As many of you who have gone to a hardware store you’ve noticed that they have a section of custom fitted blinds and a section of ready made blinds (usually from Asia) in standard sizes for you to take home right then and there. The price difference, depending on what brand of custom fitted blinds is chosen, can be half as much or more. Taking an example from a random internet store, a roller blackout 36″x60″ sells for $51.99 while a ready made roller blind of the same size would cost you $24-$35.
But whats the difference? Why should you buy made to order blinds? A blind is a blind, right? The truth is, like most things in life you get what you pay for.
Difference 1: Size
This is the most obvious, but not the most important, difference. Yes, you will find a large variety of 36″x60″, 36″x48“, 60″x60″ and in some cases even 92″x92.. all standard sizes for picture windows. The situation that presents itself is that even if you find a blind exactly the size of your window, you may yet face the fact that the sizes don’t account for the 2″ fabric overlap, a key finishing touch, on the left and right sides of your window as well as the bottom to prevent direct light filtration on these edges.
If shopping ready made, remember to take this fabric overlap into account and buy a standard size up (example: buy a 48″ instead of 36″). This will cause a pretty absurd overlap, but it is a preferable alternative to light and energy penetration.
Difference 2: Fabrics / Wood
Most premade roller shades and roller blackouts are made from a thin paper-like material, the closest thing I can compare it to is cheap wallpaper. These come in a range of colors and can be, admittedly, attractive. What are the downsides? Touch this roller paper with dirty hands and you won’t rid yourself of the stain. The durability is lacking as the paper can rip or tear. And the roller screens are more on the side of privacy screens as visibility on the paper is nothing more than seeing silhouettes. And let me let you in on a dirty little secret, some lower-end premades can often be used by factories to get rid of defective, marked end of the line or old product. Buyer beware!
On the wood side of things the differences are less drastic. The wood slats on ready made blinds are slightly thinner and often unvarnished and unfinished wood. Good enough if you seek function, but not optimal for those seeking a decorative wood finish.
Difference 3: Components
The biggest offender when it comes to components is a quality control mechanism, or the lack thereof. One of the largest costs in producing a quality blind is a solid, dependable control. Needless to say this is where a ready made blind fails the most within this category. If the roller shade is anywhere larger than 60″x60″, expect some trouble operating it as most who produce for ready mades usually fabricate with the cheapest, and thus smallest, control possible.
There’s also the situation involving control side as well as the control length. Most ready made providers only stock the pull cord on the right side or the left side, and the control length to a set minimum. For this reason make a note of the window height before purchasing a ready made blind- after all having to get a ladder to close your blind is not a proper window solution. This can severely affect your purchase if you have an obstruction on the side that your ready made is made for. The list goes on: there can be issues of susceptibility to oxidation, flimsy cords, as well as a poorly finished bottom weight- in fact, most bottom finishes on rollers are glued fabric with a thin aluminum bar slipped in the resulting pocket.
Difference 4: Guarantee, Helping the Local Economy
When you buy from a big name made to order blind or shade company the product is usually accompanied by customer service and a product guarantee. And lastly, keep in mind that local blind factories employ local people and purchase a good amount of their raw material in the local market, who in turn employ local people. Who knew quality could come with such a satisfaction?
Not All Ready Made Blinds are Born Bad
As an educational piece, I’ve written the above as a caveat, what to look out for. Some ready made blinds might not be half as bad as described above. A company might’ve made a deal with a high quality fabricator to produce from an overstock or an overproduction and you might see a ready made blind in your local hardware store that has a quality fabric, or quality components, or un a very unlikely scenario- both!
In some cases, such as bamboo products, some pretty decent ready-made product can be found. So if you have a perfect 60″x60″ window which requires the control on the left, which has access to the cord 30″ from the top and you find the perfect blind with some quality fabrics and some sturdy looking components… you may have found yourself a good deal. Otherwise, I heartily recommend sticking with your local blind sales provider.