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georgiabird 10-25-2012 09:27 AM

Width of header for needed...
I posted yesterday about my contractor ditching us before the job was finished after getting paid up-front (Yes, I have really learned my lesson).

Anyway, this contractor put a 6 ft. "window" between the living room and kitchen to give our home a more open feel. It is on a load bearing wall.

As we get estimates/hear opinions from other contractors on finishing the job, I've had one of them bring up something he noticed that the others didn't. There is a crack in the ceiling (horizontally) and top of the wall (running vertically) that has come up since the "window" was installed.

This man said that he really needs to cut a hole in the sheetrock and check the width of the header that the original contractor used. He said that the other guy had done such a bad job in other areas that he's afraid the support header isn't wide enough.

This seems logical to me. And I definitely DON'T want my ceiling or wall cracking. How wide a header should be up there? He said that he believes it needs to be at least 10" with it being a load-bearing wall. (The wall itself is about 12 feet long)

I'm totally confused. The first contractor really, really did us wrong. He put down our new Pergo floors on an uneven slab (although he was paid to level it) the boards are popping up. What a mess!

Any feedback on the observation this contractor made about the ceiling crack/header width is appreciated!


ToolSeeker 10-25-2012 10:27 AM

First Julie let me say I'm sorry you are having to go thru this, someone like contractor #1 gives everyone out here that is doing a good job a black eye.
Now it sounds like contractor #2 is right on the mark, have him open up above the window as soon as possible let him see what the other guy did if the ceiling is already starting to crack that means something is moving. And this being a load bearing wall it could get a lot more serious than just cracks. As far as the width of the header that would probably depend on what is above it, 2nd story, attic, how long the span is. Sounds to me like your new guy has a pretty good handle on it. Question were permits pulled by the 1st guy (I think I already know the answer) I don't always agree with permits but when you are dealing with something like structure, then yes by all means get them they are there to protect you.

notmrjohn 10-25-2012 10:35 AM

The width or depth of the headers does need to be at least 10". 12" would not be overkill and would give you 7' clearance with 8' ceilings. In addition the header should be at least doubled 2X's with plywood solidly sandwiched to thickness of studs. If you can stand to lose a couple of inches in room or one in two rooms move up to next size 2X studs, at least 2X6. Or a wider pilaster type king and jack stud arrangement ech side of opening.

Best check the king and jack studs anyway, judging from other work of this jackleg, who knows what he's done where you can't see it?.
In addition to checking top of that wall, check below. Is there ample support for opening? By removing 6' of studs the weight was transferred along wall, support may have been ample when load was more spread, now the wall may have subsided some at bottom, causing the cracks up top.

I have at times run a double 12" header entire length of wall, if there are several closely spaced windows or a wide opening. A sorta combination top plate header. Somtimes a 10" with a cap or even cap above and stud cap below.

mae-ling 10-25-2012 10:50 AM

Size of header totally depends on loads, having said that a double 2x10 around here would be normal in a basic load bearing wall with no point loads above it.
Also on each side of the opening at the bottom did he support it down to the foundations? YOu now have point loads on each side of the opening that need support down to something solid.

Gary in WA 10-25-2012 10:54 PM

You are under 2006 IBC:

Interior bearing headers and jack (supporting) studs;


woodworkbykirk 10-26-2012 03:48 PM

is it just me or does "notmrjohn" reply not make much sense...

locally a 6ft opening has to have a 3ply 2x10 header especially if its supporting another floor. along with double jack studs on the ends. also it should have squash blocks down in the floor system to take the load transferred from the header to the jacks. all loads must be transferred to the foundation

mae-ling 10-26-2012 05:08 PM

It makes sense, just got to read it real slow! LOl
He's saying if double 2x header sandwich 1/2" plywood in between for 2x4 wall. If need 3 ply you need 2x6 king and jack studs, if it is a 2x4 wall then you end up with a pillar on each side.

GBrackins 10-26-2012 05:35 PM

I understood what he said, but I'm from the south so I read slow anyways ...... :huh:

BigJim 10-26-2012 05:57 PM


Originally Posted by GBrackins (Post 1038528)
I understood what he said, but I'm from the south so I read slow anyways ...... :huh:

Me too... wait a minute, did they move the Mason Dixon Line without telling us?:)

I would like to see what all that guy did mess up, that is a shame that he has done you and your husband that way.

GBrackins 10-26-2012 06:07 PM

nope, I moved north of it ..... converting Yankees one at a time for the past 15 years (sorry for the slight hijack)

notmrjohn 10-27-2012 10:16 AM

GB was dislocated a while back.
Pilaster is a pillar or column that is partly in a wall, not freestanding. Thicker headers needs thicker wall. i do see now that the oening in wall is a "window" and not door way, but that doesn't really make much difference. Some of load is carried and supported by cripple studs under window.

Or was it the continuous header that was confusing? Headers can be strengthened by thickening; widening, including cripples; and to lesser extent by lengthening, with more studs under it. Lengthening or a continuous header spreads load over a longer distance along wall bottom. With continuous header every stud could be considered a jack ( or a king) with doubled tripled, what ever at openings.

Did I make it any more confusing?

Read slow cause I type slow, kirk, you should read double slow acause you're farther north of Mason-Dixon than I am South of it. .

georgiabird 10-29-2012 11:25 AM

Thank you all for the information! If I'm translating this correctly (out of carpenter language and into layman's term), we need 2, 2x10's with a piece of 1/2" plywood sandwiched between them as our header. We also need thick support beams on both ends of the "window" (going from header to floor)to take the load off the pressure points.


notmrjohn 10-29-2012 01:02 PM

1 Attachment(s)
You need at least " 2, 2x10's with a piece of 1/2" plywood sandwiched between them as our header" sandwich should be glued, nailed or screwed together to make one piece.
"thick support beams on both ends of the "window"" sorta. Here's a diagram that is easy to see components though they are labelled with different terminology than I use.What they call jack studs (under and above window) I call cripple studs, what they call trimmers (on sides of opening) I call jack studs. King studs go all the way from bottom plate to top plate. Jacks go from bottom plate to bottom of, and support, header. You may need double jacks on each side. In diagram the jacks are interrupted by window sill, make sure there are jacks under sill, for some reason some folks leave them out. I think this is because of use of "trimmer" for "jacks." I use trimmer for a "stud" used to narrow or square up a sloppy rough opening, it is not necessarily load bearing and may not have a cripple under it, though it should.

Have I confused you even more? if I understand you, you are having a carpenter check out and correct previous work? Be sure he or she checks support under neath floor.

Gary in WA 10-31-2012 06:51 PM

Depends on if you have living space above or not, and the depth of the building (if 2-2x10's will work);

From previously posted:

Here is a Code diagram, differing from above; in that the trimmer (supporting) studs require a continuous vertical framing member without any horizontal sill framing that could crush under above loads;


For SI: 1 inch = 25.4 mm 1 foot = 304.8 mm.


In my seismic zone, cripple supports are required under both ends of the sill. Check with your local AHJ.


mae-ling 10-31-2012 09:33 PM

also where the 'posts' on the ends of the header are needs support right down to the footing or something solid.

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