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2 x 6 Walls - Header Construction

ChrisV's picture

Hi All,

Mostly framed with 2 x 4 walls and headers were simple (2 -2x + 1/2" ply...done)but I have started doing 2 x 6 walls. My methods for making headers for the 5-1/2" wall thickness seem to be to time consuming. Looking for ideas that's are quick and cost efficient and will still make the inspectors happy.



(post #101270, reply #1 of 42)

double 2x nailed together and pushed to the outside,  then insulate the space left on the inside.  (double if the span permits)  Works well here in BC.

(post #101270, reply #2 of 42)



(post #101270, reply #3 of 42)

double 2x nailed together and pushed to the outside,  then insulate the space left on the inside.

And then use extra long screws when putting the drywall up?



"The difference between greatness and mediocrity is often how an individual views a mistake..."-- Nelson Boswell


Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
-- Carl Sandburg

(post #101270, reply #4 of 42)

double 2x nailed together and pushed to the outside,  then insulate the space left on the inside.

And then use extra long screws when putting the drywall up?

Put another 2x6 laying flat underneath the header so you have the 2x header resting on the 2x6 which is in turn bearing on the jack studs.  This way you can screw the drywall to the top plate & to the flat 2x6.

(post #101270, reply #5 of 42)

I was wondering about the sheetrock myself...What about if you have cripples, wouldn't you want a 2 x 6 (on top of the header) on flat for them or else the inside of the cripple bottom would be floating?



(post #101270, reply #8 of 42)

How about a sandwich of 2x with insulation in the middle?  Gives nailing surfaces both faces. That's what I was planning to do on my garage: 2-2x6's w/ 2" foam in between (full dimension lumber)


(post #101270, reply #9 of 42)

I make the jack and cripple studs from one piece cut a notch 1 1/2 X 5 1/2 out of the front and back at header hieght and block between them, alternatively the cripples between the headers can be cut and extra 5 1/2 long, 2 wide and double as blocks ..

(post #101270, reply #10 of 42)

For now I  just had door/window headers in mind (3' -4').

 I was considering making box beams 2- 2x pushed to the outside and inside and then a 2x6 on flat on the top edges of the 2-2x and a 2x6 on flat on the bottom edges. I didn't take this route because I thought the inspector would complain that the 2-1/2" gap between the 2 2x yields no strength with the face nailing of the header...?

(post #101270, reply #12 of 42)

Where are you building?  I know here there are some really spesific guides for sizing headers in the code book in bc.  Based on loads ie # of floors and roof, spans etc.  they also only allow for one strip of plywood to be in between so that the two peices can be properly fastened together.  I can't remember the details on that as we never do it this way.  As for the drywall nailing a 2x6 under the header leaves a span for the dry wall that is certainly smaller than the stud spacing that it is being spaned elsewhere in the same wall.  the riping nailed on to the bottom works well if room under the header is an issue.(2.5"x 1.5")

(post #101270, reply #13 of 42)

n AZ, one story residential buildings.

On the headers you build, the 2.5" ripped piece is at the bottom and top? If so then you are not nailing in the area below and above the ripped strips?


(post #101270, reply #14 of 42)

just read your post, seems like a very complicated time consuming and hence expensive way to go when you could use 3 2xs and 2 rips of ply in 1/10th the time and effort and twice the strength.


(post #101270, reply #15 of 42)

I don't understand what all the ripping of 2x material is for.  What's wrong with 2 2x10s (or whatever the span requires) pushed to the outside with a 2x6 on the flat nailed securely to the bottom of the header?

(post #101270, reply #16 of 42)

"I don't understand what all the ripping of 2x material is for. What's wrong with 2 2x10s (or whatever the span requires) pushed to the outside with a 2x6 on the flat nailed securely to the bottom of the header?"

He was talking about ripping plywood. I do the same as you with 2-2x10's with a 2x6 cap on the bottom.Some houses I've used 5-1/2" x 9-1/2" or 11-7/8" lvl's when specked. Even with 2x4 walls I use 2-2x10's with a 2x4 cap on the bottom and never used plywood before.

Joe Carola

Edited 5/20/2006 7:59 pm ET by Framer

Joe Carola

(post #101270, reply #17 of 42)

I built hundreds and hundreds of headers like that when I was framing.  2x6 bottom "header plate" 2x10 pushed flush with the "inside and another flush with the "outside"  fiberglass insulation in the middle and there ya are.  solid nailing on both sides of the wall for drywall, siding, oversized casing  whatever. 

what you basically have is a "u" shaped header that you then nail to the king studs and top plate.

Back when everything we did was standard 8' walls, this gave you a perfect header height for most standard doors and windows without screwing around with cripples 'n stuff.   Of course nowadays all these 9', 10', and taller walls has made that moot.


One tip.  it's easier to lay the insulation in between the 2x10s before you nail the second one in place, rather than trying to stuff it into that 2" opening after the fact.

" If I were a carpenter"
" If I were a carpenter"

(post #101270, reply #18 of 42)

why insulate a dead space ? is solid wood not a good enough insulator?

also, it seems to me that when you separate the 2x10s you are allowing the exterior side 2x10 to carry the majority of load with no added strength (in roof load bearing walls)

Edited 5/20/2006 9:19 pm ET by zachariah

(post #101270, reply #23 of 42)

first;   No. Dead air is not a good insulator.  If that were true we wouldn't be insulating any of our stud spaces.  neither is solid wood a good insulator.  the studs and headers are actually the weakest link in the r-value of the houses that are being built.  (well, except maybe for the doors and windows... oh and that pesky fireplace,  and let's not forget.... hold on!! I'm drifting off the subject....)

   this is one reason why I prefer a box beam over a solid one,  because it gives you a little bit more r-value  (albeit not much).  

