Replacing a header…

When you take down all the walls you get to see what lies underneath. Which means you get to see that the header that is holding up the 2nd story of your house is bowing slightly. The big question is do you take the time to replace it (Dan says YES!) or do you just cover it back up and not worry about it (Sheila says YES, but what do I know?) What I do know is that the idea of taking it down and the possibility of the house collapsing kind of scares me!

First things first, you need to start hammering in new supports several days ahead of time so over the course of a week you can slowly raise the cross beams just enough so you can remove the old header.


Then you set up some type of pulley system so you and your 14 year old son can drop a header that ways several hundred pounds. Finally you start removing the studs that are holding it up. You also instruct said 14yp on the proper way to hold the ropes of the pulley system. Do NOT wrap ropes around any part of your body.



While I am taking pictures the whole time this is going on I am like a mother hen predicting dooms day. I was not comfortable with this at all!


Change of plans, Dan will hold header while Thomas removes a stud, it could start to drop any time now.


The first side has been freed, we’re expecting big things to happen. Surely the header will start to fall, any second now…


Hmm there is nothing holding this up why is it not moving?


OK maybe if we cut some of those nails, things will start to move.


Or if we get a pry bar and start prying the thing apart


Well its moved a little bit but it’s certainly not dropping on its own, who knew?


Switching things up again, Dan will hold it while Thomas pries it apart.


There we go, now it’s starting to drop.


And down she goes, slowly, slowly. No big dramatic drops here. I guess that pulley system did really work.


Man Dan is holding the ropes and the beam all at the same time, maybe I should put the camera down and help.


It really doesn’t look that heavy from this picture (side note when it was finally lying down on the floor, I couldn’t even slide it over an inch.)


Old header down and the new one is going up. Hey who’s holding the ropes? I thought maybe I finally jumped in to help but if I’m holding the ropes how would I be taking the pictures? Hmm not sure, but I did actually help a bit with this part.


And since things never go as easily as they should… We couldn’t quite get that side to lift all the way up, it was getting caught up on a piece of wood.


This process took quite a lot of time and lots of pounding. Both Thomas and Dan used a sledge hammer to try and pound this into place. BTW it is not easy work to pound a sledge hammer; upwards, over your head, over and over again!


Hold it Thomas, don’t let it fall!


Hey, there I am! Back to pounding supports yet again, this time to try and raise the header so it’s level. (At this point Dan started worrying that he was doing some type of irreparable damage to the foundation of the house. When the one person that is confident that what we’re doing is safe and secure, starts to worry, its not a good thing!)


We finally got the header raised and level, then Dan placed several 2X4’s on each side to hold it up and screwed it into place. At which point it occurred to him that it looks crooked,  not perfectly centered. After a quick measuring it was off by 2 inches on one side, so he had to unscrew everything and hit it over a couple inches. This entire project took all day to finish!

But it is finally done, level, centered, and cleaned up with no damage to any other part of the house!

We could NOT have done all this without Thomas’ help! He has been such a huge part of this renovation. I hope he is learning all the skills he’ll need to take care of his own house when he grows up.


Next job, insulating!