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What Is a Header?

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

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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.

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years, as Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.
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