden behind the drapery. It can be placed on the window trim for shorter draperies. Once the pulley is in place, the excess cord needs to be removed.
There is a small hole in the shank of the pulley through which a drapery pin or a nail may be placed to give slack to the cord. The cord should be double knotted just behind the overlap carrier. When the nail or drapery pin is removed from the shank of the pulley, tension will be put on the cord. You don’t want the cord to be loose, and neither do you want it to be so tight that it will exert constant pressure on the bracket. This step also is an important one, as leaving the cord loose can be a danger to children and pets as well as allow the cord to slip off of the pulley mechanisms and wedge between the pulley and the pulley housing.
After these three tasks are complete, you may hang the draperies. With the weight of the drapery over your shoulder, start in the center and place the pins first on the master carrier. There should be a pin on the overlap and on the return, and these pins should be placed in the width of the pin from the edge of the draperies so that when the pin turns out, it will not show.
The pins should be inside the pleats and should not show from the front. The overlap pin should be placed in the first hole of the master carrier. The second pin (the pin on the first pleat) should be placed in a corresponding hole on that same master carrier. The subsequent pins should each be placed on their own carriers, and the pin of the last pleat should be inserted into the hole on the front of the pulley housing. This keeps the corners square and crisp and prevents the drapery panels from pulling around and underneath the corners. The last pin (the one on the return) should be placed in a hole around the bracket so that the return ends at the wall.
Success! The draperies are hung, but there still are things that you should know about this versatile traverse rod:
• To change the side of the cord drop, simply pull the cord downward from underneath the pulley on the other side. This action is much more easily accomplished with the use of a lacing hook. You will find lacing hooks in your rod supplier’s catalog.
• Although one-way draw rods are available, you may find it necessary to change a two- way (center) draw rod to a one-way rod. Pull the two sides of the rod apart. Remove the underlap carrier and the carriers that are not on the side you wish to use and reinsert them into the opposite side of the rod. The overlap carrier will now move all the way to the end of the rod. Move the overlap carrier’s arm to the end of the carrier or reverse its direction in order for it to pull in the opposite direction.
• Another frequent source of problems with the traverse rod is the improper use of the center supports. Center supports should be used for traverse rods that are wider than four feet. The top of the center support is placed evenly with the top of the regular support bracket.
• Particular attention should be paid to the cam mechanism on the center support. There is a wider side and a narrower side to this cam, and care must be taken that it is turned the proper way upon installation. What is the proper way? Kirsh is kind enough to put words to it: the wider side is marked “OUT” and the narrower side is marked “IN”. The rod is adjustable: that is, one side slides into the other side. The outside section is larger than the inside section . . . thus, the cam should be turned toward the “OUT” side when it is placed on the larger, or outside, section of the rod. “IN” indicates that the cam should be turned to the smaller, or inside, section.
I hope that this information will help to ease any fear that you may have about using a traverse rod in the future. It is a simple machine, and it works beautifully if you follow the directions exactly. No short cuts are allowed!
Beth Hodges, Beth Hodges’ Soft Furnishings, has been designing, fabricating and installing window treatments for more than 20 years beginning as a one-woman company and expanding her business to employ six handling higher end wholesale fabrications for many designers across the country as well as a consistent number of retail clients. She teaches at the Custom Home Furnishings School and was an originator of the highly successful installation class and has taught the Basics of Residential Installation since its inception. Hodges is the national president of the Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA).