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I found a doorway in a load bearing wall that was widened to a 6' opening without adding a header. The studs were just cut and trim added around the edges. I narrowed the opening to 5' and added a header with doubled up jack studs on either side. The header is doubled up 2x8 LVL, I'm confident everything will hold.

Unfortunately, the opening has been this way for the better part of a decade and the space above it has been renovated. I didn't want to screw up the new stuff, so I forced the header up to take up about half of the sag in the top plate. This was enough to close the crack in the adjacent ceiling but the top plate is only resting on the header over the middle 3rd of the span and there are gaps at either end. The gaps are about 3/16" at their widest. Looks something like this with the gaps marked in red:

header diagram

The warping of the top plate is exaggerated.

From a structural perspective, is it acceptable to leave it as is or will the top plate being slightly bowed and only supported over its middle portion cause problems later? How it looks or the shape of the floor above is not important.

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  • Framing lumber can have twists, bows and warps that are greater than 3/16 and still be structurally sound. If you have corrected the problem by installing the header, I would put some shims in and call it done.
    – RMDman
    Dec 4, 2023 at 14:22
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    @JimStewart The span is just under 5'. I actually tried something like what you're suggesting but abandoned it. Dec 4, 2023 at 17:47
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    @isherwood If the plate doesn't much care that it's bowed, the ceiling that it's holding up won't collapse, and the slight slope won't cause issues with the joists sitting on it, then I'm happy and that's an answer. Dec 4, 2023 at 17:51
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    @JimStewart TL;DR: Fiddly PITA that i wasn't sure I should actually do. LONG: I tried driving a metal shim (pry bar) between header and top plate at the narrow end of the opening then tapping a flat wooden shim into the newly opened gap. The idea was to leapfrog along the entire span of the header that way. I abandoned it because the pry bar wasn't that great for it, the shims were thin and broke easily, and I wasn't so sure I actually wanted to lift the top plate for reasons above. Dec 4, 2023 at 18:02
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    @JimStewart I doubt cold chisels are going to be thin enough. I was thinking drive in 2 metal strips stacked (like some StrongTie straps) then tap more in between them. Dec 4, 2023 at 21:10

1 Answer 1

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You've already discovered the problem created by the short trimmer studs. Things settle and cause cracking, binding, unsightly curves, etc. That's about all it does, though. It's very unlikely that any serious structural problems will result. Every home settles to some extent, and this is really just a case you can happen to see more readily.

As I see it you have two choices for action (or a blend of the two as a third):

  • Jack the header up--either each end at a time or from the center with a support block--until it contacts the plate above, then shim the tops of the trimmers1. This essentially puts things as they should've been originally, but it could cause further drywall damage, door misalignment, etc. depending on the whens and hows of the home's history. I think it's what I would do because I like things right, even if it makes more work in the short term.

  • Just shim the remaining gap over the header where it is now, say on 16" centers (where studs would otherwise fall). Doing that doesn't resolve the overall problem, but it would prevent further settling as the plate relaxes even more. Drive them in until snug and stop. I'd only do this if I was really reluctant to risk further fixes as a result of jacking up the header.

FYI, driving wedges into this assembly with the intent of lifting what's above is only going to work if you use a bunch of them and drive them in sequence, lifting an area all at once. Otherwise, use a jack and a larger contact patch, then install shims. Waling on one shim will just mash up the wood.


1 Use a 4x4 as a post or a tee of two 2x4s screwed together well. Don't try a single two-by as it may suddenly decide to get noodly. Use common sense and don't overstress it. Lots of crunchy sounds are not a good sign. Consider cutting any nails through the king stud into the header first.

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  • Wish I could do another +1 for "lots of crunchy sounds". Dec 4, 2023 at 19:32
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    Before you jacked up the header would you cut the nails through the kingstud into the ends of the header? Would those be the only nails connecting the header to the kingstuds? Then of course renail. Dec 4, 2023 at 20:09
  • Good suggestion, Jim. I don't think that would stop movement, but it would certainly ease it.
    – isherwood
    Dec 4, 2023 at 20:10
  • I also like things right but it's just too much in this case. (And it's a bit of an endless battle with this house so I'm trying not to do more than I have to.) I don't want to get into the detail but righting that plate may result in substantially more significant repairs than just tweaking a door (which I already have to do). Don't judge me too harshly. My plan for lifting the header was to attach a block to the front trimmer, set a 2x4 on the block that reaches a bit over the top of the trimmer, and pound the 2x4 in (same as the trimmers themselves went in). Sound like a bad idea? Dec 4, 2023 at 20:15
  • And would you try to pry to separate the kingstud from the end of the header to give enough space for a saw blade to cut the nails? Dec 4, 2023 at 20:16

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