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I am replacing a 36-inch exterior door with a double door, 6 feet wide. It is going into a studded ground floor wall. There is another story above it. House is 24 feet wide.

Assuming I am reading the right table, and reading the table right...

Table R502.5(2) says I use 3 2x8s to span a max of 6' 3" with one jack stud at either end.

Since it is a 2x6 wall, I plan to laminate in some plywood to make the header wide enough.

And then, when I remove the existing door, its frame and header, do I really need to use jacks, etc., or can I just screw a 2x10x8 to the studs on both sides of the new opening while I work?

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    You really need to build a temporary wall to hold up the second floor while you replace the header. Cut everything a little long on the temporary studs to help lift the weight off the existing header so the new header will preload a little when you set it in place and remove the temporary wall. – Jack Oct 28 '14 at 13:08
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Assuming that the 3 2x8s will work for you - and it sounds right for your situation then you are fine with adding some sort of plywood to make your header flush.

However I usually (given I have the space) would throw down a 2x6 flat on top of the 2x8s that are on the jacks (yes you must have jacks for your header). This gives good reference points for top and bottom.

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