After opening up the walls in the kitchen, I discovered several examples of poor workmanship that date to the original construction of the home. There also exist cases of poor workmanship as a result of work done by previous homeowners. But most of those are cosmetic or easy to fix, so I won’t dwell on them. The problems I want to focus on are either structural or expensive to fix.
In the first example (see photo below), there is a header over the doorway between the kitchen and the former dining room. It is framed with what was originally a 2×12, however there is a 2-inch deep notch cut into the bottom (who knows why) and just above the notch there is a 2-inch knot that has checked (cracked), leaving this header with the strength of a 2×8.
This header is notched and has a big knot. Photo by George Taniwaki
The second example (see photo below) is also an incorrectly framed header. This header also started as a 2×12. However, notice that it has split, leaving it with only the strength of a 2×6.
The reason the header split is that the framer used too many nails to attach the header to the king studs. There are four nails spread evenly on each side of the header. Everything fit fine when the framing was new. But as the wood got older, it dried out and shrank in the direction opposite of the grain. The grain in the header and the studs are at right angles, the shrinking header gets narrower, but the king stud doesn’t get shorter. The stress caused by the nails eventually forced the header to split. But worse than that, notice that because the header has shrunk, it is no longer resting on the jack studs. (You can see a gap between the header and the jack stud.) This means the entire load is being carried by the double top plate and by the nails that hold the header in the king stud. Luckily, this header only spans 24 inches, so it was way oversized to begin with.
This header is cracked and is not resting on the jack studs. Photo by George Taniwaki