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How to Blackout Windows Without Breaking the Bank

When I first moved into my house, I realized I had a problem. The back windows of our house face east and the sun wakes me up early in the morning – and I am not a morning person. The front windows of the house face west and heat the house quickly on summer afternoons. To make life more comfortable, I needed to quickly learn how to blackout windows so I could get some sleep and to minimize sun heat from windows so I wouldn’t melt.

Blackout windows can be a game changer in your home, especially for night shift workers who sleep during the day and need complete darkness for a good sleep, or for movie aficionados who want to create an awesome home theater. If you work at night and you’re looking for something to blackout windows on a budget, there are many ways to pull off a dark room without breaking the bank.

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Benefits of Blacking Out Windows

Light Control

Blackout window treatments can make a significant impact on the light entering your room, either from sunlight or that obnoxious street lamp outside your window. Whether you prefer total darkness when you’re trying to sleep or need to block out glare while working or watching TV, these treatments offer flexible solutions to control exposure to sunlight. 

Block Heating UV Rays of the Sun

Another benefit of blackout window treatments is their ability to block the sun’s harmful UV rays. UV rays can cause damage to your home’s interior over time. By choosing one of these easy ways to blackout light, you can protect your home, reduce energy consumption and keep your home more comfortable throughout the year.

Privacy

Privacy is another factor when choosing window treatments. Blackout window treatments provide privacy by preventing outsiders from seeing into your home. This is particularly important in bedrooms, nurseries, and bathrooms, where privacy is key to feel safe and secure.

Soundproofing

Some blackout window treatments can also help soundproof your home. The thick, heavy materials used in blackout curtains can greatly reduce the level of external noise entering your home. This can create a quieter, more peaceful environment, especially if you live in a busy, noisy area or have neighbors with loud late-night habits.

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Can you Make a Room Pitch Black?

Yes! It’s possible to make a room pitch black by taking some steps to block all light entering the room. If you want to blackout your room, you can use blackout blinds or curtains, cover windows and doors with thick blankets or cardboard, turn off all lights and electronic devices, and seal any gaps or cracks that may let in light. Layering a couple of these easy ways to blackout windows together can help ensure a pitch-black room.

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10 Best Ways to Blackout a Window

Here are some easy (and not-so-easy) ways to keep sunlight out, including some flexible permanent and temporary solutions to completely black out a room. With some creativity and a bit of effort, you can make any room in your home into a cozy, dark cave.

Blackout Curtains

Blackout curtains are an affordable option that is heavier than regular curtains and made of a double-lined, tightly woven fabric that is designed to darken a room. The only way light gets into a room with blackout curtains is through gaps around the window. Blackout curtains are an easy solution for large windows. Some tips to help curtains efficiently block out light are:

  • Use a minimum one-inch thick curtain rod to ensure it can hold the extra weight of the thick fabric
  • Purchase curtains that are 1.5 times as wide as the window
  • Install the curtain rod at least 6 inches above and 6 inches beyond each side of the window to help block light from coming in through the edges
  • Or use a room-darkening curtain rod that is rounded at the edges to meet the wall and minimize gaps around window
  • Create a tight seal around the edges by sticking the sides of the curtains to the wall using magnetic tape, suction cups, or Velcro strips – you may have to use fabric glue for the curtain side
  • If the light coming through on top of the window above the curtain is still an issue, you can use some foam board cut to size to fill in the gap or even stuff some pillows up there. One way to achieve a more permanent solution is to install a cornice over the curtain rod to completely blackout a window.

Blackout Window Film or Reflective Film

To blackout windows without curtains or to minimize light leaks from curtains, blackout window film is a great solution. Window film can be easily applied to block light from windows and can be removed when not needed. Some pros and cons of using a blackout or reflective window film include:

  • Easy to install and remove
  • Customizable to fit smaller windows – you just have to measure the dimensions and cut to size
  • No adhesives are required as the film sticks directly to the window glass
  • Not suitable for double-paned windows – works best on a single pane
  • Shouldn’t be used on windows that receive direct sunlight and heat
Pin text reads "cheap ways to block sunlight from windows so you can sleep!" Image is a person lying on a bed with a pillow over their eyes trying to sleep before learning how to blackout windows without breaking the bank.

