Home Bar DIY – Step by Step Guide

$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.

Step 1

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.

STEP 2

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.

STEP 3

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.
Basement Bar
Custom Home Bar
DIY Bar

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.

DIY Bar
Build Your Own Bar

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.
Bar Rail
Chicago Bar Rail

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.

Build Your Own Bar
  • 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.
DIY Bar
DIY Bar
I actually used shims under the frame of the shelving this time since there’s nothing really supporting the front

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.

STEP 7

Chicago Bar Rail – I used bar rail that I ordered online since it’s rare to actually find it in stores and this was the cheapest one I could find. It was Oak Chicago Bar Rail Moulding.

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.

DIY Bar
  • 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.
Custom Home Bar

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.

Custom Home Bar
Custom Home Bar

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.

DIY Bar
Complete Home Bar

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.

STEP 9

TWO PARTS EPOXY – It’s the shiny glass that protects the bar top. Read the directions carefully for the two parts epoxy, which you can find in the paint section at Home Depot as well.

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.

Lighting

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.

DIY Bar
Fully stocked home bar

Bar Stools

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 10BAR 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.

DIY Bar
Setting the bar high for your home bar

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23 thoughts on “Home Bar DIY – Step by Step Guide

  1. Incredible instructions really. I searched for them for a while and these are the most complete. I am starting on it this weekend. Thanks.

    1. Hi Tim,

      I don’t have the exact specs because I figured everyone would want to tweak it to fit their space. I took numerous trips buy wood because I kind of bought it as I went so I didn’t waste any wood or overbuy. Because of that, I don’t have the cut list. There are dimensions at the top of the post for a standard bar that you can use as a guideline.

      Mine was roughly 8 feet long on the front side, 4 and a half feet on the on the medium side, and a little over 2 feet on the small side. That is just the “bottom” piece of the bar though. The bar top overlaps about 10 inches on all sides (with the bar rail installed). Lastly, from the ground to the bottom of the bar top was 41 inches high. If there are any specific questions, just let me know.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Unfortunately, this probably weighs around 500 lbs with all of the wood so it definitely wouldn’t be worth shipping this anywhere, lol. There are contractors that can certainly build a bar for you, or you can tackle this yourself and just do a little at a time, if you have the right skill set. It’s not overwhelming if you just look at it section by section instead of the entire thing at once 🙂

    1. Hi Cam!

      Thank you! The stain is Varathane in Kona. I used Kona on so many projects and it looks great on anything. I believe I did 3 coats of Kona on the bar. Let us know if you have any other questions! – Lacey & Brian
      Here is a link for the stain: https://amzn.to/3gyLs7b

      1. Hi- I too looked all over for bar plans to build my bar and yours were the beat. Thanks so much for that! All I have left Is the staining and epoxy. Two question: did you sand the whole thing before staining and also since the top was polyurethaned did you have to put that thin layer of epoxy on before you did the flood pour of epoxy.

      2. Hi Doug. First, thank you! My goal when creating this post was to give as much detail as possible. Yes, we did sand the whole thing before staining, which is tedious but you don’t have to overkill it. A quick once over should be okay. To answer your second question, no I just did the full pour of epoxy the first time. My only issue is that I didn’t have enough. Once it self leveled, there were spots that it didn’t fully cover and I had to try and conceal it later. When in doubt, it’s always better to have more and not need it. Let us know if you have anymore questions and attach a picture when you’re done!

  2. Thank you for your instructions!! I used them as a blueprint for my bar build and it was so helpful!! Two questions… 1. Did you sand before you stained and in between each coat of stain? 2. Did you have to apply the thin layer of epoxy as well as the flood layer. I’m wondering if you could skip the first layer since you applied the stain with polyurethane on the top before the epoxy.

    1. Hi Doug! I’m looking into building this bar as well. Did you by chance, make a list of all the materials used?

  3. Hi, I wanted to thank you for posting this article. I was looking for a project during the Corona Virus lockdown and decided to build a bar for my garage. I’ve never really built anything like this so pretty much everything was a first for me. I followed your blueprint pretty closely with some tweaking for my space. I just put the last piece of trim on tonight so need to start sanding tomorrow. It turned out really great and I couldn’t have done it without your post. Really awesome, and really great of you to share the way you did.

    Just wanted to pass along my sincere thanks.

    John
    Westfield, NJ

  4. Hi, great work! I was wondering if you had a list of all the materials you used and how much of each so I know what to buy? Thank you

    1. Thanks, Mat! Unfortunately I don’t because I made numerous trips to the store and bought pieces as I went since it was my first build and wasn’t sure what I’d need. I listed the materials throughout the post so you can kind of get a rough idea of what’s needed, but kind of figured everyone would build a bar to their own specs anyway. Sorry! Let me know if you have any other specific questions though.
      – Brian

  5. Awesome instructions, we are building ours as I type this! Can I ask where the bar stools pictured are from?!

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