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WaldenL 09-28-2009 04:28 PM

Replacing a (piss poor) header - < 4'
Taking down the drywall in the kitchen we've discovered that a "header" used in place of 2 removed studs has no jack studs and is just a single piece of 2x4 on it's side edge nailed into the 2x4 king studs (can you call them "king" if there are no jack?) And this wall supports the second floor and roof with a 15' span on the 2nd floor. :furious: So... we figure we should replace/fix that since the wall's open!

I'm always in favor of overkill, so here's what I'm thinking. There are two existing studs 48"OC apart. I only need a 30" opening roughly in the middle of this. I can use the existing 2x4 studs as kings and add 2 2x4 jacks on each side. I can get these down onto the top of the foundation, so they'll carry a lot. Then I'll put in a normal header of two 2x? w/plywood in the middle to make it 4" wide. The question is, what's the ? in 2x? Can I go w/2x8? Or should I step up to 2x10? The header will be pressed directly up against the topsill, no cripple studs. 2x8 fits the design better, but then again, a house the doesn't fall down fits the design even better. :)

jogr 09-28-2009 05:59 PM

First check to see if it's really load bearing. If it is it's remarkable that flat 2x4 held up the second floor and rough.

The best advice is to consult the IRC header tables for your span and load situation. If you put a 2x? across the 48" opening with 2x4 jack studs and then add two additional jack studs to frame the needed 30" r.o. then you really are only dealing with a 30" opening. (or you could add a full stud or two so you only need a 33" header and two jack studs. I don't remember the IRC table off the top of my head but would be surprised if a 2x8 wouldn't work for that small of an opening. But a little searching for the IRC table would give you peace of mind that it difinitely will work.

Gary in WA 09-28-2009 07:12 PM
Be safe, Gary

WaldenL 09-29-2009 07:55 AM

Thanks guys. After much Googling I finally found NY's span tables, ( and values I've seen for snow-load on Long Island are well below 30 so looks like a 2x8 will clear between 4'6" and 5' in my case (26' and 28' span respectively, roof, ceiling and one center-bearing floor) since I'm below 4'6 anyway I'm not going to bother interpolating to get the "right" span.

As for the issue of the span being closer to 30" for the window, yes, with two exceptions. First, the wife is now looking at 32" windows. :-) But more importantly, with the 4' span I'm safely on foundation for the studs. There's a basement window under this window so if I shrink the opening much then one of the supports is sitting on top of the window instead of on foundation. Sure there's a sill there, but I'd rather have the support to carry the load.

WaldenL 10-06-2009 02:52 PM

As a followup, here's the new header and window in place. This will support my house soooo much better than that old 2x4 on its side. :-) The new plywood sheathing is where the old window was. And the header goes that much more to the left of the window because the jack studs can go down to the foundation there. If I'd put them on the immediate left of the window they would be sitting on top of the window in the basement. As the saying goes, sometimes you need to look down in order to hold up.

Gary in WA 10-06-2009 05:28 PM

Good job! I hope we helped. You can add a 1/2" piece of foam board to the window header to help increase it's r-value:
Check to see if the top of new window is same height off floor as others. The best way to insulate the rim joist:
When drywalling, don't break joint at the header's trimmers, rather in center or full span the window's width. Less cracks in the tape from movement later. Plug all holes in top, bottom plates with spray foam. Whoa! Just thinking out loud here, you may know this stuff already.
Be safe, Gary

average_male 10-07-2009 02:52 PM

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Hi WaldenL,

I am no structural engineer by any stretch, but something just seems to be questionable to my eye. Will the top right of the window be subjected to downward force without being negated?


WaldenL 10-07-2009 03:15 PM

Moe, in the picture it looks like the 2x4 is sitting on the window, but there is (some) space. Maybe 1/3". Is that what you're worried about? Or am I missing somthing? That top 2x4 of the rough opening is toenailed into the jack studs, and the cripples above it aren't really supporting anything, they're just there so I have something to nail the sheetrock to.

Scuba_Dave 10-07-2009 03:20 PM

You installed a smaller window ?
That's not allowed in my house :laughing:

Yes the top header holds the weight
Below that is not weight bearing

average_male 10-07-2009 03:22 PM

Hi WaldenL,

What I was referring to is the possible issue of the header transfering load to the "cripples" which transfer to the horizontal 2x4 just above the window.

However, looking at the header, it is supported on both sides and that is where the load is to be transfered. I wasn't sure of the function of the "cripples" and I guess that they are not be bearing any load, right?


WaldenL 10-07-2009 03:27 PM

Correct. Cripples are not load bearing. Header was installed (with much persuasion w/a hammer) to sit between the sill and the jack studs, with all load xfered to the jack studs. The cripples were installed later just as a nailing point. No load on them. I suppose in theory there is some deflection in the header, and that load would transfer to the cripples, but a double 2x8 shouldn't deflect at all for any practical purpose, and certainly not enough to make the lower 2x4 move. If it does something is very wrong with the header tables. :-)

Gary in WA 10-07-2009 05:54 PM

If the header was just above the window, without the upper cripples, you would still be required to keep the 1/4" clearance. This is stated on all windows to allow for settling of the framing after the fact. Inspectors here look for this 1/4", if not there, you fix it to be so. Usually the wall sheathing will carry most of the load from settling before it causes an issue. The window manufacturers are covering themselves, rightly so, as I once heard of an install without the gap (later assessed) with the window shattering when a girl tapped on the glass. You notice the slots, not holes anymore, in the nailing flanges, and most windows state-- "do not nail head". Though some of the newer ones are built to nail full perimeter. Vinyl windows require full bearing under them to support the glass as the frame is unable to do so. If you see someone install on two nails, read the sticker instructions as not to void the warranty.
Be safe, Gary

jogr 10-08-2009 12:19 PM

Walden, you did a nice job there. Good to get it done before the snow flies.

WaldenL 10-08-2009 12:23 PM


Originally Posted by jogr (Post 337942)
Walden, you did a nice job there. Good to get it done before the snow flies.

Hey! I'm on Long Island. Snow flies around here on Jan 23rd, from 1PM to 1:05PM and then melts by 1:07PM! :laughing: I wish we had snow!

Knucklez 10-09-2009 09:04 AM

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i got some windows that need someone with your skill.. how far away from canada are you ?

good job!


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