Do you want to learn how to build a bar, but don’t know where to start? Even if you never picked up a hammer or used a saw, we guide you throughout the entire project.
I always wanted a home bar, but I didn’t have a large budget. So, I figured out how to build a bar on my own and created DIY bar plans with a cut list to simplify the project.
I had ZERO woodworking experience at the time, but I decided to learn how to build a DIY bar because I couldn’t afford to pay someone to build it.
How to Build a Bar Without Woodworking Skills
As a former aircraft mechanic in the Air Force, I learned the basics of using tools but I had no idea how to work with wood.
There is a sense of accomplishment that I get from building things and making things work again. So, I knew I could figure out how to build a bar with wood, if I took my time and broke it down step by step.
If you don’t any woodworking or tool experience then this a good place to start to building a basic home bar. Getting started with a woodworking project is the hardest part because you can overthink it. These instructions on how to build a bar will take the guess work out of the project, preventing that overwhelmed feeling.
Home Bar Measurements
I did not follow these measurements exactly, but these are good guidelines to use when figuring out your bar area. When building a bar it is important to factor in the thickness of the top and the base. The bar top can add a few inches to the overall height, so make sure to consider this or your bar could be taller than you expected.
Standard Bar Measurements
- Standard home bar height is 42 inches
- The overhang should be at least 8 in
- Most bar stools are 30 in tall
- Normal bar top is 16 to 20 in. wide, including the molding
- Chicago bar rail for resting your arms
- The drink rail is nice but I didn’t include this in my bar
- A drip lip keeps spills contained to the bar top
- A lower counter is not necessary for a home bar and adds complexity, but you’re welcome to add it.
- 2 feet per bar stool is the standard but the more the better
- The foot rail should be 7 to 9 in. off the floor
How much does it cost to build a DIY Bar?
Building an 8 foot home bar yourself will cost about $500 in lumber, but you can make a few adjustments to decrease the cost. Adjust the bar top, altering the length of the bar, and changing the exterior design of the bar can take down the total cost.
Keep in mind you are significantly saving by building a home bar yourself. Purchasing a decent prebuilt home bar typically costs $1000 not to mention the price to ship it. Paying someone to build a custom bar for you can cost well over $1500, depending on the details of your project.
How to decrease the cost of building a home bar?
- Create a cut list to prevent waste
- Decrease the size of your bar
- Alter the final design to use less wood
- Borrow or rent tools for the project
- Space out the project to avoid spending a large amount at one time
- Use bar plans to help take out the guess work and avoid wasting materials
Beginner Wood Sizing Guide
If you are a beginner with woodworking than you will also find our lumber guide helpful. The lumber guide helps break down the measurements of wood to make it easier to purchase wood.
Size of My Home Bar
My DIY bar is about 8 feet long on the front side, 5 feet on the on the left side, and 3 feet on the right side. I wanted to have room for at least 6-7 people to gather around the bar comfortably.
Keep in mind the bar top will overlap on both sides of the bar and be much wider than this. Our detailed instructions in this post and in our bar plans are a great foundation to build from.
Many customers have used the plans as a rough guideline to get them started then they adjust the size of the bar to fit in their home.
Things to Consider Before Building Your DIY Bar
Painters Tape: Before starting your project, use painter’s tape to map our your home bar size. The tape is a good guideline to visualize the size and determine the best place for the opening of the bar.
Level Floor: Test if your floor is level before building your bar frame. If your floor does not feel level, it is strongly advised to anchor the bar for safety purposes.
Shelving: Figure out where you would like the shelving to be located and how much storage is needed.
Bar Stools: How many bar stools would you like to fit around the bar? This can help determine the length of the bar.
DIY Bar Design: The exterior and bar top can be decided toward the end of the project, if you aren’t quite sure of the final details of the design.
Budget: Set a budget for the project before you start. The trips to the hardware store can add up quickly, so make sure to determine the budget then adjust the size of the bar to fit your needs.
Tools: To save money on tools, you can borrow tools from friends or family and rent tools from most home improvement stores.
Even if you prefer a different style bar, our plans are a great foundation to build from and make your own. After you build the bar then wrap in plywood, it is your blank canvas to design however you prefer.
Tools Required to Build a Home Bar:
- Compound Miter Saw
- Circular Saw
- Finishing Nails
- Nail Gun
- Brad Nails 15-16 Gauge (Optional)
- Safety Glasses
- Tape Measure
- Hand Sander
- Caulk Gun for Wood Glue/Adhesive
- Optional: Bar Plans
How to Build a Bar Frame
Start with building a home bar frame using basic wood screws and 2×6’s. It’s easier if you lay the bar frame on the ground and construct it in 3 pieces when assembling it.
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.
My bar frame measures 84.5 inches across the front of the bar and is about 40 inches tall not including the bar top. Standard bar height is 42 inches, but the bar top will add a few inches as well.
If you want to learn more about the standard height, you will find this bar height guide helpful. Don’t mind the beer cans in the picture. Beer isn’t required, but it is recommended.
