Your Roadmap to a Dream Roller Shade - The Great Room

Your Roadmap to a Dream Roller Shade

Ordering Roller shades can be a frustrating process. There are so many fabrics, technical terms, and options that the whole process can be overwhelming. Take a deep breath- and use this guide to find your dream roller shade.

1. Light Control

First you need to decide how much light control you need. Do you want to be able to see out while protecting your furnishings? Or do you want to make the room dark to enhance your home theatre experience? There are essentially three kinds on fabrics to choose from:

  • Solar Screens

Solar screens keep a room bright by allowing light in and preserving your view while blocking most UV rays from damaging your furniture. Solar screens are displayed with their “Openness Factor”- the percentage of the weave that is open. The higher the openness factor, the more details you can see through the shade. Another thing to consider is the color of your solar screen. The human eye perceives light more easily through dark fabrics than light fabrics, so for an optimum view choose a dark color. Solar screens provide privacy in the daytime, but it’s important to note that you can see in at night as well as you see out during the day- so Solar Screens aren’t suitable for bathrooms or bedrooms, unless you are adding curtains for privacy.

  •  Light Filtering Fabrics

Light filtering fabrics come in a dazzling array of colors, patterns and textures certain to match any décor style. They allow light to enter and typically block all UV rays. The only time your privacy may be compromised is at night when the lights are on inside and you are standing directly in front of the shade, and then the only thing visible will be your shadow. Additionally, many light filtering fabrics meet GreenGuard or EcoTek standards for indoor air quality.

  • Blackout or Room Darkening Fabrics

Most blackout fabrics are a dense polyester or vinyl for optimum light control. If you are trying to have total light control, it is best to mount your roller shade as an outside mount, since deductions on width for roller shades are larger than the deductions on other blinds and can result in dramatic light gaps. These gaps aren’t typically bothersome on light filtering or solar screen fabrics, but are very noticeable next to a blackout shade. Mounting on your wall allows you to overlap your window casing and almost eliminate light leaks.

2. Roll Direction

Just like paper towels, roller shades can come off the roller in two directions. “Standard Roll” means the fabric rolls off the back of the roller, so the fabric lays closer to the window. This is ideal for most mounting situations and reduces light gaps. “Reverse Roll” means the fabric rolls off the front of the roller, and is most commonly used to avoid an obstruction such as a window crank. It’s also useful when you don’t want a valance but don’t like the appearance of the roll.

3. Valance Choices

Cassette Valance on M&B Roller Shade

Cassette Valance on M&B Roller Shade

Most roller shades offer three types of valances: fascia, cassette, and square-corner valances.  Fascias enclose the entire roller shade and have an industrial style. Cassettes cover the top and front of a roller and are curved, and are designed for residential settings. A square-corner valance is a PVC valance with a strip of roller shade fabric inserted for a coordinated look. Some roller shades offer fabric valances with scalloped trim for a more decorative, custom look.

4. Hem Choices

Roller shades are available with three different hem types. The most common is a hem pocket. The pocket hem has a wooden or aluminum bar sealed inside. Another common option is an external hem bar, available with or without a fabric wrap. You may also choose a decorative hem to match a decorative valance. The hem is in addition to the length of your shade, so if you order a 48” shade with a scalloped decorative hem, the hem will add as much as 6” to the length of your shade for a total length of 54”.

5. Lift Systems

This is often the most difficult choice when ordering roller shades. There are two common lift systems for roller shades, and one unique lift system offered by Bali.

  • Continuous Cord Loop

The standard control system on most roller shades, the continuous cord loop is operated by a pulley-clutch with a plastic or stainless steel beaded chain. When the cord tensioner is installed properly, this option is safe for homes with children and allows the easiest operation of your shades. The clutch stops your shade when you stop pulling on the chain, ensuring precise positioning with ease. Something to take note of: manufacturers take an extra fabric deduction on the side of the shade with the control loop, so the light gap will be a little wider on that side.

  • Cordless Lift

Cordless lift on a roller shade is controlled by a spring system. The quality of the spring system varies based on the manufacturer, so some economy line rollers will rise very quickly and loudly, while other rollers have a tensioning device that slows the speed of the shade as the bottom rail approaches the top of the window. This results in smoother, quieter operation. The height of the shade can be adjusted on cordless rollers by raising the shade completely and then pulling the shade down to the desired height. Cordless lift shades have the smallest light gaps of any roller shade and are child safe.

Bali Smart Pull Lift

Bali Smart Pull Lift

  • Bali SmartPull

Available only on Bali Roller Shades, Bali’s Smart Pull system operates with a single pull cord that allows precise positioning of the shade while retracting back to a set length after each pull. This option is a convenient

alternative to continuous cord loop systems, but may be difficult for children or older adults to operate.

Deciding which features to use in your home is easy when you understand their uses and limitations. Join us next week for tips on how to order a perfect fitting roller shade!

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About the Author: Alicia Graham

Alicia Graham is the Product Manager for She is also an experienced set designer and interior painter, with a broad knowledge of painting techniques that ranges from faux painting to alternate tools that save time and headaches. She is dedicated to making the imagination work in step with the budget and turning hobbyists into artists. Alicia Graham believes that anyone can be an artist in their home with a little help and information.