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Old 02-03-2011, 03:22 PM   #1
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balloon framing window question


We're remodeling our balloon frame house and have a question about the old window framing. After we tore the plaster and lathe off an outer wall in our bathroom (it was cracked and there's no insulation) we noticed that the window doesn't have a header, jack studs, king studs, or a sill. Basically we've got a thin wood frame around a new window, but all that seems to be holding the window in is the outside trim (which is rotten on top). Should we pull the window and build a frame or is there some way to secure it without removing the window so I can sleep soundly at night? Is this normal for a balloon frame house built in 1890?

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Old 02-03-2011, 05:10 PM   #2
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balloon framing window question


There were no codes or standards that long ago, so it is pretty common to find wierd things. "They don't build them like they used to" is usually a good thing when it comes to turn-of-the century homes. Yes, openings in balloon framed homes still require headers. If you have access to the opening, it would be wise to frame a header and the necessary trimmers and kingstuds around the window. You can probably do it without pulling the window, but it would be easier without it installed. Either way, you need access to about 12" of wall above and to the sides of the window, either inside or outside....Preferrably inside.

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Old 02-03-2011, 05:52 PM   #3
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balloon framing window question


"I can sleep soundly at night?" Absolutely! I've seen windows held in by caulk alone (not to say that's OK)

but as mentioned above now is the time to correct the framing deficiency


Remove the window, frame it out properly, and re-install the window. If the window is low quality I'd replace that too. Don't think just because the window appears to be new it's a good reason to keep it.
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Old 02-03-2011, 10:40 PM   #4
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balloon framing window question


Thanks for the advice! I had someone that I used to work with stop by today. He's got 40+ years of carpentry experience and recommended that we add a header over one of the windows, but not the other. Something about the way the rafters run? load? Not sure, but he told us to notch out the stud above the window and add a 1 x 6.

It's nice to have a place to get some advice. I'll be back (we've got plenty of work around here!)...
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Old 02-04-2011, 05:06 PM   #5
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balloon framing window question


Agreed, the header in the wall that bears the rafters is important...Probably moreso than the one over the window in the other wall. That being said, headers aren't just for transferring loads downward. The header stiffens the opening and transfers lateral (wind) loads across the opening to the wall's sheathing. So my advice is get a header above both windows, with the wall under the rafters being priority #1.
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Old 02-04-2011, 05:16 PM   #6
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balloon framing window question


My husband put the one header in this morning, but I think he's already covered the other wall. We put in insulation and then 1/2" foam board (yes, the pink stuff that usually goes outside). Not sure if the drywall is up yet since I'm at work today. Hopefully, the other window will be OK. Seems like we always find weird things when we start pulling stuff apart in this house.

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