Are my bookshelves more than just bookshelves?


Hello, I'm interested in removing two bookshelves that exist between my kitchen and sun room. Sounds easy, remove the books first and then the bookshelves, however I'm not sure if the bookshelves are actual columns disguised as bookshelves and have a structural purpose. The bookshelves seem to support a crossbeam that is attached to both walls on each end , but each general contractor who looks at this provides a different answer like...

a) They are just bookshelves, they can be removed including the cross beam which is not a real cross beam. Cross beam exists only to hold the bookshelves vertically.
b) They are just bookshelves, but the cross beam needs to stay since it supports the walls from buckling.
c) Keep storing your books and magazines.....because the bookshelves aren't going away anytime soon.

As you can see I need a structural engineer who can say go or no go on this remodel project. Any help is appreciated regarding next steps.
by the way this is a great service so thank you for offering to answer.



Looks like you are half-way there… the books are gone.


And the answer is…. wait for it… “b”.  At least that’s my $0.02.  I expect that the tall wall has a joint in the middle of it, thus requiring some lateral stability.  Even if there were no joint in the middle that wall is so tall that it really needs a brace in the middle to keep if from bowing inward or outward under the lateral force of winds. 


Now, let’s talk about alternative solutions.  You could get rid of the beam but it would take a bit of work.  We could design a vertical beam (not exactly a post because it will resist lateral forces on the side of the member) that is attached to the ground and to the ridge of the ceiling above.  You’d have to box out around it (see attached very quick sketch) but it will serve the purpose of opening up the rooms.  Quick and easy solution… get rid of the bookshelves and patch up the beam.


Legal stuff: All of this is based on the pictures you sent.  You’d really have to cut some small holes in the sheetrock of the beam and the wall to make sure the framing is as expected.  You didn’t hear any of this from me!