What Is a Header?

A clear definition of the term “header,” including its derivation and current-day meaning

Window Header

Though the word “header” dates back to 15th-century England as the name given to an executioner, its earliest use as a building term occurred a couple of hundred years later. It did—and still does—refer to a brick or stone placed with its end, or head, facing the wall, a practice that fortifies a wall’s construction.

More frequently today, however, the word header refers to a beam-like support in wood-frame construction. The header spans an opening for a window or door, or a cut-out in the roof or floor for a skylight, chimney, or staircase.

Typically at least twice the size of surrounding framing members, a header is often built up from two studs, joists, or rafters. It runs between full-length supports and, along its length, carries the loads of the shorter studs, joists, or rafters that terminate at the opening.


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