$500 – $1,000
Just a quick background: When I moved into my own house I always knew that I wanted a home bar but certainly couldn’t afford to have someone build it for me.
I wanted additional hangout space for my friends and family. I had the space in my unfinished basement, so with ZERO woodworking experience, I decided to take this on myself. If you don’t have much woodworking or tool experience, a good place to start is here.
I had basic knowledge and skills with tools but certainly nothing skilled. I’m telling you that you too can build a bar to the exact specs and size that you want. It’s really not that hard. As always, when in doubt, consult a professional.
Before starting, you should know the standards of a common bar
Note: I didn’t follow these specs exactly but they’re good guidelines.
A. Standard bar height is 42 in. This should apply to a home bar as well.
B. The overhang should be at least 8 in
C. Most bar stools are 30 in tall but make sure it wills suit your before purchasing
D. The normal bar top is 16 to 20 in. wide, including the molding, but if there’s one regret I have, is not making it wider.
E. Chicago bar rail for resting your arms.
F. The drink rail is nice but I didn’t include this in my bar
G. A drip lip keeps spills contained to the bar top.
H. A lower counter is not necessary for a home bar and adds complexity, but you’re welcome to try
J. 2 feet per bar stool is the standard but the more the better.
K. The foot rail should be 7 to 9 in. off the floor
You can make your bar to whatever size you want, as most people will make one to fit their specifications.
I think mine was 8 feet long on the long (front facing) side, 5 feet on the on the medium sized wall (wall on the left in the picture), and 3 feet on the small side (right side of picture).
Keep in mind the bar top will overlap on both sides of the bar and be much wider than this.
For the frame, I used 2×6’s and basic wood screws. It’s easier if you lay it on the ground and construct it in 3 pieces (walls if you will), then put it together.
There are two 2×6’s on each end of the large wall just wide enough so that the other smaller wall 2×6’s attach to it and provide additional support. I think the height is 40ish inches. Standard bar height is 42, but the bar top will add a few inches.
- It’s important that the tops of all sides are level at this point or it can cause problems down the road, like an unlevel bar top. I made the mistake of not checking this, and my bar top is not level on the one side. But it still looks and works fine. Don’t mind the beer cans in the picture. They’re not required, but recommended.
- There is nothing attaching it to the wall at this point, or ever, as the weight of the bar is heavy enough to keep it in place, trust me. You can attach it if you want, but you definitely won’t want to at this point as adjustments may need to be made.
I added the plywood to all exterior sides. I used 3/4 inch PINE plywood. Pine is softer wood but it keeps costs lower and looks nice and grainy. Plus, I haven’t had any problems with it. There a few things to remember though…
- When screwing it into the frame, I pre-drilled my holes. It made life much easier and avoided any cracking. At this point I didn’t use wood glue to attach to the frame but you can if you want.
- I did make the mistake of not putting shims on the bottom of the plywood where it meets the floor, so it kind of just rested on the ground when I screwed it in. Ideally, you probably don’t want it touching the ground, even if it’s just elevated slightly, in case of a basement leak or you move the bar to an uneven area.
- It’s okay if there’s gaps on the corners, as these will be covered later by trim pieces.
- I just randomly placed screws on the perimeter of the frame, where I knew it would be covered by trim. It’s important not to put it in the center of the frame where it will be seen later.
Adding Trim – I added the bottom trim pieces. The bottom pieces are 1×8’s (I think pine again, but they can be whatever).
I did use wood glue and finish nails this time. You probably should pre-drill your holes as I did, to prevent the wood from cracking. I used finish nails because they’re concealed easier and look cleaner.
- Again, I made the mistake of not using shims to have it slightly elevated off of the ground. If you do this, make sure it’s level as well.
- The side and top trim pieces are 1×4’s of pine. I used wood glue (or liquid nails or whatever adhesive works) and finish nails again to attach (pre-drilling holes again). You can use 1×6’s or any other size if you’d like.
You can see it start to come together once the trim pieces are put on. You can also see that I haven’t even touched the inside of it yet.
I added a basic pattern to the front of it, figuring 4 bar stools will fit, I made a spot for each and spaced it out evenly. 1×6’s, wood glue, and finish nails again.
- I did the same for the sides, but you can skip this or change it however you feel fit. All of the trim pieces were pre-drilled, used wood glue, and I only used finish nails to attach it mainly to the studs (frame) behind it, but an extra nail or two wouldn’t hurt.
STEP 4: FIRST BAR TOP
For your DIY home bar you want to cut two pieces to fit the top. You can see in the picture above where it’s divided. I needed two pieces because one couldn’t fit the length.
These pieces can just be any standard 3/4 inch plywood because another plywood piece (pine or wood of your choosing) will go on top of this for added stability and it’s also needed for the Chicago bar rail along the edges, if that’s what you choose.
Again, this piece is NOT the top of your bar yet and will not be seen. Refer to the layout at the top of the page for measurements accounting for how much should overhang.
The top was attached using wood glue and screwed into the top of the frame with pre-drilled holes again.
- I did not do a drink rail in the back but you’re welcome to give it a shot.
- I measured this about 16 times before cutting because you can see each piece is “L” shaped and they needed to align seamlessly (in reality they don’t because another piece will cover it).
- I think this piece hangs over 8 inches in the front and 4 inches in the back.
- One regret I have was not making the bar top bigger actually. Even though it’s plenty big, it’s just personal preference.
STEP 5: SECOND BAR TOP
Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture after stacking the second layer of the top, but it is about 1 1/2 inches shorter in the front than the bottom piece.
Make sure you look up directions on the bar rail you’re getting before measuring/cutting the second top piece. The reason for this is because that’s how the bar rail goes on (see above). The top piece was pine plywood and adhered with wood glue and wood screws.