Blackout Window Shades and Blinds

Another effective option to blackout your windows and block light from entering your room is blackout window blinds. They can be a little more difficult to install but are perfect for a total blackout effect and are easy to open and close when you don’t want a black room. These blinds come in various styles and materials that have different advantages and disadvantages:

  • Fabric roller blinds reduce the light coming into the room, hide the view, and give you ultimate privacy. Thick blackout fabrics are available in many colors to match your décor and don’t need to be dark to work well.
  • Roman shades are blackout shades made of one thick piece of flat fabric that gradually folds as the strings are pulled. Roman shades have neat, clean folds when open and lay flat when they are closed, making them a flexible option to darken your room.
  • Honeycomb cellular blinds are an excellent option for windows to block light and help insulate against heat. These blackout cellular shades are specifically designed to block out light but must be fitted properly to avoid rays of light creeping in around the edges
  • Paper blackout blinds are another cheap and effective temporary option to block sunlight. They stick directly to your window and don’t require any tools to install.

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Do-It-Yourself Ways to Blackout Windows on a Budget

Blackout Inserts

If you are looking for a more temporary or portable solution, consider blackout window shades or inserts. They are perfect for camping and for cars or RVs while traveling, but can also be used as a temporary solution for home windows to cheaply blackout light. Cut them to size and place them directly in your window frame and easily remove them when not needed. They are a great option for:

  • Travelers
  • Renters
  • Homeowners who aren’t ready to commit to a permanent solution yet
  • People looking for a less expensive or DIY method

Cardboard and Aluminum Foil

One inexpensive way to reflect sunlight and achieve total darkness is by using cardboard and aluminum or tin foil. Measure and cut a piece of cardboard slightly larger than your window frame for the best fit. Then, cover the cardboard with aluminum foil, and secure it with tape. Finally, place the foil-covered cardboard inside your window frame for a light-blocking solution. For an exceptionally easy option, you can tape the aluminum foil directly to the window.

Rigid Foam Board

Another DIY option is using a rigid foam board. Use black foam sheets and tape them together and/or cut them to fit your window opening. If you can’t find black foam sheets, you can paint the foam black. Or you can cover them in a fabric you like to blend in with your décor. Place the foam sheets directly inside your window frame or use Velcro dots to attach them securely.

Attach Fabric to the Window Frame

One more budget-friendly method involves attaching a thick black fabric that blocks sunlight to your window frame. You can also use old quilts or blankets. Cut a piece of fabric large enough to cover the entire window. Next, attach the fabric to the frame using Velcro strips for a temporary light-blocking solution that’s easy to remove or adjust as needed.

Blackout Curtain Liners

Window blackout curtain liners are a perfect choice if you don’t want to change the look of a room. Blackout lining is made from a polyester-cotton combination and can be added behind your existing curtains with hooks to block light and insulate against summer heat and winter chill. They’re an effective and convenient option for blocking out light while still maintaining the aesthetics of the room.

Emergency Thermal Blankets

Emergency thermal blankets are another affordable way to blackout windows. The Mylar insert provides insulation and the foil cover can deflect light and heat from the sun, making them perfect for the job. Cut the blanket to the size of your window and attach it using double-sided tape or Velcro dots, ensuring a tight fit to block the light effectively.

Heavy-Duty Trash Bags

Lastly, heavy-duty black trash bags can be used in a pinch for a temporary blackout solution without paying a lot of cash. Simply cut the trash bag to fit your window size and attach it to the frame using tape. While it might not be the most aesthetically pleasing option, it’s effective in blocking out light when you need a quick and budget-friendly solution.

Additional Factors to Consider When Blacking Out Windows

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to blacking out windows. Every room in your home has different properties and characteristics that can affect the effectiveness of each method to keep a room dark. Keep this in mind when looking for a room-darkening solution that works for your needs and preferences. Here are a few other things you may want to consider when you want to keep the light out:

How Important Is Appearance?

When blacking out your windows, you might want to consider the aesthetic appeal of the option you choose. While some options, such as blackout curtains or shades, can seamlessly blend with your interior design, others like aluminum foil might not be as visually appealing. Think about how your choice will impact the overall look of your room, and whether it complements your walls, trim, and furniture.

To maintain an aesthetically pleasing appearance, consider the following tips:

  • Choose blackout curtains or shades that match the color scheme of your room.
  • Use removable blackout liners for your existing curtains if you want to keep the same style.
  • If using a less decorative method, like aluminum foil or heavy garbage bags, try adding an attractive curtain on the window’s interior to conceal it and maintain the visual appeal.

Maintaining Airflow

Blacking out your windows does not mean sacrificing fresh air in your living space. There are several ways to keep your windows functional while still effectively blocking out light:

  • Select blackout curtains that can be easily drawn or opened to allow for proper air circulation.
  • Consider using blackout window films that can be applied directly to your windows so you can still open and close them as needed.
  • If using aluminum foil, consider taping it to only the upper portion of the window, leaving the lower portion uncovered and able to be opened for fresh air.

