We are finally in the process of finishing our basement after a number of years. I have a load bearing wall that has a header for a doorway, however, we are looking to have a more open hallway. I originally designed this wall to be part of a closet in the office (orignal layout), however, I'm thinking now that I should open the hallway up a little so the hallway isn't as crammed (new layout). See attached floorplan designs.

original layout: enter image description here

new layout: enter image description here


  1. Should I leave it as a closet or open up the hallway? what would you do?
  2. Do I need to seek expertise of a structural engineer before extending the header?
  3. What is the max span that a header can take load? I'm going to check my local codes. Measuring it out, I believe that the header would take on 4 more joist loads and the total span would be around 6'8".

enter image description here enter image description here

thanks for looking at my post,



  • Is it a load bearing header that is built into a wall or a load bearing wall? It isn't normal for basements to have load bearing walls.
    – DMoore
    Nov 18 '14 at 18:37
  • yes it a load bearing header.. it's 2x(2x8) on jacks. Each of the brown walls in the layout are load bearing. The house is 3 floors. I've attached photos of the wall in question. thanks for the reply.
    – Dolph
    Nov 18 '14 at 20:56
  • Well that sure looks like a full load bearing wall. We just don't see many in the midwest in basements. Usually have metal beams with posts/footers. At the very minimum you will have to carry the load to the end of that wall. So even if you put in an "I-beam" (which would probably be recommended) you would need at least one post within a certain distance to the end of it. Since it is "floating" you would need a post probably within 2-3 feet of the end. If you carried it the length of the basement an engineer might be able to hide them better. But you are looking at a post...
    – DMoore
    Nov 18 '14 at 21:10
  • hey DMoore, thanks for the replies, much appreciated. I don't think that there's any way to get an ibeam in here as the houses are tightly packed. We're still looking to close the office off with a wall, however, we're just looking to open the hallway up a bit more. I've adjusted my question and added an updated layout to explain better what I'm talking about. Sorry for the confusion. Basically I'm looking to put in a large header if possible. thanks again.
    – Dolph
    Nov 18 '14 at 21:48
  • If that duct wasn't there you could put that header up into the ceiling (the name for this escapes me ATM) and use joist hangers on both sides to support the (now two) joist(s).
    – Mazura
    Nov 19 '14 at 3:29

What state are you in? You should check out the span tables for your local code. Generally, for that span outlined in the drawings above, you should be safe with triple 2 x 12s, providing you use grade no. 1 lumber. A less conservative header size might be possible, though. A laminated beam is also a valid option. These codes take climate and real life loads into consideration and they are generally VERY conservative -- for good reason.

Here are example span tables, see page 2:


Also, I see you only have one jack stud on each side of the header. There really should be two.

  • Jack stud fail, +1
    – Mazura
    Nov 19 '14 at 3:34
  • thanks for the comments guys, I'll check out the code and for sure will use double jacks... was thinking the same. Might not be required for code up here in BC.
    – Dolph
    Nov 19 '14 at 3:41

Header requirements must be determined based on an understanding of the entire structure an the superimposed gravity, wind, seismic, snow, and other loads. Generally, it would be prudent for a person to have experience with these things when preparing a design.

  • :) noted.. +1 for getting a structural engineer in. thanks for the answer.
    – Dolph
    Nov 18 '14 at 23:36

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