How to Build a Home Bar

Building A Bar At Home, What You Need to Think About

You have finally decided to go for and get that home bar. Now what? Where will it fit and look good? What are your choices? Will I be able to install it myself or should I just let a contractor do it? These are all questions I will help you work through. So take a deep breath and read on and before you know it you will have the home bar of your dreams right in your own house.

When installing a nice, upscale bar in your home, for entertaining friends and family, there are a few steps that you should take before starting the work, or ordering any materials or bar furniture.

Choosing a Location For your Home Bar

A home bar makes it easy to entertain; bars are really cool additions to recreation rooms, dining rooms or patio rooms. Bars made for outdoor use are perfect for decks or beside the swimming pool.

Where should you put your bar? A finished basement or recreation room is a nice place but if you don’t have one of those it could still look nice in the living room, or dining room. Maybe you don’t want it in the house but in the garage to have your own little get away. You need to decide where it would look best in your home and where it could fit without making the house too crowded. So take time to think over each room in your house and see where you can picture it looking the best.

Choosing Between A Dry Bar And A Wet Bar

Once you have decided the room to put your bar in then you have more choices. Do you want a dry bar or a wet bar?

The difference between the two are a wet bar has a sink with running water whereas a dry bar does not. If you want it to be a wet bar you will need to have plumbing near it. If you decided to put the bar in a room that is across the house from any bathroom, kitchen or laundry room then you will have to run plumbing also.  So you need to decide if you want to do that or if you want to go with a dry bar. If it is close to a room that already has plumbing then you won’t have to run as many pipes.

Measuring The Space You Have To Work With

Measuring and drawing your own lay out and diagram is a important starting point. Let us say it is a 2x4x8 dimensional bar. Simple measurement of the space it will take up, can be arrived by these three deminsonal measurements and give you a mental picture to what the bar may look like when completed.

You should decide upon the size and design of the home bar, either as an addition to your existing living space (using a mini-bar or pre-fabricated corner unit) or as a complete renovation of your basement, recreation room, or any other room in your house.

Working Out a Budget

The next step before starting any work is to determine your estimated budget, and whether or not a contractor should be used. The key difference between building your home bar yourself versus the use of a contractor depends on:

  • Your DIY Capabilities
  • The size of the bar
  • A full room build vs a small mini bar

If it is a portable bar or a fixed unit, then you just buy the necessary furniture and assemble it – you will not need a contractor. If you are going to be knocking down walls, messing with the plumbing and installing anything electrical such as lighting or a built in wall entertainment system above the bar you will need a contractor. Either way, starting with a basic budget is a must – do this buy taking a day or so to browse online home bar stores. Figure out what you want and need and figure up an estimate and can afford and stay with in that price range.

Doing Your Research

You should visit a home renovation store, either in person or on-line, to check out the pre-manufactured bars that are available, in order to get some ideas as to what you would like your home bar to feature.

There are many stylish designs available, and most can be made with the materials that you wish (types of wood, glass, cabinetry, accessories, etc.), and possibly custom made to your design specifications.  These pre-manufactured bars can be matched with other accessories, to accomplish a more complete look (fridge, microwave oven, storage cabinets for napkins, ice cube storage, garbage bins, etc.). Or, you can use these as ideas for constructing your own bar, and make the designs yourself.

Types of Home Bars

The simplest home bars are freestanding units. However even these free standing units come in a range of options.

  1. Portable bars are quite popular if space is at a premium, they can be opened up for the party, afterwards folded closed and tucked against a wall or stored in the garage.
  2. Built in units come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes. Straight and L-shaped bars are the most popular. A 45 degree L-shape bar smooths the sharp 90 degree corner of an L-shaped bar.
  3. A Back Bar is a one-sided unit that sits against a wall.
  4. Where space permits, two straight bars can be positioned back-to-back to form a twin bar.
  5. Corner units make a great style statement yet take up little space.
  6. Dry bars can include a small fridge or keg and tap. Some have a small sink with a basin hidden beneath to hold waste water. But, there is no running water and the sink is not connected to the plumbing system.
  7. Wet bars have running water, with one or more sinks. Connecting the bar to the plumbing system adds to installation costs, and in some cases, a permit may be required. These would have the option of professional bar sinks to be installed too.
  8. Then there are sit-down bars and also stand-room-only types of home bars.

Whichever type of bar you choose, always consider the comfort for your guests and yourself.

A freestanding bar can be placed just about anywhere. The location of existing water and drain pipes might determine where a wet bar can be located.

Setting up a Mini Bar

Anyone can set up a freestanding or back bar. Built ins require more skill. Most mini bars can be set up with a range of ready made bar cabinets and bar furniture, including refrigerators and wine coolers.

The basic necessities of a small home bar are a counter and storage. However there may be some other accessories you may want to consider:

  • A refrigerated keg and tap is ideal for beer.
  • A fridge keeps wine and juices cool,
  • A freezer keeps ice at hand.
  • Wine bottles can be stored on a wooden rack or in a wine cooler.
  • A blender makes it easy to offer frozen drinks and cocktails.

Position the bar so that the bartender can easily get behind and has room to move around comfortably once he’s there. Stools in front of the bar should not block traffic flow. Power outlets must be close enough to reach and the circuit must deliver the needed power.

