How to Build a DIY Bar
When it comes to unwinding at the end of a long day, or entertaining guests over the weekend, few things offer the relaxation and entertainment value as a home bar. Despite so many homeowners dreaming of adding a bar to their homes, many simply can't afford to purchase one brand new or pay to have one installed.
If that sounds like you, you can drastically reduce the cost by building a bar yourself. As intimidating as it may sound, building a home bar is completely doable with a moderate amount of skill, money, and effort. If you're ready to get started, read on to learn how to build a DIY bar in 11 steps.
Before You Begin
While you can build your bar according to whatever design specifications you please, there are some standard characteristics that you should keep in mind if you plan to modify this guide's instructions. These include:
- 24 to 30 inches of width per bar seat
- 36 inches between the wall and bar to accommodate a bartender
- 8 to 12 inches of leg room between the bar top and the front wall
- 42 inches of height generally to accommodate standard, 24- to 32-inch bar stools.
- Bar railing along the outside edge to prevent spilled drinks from dripping onto your lap
- 16- to 20-inch of counter space depth
The building instructions that follow call for 2x6 lumber in case a heavy bar top (like stone) is installed, or if you want to install shelves between the bar's wall studs. However, you can use 2x4 lumber instead. Also, you may want to use 3/4-inch plywood instead of 1/2-inch if you're installing an especially heavy bar top. Just be sure to adjust the siding measurements accordingly and use 1/4-inch longer screws for fastening the siding to the structure.
Building a DIY bar requires the use of power tools, including a miter saw and circular saw. You should only attempt this project if you know how to safely handle these tools, and if you possess the necessary safety equipment. Always wear eye and hearing protection.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Power drill or impact driver
- Caulking gun
- Miter saw
- Circular saw
- Tape measure
- Carpenter's pencil
- Speed square
- Framing square
- Hammer or pneumatic finish nailer (optional)
- 2x6 lumber
- 1/2-inch plywood
- 16-inch wide bar top
- Bar molding
- Construction adhesive
- 2 1/2-inch self-tapping structural screws
- 1 1/4-inch finish nails or trim head screws
- 1 1/4-inch flat head screws
Cut the Framing Boards to Length
Use a miter saw to cut 2x6 lumber to the following dimensions:
- 2 at 60 3/4 inches
- 2 at 40 3/4 inches
- 2 at 20 3/4 inches
- 11 at 40 inches
Lay out the Wall Framing
Measure from the end of one of the 60 3/4-inch 2x6s (front wall top plate), and make a mark at 1 1/2 inches and 15 3/4 inches. Hold the end of the tape on the 15 3/4-inch mark, and mark every 16 inches on the remaining length of the board.
Once you've marked out the whole board, take a speed square and mark a perpendicular line across the face of the board on each of the marks you made. Mark an X on the opposite side of the line that you pulled your tape measure from. These marks will be where the wall studs go.
Lay the second 60 3/4 inch board (bottom plate) and top plate edge to edge, and transfer the marks from the top plate to the bottom plate with a framing square.
Repeat these steps on the two 40 3/4-inch boards (top and bottom plates for the left wall) and the two 20 3/4-inch boards (plates for right wall). If measured and marked correctly, the front wall plates should have five stud marks, the left wall should have three, and the right wall have two.
Frame the Walls
Turn the bottom plate on its edge, and hold one end of the 40-inch studs flush against the outside corner of the plate. Drive two 2 1/2-inch self-tapping structural screws through the back of the plate into the end of the stud. Repeat these steps on each one of the stud marks on the plate while holding the studs flush to the marks. When framing the front wall, add a second stud directly next to the studs on each end of the plates. This will provide extra backing for the side walls to anchor to.
Line up the corresponding layout marks on the top plate with the other ends of the studs. Drive two structural screws through the the plate into the end of each of the studs.
Repeat these steps on all three walls.
Attach the Side Walls to the Front Wall
Spread construction adhesive evenly along the surface of the left wall's outside corner. Set the corner flush against the outside corner of the front wall, and drive 2 1/2-inch screws through the left wall's corner into the front walls two corner studs.
Repeat these steps to secure the right wall to the front wall on the opposite end of the bar.
Cut the Plywood Siding
Use a circular saw to cut 1/2-inch plywood to the following dimensions:
- 61 3/4 x 43 inches
- 40 3/4 x 43 inches
- 24 1/4 x 43 inches
Attach the Siding
Apply construction adhesive to the edges of the plates and studs of the front wall. Place the 61 3/4-inch piece of plywood onto the wall, flush with the top and bottom plates, but hanging past both sides by 1/2-inch.