Remember, maintaining airflow is essential for a healthy home environment, so choose a blackout method that suits your purpose and promotes proper air circulation.

Pin text reads "cheap ways to block sunlight from windows" Image #1 is grey blackout curtains; Image #2 is grey window blinds; Image #3 is a man applying window film to windows; Image #4 is a curtain rod that is rounded at the edges to meet the wall; Image #5 is a DIY cornice hung over a window; Image #6 is black foam inserts in a window frame

Getting the Best Results with Your Blackout Solution

Applying Window Blackout Film Correctly

Window film is an effective solution for reducing natural light entering your room. To achieve the best results, make sure you clean your windows thoroughly before applying the window tint. Make sure you measure carefully, then mark and cut the film. Wet the window with soapy water, then peel off the backing film (using a piece of tape on both sides of a corner and then pulling them apart can make this easier). Squeeze out excess water and bubbles with a scraper or plastic card, then dry the window with a rag. Make sure to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and make adjustments as needed to ensure your film is properly installed.

Customizing Curtain and Blind Solutions

Blackout blinds and curtain liners can greatly help in reducing the amount of light entering your room. You can customize your solution by choosing the right material, color, and dimensions to fit your window size and décor. For maximum blackout effect, consider layering your blackout solution, like pairing blackout blinds with curtain liners. Additionally, ensure the curtains or blinds cover the entire window; they should extend beyond the window frame so there are no gaps for light to seep through.

Properly Insulating and Soundproofing

A well-insulated room not only helps in blocking light but also aids in soundproofing and maintaining a comfortable temperature. When choosing a blackout solution, look for materials with insulating properties to achieve these goals. Certain window films and blackout curtains can provide insulation by reducing heat transfer and draft around your windows. This can significantly help in maintaining a comfortable environment in your room and save on energy costs.

Minimize Light Leakage

Even with the best blackout solutions, light can still find its way into your room through gaps and edges. To prevent too much light from entering the room, install your blackout solution as close to the windowpane as possible. Use additional materials such as weatherstripping, compression tubing, or even pool noodles to seal gaps around your window frames. If using curtains or blinds, make sure they overlap your window frame to prevent light from sneaking in through the sides, top, or bottom of the window.

More Light-Blocking Tips for Getting Enough Sleep

  • Turn off electronics: Ensure that all electronic devices in the room, such as lamps, televisions, or computer monitors, are turned off. Even small standby lights can emit enough light to disturb the darkness.
  • Cover electronic displays: If you have electronic devices with displays that emit light even when turned off, cover them with dark cloth or tape to block any residual glow. 
  • Block light under doors: Place a draft stopper or a towel along the bottom of the door as a way to block any light that might come through the gap.
  • Consider using a sleep mask: If you are unable to completely eliminate all sources of light in the room, wearing a sleep mask is an effective way to provide an additional layer of darkness and block any remaining light.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences between blackout curtains and sun-blocking curtains?

Blackout curtains are designed to block out 100% of sunlight and UV rays and provide total darkness in a room. They are typically made from thick, tightly woven fabric, such as polyester or a polyester-cotton blend. On the other hand, sun-blocking curtains, also known as light-filtering curtains, allow some light to pass through while reducing glare and UV rays. These curtains are usually made from lighter materials, like cotton or linen, and are ideal for situations where you want to maintain some natural light while protecting your space from harsh sunlight.

Are there any specific sun-blocking window treatments that are suitable for large or uniquely shaped windows?

Yes, there are several sun-blocking window treatments available for larger or unusually shaped windows. Custom-made roller shades, cellular shades, and solar shades can be tailored to fit the exact dimensions of your windows, no matter their size or shape. If you have extremely large or uniquely shaped windows, consider using a professional to install a blackout window treatment. One way to cover irregular windows is to treat them as regular windows and use blackout curtains that cover the entire window.

Can I install window awnings or exterior shades to block the sun?

Absolutely! Window awnings and exterior shades can be an effective way to help block sunlight and minimize heat gain, especially on south and west-facing windows. Awnings can be installed as a permanent or retractable fixture, allowing you to regulate the amount of sunlight entering your home. Exterior shades can also be mounted on the outside of your windows to filter sunlight before it enters your living space.

Can sun-blocking window treatments help reduce my energy bills?

Sun-blocking window treatments can indeed help reduce your energy bills by minimizing heat gain in the warmer months and providing additional insulation in colder months. By controlling the amount of sunlight entering your home, you can maintain a comfortable indoor temperature and reduce the strain on your HVAC system, resulting in potential energy savings.

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