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A common question to window covering professionals is “Can I get blackout Window Coverings?”  The issue is really a matter of definition.  Do you really mean Blackout?

You would be surprised how many people have purchased the wrong product for their needs based on a conversation where their salesperson didn’t clarify what the customer REALLY wanted.  Here is a case in point:  I have been asked to quote the price of shutters for people, too many times to count, where they really wanted blinds.  I have been told to measure for curtains, when what they really wanted were window shades.

So, first we need to determine what blackout means.  As a professional, the first question I ask my clients when they tell me that they want blackout is, “Are you sure you want to block out ALL of the light?”  There are occasions where this is appropriate, but usually it is in a commercial application where having ANY light would cause problems, like when developing film, or when dealing with video conferencing applications.  But, for the most part, people really just want to block a significant amount of light.  They would want this for bedrooms, for media rooms or for some other application that requires a great deal of control over the light that enters a room.

Because of the misconception about how much light is stopped at the window, the industry has chosen to use words other than blackout to describe its light-stopping ability.  Words like “Light-Dimming”, “Room-Darkening” or “Opaque” have overtaken “blackout” as descriptive phrases.  The next time you are in a hotel room, take a look at the windows with the draperies closed and the lights off.  Chances are that SOME light is getting around them.  But, if you were to describe the overall look, you would say that it was pitch-black.  So, if you are thinking of getting Room-Darkening window coverings, you need to determine how much darkness you really need.

Most of the products that are out there will not let any light through the material itself, but clearly light does find its way around them.  Blinds, for example, let light through the slats and around the gaps at the edges.  Shades will let light in the gaps at the side of the window as well.  The good news is that this small amount of light will usually not be a problem for most people.  If it is a problem, there are ways to deal with that light leakage and eliminate ALL the light.  When it comes to bedrooms, some people truly do want complete darkness, and others just want to keep the direct sun, moon or streetlight out of their face.  When it comes to media rooms, usually they just want to eliminate glare from their video screens.  Your window coverings professional will be able to address these issues with you.  If you go to a big-box store, you probably will not get a consultation that will address YOUR specific needs on this topic.

If you determine that you do need “blackout” window coverings, the good news is that there are many different products out there that will suit your needs.  Instead of discussing all of the options, I will only say that the true solution depends on your needs.  Blinds do a good job of providing a level of darkness, blocking approximately 70-90% of the light, based on the quality and design of the specific product.  They are also adjustable, which means that you can open them up significantly to allow in light without giving up privacy.  The same can be said for shutters.

Shades have a better light blocking capacity; up to 99%, but they are usually not as adjustable.  Therefore, if privacy is a factor, sometimes shades will not work for you.  Often times, when privacy is raised as an issue, many people will add on the Top Down/Bottom Up feature.  This feature does have limitations though, and I advise you to work with a professional in this area too in order to avoid costly mistakes.

What can you take from this Blog Post?  If you are discussing this matter with another person, whether they be your mate, your designer or your sales person, make sure that you are really talking about the same things.  There is a lot of room for interpretation when people talk about design terms or window covering verbiage.  A good window coverings designer will address your specific issues and application and help you sort through the available products to choose the appropriate one for you.

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