I'm designing the framing drawings for a building with window and door openings in a roof-bearing wall (no floors above) and I need to determine how thick my headers need to be. There are span tables that do this, but in order to use them, I need to know the "Live or Ground Snow Load", the "Dead Load", and the "Load Duration Factor, Cd".

Here's an example set of tables: http://www.southernpine.com/span-tables/headers-beams-size-selection-tables/

There are six different tables based on which load factors are needed.

How do I determine the required load values so I know which table to use?

  • Depending on where you are building, the headers available at your local building materials suppler may not be southern pine. Here in Minnesota, we typically use SPF (spruce-pine-fir) for interior openings and only use SYP (southern yellow pine) when treated for exterior/wet use like on a deck. I know that on the west coast, douglas fir is a lot more common and you can even buy 4x10s instead of installing 2 plies of 2x10s. Anyway, I'm just saying you might want to verify that southern pine is available if that's what you're sizing with span charts.
    – Dotes
    Oct 27, 2017 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


We only worry about two things: 1) Live loads, and 2) Dead loads.

1) Live Load (loads that come and go): In your case, there isn't a second floor, so you're just concerned about "snow load". (If there was a second floor, then you'd add "people Load". In the U.S., its 40 lbs. per square foot.) You'll need to determine what your building code requires. You can call your local building department and they'll know. (It'll be something like 40 lbs. per square foot, or higher if you live in a snow zone.)

2) Dead Load (loads that are there all the time): You can add up the weight of all the roof components, or use 15 lbs. per square foot, unless you have concrete tile roofing.

Now, the Load on your header is based on those two factors added together and multiplied by one-half the span on your header. So, let's say you have roof trusses that span 28'. Just add 40 psf to 15 psf to equal 55 psf TOTAL Load. Then, multiply 55 psf by 28' and divide by 2 (because half the load goes the other direction away from the header.) which equals 770 lbs. per foot on the header.

Now you can check the tables for the span of your header (width of your window). If your window is 6' wide your header should be 2 - 2 x 10's. (Table 2.)

Simple, huh...

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