Sammy Faircloth

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Curtains and blinds are decorative and stylish, but also essential for privacy and insulation, so good maintenance is important, says Sammy Faircloth.

Curtains and blinds are installed in caravans for many reasons. Some keep out the light, some keep out heat from the sun, some help to retain heat in the winter and some simply prevent anyone from peeping inside. Let's take a look at what is out there.

Curtains

Curtains can be found in almost all homes, and have therefore transferred quite naturally into our caravans.

The interior design of a van, enhanced through the use of beautiful fabrics and suitable shades, offers a visually pleasing space and a personal ambience in which to enjoy the interior.

They can be quite plush, and you'll often find that silk-lined curtains are available to match the interior furnishings.

Most caravan owners usually like to see curtains on all of the windows, and if you value this form of ornamentation, do check that they run well and make sure any drapes near the kitchen remain well away from the burners on the hob.

An alternative to curtains in patterned fabric is net or voile drapes, which offer you a bit more privacy when you are inside your caravan, without reducing the natural light.

Curtains now tend to be regarded as a fashion choice - while some caravan manufacturers are no longer fitting them, some recognise that traditionalists would balk at the thought of a window bereft of drapes, and have begun mounting a fabric drop on either side to look like a curtain. This doesn't draw across the windows, it's merely a cosmetic add-on.

If you do have curtains and they are looking a bit tired and crying out for a make-over, firms such as Regal Furnishings offer a huge choice of fabrics to personalise your space.

Blinds

Almost all caravan windows and skylights are now fitted with blind systems, which also include mesh fly screens. The latter are not cosmetic extras and serve an important purpose. If you've ever been afflicted by midges in the Scottish Highlands and in places like the Lake District, you'll know just how important a mesh screen can be when you want to leave a window open without being invaded!

Some blind systems have two separate rollers: one for the blind and one for the fly screen, while others have a set-up where both blind and fly screen couple together on a scrolling system and pull up from the bottom or the top, depending on your preference.

I prefer the arrangement where the blind comes down from the top, so that as the sun sets, we can simply lower the blinds accordingly.

Another alternative, to be found in the Bailey Discovery, is a Remis fly screen with a pleated blind at both top and bottom, which conveniently overcomes the issue of the rising or setting sun.

It is becoming more common these days for fly screens to be housed on the entrance door, which is handy when travelling to countries that have midges and mosquitoes.

Adjusting blinds

On many types of cassette blind, the spring can be retensioned or slackened - the procedure varies according to the product. Normally gaining access to the spring involves removing an end cap, which can often be a little tricky as van manufacturers are renowned for building furniture right to the end of the cassette, which then obscures the cap.

In this instance, the entire blind needs to be removed in order to make adjustments.

Once access has been gained to the spring, it can then be tightened or loosened by turning the steel spindle in the middle, using pliers. There should be no need to remove the spring completely.

Once it is at the required tension, ease it back inside the cassette in order to engage its locked position.

Repairs are also reasonably straightforward - I recently helped a neighbour to fix his blind. Dents were appearing on it where something had got stuck. On dismantling the blind, we established that the beading, which is used to secure the blind material to the roller, had slipped out of place.

The blind was reassembled and the tension set: a job that definitely required more than one pair of hands!

But if you aren't confident about repairing blinds yourself, speak to your dealer or mobile engineer. It could be costly if anything were to go wrong.

Points of interest

  • A silvered surface on a blind helps to reduce the heat of direct sunlight
  • A dealer or mobile engineer can sometimes retighten a roller blind if it starts to recoil too slowly
  • Less expensive blinds and fly screens both roll down from the top of the window
  • Cassette blinds that scroll are more expensive and retrofitting is a problem
  • Some concertina blinds are a single-layer material which offers no insulation against the cold window
  • On cassette blind/fly screen units with a double action, the blind can be installed to drop down from the top roller. However, most German models are made so that the blind rolls upwards from the bottom roller

Final thoughts

It's irritating that some caravan manufacturers don't make it easy to adjust the recoil mechanism of blinds and fly screens. Some blinds withdrew so fast that plastic lugs on the cassette broke off.

Others have been the reverse and retracted so sluggishly that the spring needed extra tension. Spraying a silicone lubricant on the trackways can be a quick fix for improving the recoil - but check this first with a dealer.

In conclusion, I suspect that many potential owners never bother to look closely at details such as blind assemblies or the smoothness in drawing the curtains. Their importance as insulators might not be recognised, either.

That's a pity, because these items are likely to be used on every overnight trip that you make and, while some products work well, others can be less pleasing. This overview shows some of the features you might like to check before you buy!

Top tips - Blinds during van storage

If spring retracting blinds are left closed for a long spell, their manufacturers point out, this can weaken the spring. Accordingly, if you leave your caravan in storage for extended periods, their advice is to leave all of the blinds and fly screens in the retracted position.

The good news is, this will improve the life of the springs... but uncovered windows attract snoopers, and your upholstery could also start to fade.

If you have them, you could always draw the curtains, although these might start to fade as well.

I have a full cover for my caravan when it's in storage, which helps avoid problems with snoopers or fading.

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