Make Sure Your Home Bar Frame is Level
It’s important that the tops of all sides are level at this point or it can cause problems down the road. I made the mistake of not checking this and my bar top is not level on the one side, but luckily it still looks and works fine.
There is nothing attaching the basement bar frame to the wall at this point, so be careful not to tip the bar while working on it. It is strongly recommended to keep pets and children away from this project while you are building to prevent injuries.
You definitely should hold off one mounting at this point because adjustments may need to be made the bar. It is recommended to mount a bar after you are finished the project to prevent tipping even if your floor feels levels.
What To Do If there Are Gaps in the Bar Frame
Don’t worry if there are gaps on the corners, as these will be covered later by trim pieces. I 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. If you need additional details on how to build a frame, you will find our guide to bar framing helpful.
Wrap the Frame in Plywood
After finishing up the bar framing, I wrapped the bar in plywood on all exterior sides with 3/4 inch pine plywood. Pine is softer wood but it keeps costs lower and the grain looks great after staining the bar.
When adhering the plywood to the bar frame remember to predrill the holes because this will prevent the wood from cracking. At this point I didn’t use wood glue to attach to the frame but you can if you want.
How to Add Trim to a DIY Bar
Now the bar should be wrapped in plywood, so it is time to add the trim on the exterior. At this point the exterior of the bar can be your blank canvas to design however your prefer.
If you don’t care for our design on the exterior of the bar, there are several ways to alter the bar design. A few ways to adjust the final design of the bar are add shiplap, beadboard, stone, or faux brick.
To adhere the trim I started with 1×8’s of pine to the bottom of the bar then I used wood glue and finish nails. Finish nails look cleaner and are easier to conceal when building a home bar. I recommend pre-drilling your holes to prevent the wood from cracking.
After attaching the 1x8s to the bottom of the bar, I attached 1x4s of pine on the sides and top sections. I also, used wood glue and finish nails to attached the trim to the sides of the bar.
Final Touches to the Trim
This is what the bar trim should look like after you finish attaching it to the exterior of the bar. I added a basic pattern to the front of the home bar, figuring 4 bar stools would fit nicely.
If you are looking to save a little money during this project, you can easily adjust the final design of the bar to use less lumber.
Home Bar Trim Design
Measuring out a space for where each bar stool would sit then used 1×6’s, wood glue, and finish nails again. I also, measured the sides of the bar to add the same pattern to the sides.
The trim pieces on the bar are adhered with wood glue then pre-drilled for the finish nails. Pre-drilling allowed the finish nails to attach to the studs (frame) behind it, but an extra nail or two wouldn’t hurt.
If you want to avoid adding all of the trim pieces and save yourself all the cuts then you can add shiplap instead. Adding shiplap or similar wood planks will save time on cuts and measurements.
Now that the trim pieces have been put on it is starting to come together. At this point I haven’t even touched the inside of the home bar yet.
DIY Bar Ideas
If you prefer a different look on the front of your bar, take a look at basement bars built by our customers. Some of these home bar ideas require less lumber and cuts, so this will simplify the design of your bar.
So, if you are overwhelmed without the amount of trim used on our bar, you might be interested in one of these other home bar ideas. If you want home bar blueprints for this exact bar with measurements, bar cut list, and shopping list, then you will like our DIY Bar Plans.
How to Build a Bar Top – The First Bar Top
When building a DIY home bar you will have two “layers”. The first layer, or sub bar top, I needed two pieces to span the bar.
I needed two pieces because one couldn’t fit the length of the bar. These pieces can just be any standard 3/4 inch plywood because another plywood piece.
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.
How to Attach the Bar Top
The bar top is attached using wood glue and screws 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.
They needed to align seamlessly (in reality they don’t because another piece will cover it). This piece hangs over 8 inches in the front and roughly 4 inches in the back.
Building the Second Bar Top
Before measuring and cutting the top later, make sure you look up directions on the bar rail that you’re getting! If you prefer a different bar top design or want to avoid using Chicago bar rail then we have bars built by our customers.
The bar rail that I used was from Home Depot. It is a 1-1/8 in. x 4-1/2 in. Oak Chicago Bar Rail Molding. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture after stacking the second layer of the top.
It was about 1 1/2 inches shorter in the front (any place the bar rail will touch) than the bottom piece. Make sure to read the directions on the Chicago bar rail you’re buying before measuring and cutting the second top piece.
I strongly recommend this because this what the bar rail rests on (see above). The top piece was pine plywood then adhered with wood glue and wood screws.
I drilled the wood screws in from the BOTTOM, so that the screw heads weren’t visible. Make sure that the screws won’t penetrate the top when screwed in.
If you are ever in doubt, then hold a screw next to it to see how far it’ll go into the next piece.
Adding the Bar Shelving
Building the bar shelves first involved creating a frame on the bottom. The frame is made of basic 2×4’s and attaching to the frame of the bar.
Then I cut a bar shelf to fit the frame size, with leftover pieces of pine from the bar and attached it with finish nails.