Second,   I really don't underastand how only the outside 2x10 might be carrying any more weight than the inside one...????????   they both are subject to the same downward forces exerted by the joists, rafters, or trusses  above them.  It's not like there is only weight on the outside edge of the wall.

" If I were a carpenter"
" If I were a carpenter"

(post #101270, reply #26 of 42)

After reading all posts I agree that a box beam is better for R-value but I still would not span one more than 4 ft. . You can not make a logical arguement that a box beam is as strong as a solid packed beam.R-value be damned when your talking about structural integrity.About your question on the different loads on each side of the wall , think sheetrock hanging on one side , boxing, shingles,gutters on the other. 

(post #101270, reply #32 of 42)

Is a box beam stronger than justs doubled up 2 bys?  I don't think so.  I beleive both are teh same or pretty darn close.  The 2 six on the box adds a bit of additional strenght but only that afforded by the nature of one 1 1/2 inche thick board.  (Next to zero).


(post #101270, reply #33 of 42)

don't really understand your post, but I am talking about 2x6-1/2"ply-2x6-1/2"ply-2x6, not just double 2x6.

(post #101270, reply #34 of 42)

Well, your "2x6-1/2"ply-2x6-1/2"ply-2x6" is not a box beam.  I believe you had said a box beam was stronger than 2x6 headers.  Clearly three 2x6s and ply would be stronger than two 2x6s.

A box beam is a box.     one 2 by on the flat, two on-edge verticles on top of that, and one 2 by on teh flat nailed on top of the on-edge 2bys.



(post #101270, reply #35 of 42)

So do teh two 2 bys on the flat add that much strenght to the doubled up on-edge 2 bys?  That is the question.


(post #101270, reply #36 of 42)

on their own the 2 by's that are horizontal don't provide much strength, but in a box beam, if nailed, will make the other vertically oriented headers work together ..

(post #101270, reply #37 of 42)

Not sure that is true for a header.  Now if you have say a knee wall or something, framed with 2 by stock it is very weak as a beam. (Don't ask why I would make a knee wall a box beam, jsut an example) Sheet it will plywood and becomes a box beam.  Due to all the nailing and perhaps gluing the ply to all the studs, teh studs become immoble, and the plywood loses most of it's flex.  Much like an I-beam.  Very strong. 

Now this would be less true if the framed knee wall were only six or eight or ten inches high.  I say this only as a comparison to the idea of placing flat 2 x stock on top and bottom of a doubled header which is only six or eight inches high.

I think there is a difference.

Would be interested to hear from a real engineer.


(post #101270, reply #38 of 42)

where is your cape captain obvious.My stance is exactly opposite.Of course a solid beam is stronger than a box beam,I do not use a 2x6 top and bottom on a solid beam.

(post #101270, reply #30 of 42)

Ever have trouble keeping the insulation dry during construction?

If open time was expected to be long would you use foam (stuff you buy in 4 x 8 sheets)?


(post #101270, reply #11 of 42)

I do like you do and add a 2 1/2 rip of 2x to bottom of header.

(post #101270, reply #6 of 42)

I did a couple in my house that were overkill but worked fine - basically 3x 2x6 and 2 pieces of 1/2" ply.  Other idea would be to rip a 2x to 2-1/2" wide and make a box header.  Either way is more work than a 2x4 header.



(post #101270, reply #7 of 42)

> Other idea would be to rip a 2x to 2-1/2" wide and make a box header.

Here you can buy 2x3 that's already that size. 

Going with three two by's plus an inch of ply may have been overkill.  But depending on the span, loads, and depth of the header, going with two two by's might also be underkill in some cases.  Given that there's no engineer taking responsibility for the design, the next thing to check out is whether the AHJ has a xeroxed handout of generic details and acceptable spans.  The easy way to make the inspectors happy is to ask first and build once.



-- J.S.


Edited 5/19/2006 2:55 pm ET by JohnSprung



-- J.S.


(post #101270, reply #19 of 42)

     First, if there’s a 2x on the flat underneath two 2x’s nailed together on edge; it doesn’t matter if the cripples are floating.  3” will be enough bearing.  The drywall will fasten just fine, as standard screw spacing in the field is 12” – 16”.  Therefore, the 2xs on edge can be 2x6, or even 2x12.  This principle holds true for a 2x3 butted into the side of the 2xs at the bottom as well.


     Second, box beam headers are very strong.  I don’t know what your inspector thinks, but if he tells you different, I guarantee you he’s wrong.  And no, wood is not a very good insulator.  It’s a good idea to insulate a box beam, that’s usually what they’re intended for.


     Finally, third:  Seeing as how your goal apparently is not energy efficiency, but “ideas that are quick and cost efficient,” use a 4x6.  Problem solved.  As for making the inspector happy, if the yo-yo doesn’t believe what I’m telling you, show him all the tables in the IRC and IBC codebooks that agree with me.



(post #101270, reply #20 of 42)

I agree that box beams are strong and will do the trick for small spans, but I personally would not span more than 4 ft. with one where roof is loading, inspector or not. And if wood is a poor insulator are standard headers in 2x4 walls a problem, and if so what is the best way to adress this issue?