Window Header Replacement

Kendall2July 7, 2013

For quite some time, we've been planning to replace a bathroom window. Our original window was 11 1/2" x 48". We wanted to make a larger opening but decided to stick with the same size in order to avoid moving the header and disturbing the stucco. Our original window was aluminum. We were aware that we would lose glass by replacing with a vinyl window but nothing prepared us for how much glass would actually be lost. We went with a retrofit Simonton 7300 Daylight Max because it has a slimmer frame than the Milgard Tuscany. We were aware that slimmer frame = more glass. In the original window, the glass measured 8" tall. In the new window, it was only 4"! We tried the window in the opening and found that it cut out about 50% of the light compared to what we had before. We were disappointed and decided not to use it.

We finally came up with the money to order another window. This time we ordered an 18" tall retrofit window and planned to move the header up.

The first one we ordered (bottom) and the 18" window (top.)

I'm afraid we've made another costly mistake. I know you guys are going to yell at me for being so stupid. The new window seems to be several inches too tall to fit. I have a sinking feeling that there's no way to make this work without severely compromising the structural integrity of our house.

Here is a photo of the header:

and one of the exterior:

The wall is non load-bearing, correct?

We need the new window to be installed higher, not lower than the old one because it's in the shower and we don't want water spraying all over the window. Also, it's clear glass and privacy would be an issue if it's installed lower.

Can we cut out the cripple studs and attach a smaller header directly to the 2 x 4's above the window? How tall does the header need to be to retain proper strength? My husband isn't sure if the header stops at the sides of the window or if it is longer than the window. Can anyone advise on how to proceed? Thank you.

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You can move the existing header up to butt against the top plate and that will gain you a couple inches. Going with a smaller 2x header should not be done without getting the header sized with a professional.
I would check out replacing the existing header with an engineered beam. You would need to find out what size engineered beam will replace the header you now have. That may save you several inches in height.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 12:13PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

THIS IS US YELLING AT YOU.....just kidding.

Talk to an engineer. The only way is to either go down and take out some stucco or go up and do as Strong said to move that header.

You can perhaps gain some more space by putting in an engineered or flitch beam in that current headers location.

Either scenario will require interior demolition to expose the wall internals so be prepared for that eventuality if that is the case.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 1:04PM
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and lvl could also be tripled up for even more strength if you have the room .
a steel beam will give you the most clearance if needed.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 1:23PM
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you could even remove the bottom top plate if no jack studs are used.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 1:46PM
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Thank you all so much for your helpful responses. I checked with a structural engineer. He charges $750 for his services so that's out. I researched lvl, flitch beam and steel beams. My husband has a wire welder so he could put in a steel beam if necessary.

A friend visited yesterday who used to be in the remodeling business. He's a perfectionist and does very nice work. He said that the standard requirement for a four foot opening is a 4 x 4. He thought that the builders must have put in the large header over our window because they happened to have a piece left over. He seemed pretty confident of his information but since you guys are the window experts, I'm a little hesitant to believe that a 4 x 4 would meet code. From what you guys said, I'm thinking that sandwiching a 1/2" steel plate between two pieces of wood would be a safer bet or maybe a 4 x 5" steel beam made of 1/4" steel?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 8:52PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd


Buy the steel and make it a flitch beam. You will not have any issues after that.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 7:17PM
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Thank you for your input, Windowswashington. It is much appreciated. We'll go with that plan.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 10:10PM
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