House remodeling. I need to enlarge (from 7 to 10-12 ft) and shift (about 5ft sideways) an existing header where one passes between rooms. On one side, the header has 2x8 ceiling joists nailed to its face; cathedral ceiling 2x12 rafters, on the other side, are nailed to the top of it. The existing header is a flitch beam, steel sandwiched between two 2x10s. I have computed (pretty conservatively) the load on the new header at about 900 pounds per linear foot (total) and about 575 plf of live load. There are several ways to proceed, and I can't decide among:

  1. Sister a 2x10 piece of LVL (engineered wood) to the exposed face (the cathedral side) of the existing header. Unfortunately, the original carpentry was a little sloppy, and the existing header isn't directly on top of the girder which supports the floor which supports the wall with the header). Unfortunately, it's off to the side of the face where I'd add the LVL, so it'd be unacceptably off center after I did that.

  2. Rip out the existing header and replace it with a 2-ply LVL beam (3.5" x 9.5"). This is "best" in the sense it's very strong (so can make the opening 12ft wide instead of 10ft). But a gigantic PITA: have to build temporary supporting walls on both sides of existing header, sawzall the thing out of there, etc. Oh, did I mention that almost every piece of Romex in the house runs right along the edge of this header ? At least I can do my own electrical work ...

  3. Like #2, except after all the sheetrock is off, try to remove the flitch plate from the existing header, and the 1/2" plywood from the part that wasn't formerly over the opening, and then insert a new fitch plate of the proper length. Probably a non-starter too, especially if they used glue when they built the original flitch beam.

  4. Put some sort of piece of structural steel under the existing header. I'm currently favoring this option. Not sure what to use - angle, square tube, channel ? Strength shouldn't be an issue. Deflection definitely is - there's no framing or door, but there is sheetrock; I've been told up to 1/2" might be ok. That means I need a section with a moment of inertia of about 10 in^4 (if I'm computing correctly).

Thoughts on what I should do?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You say you need to shift the header as well as enlarge it. How do options 1 and 4 do that? Also, there is only one truly correct answer to your question, and that is: Hire a licensed engineer to study your case. Given that this is an important structural element in your house, you can't take any chances. Others might post answers regarding your solutions, but for God's sake just share them with the engineer to help him brainstorm. Don't try to do anything without the approval of an engineer who carefully considered the multiple details of your case. $\endgroup$ – Wasabi Feb 5 '16 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'm a little unclear as to what you are asking. Are you looking for the strongest header possible? the easiest to install? the shortest? $\endgroup$ – hazzey Feb 5 '16 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ The easiest that is strong enough and at least 10ft wide, but preferably 11 or 12ft. Option 1 and 4 can shift the position, because the existing header actually extends across the entire width of the house - it's just that the flitch plate part of it only covers the existing opening. I am an engineer, but electrical: I feel I can figure this out myself, with some outside advice. $\endgroup$ – RustyShackleford Feb 6 '16 at 19:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.