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Header Installation

Do you insulate the headers in exterior walls? If so, how? (Assume that the walls are either 3 1/2- or 5 1/2-inch, and that the building is in an area that experiences colder climates.)

You must put insulation inside the header when constructing for steel framing. For wood framing it is not necessary as long as you have a double 2×10 with 2×4 cap header. Wood is one of the best insulators there is.—Jason Wein, Ragland Interiors, Reading, PA

Clearly, the easiest way to insulate headers is with EIFS on the exterior. This affords a continuous insulative barrier, without the problems experienced with thermal bridging of the studs (wood or steel stud) and air passage where the batts are imperfectly attached to the framing. Does insulate mean thermal only? Or acoustic also? Or air and moisture barrier also? In the latter case, a secondary weather resistive barrier is the answer.—Anonymous

Yes. The only way that we can insulate a header is to polyseal the space between the two pieces of lumber. If it is a solid header, then we cannot insulate it. This true for both the 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 headers. On the other hand, if you really think about it, why would insulating the header make any difference for insulation purposes? The window headers are sealed off when they are Sheetrocked and air would not pass through, and when the doors are polysealed, the headers are sealed as well. There again, air would not pass through. For any R-value reasons it would be pointless. The gap would be too small and it would give it a very little R-rating. Essentially doing nothing to help the house as a whole.—Jesse Jaime, General Manager, Climate Control Insulation, Inc., Mansfield, Texas

If the header on the outside wall is set back, then we strip fiberglass batts and put them over the space created. Sometimes what happens is the framers put a spacer between the headers over the doors and windows, and if this is the case, we will supply them with some insulation to put between the header pieces, or we will try to do it ourselves before the windows and doors are installed.—Anonymous

If so, I would insulate them with a closed cell rigid board if the space permits in lieu of fiberglass, which would be very susceptible to water and moisture damage.—Mike Dominici, Vice President, The Circle Group, Alpharetta, GA

Only when space is allowed.—Anonymous

No, but I make solid wood headers either 2 two by’s and one sheet ply or three 2 by’s and 2 sheets plywood.—Anonymous

Two-pound spray foam insulation; it’s a vapor barrier as well.—Matthew Banks, President, Matt’s Insulation, Fredericton, NB, Canada

In a warmer climate a partial batt would be installed, in a cooler one we always use high density foam in the recessed area of the headers.—Anonymous

[1] Use an anti-fungal paint additive when painting the inside wall surfaces. [2] Advise the building occupants that they are responsible for maintaining good ventilation to avoid condensation. [3] Make sure that the framing, insulating and painting subcontracts provide for complete indemnification. [4] Hire a superintendent who knows everything. [5] Only bid on jobs where the architect wasn’t paid enough to include all necessary details.—Chris Ball, Owner, Ball Construction Management, Inc., Valencia, CA

Yes, because that’s another way of cold air coming in. If possible, I also don’t rule out the possibility of silicon caulking because of sealing the tight cracks, but that depends on what the situation presents.—Dave Mertz, Owner, Drywall, Plaster and Other Interiors, Quarryville, PA

Insulate before drywall goes on with foil to inside.—Jeff Carroll, Owner, JC Plastering, Midland, MI

No, not really. We at AirTight Insulation of Texas, Inc. seal the headers of doors and windows as well as base plates and top plates, but there is no way to insulate an area that is solid wood.—Anonymous

Yes, we use BASF Walltite polyurethane spray foam for this detail. High R value and an air barrier in this tight little area. —Kent Brommeland, Manager,, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Good question. In wood, not possible. In S.F., stuff box beam with batt insulation before install. —Anonymous

Fiberglass batts, foam, wall wrap or Styrofoam board.—Anonymous

I do not insulate the headers in exterior walls.—Anonymous

Always … .—Jody Klodner, Marek Interior Systems, Inc., Marietta, GA

Sprayed polyurethane foam.—Matt Baker, Vice President, Sales & Estimating, Acoustical Spray Insulators, Allentown, PA

Drill 1-inch holes and blow in cellulose.—Anonymous

We use fiberglass batts or mineral wool when we assemble any built-up header.—Oscar Chiarotto, Vice President, Lido Wall Systems Inc., Toronto, ON, Canada

Unpunched box shaped headers are filled with unfaced batt insulation and protected from moisture until covered with sheathing.—Anonymous

Yes. Put a closed cell rigid insulation the full thickness of the header. While this is a lesser R value it will not absorb moisture during the construction process and have some insulating properties.—Anonymous

No.—Anonymous, Phenix City, AL

Using a solid piece of 1/2 plywood between 2xs on edge gives you a 3 1/2-inch wall with full wood insulated header, plus extra strength.—Anonymous

Yes. Solid wood in all exterior headers or at least fiberglass batts or blown.—Anonymous

The best way we’ve found to insulate metal stud box beam headers is this: We slide 1 1/2-inch rigid foam insulation in each stud used in the box beam header. We also do the same for multiple stud situations (kings, jacks, etc.) where you can’t get inside the stud cavity after framing is complete. Using rigid insulation, you don’t have the worry of batt insulation getting wet and staying wet.—Chris Martin, President, Integral Wall Systems, Columbus, OH

Yes! Fill the void of the header with scrap fiberglass insulation until the void is fully insulated.—Robert L. Johnson III, Seminole Walls & Ceilings L.L.C., Oklahoma City, OK

Boxed headers of metal are stuffed with insulation, or foamed filled. More buildings are having the insulation on the exterior side of the sheathing and therefore headers are not an issue.—Bruce Jacobs, President, Don-Vac Inc., Williston, VT

The headers are normally prefabricated and this is a good time to insert the insulation. Sometimes they also require that jambs be insulated, and this can also be done as described above. I think the more pressing concern here would be the protection of the insulation from water or moisture prior to the closure of walls, especially with mold problems these days. There is more concern when walls are prefabricated offsite because of exposure to rain or moisture when it is hauled or transported to the job site (I think I have more questions than answers :-))—Anonymous

Yes. Sprayed 2-pound density Polarfoam polyurethane.—Anonymous

My company usually insulates header areas in exterior walls with high density foam board, adhesively attached.—Steve Malon, President, Malon Insulation Service, Rapid City, SD

Yes, we do. In our area we are required to provide R-19. We do so with spray polyurethane foam.—Luke Crawford, President, Yinah Walls & Ceilings, Inc., Cleveland, GA

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