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+ What is a hospital cubicle curtain?

Cubicle curtains are dividers used to help create private enclosures for patients in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other medical facility environments. They are used to create privacy and help protect a patient’s confidentiality. They can also help prevent the spread of infection and disease throughout a facility. Cubicle curtains may be known as hospital curtains, or as privacy curtains.

Typically, cubicle curtains are hung from the ceiling on a track and reach near to the floor. Cubicle curtains are manufactured following strict health and safety regulations. They are available in various colors and patterns, but according to safety regulations, a cubicle curtain should be made from material that is fire-retardant.


In a large room with open bays, cubicle curtains provide a flexible way to divide the room and allow for privacy. In private or semi-private rooms, cubicle curtains provide privacy without completely closing the door to the attending nurses.

Although the importance of the environment built for patient confidentiality may seem indisputable, only a few studies have directly examined the role of unit design or architecture. Also, even though the trend in many new hospitals is to build private rooms, most hospital rooms are still specified to have cubicle curtains at the entrance of the room.

+ When Were Cubicle Curtains First Used?

Before cubicle curtains were utilized a hospital bay, or ward, was one large room. The room was without subdivisions for patient occupancy as seen in the photograph of Royal Hospital, Portsmouth, UK in 1902. Cubicle curtains gradually began appearing in hospitals during the 1960’s. A patent for a modern day hospital curtain was filed in 1980 and published in 1983 by Hans Jack Weil.

Cubicle curtain design grew rapidly in the 1990’s. According to Interiors in 1997, “Most of the clients who use the products in hospitals prefer curtains that are of superior quality, durable and project a sense of well-being. The products should also be stain-proof, non-shrinking and non-wrinkling, and possessing a tailored, fresh and crisp look with an array of colors and patterns to choose from.”

While today’s cubicle curtains come in many different fabrics and patterns, they are required to follow strict health and safety regulations.

+ What are the fire code requirements for cubicle curtains?

Cubicle curtains must adhere to local, state, and Federal fire codes. Typically there are two factors required:

  1. All cubicle curtain fabrics are required to be fire-retardant by National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) code. The fabric may be flame-retardant treated (FRT) or Inherently Flame retardant (IFR,) or sometimes referred to as (FR). Most cubicle curtains are fabricated using fabrics that pass NFPA 701 testing. What is NFPA 701? This standard establishes test methods to assess thepropagation of flame of various textiles and films under specified fire test conditions. Flame-retardant treated fabrics are materials are made flame-resistant by the application of flame-retardant chemicals. Inherently flame resistant fibers are materials that have flame resistance built into their chemical structures.
  2. Mesh needs to allow water to pass through from the ceiling mounted sprinklers in the event of a fire. The suggestion for the amount of mesh is 70 percent openness to allow for ceiling sprinkler water penetration. For the proper operation of sprinkler systems, cubicle curtains and sprinkler locations need to be coordinated. Improperly designed systems might obstruct the sprinkler spray from reaching the fire, or might shield the heat from the sprinkler.

+ Why is there top mesh on most, but not all curtains?

Question: Is there a ceiling mounted sprinkler system in the area of where the cubicle curtains will be used?

Question: Is there an Exit sign that would be obscured or obstructed when hanging the cubicle curtains?

Answer: If you answered "Yes" to either or both the above questions, then you are required to have mesh on your cubicle curtains order to meet your local, state, and Federal fire codes. The Fire Marshall in your area determines this requirement and is the final authority for cubicle curtains and fire safety. The sprinkler system and Exit sign must be able to perform without obstruction. In the event of a fire, mesh allows the distribution of water from the sprinklers, and all mesh must be fire retardant. Mesh also allows for increased ventilation and lighting in a patient’s room.

Usually the amount of mesh on the top of a curtain is 18” to 28” tall.

+ How are cubicle curtains made?

What’s the process?

Almost all cubicle curtains are custom made to order. There are usually three different parties involved in the process of making cubicle curtains.

  • Vendor
  • Drapery Workroom
  • Manufacturer

These three parties could be three separate companies, or they could be combined together and serve more than one function.

A vendor receives the quantities and measurements for the curtains by working with an existing facility or by looking at blueprints. Once the measurements and quantities are obtained, they are sent to the drapery workroom. In the workroom the fabric to be used is ordered from the manufacturer. Typically, an architect or interior designer has selected the color and pattern of the fabric.

