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How to Frame Metal Stud Headers

Metal frame headers at USframefactory.com

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In this article we explore some of the different ways and options for framing metal stud headers. Headers are for any place where there is a break in the wall framing. This includes doors, windows, and large openings or arches. Headers reinforce the wall and redirect the load from above the opening around the opening and into the slab or level bellow. Headers require a different layout of studs to accomplish this. We will review 5 different kinds of headers. Note that this is a guide comparing headers and not a substitution for getting an engineer to review your project.

  • Box beams (Boxed beams)
  • Back to back headers
  • Truss headers
  • Heavy-duty framing stud for headers
  • Non-load bearing track headers

Box Beam Header

Box beam headers use 2 tracks and 2 studs to create a structural box shaped beam. The tracks are horizontal to the ground with the web of the tracks facing down while the webs of the stud are facing outward with the opening pointed towards each other. This enables a strong header because the strong axis of the studs is preventing this header from sagging. This beam can be extended between the two jambs that make up an opening to distribute the load above the opening. See the example below. Typically fasten at 24″ on center between the tracks and the stud.

There are two methods for fastening the box beam header system to the jambs on each side. Either use a track fastened to the jamb as shown in the first image below, or use a clip angle.

Be sure to insulate this header before installing it as it can be very difficult to insulate it after it is installed.

Box Beam Metal Stud Header
Box Beam Metal Stud Header
Box Beam Metal Stud Header

Pros:

  • Prefabricated easily
  • Utilizes the strong axis of the studs
  • Efficiently strong structure

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to insulate after installed

Back to Back Header

Back to back headers are the sister metal stud headers of box beams. The components are the same as the box beam except that the studs are turned inside out. Again two tracks are used on the top and bottom of the assembly with their webs facing the ground. The strong axis of the studs are fastened together.

This assembly is attached to the jamb with an appropriately sized angle. Unlike the box beam, this header is easy to insulate after installation, but remember to insulate an exterior facing stud in the header before adding sheathing.

Back to back metal stud header

Pros

  • Easy to insulate
  • Strong
  • Easy to prefabricate

Cons

  • Requires an angle to be fastened to the jamb (although this may be avoidable if your engineer has an alternative place to put a clip like through the back to back header studs.

Truss Header

A truss header is any header that uses a truss in the header. Truss headers are effective because they limit the need for heavier gauge or wider material. With the proper machinery like a Knudson, Howick, or Framecad roll forming system with a truss punch, it is relatively simple to cut the components for a truss header.

Truss Metal Stud Header

Pros:

  • Fewer profiles needed
  • Easy to automate cutting
  • Strong

Cons:

  • Difficult to sheath because the members are not vertical
  • Difficult to insulate because the members are not vertical
  • More design and analysis involved
  • More smaller members required

Heavy-duty Framing Stud Headers

Most large cold-formed steel manufacturers have released some form of a header stud that has a wider flanges and a return flange as well as a stiffener lip. This allows you to do away with all the assembly and just use one single stud as the header. Clark-Dietrich’s Heavy Duty Framing Stud is one example of this. Use a special bracket to attach the stud directly to the jamb.

Strong metal stud header

Pros:

  • Minimal assembly
  • Low metal usage

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to find

Non-load Bearing Track Headers

The last type of metal stud headers is the simple non-load bearing track header. These are useful for windows inside of buildings such as receptionists windows or any kind of window in a nonload bearing application. Remember nonload bearing is where the wall doesn’t bear any additional weight. Also check with your engineer and make sure that the weight above the wall doesn’t require some load bearing.

This header system is just a metal track with the web facing the ground. It is attached to the jamb with a cripple stud. Simple!

Weak metal stud header

Terminology

  • Strong axis – bending in the wide axis of the stud
  • Weak axis – bending in the narrow axis of the stud
  • Stud – structural member with web, flange, and lip shaped like a “C”
  • Track – structural member with web and legs shaped like a “U”
  • Jamb – side of opening
  • OC (On center) – designating the center of each stud

Checkout our other articles about metal stud framing. Comment below if you have questions about metal stud headers. Article about the structural forces in headers.