How to Build a Header
Headers Support the
Overview: One of the most
important components in wall framing for windows
and doors is know how to build headers. When
framing in a wall, door headers and window headers
span the spaces above doors and windows and bear
the structural weight of floors, ceilings and roofs
used in interior walls for doorways and where wider
door space is desired between rooms. Interior walls
that are load bearing walls also require load
bearing headers for doorways.
Depending on the bearing load above an opening,
headers are constructed of 2x4's on up to 2x14's.
In a standard 2x4 wall these elements are doubled
up with a 1/2" filler in the space between them and
nailed together with 16d nails on both sides. In
most homebuilding projects the most common size
headers are usually 2x10 or 2x12.
Building the header:
Most door and window headers are cut 3" longer than
the width of the rough opening. In a standard wall,
a 2x10 or 2x12 header is usually nailed to the top
Next nail 2x4's to the top plate and into the ends
of the header.
Next add the two 2x4 jacks, nail them inside the
studs and under the header. These 2x4's jacks are
cut to the height of the door or window rough
opening. If it is a window, a 2x4 sill is nailed to
the bottoms of these cripples. The cripples are run
below the sill to the bottom plate. This transfers
the structural load from above the window to the
floor and onto the foundation.
Building a header in a 2x4 wall for a 36" wide
Use 2 pieces of header material (2x10, 2x12 etc.)
and cut them to 39". This extra three inches allows
for the thickness of the 2x4 jacks.
Next cut a piece of 1/2" plywood slightly less than
the width and length of the header to be used as
filler between the two header pieces. The
plywood is cut undersize to keep it from hanging
into the opening and to keep it away from framing
members. Sandwich the 1/2" plywood spacer between
the header material. Before nailing the header
pieces together insure the ends and bottom are
Nail together with 16d nails, 3 nails top to
bottom, 16 inches on center from one end to the
Always know the exact window and door rough
openings sizes before building the headers.
Actually the headers can be built before any
framing begins. When building headers the use of a
framing nail gun can make the task
go faster and save wear and tear on your person.
Now that you know how to build a header you are
ready for the rest of the wall. Note: Jacks are
often referred to as cripples, however, the term
“cripples” is more often used in defining elements
of hip roof construction.
Framing Walls | Wall Framing Layout
w to Frame Window and Door Openings
How to Make Door Rough