How to Frame a Door Header Properly

In do-it-yourself projects such as building an addition to your home or remodeling where you will be cutting in a new door, you will need to build a door header. Not only will the header provide needed support to the door that hangs on it, but to the structure above it. In some situations, the wall into which the door is built may be one that is wall bearing. If this is the case with the door you install, you should keep in mind that in removing part of the wall to accommodate the doorway, you may be removing an important part of the wall that provides security to the structure. Should there be a question about this, you should get the advice of a building engineer. To provide for this support you will need to know how to properly frame a door header.

Things you'll need:

  • 2-inch by 12-inch Lumber
  • 2-inch by 4-inch Lumber
  • ½-inch Plywood
  • Framing nails
  • 4-Foot level
  • Hammer
  • Circular saw
  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses

Step 1- Building in the Frame Studs for a Weight Bearing Wall

On each side of your door, position two jack studs and the king studs. If you'll be cutting the jack studs, keep in mind that they should be approximately 82 ½ inches, the height of the door. Be sure the king studs are plumb before nailing them in place. Use your level to check that they are plumb. On a load-bearing wall where you plan to build your doorway, if the wall is supporting weight from a two-story building, there will be more weight for your wall to support. If this is the case, you should get advice from an engineer about material that might be needed for your frame header, such as beams. In some instances, you may need to build a temporary support until your frame is put in place. Without adequate support you could eventually see a sag in your door frame.

Step 2 – Constructing the Frame Header

Cut  two lengths of 2-inch by 12-inch lumber and one piece of plywood that will both fit between the frame's king studs. The plywood piece should be placed between the 2-inch by 12-inch pieces, with edges of the three pieces aligned evenly. When they are flush, nail the three pieces together. This will be your header. These measurements are for installing a single door. For a double door header you will need other measurements.

Step 3 – Placing Your Header

On top of the vertical jack studs, place the header with its edges flush with those of the king studs. Then, fasten it in place by driving nails through it and into the king studs. This header piece will support the plates of the wall frame top.

Step 4 – Installing a Cripple Stud

You will find that there will be space below your header. You can occupy this space with cripple studs that will add support once they are put in place. These cripple studs are typically short (2-inch by 4-inch) and are placed between the header and the door frame's top plate. They are normally used for walls that exceed eight feet in height.