A header is a beam that spans the opening for a doorway, window, skylight, or stairway. 

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 part of a stone or brick wall. It is a brick or stone that bridges an opening. The header is placed with its end, or head, facing the wall, a practice that fortifies a wall’s construction.

Today, that term has been adopted to the parts used in wood-frame construction.

Now, the word header refers to a beam-like support in wood-frame construction.

The header spans an opening for a window or door, or it is 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.

The header is a beam that runs across the top of a framed window or door opening. © Don Vandervort, HomeTips
Floor Framing for Stairs
This double header is a beam that supports the floor joists to allow for stairs. © Don Vandervort, HomeTips


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About Don Vandervort
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. Read more about Don Vandervort