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Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!

Affordable blackout curtain DIY and how we keep our house cool in the summer!

I know this is the time of year when we all get excited for fall, but let’s face it, it is still summer over here! It's been in the 80s and 90s the past couple weeks, including a couple days at like 97 last week when we ran our air conditioning, something we really only do sporadically here in Oregon. Despire the facts that we have an old house, so the insulation is not the greatest in all spaces, and we have some huge east-facing windows that we love in the winter time but that can make it pretty warm in the summer.

This is actually our first home with air conditioning, and the home I grew up and didn’t have AC either. That means I have a lot of methods and tips for keeping a house cool! We try to save energy and only run ours when it’s really, really hot and doesn’t cool down overnight.

One key piece of this puzzle especially in our current home with large windows is blackout curtains! I finally ordered some and hemmed them and they are a great budget-friendly option! I’ll share that DIY, plus our methods for keeping our house cool, in this post!


How to keep your house as cool as possible (with or without AC)


This method saves energy and keeps your house comfortable easier whether or not you turn on the AC! I've used it in many houses, although all in the Pacific Northwest where our summers are hot but dry. However even if you have humidity and have to leave the AC on from May to October, you can keep it from working as hard and keep your house cooler by doing the curtain-only tips in these steps (leaving your windows closed).

  1. Let’s start first thing in the morning. It usually gets the cool coldest overnight, while you’re sleeping and don’t want your front door wide open. So let’s say you get up at 6:00 AM and it’s still nice and cool. First thing, open all the windows and doors and let all that cool air in! We do this and it’s actually almost too chilly sometimes, I have to wear a sweatshirt! If you have a space that is tricky to cool down, like upstairs, put a box fan in a window or another fan in front of the window and blow cool air forward.
  2. Depending on the time of year, the sun could start streaming through windows pretty early in the morning, so there is an exception to this. If you have east-facing large windows, do not open those, and cover them with blackout curtains which you will keep closed most of the time in the summer.
  3. Cut to 8:00 or 9:00 AM. Sun is fully up and the air outside is getting warmer. The sun isn’t streaming through your east-facing windows because of your black-out curtains, but it is probably about time to close the windows and doors. (Especially if you're about to leave the house.) Close all windows/doors and cover windows with blackout curtains! Exception: because it won’t get hot on the west side of the house until much later, you may want to still leave west facing windows open.
  4. Again the exact timing depends on the month, but around 2:00-3:00 PM or so around here the sun starts really hitting the west side of the house. Close all windows and curtains/blinds on the west side of the house. 
  5. Okay, now it's 7:00 PM or later. As soon as it's cooler outside than it is inside, open up. Doors/windows/curtains, wide open, get the fans going if you need. (Fans don't actually cool the air, they just move it around, so a directional fan pulling cool air in from the outside will be more effective than a ceiling fan on the hottest days.) If your bedroom is on the second floor or in a secure place, leave your windows open, with curtains/shades partially open, and enjoy the cool breezes overnight. 

The most important parts are do NOT leave windows open during the hottest part of the day, and BLOCK that sunlight streaming in on the west and east sides of the house (south can get hot too).

Affordable blackout curtains


We've had unlined white curtains on all of our windows for a while, and while they worked fine when paired with blinds at our last house, at our current house on our living and dining room windows (east-facing) they were just not cutting it.

While I would love some nice quality, lined blackout curtains like these, I would need 4 panels for our large living room window, at 88"--so I would have to order 4 panels at $149 each, and then sew them together and hem them. Yikes!!

You can also buy blackout curtains at Target, Ross, or even Costco for cheap, but they're thin polyester and the backs are the same color as the front (not white, which looks best from the street). And they usually only come in 84" lengths and standard widths (about 50"). Also they often have grommets, not the look I wanted.

So I look around online--it took me a WHILE. Eventually I found two really good options for our home. They did need some modifications, hence the tutorial coming up below. But they were WAY more affordable than any other options I looked at for this quality!

Here they are in our dining room, the standard width panels. (I really should have ordered the double wide here, too, would look much fuller. Learn from my mistake if you have a window wider than 36" or so!)


Affordable Custom Blackout Curtain DIY Tutorial


You will need:


  • Blackout curtains with white backing (these are double-wide, these are standard)
  • Standard sewing tools


Instructions:


1. Measure desired curtain length. For me this was from the floor to a couple millimeters above the curtain clips I use (with this rod). Make sure the curtains you order are at least 4-6" longer than what you need. I needed 88" of curtain length for these rooms and ordered 96" long curtains.

2. Measure desired length on the curtain. Fold the top of the curtain (grommet side) over at the length you want and pin at the base. Do this on several places on each panel, as they are not always cut perfectly square.

Unless your curtain is only slightly longer than you need, you'll end up with a nice wide hem this way. Put the wider hem at the bottom, and make the former bottom hem (only 2" or so on these) turn into the top. This will give the curtains better weight at the bottom.

3. Cut off the grommets. Feels so good! Now they will go with any curtain rod/clips you use, and will look much more high-end and custom.

4. Press in an even hem. Hopefully the panels were pretty even so this is the same across, but double check before you press the whole thing in. Fold under 1/2"-3/4" and use a hem gauge and pins as you press.

5. Sew. You could use a blind hem stitch if you wanted, but it's a lot of sewing so would be very time-consuming (especially if you need double-wide panels like I did).

It feels so good to have perfect-length curtains!! Plus putting up these blackout panels made a HUGE difference in the temperature of our living and dining rooms. Seriously, I hung them in the daytime and was sweating standing on a chair in front of the sunny window. Such a difference when they're up.\

(You never see this corner since Jason is mid-book organization [always], but here it is because you made it this far.)

The other blackout curtain I found that I love for our home is this one. I'm usually suspicious of "white" blackout curtains because they often look blue or grey, but this one is a pretty confident pure white (it is on the cooler side though). They also come in other colors, but we got the white for our office/guest room, which is on the west side of the house upstairs and gets super hot in the summer. We never go up there right now but keeping the blackout curtains closed and door closed in that room makes the rest of the upstairs cooler! I think I'll order more of these for Otto's room once they're back in stock in the longer lengths. I like that they're lined, but they will be more difficult to hem since I'll have to undo the top hem and pin both layers together when re-hemming. I'll share if I ever do that.

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