- The wood screws were drilled in from the BOTTOM so that the screw heads weren’t visible. Just be sure that the screws won’t penetrate the top when screwed in. When in doubt, hold a screw up to it to see how far it’ll go into the next piece.
STEP 6: SHELVES
Building the shelves for your home bar first involved creating a frame on the bottom, which was basic 2×4’s and attaching to the frame of the bar. I then cut a shelf to fit the frame size, with leftover pieces from the bar (Pine).
I attached it with finish nails. You kind of have to build the shelves as you go, building it up, meaning don’t just put on the back wall, it has to be stacked as you go.
You’ll see what I mean as you read on, but if you want to do this another way, have at it because I probably made this more complex than it needed to be.
- For support of the shelf on top of that one, I used 1×4’s as the front support and the back wall as the back support. To get the 1×4’s in the front to actually support the shelf, but still look clean in the front, I attached another cut 1×4 piece to the back of the front 1×4’s (basically attaching two 1×4’s to each other) with wood glue and finish nails. The shelf could then rest on those (back) 1×4’s while still having the front 1×4 untouched.
- For support of the back of the shelf, I cut one of the 3/4 plywood pieces that will go against the back, and the shelf rests on that.
- I put trim on the bottom of the shelf to hide the frame, with 1x4s again.
- Make sure the shelf is level in all directions before permanently attaching them. Aka, drop a pencil on it and see if it rolls.
Again, I did a sandwich type technique to cut another piece of the back of the bar and rest a shelf on top of that, while sandwiching 1×4’s together again for front support.
Wood glue and finish nails were used when attaching all pieces involving the shelving, since they hide better than screws.
This is the semi-finished product. You can still see gaps in the corner, which were later covered with quarter round.
I used 1/2 inch Birch for the very top shelf, only because I had it left over from another project, but the other shelves were again, 3/4 inch pine plywood. I covered the front edge of the plywood with basic 3/4 inch wide trim pieces.
The bar rail is a separate process in itself because when you cut the very top (remember there’s two pieces of plywood stacked on top of each other), the very top piece should be cut slightly shorter than the bottom piece because the bar rail is notched so that it kind of steps up to the next piece.
- When cutting the bar rail, you have to build a jig so that it gets cut exactly like it sits on the bar. Constructing the jig is basically putting two pieces of wood together, with the same 1 ½ inch gap just like the top of the bar. This should be explained further in the instructions of the bar rail if needed, which is probably easier than I can explain it here.
- Even with the jig, it was virtually impossible get the corners to line up perfectly no matter how many times or angles I cut it on so I needed wood putty to fill the gaps and sanded it like crazy to get the bar rail smooth where other pieces joined together. It actually fit together quite nicely when it was done.
STEP 8 FINISHING TOUCHES
This is the finished back of the bar, as I added one more trim piece, and then lined the back of the bar top with a couple pieces of 3/4 inch trim to hide the edge of the plywood.
The top of the smaller trim pieces lining the top of the bar, as you can see, actually is “L” shaped that it covers the bar top and back. You can find all of these pieces at Home Depot.
This is the finished front. You can see where two pieces of bar rail joined based off the wood putty mark. I also needed wood filler on bar top where the two pieces joined.
Finishing Touches – Stain
I sanded the entire bar and stained the bar Kona Semi-Gloss Stain. It took 2-3 coats of Kona stain to get the shade shown here. This stain has the stain and polyurethane built in, so I did not need to add a top protective coat to the stain.
I can’t say enough good things about this Kona stain. I have used this stain throughout my home. I used this stain on the top of my console table, my banister, shelves, and the bar.
Here are some photos of other projects throughout my home that I used the Kona Semi-Gloss Stain:
The floors are not Kona, but they are almost a perfect match. The floors are Java Scraped Oak by Pergo.
This is where the bar top not being level killed me. I used two boxes of two parts epoxy for the bar top and had myself and friend do it. I poured it all over the bar top and then I began to spread it to cover every inch of it, meanwhile my friend came behind me, leveling it.
The problem is, even though we made every inch was covered, it’s self leveling so slowly slid away towards the areas that weren’t level.
Needless to say, we had 15 minutes before the epoxy started to dry and now there’s gaps and divots in my bar top. You also need to go over it with a heat gun to get all of the bubbles out. Again, read the directions carefully. If I did it again, I would have used 3 boxes.
I did add the LED light strip that you see in the top picture for added effect. I can change the color on those or keep them off altogether. But, since it’s an LED strip, it is hidden underneath my Chicago Bar Rail. This of course is optional but everyone seems to enjoy it.
We purchased bar stools that are 30 inches in height, and they are perfect for our bar. If you like the look of our bar stools, here are similar bar stools. The great thing about these bar stools is that they have a foot rest built into the bottom of the stool, so I didn’t even need to add the bar rail to the front of my bar.
STEP 10 – BAR RAIL
The bar rail is the foot rest that sits at the bottom of your bar. I am yet to add this because they can be rather expensive, but I do think they take the bar up a notch.
That should be about it. A home bar doesn’t have to be tedious or complex. The most tedious part in my opinion was the sanding and staining. The hardest part is just getting started so go to the store and buy pieces for the frame.
After you have built the frame, go back to the hardware store and pick up more wood for the next step. I found it easier to go back and forth the hardware store for wood instead of trying to figure out all of the math ahead of time.
My wife thought I was trying to avoid her nagging by spending so much time are the hardware store. Which is kind of true, but I really did find it easier to take the bar section by section so I didn’t get overwhelmed. If you’re in no rush, like I wasn’t, just take your time, but once that frame is built, it adds a whole new level of motivation.
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