It is best to build the shelves as you go, building it upward. Meaning don’t just put on the back wall, it has to be stacked as you go.
It will be more clear as your read on while looking closely at the pictures. You could to do this another way, have at it because I probably made this more complex than it needed to be.
If you are still struggling with the bar shelves, we have complete home bar blueprints for this exact bar with measurements. The instructions provide 3D models of this home bar and shelves, a bar cut list, and shopping list.
How to Build Bar Shelves
The top bar shelf is supported by 1×4’s in the front support then 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.
If you would rather a different bar shelving design, here are some other bar shelving ideas.
DIY Bar Shelving Support
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. 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.
Attaching the Shelves
Wood glue and finish nails were used when attaching all pieces involving the shelving, since they hide better than screws.
Below 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. Then I covered the front edge of the plywood with basic 3/4 inch wide trim pieces.
Adding Chicago Bar Rail to Your Home Bar
The bar rail is a separate process in itself because you cut the top of the bar. Scroll back up to read about the 2nd bar top process. (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.
Cutting Chicago Bar Rail Tips
When cutting the Chicago 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 included with bar rail if needed, which is probably easier than I can explain it here. Even with the jig, I found it to be virtually impossible get the corners to line up perfectly.
I cut the wood multiple times and adjusted the angle, but I couldn’t get it to fit just right. To fill the gaps I used, wood putty then sanded it like crazy to get the bar rail smooth where other pieces joined together. The wood putty and sanding really helped to join the pieces together, for a smooth finish.
Finishing Touches To Build a Bar
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.
Finishing Touches – Staining the Bar
I sanded the entire bar with a medium grit sand paper then finished with a fine sand paper to leave the bar with a smooth finish.
Then I wipe the entire bar down with a dry rag to remove any sanding debris before staining. After cleaning the bar, I stained the bar using Kona Semi-Gloss Stain with an old t-shirt and a brush to get into smaller areas.
I allowed the bar to dry overnight before applying additional coats of stain. It took about 2-3 coats of Kona stain to achieve the look I was going for.
This stain has the color and polyurethane built in, so I did not need to add a top protective coat to the stain. Depending on the stain that you are working with, you may need to brush on a top protective coat.
DIY Bar Plans
Rock Solid Rustic DIY Bar Plans include 3D models to build your home bar from the frame to finish. Everything you need to know is in this post, but the plans include a bar cut list to save you a ton of time and guess work.
When I moved into my first home I knew that I wanted a home bar in the basement as an additional hangout space for friends and family.
At the time I didn’t have the budget to pay someone to build a bar for me, so instead I made my own home built bar plans. I decided to share my instructions in this post and I also created 3D bar blueprints, so you can easily learn how to build a bar too!
DIY Bar Plans also help simplify how to add shelving, decorative accents, bar rail, and more to your home bar build. Many customers have said that they never built anything in their life, but with our bar plans they were able to easily make a bar.
How to Pour Epoxy on Bar Top
After building this home bar, I poured epoxy on the top to add shine and protection. This was my first time pouring epoxy, so I didn’t realize how tedious it could be.
I have made several other bars since this bar, so I learned a few tricks to pour epoxy. Follow these epoxy tips to prevent bubbles when pouring epoxy onto your bar top.
To show off the final details of the trim, I added an LED light strip underneath the bar top and shelving. Adding bar lighting is optional, but highly recommended to bright up the space and show off the bar.
The lighting in the bar shelving brightly displays the liquor selection, so you can easily see what is available. If you are looking for more lighting ideas then you will enjoy our post other post on bar lighting.
Home Bar Stools
We purchased stools that are 30 inches in height, which are perfect for our homemade bar. If you like the look of our home bar stools, then here are similar bar stools to ours.
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.
Bar Rail for the Bottom of a DIY Bar
The bar rail is the foot rest that sits at the bottom a bar, but is optional. I am yet to add this because they can be rather expensive, but I do think they take a home bar area up a notch.
A bar area doesn’t have to be tedious or complex, and can be made without woodworking experience. The hardest part is just getting started, so go to the store and buy pieces for the frame.
After you have built the frame, then go back to the hardware store to pick up more wood for the next step.
Buying Wood to Build a DIY Bar
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 at the home improvement store. Which is kind of true, but I found it easier to build a bar in sections to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Once you build a bar frame, it adds a whole new level of motivation to keep going with the project.
Most of our customers have never worked with wood or built anything in their life. This might seem like a big undertaking, but our plans and detailed instructions help break up the project while preventing confusion.
Do you feel overwhelmed with where to start or the cost? Well, the good news is you don’t have to spend $2000 or more to have someone build the bar for you if you build it yourself.
The great thing about building your own bar is that you can control the cost. You can make adjustments to the plans to save money and build the bar increments as you have the extra funds available.
Another bonus to building a DIY Bar is that amazing feel satisfaction that you built your own bar. Plus this will help you learn a ton about woodworking and power tools throughout the project.
You will be able to take on other projects that you never thought possible! Be sure to comment below and let me know how yours turns out.