What’s a Window Header?

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Window headers are thick mounts that sit at the top of the window casing, providing additional support to prevent the weight of the wall from resting on the window frame. They help maintain uniform support for the wall components and distribute the weight of the roof evenly. Window headers are typically made of the same wood as the wall frame and can be replaced during renovations.

Window headers are mounts that sit at the top of the window casing. Typically, the supports are at least twice as thick as the framing components that surround the opening. The header will extend horizontally across the top of the window frame, providing additional support that prevents the full weight of the wall from resting on the window frame itself.

Found in both residential and commercial buildings, the window header helps add stability to the wall while allowing you to enter an opening for the window frame. A traditional window header will be placed near two joists, rafters or mullions, depending on how the windows are positioned. By placing this thicker, shorter wooden beam under the joist or support joist but above the window opening, there is no additional stress on the joist. This means that after the window is installed, the window frame will not have to bear any loads to keep the wall section in line with the rest of the wall.

In addition to maintaining uniform support for the wall components and preventing further load-bearing stresses on the joists and beams, the window header also helps the overall structure support and distribute the weight of the roof between the internal support walls and the external walls. The window header effectively allows wall sections above and around openings such as doors and windows to support the same amount of load as any other section. As a result, the roof load is borne evenly, with no areas of weakening that need to be compensated elsewhere along the wall. From this point of view, a window header can be seen as a good way to maintain the integrity of the entire structure and allow the building to settle properly over the years.

A window header is normally constructed of the same types of wood used in the design of the wall frame. It’s not unusual to form a header by simply cutting two sections of the frame wood to appropriate lengths, then nailing or gluing them together to form a thicker body.

It’s not unusual for a window header to be replaced during part of a home renovation. This is especially true when new fixtures are put in as part of the remodeling project. Once the old frame is removed, the beams or joists can be temporarily supported while the old header is removed and a new header is installed.

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