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Insulated Headers

Structural headers that have been engineered for the load and include insulation.

Insulated headers in various sizes

A Midwestern manufacturer of Engineered Wood Joists has come up with header product that borrows technology from another innovative construction technique-Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). Superior Wood Systems uses machine stress-rated wood flanges with foam insulation sandwiched between two web panels, to create insulated headers with a thermal break, without sacrificing structural performance.

Superior uses two OSB webs that enclose a layer of EPS foam insulation. Along with their engineered joist products, the manufacturer is marketing these headers to builders of conventional framed homes as a strong, lightweight, cost-effective alternative to beam headers. They assert that the headers are straighter and more dimensionally stable, less subject to shrinkage and warping that often causes drywall to crack in conventionally framed header areas. Units are available in 7-¼" 9-¼", and 11-¼" depths, and widths for both 2x4 and 2x6 framing.

Thermal losses occur at window and door areas of many homes, but these insulated products can greatly improve the overall energy efficiency of the walls. Superior estimates that the R-value of common double beam headers is about R-7, but that an SWII-62 header (for 2x6 walls) provides an R-value of 18 in a single-piece unit requiring no additional installation labor. The typical home may have several dozen square feet of header area, allowing significant improvement on overall thermal performance.

Energy Efficiency

By creating a thermal break on the header, less heat transfer occurs across the header, reducing heating and colling consumption.


Superior insulated headers are stocked by many lumberyards in the upper Midwest, and by some distributors in the west and northeast. Contact the manufacturer for more information on availability. Insulated headers can replace doubled 2 x 12s up to approximately 22' spans, depending on loading. Material costs will be significantly higher than for dimensional lumber headers, and may not be cost effective in some areas depending on labor costs and availability.

The increased material costs can be offset by the reduced labor and additional insulation costs, making them competitve with standard headers.

Not Applicable

SWII-headers are approved for use by BOCA and ICBO. Check with local code authorities for approval prior to use.

Not Applicable

Some distributors stock SWII headers in standard dimensions, or they may be factory cut to builder specifications. Installation techniques are similar to standard headers, with the units resting on jack studs. If necessary, headers can be cut on site using standard tools. The manufacturer's website and printed literature provide Load and Span tables.

Not Applicable

The lightweight headers are easily handled and installed by a single worker. The one-piece units are fast and simple to install, saving labor costs. Insulated headers do not warp, twist or split, and there is less wasted material. The integral foam core further eliminates labor and material costs for insulating header areas, while thermal performance and energy efficiency is improved.

Disclaimer: The information on the system, product or material presented herein is provided for informational purposes only. The technical descriptions, details, requirements, and limitations expressed do not constitute an endorsement, approval, or acceptance of the subject matter by the NAHB Research Center. There are no warranties, either expressed or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of this information. Full reproduction, without modification, is permissible.