The Ultimate Guide to Roller Blinds (Lighting, Styles & More)

Guide to Roller Blinds

In the wide world of blinds, there are several different styles you might find. You can get Venetian blinds, panel blinds, roman shades, and many more. Among the most popular and versatile options is the roller blind.

You might be surprised to find that roller blinds may not be what you pictured. The mechanisms can vary, the light filtering options, the style, whether or not they have motors, how many layers they have, the thickness of those layers, and if they have any other benefits, like UV or thermal blocking. It sounds like a lot, but trust us when we say that it’s beneficial to understand those options before you furnish your home with them.

Let’s get started!

What Are Roller Blinds?

First, you should know in general what roller blinds are. Roller blinds or roller shades are, essentially, a roll of fabric mounted above your window. When pulled down, they stretch fabric across your window. When rolled up, they’re a low-profile roll of fabric above your window. Sometimes they’re hidden within an enclosure, and other times they’re left open and visible.

Roller Blinds

Roller blinds have a lot of different options to customise them, so picking the perfect shade for your windows is often a matter of personal preference. Let’s discuss the various options you can consider.

Hidden or Visible Mechanisms

All roller blinds are, at their core, a long panel of fabric wrapped around a central pole. This central pole rotates to draw the material of the blinds up around it when you want the window uncovered. So, one of the first questions you have to answer is this: do you want to see the blinds when they’re rolled up?

Mechanisms Examples

Many modern roller blinds include a fascia, cornice, or valence that boxes in the mechanism and hides it from view. This has a few benefits and a couple of drawbacks.

On the positive side, these decorative elements add an interesting feature to your windows. They can be an element of décour all on their own, and they are often beautifully designed and can draw a room together. They also protect the fabric of the blinds. If you leave them drawn up most of the time, dust can accumulate on them, as well as environmental exposure like UV bleaching or cigarette smoke staining. This can be unsightly if you then unfurl the blinds, leaving dirty and discoloured patches. Keeping the blinds protected from the environment when they’re drawn up prevents this.

On the other hand, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right fascia to match your décour. If you have limited space or if you want particular styles of blinds (as in other elements on this list) you might find that a fascia won’t work with your given style. Also, if there’s an issue and your blinds come derailed or the mechanism breaks, a fascia makes it more difficult to access and repair them. If cost is an issue, blinds with boxes tend to be more expensive.

Motorised, Automatic Tension, or Manual Drawing

How do you want to control your blinds? There are, in general, three different options.

Three Options for Mechanism

The simplest option is a loop of chain or drawstring. When you want to lower the blinds, you pull on one side of the chain to spin the axle in one direction to lower them. When you want to raise them, you pull on the other side of the loop and spin the axle in the other direction. Simple, easy, with very few moving parts and very little that can break or fail. It’s also generally the cheapest option – if that’s a concern for you.

A common option is a spring tension blind or shade. These typically require you to grasp a rod sewn into the bottom edge of the blinds and pull it down. This will unfurl the blinds and will click through an escapement mechanism to keep them in position. Due to this mechanism, you may not be able to position them as precisely as you want, but rather a fraction further up or down, because the mechanism doesn’t have that fine a control. Then, when you want to release the mechanism to raise the blinds, you pull down to disengage and let the spring wind it back up.

The spring mechanism is slightly more complex and slightly more prone to breaking, but it’s also a very common option and is ideal if you don’t want to have a loop of chain or string always visible next to your windows.

The third option is more modern and the most expensive option of the three: motors. Simple electric motors, controlled either with buttons nearby or with remote control, allow the blinds to be raised or lowered. Some of the more expensive systems can control an entire room at once, can adjust automatically at specific times of day, or can have specific saved positions. Others simply have up and down buttons you can hold to adjust to the perfect height.

Single or Double Layered

Another choice you have is to install single-layered blinds or double-layered blinds. This is exactly what it sounds like: you can have one blind, or two, in the same window.

Single or Double Layered

Much like curtains, blinds are a single kind of material that can be moved. If you want different kinds of blinds – like a thin, sheer blind for light diffusion, and a blackout blind for special occasions or times when the light is too bright – you need more than one installed in the same window.

Luckily, many blinds systems offer two rollers in the same valence and give you this dual-layered system. They are, by necessity, slightly more complex than single-blind systems, and correspondingly more expensive. All of the other options still apply: you can get them with different mechanisms, different kinds of fabric, and different styles. It all comes down to what you want out of your blinds, and how flexible you want your system to be.

For an example use case: picture a room you use to entertain. You might have large windows to show off a vista outside your home, with sheer blinds to diffuse direct light and offer UV protection when the sun is in certain positions. Then, in cases where the centre of attention is your television or a projector and you need a darkened room (such as a home theatre), you can draw down the second layer of blackout blinds to close off the room and let everyone watch a movie. Having dual-layer blinds enables this option. It’s certainly not necessary in every home or every window, but it can be useful in some situations.