The manufacturer sends a bolt of fabric to the workroom where the curtains are cut and hemmed to the specifications. Also in the workroom, mesh and grommets are added to the curtains. When the curtains are completed, the finished product is sent to the vendor to install at the facility.

+ How is curtain fabric measured?

Curtain fabric is measured in square yards. Fabric comes on bolts and is available in varying widths; sometimes the fabric is 60" wide and other times the fabric is 84" wide. There also could be a specific direction to the fabric, but frequently the fabric can be hung in either direction.

What method is used to make the curtains?

Depending upon the pattern of the fabric and curtain length, one of the following two methods would be used to make the curtain.

  1. Seam fabric panels to get the desired width
  2. Railroad the fabric to get the desired width

What does railroading fabric mean?

Railroading fabric means that if you turn a bolt of fabric on its end and roll out the fabric from left to right, the pattern continues across the roll. If a fabric is railroaded, seams are eliminated so the curtain will have a one piece appearance The width of the curtain is cut from the roll, resulting in no seams and the width of the fabric on the roll becomes the drop of the curtain.

+ How do I measure for cubicle curtains?

Question: What size cubicle curtain would I order for an opening that is 144" wide (left to right) x 96 high (ceiling to floor)?

Answer: You would probably order a 180" x 90" curtain.

If you are ordering curtains for an area, it is nice to have as many curtains in the same size as possible to help ensure uniformity. This way when curtains are cleaned or swapped out one curtain will not be a few inches shorter than the others.

What do the numbers in curtain measurement represent? 180" x 90" with 20" of mesh

  • The first number represents the width, left to right of the curtain.
  • The second number represents the total height of the curtain.
  • The third number represents the height of mesh added to the top of the curtain. Fire code requires a mesh header on the top of a curtain when ceiling mounted sprinklers are present, or PVC or beaded chain drops, so water flow is not restricted from the sprinklers in case of fire.

Hint Usually curtain manufacturers use one eyelet every 6 inches. This is a quick way to measure the width of a curtain.

Industry standard is for curtains to be at least 10 percent wider than the track size or area that you are trying to cover. It is best to add this extra width to account for fullness and to help provide privacy. Typically the height of the curtain should be about 6” to 10" above the floor. The curtains should be at a height to still provide privacy for the patient, but not reaching the floor where they would be in the way for cleaning. For example, mopping the floor.

+ What are some types of carriers for cubicle curtains?

Carriers can be made from plastic or metal and are used to hang curtains on track. It is important that you make sure your carriers, also known as hooks, are made for your specific type of track. If not, the hooks will quickly get stuck and the curtain will not operate properly.

Two common types of carriers:

  • General carriers that use an axle and wheel combination
  • Break away carriers are used in prisons or behavioral health institutions, they will break away when a certain amount of pressure is applied

+ What are some of types of track for cubicle curtains?

There are many sizes and types of curtain track available. Track can be manufactured from different materials like enamel-baked aluminum and be bent to your facilities specifications around ceiling obstructions or door swings.

Different types of track:

  • Surface or ceiling mounted track
  • Suspended track from the ceiling

+ What are HAI's?

HAI is an abbreviation for health care-associated infection. HAI's are infections that people acquire while they are receiving treatment for another condition in a health care setting.

+ What's the link between HAIs and hospital cubicle curtains?

The standard practice of cleaning curtains when visibly soiled and only after an isolation discharge ensures no routine cleaning schedule and leaves many cubicle curtains often not being cleaned at all. Soft surfaces such as cubicle curtains are porous, and not cleanable by simply wiping. Cubicle curtains can also be a common source of cross contamination given that the operation of the curtain requires the hospital worker, or caregiver, to touch it with their hands. There is much research that shows dirct links to HAIs and hospital cubicle curtains.

+ What is JCAHO? And why is JCAHO accreditation important?

JCAHO is an abbreviation for Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. JCAHO is an organization that consists of individuals from private medical sectors to develop and maintain standards of quality in medical facilities in the US. Medical facilities rely on JCAHO accreditation procedures to indicate to the public that their facility meets quality standards.

+ What is HCAHPS? And why are the scores important?

HCAHPS is an abbreviation for Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. The HCAHPS survey is the first national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients' perspectives of their hospital care.

Need more information?

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you. Send us an email at info@accordcurtains.com or call 614-340-9900