How To Frame Window Openings

By Todd Fratzel on Framing

Framing Window Openings

Window Framing1 How To Frame Window OpeningsOne of the most basic framing techniques involves framing window and door openings. Understanding the anatomy of a framed window opening will help you properly frame both window and door rough openings.

The adjacent diagram shows a traditionally framed window opening from a recent project.  Each of the major components are labeled and described below. It’s worth pointing out that this wall is on the gable side of the building which means there are very minimal vertical loads, hence the small window header.

Window Framing Components

  1. Double Top Plate – Double top plates are almost always used in today’s modern framing. The double top plate helps evenly distribute the load to the studs below.
  2. Cripple – Window and door cripples are studs that fill the space above a header and below a sill.
  3. Header – Headers are a load bearing beam that transfers the load above the opening down to the jacks. Sizes of headers depend on structural loading and capacity.
  4. King Jack – The King Jack runs adjacent to the jack stud from top plate down to the bottom plate.
  5. Jack Stud – The Jack Stud transfers the load from the header down to the bottom plate. Depending on the size of the opening a window or door can have a few as one jack stud on either side or multiple jack studs with large openings that carry higher loads.
  6. Sill – The window sill (sometimes called a saddle) creates the bottom of the window rough opening. The sill varies from single piece to a double piece as shown in this photo. Many builders will use a double sill to improve the width of nailing surface for the window flanges.
  7. Cripple
  8. Bottom Plate – The bottom plate is a single piece of framing material that transfers the stud loads down to the foundation.

Doors are framed in the same way as the window shown above without the lower sill and cripples. Obviously there are some small differences depending on local building codes and regional preferences. If you want to learn more about framing a building then I recommend you check out this Book On Framing.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the author of Tool Box Buzz and Today's Green Construction. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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2 Comments

  1. Matt says:

    this was very informative thank you
    how do you decide the size of the header as we are building a PWF basement and are trying to make sure our windows will be more then adequate. if there is no reply that is fine this information is lots to start with
    thank you again

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Matt – Header size depends on many factors including floor and roof loading from above depending on how the building is framed. Headers can range from 6 inches in depth from dimensional lumber all the way up to 12 or more inches with engineered lumber. In most cases your local lumber yard or code official can help with that. Good luck.

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