Flat Colours or Printed Patterns

Another relatively simple option you have available to you is the style of blinds you install. Do you want a simple fabric, or do you want a fabric with a pattern?

Flat or Printed

With printed patterns, there are no limits. You can choose from a wide array of base fabrics, from near-sheer to blackout. You can choose from among all of the different styles and mechanisms, with single or double blinds.

More importantly, printed patterns can be created just for you. Fabric printing is easy, so custom patterns are well within your grasp. Do you have a favourite pattern? Do you want a custom pattern made up to match the other décour in your house? Do you want a funny pattern for blinds you can pull down on rare, special occasions? We’re not going to judge.

Modern printed fabrics are also very resilient. Printing styles no longer use ink that degrades over time or printing methods that crack or grow brittle. They’re easy to clean without being damaged, and they stay vibrant for a very long time. You have, quite literally, unlimited choices for fabric styles with custom patterns on them.

Thermal or UV Blocking

Blinds are meant to diffuse light, but they may serve other purposes as well. Depending on the contents of the room you’re installing them in, you may want your blinds to be more functional. Two functions you often see are thermal and UV blocking.

Thermal or UV Blocking

Thermal blocking means using a fabric that helps reflect sunlight and solar radiation that would otherwise warm your room up. Anyone who has spent time in a room with many windows and no thermal protection knows it can get very warm. After all, that’s the basic design of a greenhouse. Thermal-blocking blinds help block solar energy to keep your room cooler in the daytime heat.

UV blocking blinds don’t necessarily block heat, though they often do. They can be sheer or they can be blackout blinds – and anything in between. UV blocking blinds primarily serve to block the invisible ultraviolet radiation that would otherwise have free access to your room. This can be important for the health of your skin if you spend a lot of time in your room, and it can also help prevent damage to the contents of the room. For example, artwork can be bleached over time and exposed to the sun, and some surfaces like plastic and leather can grow brittle with exposure over time. It’s often a cheap insurance policy, and there are many benefits to these.

Blackout, Thick, Thin, or Sheer

We’ve mentioned these terms a few times, but what are they?

Sheer fabric is a very thin fabric. Sheer blinds are blinds that still allow you to see through them, sort of like a window screen, as a very thin fabric. They can block UV and can help block thermal energy, but do not block much light.

Thickness of Blinds

Thin blinds are thicker than sheer but are still relatively thin. They serve to diffuse light and block sightlines, but will not give full privacy or full shade. They can be compared to thin curtains or drapes, in that they can still show silhouettes but will not let visible images through.

Thick blinds are thick enough to block most light, but will still let some through. They are not pure blackout fabrics but are still thick enough to help dim a room significantly, give much more secure levels of privacy, and block more thermal energy.

Finally, blackout blinds are completely opaque. They are typically more closely fitted to the window frame so that when they’re drawn, they generally do not let any light in, not even around the edges. Blackout blinds are ideal for closing off a room entirely, such as for the previously mentioned home theatre setup, or cases when you may need to sleep during the day and prefer a dark room. This makes them popular for entertainment rooms and bedrooms.

When you choose your blinds, if you choose the mechanism of a double blind, you will typically go with a sheer and a thick/blackout, or a thin and a thick, but you can mix and match any types.

It’s also worth mentioning that these are very broad categories with no true definition between them other than blackout blinds. Since there are so many base fabrics and so many options, you have many choices of different fabrics and styles.

Natural or Synthetic Fabrics

Blinds can be made of a wide variety of materials. Sometimes they’re natural fabrics, made of wool, cotton, or silk. These have all of the same perks and drawbacks they do when they’re used in any situation, be it clothing, linens, or blinds.

Natural or Synthetic

Synthetic fabrics come in two categories. The first is the more traditional fabrics, like nylon, polyester, or PVC. These are generally simple varieties of plastic and can be found in a wide range of different products. Thus, they are fairly common and are well documented in their pros and cons.

The second category is materials made specifically for blinds. These are often known by brand names such as Phifertex, SheerWeave, Soltis, or Roc-Lon. These can have specific benefits, such as being antimicrobial or being a lightweight option for blackout fabric. There are many different options, and they may require specific discussion to identify the pros and cons of your situation.

Drawing to a Close

When it comes to choosing the perfect blinds for your windows, there are nearly infinite combinations. That’s why we highly recommend that you give us a call or reach out to us through our contact page. We can discuss your needs, your desires, and your requirements, and come up with a set of options customised for your specific home, office, or other building. No matter what your needs, there’s some combination of options that is perfect for you.

If roller blinds are the right choice, that’s fine too. There are plenty of other choices, from vertical blinds to Venetian blinds to roman shades and many more. The perfect window treatment is just waiting for you to find it.

What is your favorite style of roller blinds? Are you considering setting them up in your house? If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us! We’ve worked with hundreds of houses and are roller blind experts; we’d be happy to point you in the right direction. 

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