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mefferz 08-23-2012 10:23 AM

Modifying exterior door header
Hi all,

I have a daylight basement with partial wood framing and I need to replace a walk-out 36" exterior door. The house was built in 1972 and is rancher style. Unfortunately, the current height on the RO is 79 3/4" from the concrete floor, which isn't to code (the width is correct at 38+"). Most pre-hung doors require 81-82" of clearance to fit the door frame in there. I chiseled back the drywall above the jamb a bit and found 4" of solid lumber before a seam and then more lumber stacked on top, most likely all the way to the double-stacked top plate at the ceiling. The basement has 8' ceilings, so I'm not sure why the original RO was made a few inches short. On the exterior, there would just need to be a couple inches of wood siding to cut out.

If I tear out all of the drywall above the door and confirm that it's a solid stack of lumber, can I assume that the bottom 4" is just a trimmer stud and can be notched out 2" or so to create enough room for a new pre-hung door? I have zero experience with exterior door headers, so I don't know how to identify reasons the header was built the way it was. I don't want to start hacking away at it and have bowing down the road. Any tips are appreciated. Thanks!

Hammer450R 08-23-2012 11:30 AM

Take pictures so we dont give you bad advise on what you call stacked wood.

Hammer450R 08-23-2012 11:32 AM

But if i read this correct you have a 4"header then on top of that you have a double plate(useless for bearing) then your floor joists above that with a single box joist?
Pics please!!

mefferz 08-23-2012 01:45 PM


From what I could tell through the narrow strip of drywall I chiseled out (only an 1" wide and 8" vertical) above the door jamb, there was a 4" vertical and then 3.5" more header stacked directly on top of that. I haven't yet gone all the way to the ceiling, I only knew roughly where the double plate was in relation to the header because the door is right next to a utility room with an unfinished wall/ceiling and I could eyeball it from there. I will have to remove the rest of the drywall to determine if it's a solid header (no cripple studs) all the way to the plate.

I'll get some pics this evening with the complete header exposed above the door frame to paint a better picture. I'm really hoping it's an overbuilt header that I can notch out a couple inches from the bottom so I don't have to buy a custom height steel door.

Hammer450R 08-23-2012 02:28 PM

Sounds like there is a way but you will have to post pics fro me to say for sure.

mefferz 08-23-2012 09:53 PM

Alright here's some pics of the door. You can see the header is solid all the way to the wall plate. Before I thought there was a seam at around 4", but that actually turned out to be just a crack in the lumber. It's a 2x8 header (or a solid post, couldn't tell through the minimal gap between the top jamb and header). This is also a 2x6 framed wall. So after viewing this setup, it looks like the builder decided to use a full 2x8 width from the top plate and cut the jambs and door a little short instead of cutting the header. Probably wasn't a big deal back in '72 when they built the jambs from scratch anyway.

I would need to shave off around 1 1/2" from the bottom of the header to make the new door fit. Shouldn't be an issue, right?

notmrjohn 08-26-2012 06:49 PM


Originally Posted by mefferz (Post 995126)
Shouldn't be an issue, right?

Well the header is supporting the wall above and possibly floor joists. You could get more than just "bowing" down that road. I doubt that it is a 8X6. More likely 2X8's sistered with plywood. Which, properly done is stronger than a one piece header. Possibly 2X less than 8's sandwiched between 2X8's. If that's the case replace them. I really don't think you'll have any problem trimming that header if it was done right to begin with. But take the trim off and check behind the dry wall, make sure the king and jack studs were done right. B'leve it or not, I've seen more than one header just nailed between to kings, no jacks at all. Except the jack leg that did it.

mefferz 08-27-2012 11:49 PM

Thanks for the tips. I picked up a new door and I'll tear out the old one this weekend. Hopefully there aren't any major surprises waiting in the wall.

mefferz 09-03-2012 12:52 AM

so yeah...the 2x8 "header" turned out to be a solid beam. After conversing with a contractor buddy, we decided against cutting into the structure because we don't know what kind of engineering went into the load bearing there. Nobody wants a bowing house, right? We very carefully cut the steel door and jambs down 2" to make it fit. It wasn't too hard to reattach the weather stripping, door sweep, and sill. A Dremel Multimax was very handy in making some of the precision jamb cuts and cleanup. You can't even tell the door was chopped!

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