Build Sturdy Headers In 5 Easy Steps

Lead Image
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 75-250
What You'll Need
1 framing hammer
1 box of No.16 type nails
1 measuring square
1 circular saw
1 piece of 1/2 inch plywood
2 header boards
2 trim boards

Headers are an important element in a wood frame construction as they act as the main support system for adjacent beams. If you are beginning a construction project which requires headers, be sure to read the information below which can help you to properly build sturdy headers.

Step 1 - Select the Lumber for the Header Boards

Begin by selecting two boards that are straight and do not contain too many knots. The header will be much sturdier and stronger with straighter boards, whereas more curved ones could affect its strength and durability.

Step 2 - Cut the First Header Board

Next, measure and mark the desired length of the header on one of the boards. Use a triangular measuring square to make a straight cut. Holding the square’s fence firmly against the top edge of the board, align the pivot point with the mark. With a pencil, scribe a line tightly against the vertical edge of the measuring square. If the measuring square doesn’t reach to the bottom edge of the board, reverse the square and scribe another line up from the bottom edge to meet the first line. Cut directly alongside the pencil line with a circular saw, keeping the thickness of the sawblade on the scrap side of the board. Do not cut on the line; leave it clearly visible on the board.

Step 3 - Cut the Second Header Board

Use the header as a template to trace and cut the second header board.

Step 4 - Cut the Plywood Spacers

The plywood spacer does not have to be the same length and width of the header. Save lumber by cutting the plywood into squares or strips spaced evenly between the boards. Cut the strips a few inches in width by 1 inch less than the width of the header, so that the top and bottom edge of the plywood is set back from the edge of the header.

Step 5 - Assemble the Header

Lay the plywood strips vertically along the face of one header board, spaced a few inches apart. Place the second board on the plywood so that the 2 header boards are flush all around. Using #16 nails, nail the 2 header boards together from both sides in a grid pattern. Be sure to nail through the plywood strips.

If 2 x 6 studs are to be used for the wall construction, another layer of plywood and an additional header board are used to bring the total thickness of the header to 5 ½ inches. The header is supported on each side by the trim boards – a full length stud and a shortened “trimmer” nailed side to side. The bottom edge of the header will bear 1 ½ inches on the butt end of each trimmer. When nailing the trim boards to the header, and the rough opening to the plates, make sure that the header, plates and trim boards are all flush within both wall surfaces.