A window installment could go terribly wrong if you don't plan to include a ceiling support while you work.

January 26, 2019

Installing a new window is no easy feat. If your new window will be wider than 3 feet, you'll have to remove more than one wall stud. That could cause the wall's top plate—and the ceiling—to sag. If the ceiling joists are perpendicular to the wall and thus rest on the wall frame's top plate (see the illustration below), you must temporarily support the joists. Install the support no farther than 3 feet from the wall.

Build a temporary support that is several feet longer than the new window opening. Buy enough studs so you can place them about 16 inches apart.

What You Need

  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Level
  • Circular saw
  • Handsaw
  • Drill with screwdriver bit
  • 2x4s
  • 16d nails or 3-inch screws
  • Shims

Temporary Support for an Exterior Wall

The temporary support will hold the wall up until you install the header.

Step 1: Find Studs

To determine the direction the joists run through the ceiling, use an electronic stud finder or drill a series of locator holes. This will allow you to plan your temporary support. Then use the stud finder to locate the framing members and plan how you will frame the window.

What if Joists Do Not Rest on the Plate?

If joists are parallel to the wall or if you have a balloon-framed house, remove the drywall or plaster to at least 2 feet above the future opening. Cut a 2x8 whaler to fit across the opening so it attaches to at least one stud on either side that will not be cut. Attach the whaler to the studs with three 3-inch deck or wood screws (not drywall or "all-purpose" screws) driven into each stud.

Step 2: Cut Drywall

Cut out a floor-to-ceiling section of drywall or plaster that is at least 3 inches wider than the desired rough opening. In this case it worked out to cut along one stud; on the other side the cut was made into the cavity between two studs.

Step 3: Mark for Studs

Mark the bottom (sole) plate to indicate where the king studs and jack studs will go. The distance between the jack studs is the width of the rough opening.

Step 4: Measure and Cut Studs

In the place where you will put the temporary wall, stack three short pieces of 2x4 (for a total thickness of 4-1/2 inches). Measure from the ceiling to the top of the stack. Cut the studs 1/4 inch shorter than this measurement.

Step 5: Install Studs

Mark the bottom and top plate for studs every 16 inches. Attach the studs to the plates by driving nails or screws. Add a second top plate. To keep from scraping the ceiling, add a scrap of carpeting to the top plate (see box below). With a helper raise the wall and tap it into place. If the fit is not snug, tap shims under the bottom plate.

Protecting the Ceiling

A temporary support will likely dent the ceiling. This is especially true if you have a sprayed acoustic (popcorn) ceiling. You can take steps to minimize damage.

— Make the top piece of the plate out of 2x6 rather than 2x4. This will distribute the weight over a larger area.

— Attach a strip of carpeting on the top plate to cushion the surface. If you do this be sure to cut the studs shorter by the thickness of the carpet. Staple the carpet in place from the sides, not the top.


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