Secure the plywood to the frame with 1 1/4-inch finish nails or trim head screws. Nail or screw every 6 to 10 inches around the perimeter (plates and corners) of the plywood, and every 12 to 16 inches into each of the studs.
Repeat these steps with the 40 3/4-inch wide piece of plywood for the left wall, and the 24 1/4-inch piece for the right wall. When attaching the siding to the side walls, butt the front edge of the plywood against the overhanging 1/2-inch of the front wall siding.
Cut the Plywood Base to Width
Rest your bar top onto a full sheet of 1/2-inch plywood. Place the front notch of the bar molding onto the front edge of the plywood, and the back notch of the molding onto the front edge of the bar top. Once both the notches are properly seated into the plywood and bar top, mark the spot where the back edge of the bar top rests on the plywood. Remove the molding and bar top, and measure the distance between the front edge of the plywood and the mark you made. That will be the width of your bar top base. Use a circular saw to rip two full-length pieces of plywood to this width.
Cut and Secure the Base
Cut one of your ripped pieces of plywood to 55 3/4 inches long for the left wall, and another to 34 1/4 inches long for the right wall. Spread a layer of construction adhesive evenly over the top plate of each wall.
Set each piece of plywood onto its respective wall so that they’re flush with the back of the walls, and overhanging the side of the wall by eight inches. Secure each base to the top plates with 1 1/4-inch flathead screws spaced every 6 to 10 inches.
Measure the distance between the two side bases to determine the length of the front base. Take the piece of plywood leftover from cutting the right wall's base, and cut the front base to length. Dry fit the front base by setting it in between the two side pieces. If it fits, apply construction adhesive to the face of the front wall's top plate, and set the base onto it so the front edge is flush with the two side pieces. Secure with screws.
Measure and Cut the Bar Tops
Measure between the outside edges of the two side bases to determine the length of your front bar top. Then, measure from the back edge of the front base to the back edge of each side base piece to determine the length of the left and right bar tops. Cut the bar tops to each of these three measurements.
Attach the Bar Top
Apply construction adhesive to the underside of each bar top, and set them flush to the back edges of the base of their respective wall. Secure the tops with 1 1/4-inch finish nails or trim head screws every 10 to 12 inches.
Cut and Fasten the Bar Molding
Rip a sheet of 2- to 3-foot-long plywood to the same width as your base and bar top thickness combined. For example, if your bar top is 3/4-inch thick and your base is 1/2-inch thick, rip the piece of plywood to 1 1/4 inches.
Set this plywood strip on its edge against the back edge of your miter saw, and rest the back notch of your crown molding into it. This strip will hold the molding level while you cut the angles for the outside corners.
Swivel your miter saw’s blade horizontally to the right until it’s at a 45-degree angle. Cut a 45-degree angle (miter) on the end of a molding piece that’s slighter longer than the left wall. Set this piece of molding onto the outside edge of the left wall's bar top and base. Hold the mitered edge onto the front-left corner of the bar until it's aligned with the corner. Determine the length of the left wall's molding by marking where it's flush to the back edge of the wall. Swivel your miter saw back to 0 degrees, and cut the molding to length at the mark.
Swivel your miter saw’s blade to the left until it’s at a 45-degree angle, and cut a miter onto the end of a molding piece that’s slighter longer than the front wall. Align this miter cut with the miter from the left wall's molding, and mark the opposite, uncut side of the molding at the corner where the front and right walls meet. Turn the miter saw’s blade 45 degrees to the right, and cut a miter on on this mark.
Finally, turn the saw’s blade 45 degrees to the left, and cut a miter onto the end of a molding piece that’s slighter longer than the right wall. Align the two miter cuts, and mark where the molding is flush to the back edge of the right wall. Swivel your miter saw’s miter back to 0 degrees, and cut the molding to length at that mark.
Secure the bar molding to the plywood by driving 1 1/4-inch screws under the plywood into the bottom of the molding every 10 to 12 inches.
Finishing Touches (Optional)
At this point, your bar is technically complete. However, there are several features you can add to enhance its appearance and functionality. Some options include:
- Paint or stain
- Shelving installed between the wall studs behind the bar
- Enclosing the exposed framing behind the bar with plywood
- Installing a foot rail
- Adding decorative trim around the edges of the siding
- Securing the bar to the wall or floor
- Installing a sink or electrical outlets
- Adding a beverage fridge