Shelves under the bar or on the wall behind can store liquor and glassware. Mirrors are traditional behind the bar decor, putting a large flat screen TV there allows people sitting at the bar to enjoy sports or other entertainment. Overhead racks provide attractive storage for glassware. Task lighting is essential, accent lighting is a nice touch.

Installation of a wet bar is best left to a professional. An experienced do-it-yourselfer can install a dry bar, but if the electrical supply requires upgrading, a professional may be needed. Remember to check your local building codes and obtain any needed permits before beginning installation.

Building a Full Sized Home Bar

Now you have decided where you want the it and whether you want a dry bar or a wet bar. The next question is do you build it yourself or hire a contractor. The answer to that depends on if you are very handy with household projects or not. Do you have the time to build it? If you decide to build it yourself make sure you read up on how to properly install it. To set up a complete room as a home bar is not an easy task.

Using a Contractor

If you are going to be using a contractor, try talking to the contractor before deciding upon any purchases, as they may have ideas that you may not be aware of, and working together you might accomplish exactly what you have in mind. The same advice holds true if you are designing your own bar.

If you decide to make your upscale home bar as a full-sized room, like in a basement recreational room, then a contractor would be a major asset to consider. The contractor would be capable of obtaining any and all permits required prior to the construction, and is licensed and bonded, making for guaranteed satisfaction.

Plumbing for a sink with running water, electrical outlets for signs, fridge, lighting, and any other amenities can be installed by the contractor, and done in a quick, professional manner. If you are not well versed in electrical hook-ups and plumbing, then the contractor would be capable of performing all work required.

For budgetary reasons, or if you just want to get involved, you could start the renovations by installing the framing for the walls, but do not finish them, as the wiring and even natural gas or propane lines will need to be run before finishing the walls. Most contractors do understand financial restraints, and would be more than willing to compromise on the overall costs if you were to do portions of the work yourself, prior to their initiating work and doing the finishing touches. As the installation of walls and ceilings would be the most time consuming and therefore the most costly part of using a contractor, you could get that part done yourself, and have the contractor do the parts of the job that require special expertise, permits and inspection by city by-law engineers.

And, if you are capable of doing all of the work yourself, then design your renovations, measure for your materials, and enjoy your time renovating your un-used room unto an upscale home bar.

Home Bar Themes

Home bars can be classic or contemporary. Go with the theme of the space and tuck a traditional bar next to the pool table in a rec room. A bamboo tiki bar near the pool adds a tropical feeling. Or choose a bar that reflects the style and architecture of your home, such as Colonial or Craftsman.

If you do happen to go this route, then it is advisable to have the controls for the lighting, and any other electronically controlled devices, like a home theatre set up, at the bar, with dimmer switches for all lighting fixtures.

A poker table, billiards table and even a gaming system hooked up to your large screen LCD or Plasma television set would round out the entertainment amenities.

Comfortable recliners, a couch (preferably a sectional for more seating), and enough bar stools to enable everyone to sit around the bar, as the seating in any upscale home bar not only defines the atmosphere, but it makes those triple-overtime playoff games a lot more bearable.

Neon beer signs, and framed pictures of your favourite sports heroes, framed jerseys, sports memorabilia, neon beer signs, and even old, collectible soda or beer bottles all make for great home bar decorations.

Old antique om-wares and china hutches are good ideas to include into a quirky bar room. They come with hutch door locks, so it is easy to replace
the lock for future use and keep unwanted hands from access to the alcoholic beverages. Old wooden TV cabinets from around the sixties are also good to think about when considering a stylish and formidable foundation to build your bar from.

A mirror on the wall in the bar area will look great, particularly with postcards from your friends on their travels tucked in.

Over the bar, you’ve got several choices, do you want ’70s glamor, in which case go for a couple of cool glitter balls? Or how about kitsch cocktail style, with some pink flamingos and a blow-up cactus? The flamingos can be put together by downloading pictures, gluing to card, and cutting out the shapes, true make and do style. Finally, you could go for ’80s chic, try and get hold of a neon bar sign, or some neon strip lighting to add to your bar area. Very Studio ’80s!

Stocking your Home Bar

Now for the bar accessories, you’ll need a cocktail shaker, preferably shiny silver, an ice bucket, for a kitsch version try a vintage pineapple. Add in some mats, some stirrers, again either ’80s cool in plain metal, or go full out for the pink elephants!

A few little plates, or bowls for those essential slices of lemon and lime, and olives.

Just make sure you have different sets of glassware, ice buckets, bottle opener, bar towel and perhaps a bartending recipe book to help you get started, you are ready to party.

Glasses are key to complete the look, you’ll need a selection but at least including high ball tumblers, squat tumblers, shot glasses, wine, champagne and classic cocktail glasses at a minimum.

A glass collection can be built up over time, so don’t worry if you don’t have everything to start with.

Once your bar is fully finished and furnished, you can stock it up with your favorite mix of drinks and beverages – consult your favorite cocktail making kit and stock up.  I’d suggest gin, vodka, cassis, Drambuie, whiskey, brandy, tequila and orange liqueur to start. Add in a few bottles of juice, sour mix, tonic, soda water, angostura bitters, and some sodas and you’re in business.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *