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 a remodeler and builder, 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