Hacking Mini-Blinds

So I mentioned a few weeks ago that one does not count lightbulbs when one is looking at houses. You know what else you don’t notice? Whether or not the mini blinds have strings in them.

Yes, all the mini blinds that came with the house are missing at least some of the strings used to open the blinds. I don’t mean that they are broken. Someone clearly took the blinds down and carefully extracted the strings. Why, you ask? Excellent question. The sellers had small children, so I suppose it’s possible they removed the strings in a burst of excessive caution. Except, then why did they leave some of the strings behind?

Regardless, the situation was this. The main living area had four sets of blinds. Only two of them went up and down. And those two had broken slats.

Kitty Paragon reclines by the window. Maybe their children broke the slats?

Kitty Paragon reclines by the double window in the living room pre-repair. Maybe the sellers’ children broke the slats?

Now, I was seriously tempted to throw them all away and go buy real wood blinds (I have ethical and environmental concerns about vinyl). But… real wood blinds are expensive. And while I think it would be “better” to buy real wood, the best case is generally to fix what you have.

See below for details, but here’s a quick summary of tips:

  1. You can restring horizontal blinds. It’s easy.
  2. If you hang new blinds, when you shorten them, save the extra slats from the bottom to use in future repair jobs.

Step 1: Restring the dining room blinds

These weren’t too bad. This set of blinds originally had two strings, only one of which was missing. These blinds had been shortened correctly and none of the slats were broken.

Horizontal blinds laid out on striped rug.

The string on your right was removed for unknown reasons.

So I took it down and restrung, using this excellent tutorial and some twine we had lying around. The cotton twine was not really the ideal string for the job, but it worked with a little finessing. Because it tended to separate at the ends, I used a large plastic yarn needle to help thread it through the slats.

Working the new string through. You don't need the needle if you are using the proper kind of cord.

Working the new string through. You don’t need the needle if you are using the proper kind of cord.

This is what happens if you get a slat backwards. I had to start over. Watch out for this!

This is what happens if you get a slat backwards. I had to start over. Watch out for this!

The new string needed a tassel and a cord stop, which is a little clear plastic doodad. This doodad is EXTREMELY important (not but pictured). It prevents small children from being able to strangle themselves with the cord, which is a real thing that real children have done (not just a theoretical danger). Fortunately, I had some on hand. You can order them for free from the Window Covering Safety Council.

The hardest part was getting the string out from under this part of the mechanism at the top of the blinds.

The hardest part was getting the string out from under this part of the mechanism at the top of the blinds.

Tip: If you try this at home, make sure to run the new cord to the INSIDE of the ladder strings holding up the slats. It will help the slats stay in place better.

Step 2: Single living room blinds, broken slats

The set of blinds facing the street, miraculously, had both its strings intact. It was, however, missing three slats. It had also never been shortened, so when fully extended, it hung perhaps a foot below the end of the window. In a rare case when two wrongs DID make a right, I was able to take the excess slats off the bottom and use them to replace the missing ones.

This part I found easier to fix with the blinds still hanging–no need to take them down since I was not restringing. The process involved taking the little buttons off the bottom and cutting the knot off the bottom of the strings. Then, I pulled the string out above the broken slats, slid new slats in from the sides, and worked the string back down.

Pulling out the string.

Pulling out the string.

Sliding in a new slat.

Sliding in a new slat.

Step 3: Double living room blinds, broken slats and missing strings

On the side of the living room was a double set of blinds 41” wide. The ones on the left had only one string, while those on the right had two strings out of four (enough to function). Both sets had been shortened and they both had several broken slats (see picture above with Kitty Paragon). Boo.

Nothing to do here but buy new blinds, since I had no extra slats to work with. However, I had the brainstorm of buying only one set. Our 2” faux wood blinds come standard from Home Depot. We measured the space between the strings to determine that they had been cut down from a 42” set. We hung the new ones, shortened them and saved the extra slats for future repairs, and then cannibalized the now-defunct set for the spare slats we needed to fix the other old ones.

If you look closely, sure, you can tell that the ones on the right are old and the ones on the left are new. So what?

If you look closely, sure, you can tell that the ones on the right are old and the ones on the left are new. So what?

I could have run two new strings through this other old set, of course. But since two do the job, I decided to leave them alone. I’m not a fan of doing extra work just for the hell of it.

So instead of buying four new sets of blinds, I bought only one. Is it better environmentally to buy one set of vinyl blinds or four sets of wood? Well, I’m not sure, but I suspect that once you factor in all the energy and waste from the manufacturing process, plus the shipping, I did the right thing.

It was certainly the right thing for my pocketbook. The new blinds were about $40. The wood blinds would have run at least $280 for the most basic, more if I wanted upgrades like cloth tapes over the strings.

What have you saved from the trash bin or avoided buying recently?



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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

2 responses to “Hacking Mini-Blinds”

  1. Linda P. says :

    Our saves have not been so dramatic. We save the webbed orange plastic covering over bagged oranges and fashion our own plastic scrubbies. They tend to be softer than the ones we buy, but they’re free! I ball up one bag-like shape, then insert it into the botton of another, twist it, pull it back over the balled shape and then repeat until I have only about an inch left in the outside bag. I fold the edges over and then crochet them together with plastic twine that we already have..

    • frugalparagon says :

      Wow, that’s industrious! I usually use sponges with scrubby sides, but they get so dirty–I might have to save up orange bags until I have enough to try making a scrubby!

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