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mhollander 09-17-2012 12:42 PM

Increase size of existing window opening (make a window taller)
I recently had new windows installed and the contractor made a frustrating mistake: when he measure the size of the opening, he measured at the outsides of the opening. As this is a 100+ year old house, it turns out that the framing sags a bit at the middle of the window.

The new window is installed and looks gorgeous, but when I went to install the jamb extensions, I realized that I had a problem: the sag in the header means that my jamb extension will hang about 1/2 inch low in the center. I stuck my hand in the wall behind the header--it seems that the cripples above the header are flush with the header (in other words, the sagging is happening elsewhere, and somewhere that I cannot get to easily).

I've been trying to figure out the best way to ameliorate the situation and have a few ideas. I was hoping that the folks here had some suggestions:

The header is long - about 94". It is not load bearing as it is interior to the masonry wall on the outside of my house.

1) Strike a line across the header (and drywall) and use a skill saw to shave 1/2 inch off of the header. This will leave my header a bit narrow.

2) Use a reciprocating saw to cut the header out (carefully, of course), remove the header and the small amount of drywall on its face, somehow shave down the cripples by 1/2 inch, put a new header in, and redrywall over that area. I may not have to redrywall b/c I'll have picture frame molding around the window.

3) Use a belt sander to sand 1/2 inch off of the header. Like #1, this will leave the header only about 1" but spanning 94".

Do folks have thoughts or other suggestions?


chb70 09-17-2012 04:22 PM

Since it is such a long span, I would remove and replace.
The extra time it takes to do something right is alot less than having to redo it later.

mhollander 09-17-2012 04:24 PM


Originally Posted by chb70 (Post 1011852)
Since it is such a long span, I would remove and replace.
The extra time it takes to do something right is alot less than having to redo it later.

Thanks! Do you have a suggestion as to how to shorten the cripples by 1/2-1 inch? I'm trying to not disturb the drywall above the header as much as possible.

chb70 09-17-2012 08:39 PM

Unfortunately I don't, I always just tear out what ever is in the way and put back together. I am usually the one doing the work so I don't like wasting time trying to figure out shortcuts that may or may not work.

DannyT 09-17-2012 09:21 PM

if it wasn't a load bearing wall why did they bother to put a header in? do you have brick on the outside. if it had no load on it why did it sag? pictures would help a lot

mae-ling 09-17-2012 10:27 PM

IF and it is a big IF. The header is not load bearing then it does not need to be there and can be cut. But why is it sagging?

eclark 09-18-2012 08:00 AM

Sounds like the masonry at the exterior may only be a veneer, and doesn't carry any weight (not even its own). That could explain why the header is there and sagging (if a little undersized). If that header is bearing then the last thing I would do is shave it or make it any shorter.
On the other hand, can you tell how tall that header is? If only 1.5 inches tall then its likely not bearing and was only ever installed to attach the window to. It then might be sagging because the hangers at the center have detached from the framing above for some reason. Is there sheathing on the outside of the framing? Even tongue and groove boards? If so, that suggests the framing may be bearing. If not, that supports the idea that the masonry is bearing and that the framing is only there to hold interior finishes and conceal electric / plumbing. How about wall thickness from exterior face to interior face? Is it a single wythe of brick it is there more there?

lots of possibilities here and need more info.

GBrackins 09-18-2012 08:26 AM

Headers are installed in load bearing walls to support loads over wall opening and transfer those loads to the jack/king studs that support the header. Non-load bearing walls do not need as substantial headers as load bearing walls.

A header that sags typically demonstrates that it is undersized for the loads it must support. Cutting away more of the header will only lead to more sagging.

What size is your current header, i.e., (2) 2x6, (2) 2x6? Are there floor joists or ceiling joists running over the header? Do roof rafters come down over the header? Is there a second floor over the header? What size are the wall studs? 2x4, 2x6? How many studs are supporting each end of the header, either directly under the header or nailed alongside of the stud under the end of the header?

Photos would help!

rjniles 09-18-2012 08:31 AM

Instead of dealing with the header, Cut out 2-3" of drywall below the window, cut out a piece of the sill framing and lower the window. If you do it carefully the casing apron can cover you drywall cuts.

GBrackins 09-18-2012 08:41 AM

You can cut out and lower, but you'd have to make sure the bottom of the window is at least 18-inches above the finished floor or it would have to be safety glass. This is based upon the requirements of the 2009 International Residential Code, which is the basis for most local and state building codes See Section R308.4 part 3.2. You'd have to verify code requirements with your building official.

Secondly if the header is undersized then it will continue to deflect and may still cause issues in the future. Now is the time to get it right.

patented 09-19-2012 08:17 AM

If this is anything like my 100yr old house, the "header" is a single 2x4 that is lying on its side. Hence the 1.5" height.

hand drive 09-19-2012 10:26 PM


Originally Posted by patented (Post 1012883)
If this is anything like my 100yr old house, the "header" is a single 2x4 that is lying on its side. Hence the 1.5" height.

i have seen many of these in older homes, a lot of times just toe nailed to a 4x4 at the edges of the window with no jack stud at all and a second story above it. The nails were 30 penny and the wood was strong so that helped a lot though.

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