If you’re a social butterfly dying to spend time with friends, the past few years likely haven’t been easy. Rather than going to a bar to socialize, why not bring the bar to you?
Home bars make it easier to entertain without paying the cost of a real bar or worrying about masks or vaccines. But how exactly can you build a home bar on a budget?
Building a home bar doesn’t have to be expensive. By using recycled materials and some elbow grease, you can throw together a sturdy yet attractive home bar within a single weekend. You just have to have the right tools, some patience, and a little know-how.
In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about building a home bar on a budget. Follow along and you’ll have yourself a home bar worthy of showing off to friends without breaking the bank.
Woodworking Skills Needed to Build a Budget Home Bar
Starting a new woodworking project will always seem daunting if you lack prior woodworking skills. Rest assured, though, you can still create a budget home bar even if you’ve never worked with wood a day in your life. You just need a basic understanding of how tools work.
If you are new to woodworking, we recommend compiling as much information as possible before you start. You’ll need:
- Guidelines for the shape and size of your bar
- A design plan (available online)
- The necessary tools
- Wood and wood glue/caulk
From there, with a little guidance, you’ll be on your way to a fully built home bar.
Measurements For A Typical Home Bar
Before you start building, you’ll need to measure each separate piece to ensure that everything fits together. Start by considering where you’ll place the bar and measure that space before drawing up plans. Once you know how much room you’re working with, you can then begin designing your blueprint.
The following are standard measurements for most home bars:
- Height – 42 inches
- Overhang – 8 inches
- Bartop – 16 to 20 inches wide
- Feet rails – Typically 7 to 9 inches above the floor
- Bar stools – Typically 30 inches tall
Interior shelves are not necessary but they add a nice touch to your bar and create more space for storage liquor, shakers, glasses, and other drink-making tools.
What You’ll Need to Build a Budget Home Bar
After measuring and drawing up a plan, you’ll need to purchase all the necessary tools to start building. For a thorough job, we recommend getting:
- A compound miter saw to create locking corners
- A circular saw to cut smooth edges
- An electric drill
- A nail gun, 15- or 16-gauge Brad nails, and finishing nails
- A level, tape measure, and pencil
- A sanding machine
- Wood caulk and glue
You should be able to find all of these tools at your nearest hardware store. If not, you can order from Amazon and they’ll arrive within a few days.
Buying Wood For Your Bar
Getting the right wood can be the hardest part of building a bar on a budget. Besides the power tools, the wood will likely be your greatest expense so try to find good deals by sourcing through a wholesaler or buying recycled wood.
Take things one step at a time and buy as you go. If this is your first time building something from wood, it doesn’t have to be finished in a single weekend.
Head to the hardware store and shop around to find the right piece of wood for each section. It’s better to build slowly than have to rebuild again.
Start by Building a Bar Frame
We recommend using 2×6 planks to construct a frame for your bar. Start by laying the wood flat on the ground and constructing 3 separate pieces. Draw an outline for each piece of the frame in pencil before cutting so you know your lines will come out cleanly. If the edges are too rough to connect, you can smooth them using a sander. Then, connect using wood screws.
Use two 2×6 planks on both ends of the larger bar wall and then use single 2×6 planks on the smaller end walls to provide extra support while constructing the frame.
The height should come out to around 40 inches, which will gain an additional 2 inches of height once the bar top has been attached.
Using a level, be sure to check that both sides are equal and level with each other before connecting pieces. If they are not level, anything you place on your home bar will slide off and break.
Once the pieces are all connected, we recommend mounting the frame to a wall to provide needed support while you work on the other pieces.
Build The First Bar Top
By the time you’re finished building your home bar, it should have two top layers. The first bar top is technically a sub-top and won’t be where you or your friends place your drinks. Instead, it acts as an under-support for the final second top.
For this first top, you only need two pieces of wood to span the length of the bar. You can use any standard ¾ inch plywood because the combined width of two pieces should be sturdy enough to support the final top bar. We recommend using pine since it provides ample support without being excessively pricey.
If you have extra pine plywood at the end, you can also use it to craft a beveled Chicago bar rail for your guests to rest their arms on. Don’t worry about sanding the first top since your guests won’t see it. Safe your sanding paper and energy for the final top.
Once you’ve finished constructing the first top, you can attach it using standard wood screws and wood glue. Pre-drill holes into the frame to make it easier to attach and be sure to measure everything before you finally attach the first top. As the saying goes—measure twice and cut once.
Build the Second Bar Top
Before you start building a second bar top, it’s best to consider how you’ll construct your Chicago bar rail.
The rail will mount to the final top bar so the two parts should connect smoothly. If you’ve not yet done so, draw up some plans for the bar rail to avoid any mistakes as you’re crafting the second bar top.
Once your measurements are squared away, begin cutting the final top bar. The second bar top will be where your guests put their drinks so it’s best to measure and level the surface ahead of time.
Also, you’ll want to sand down the top surface to create a smooth texture. If you want to add an epoxy, the epoxy will dry more smoothly if the wood is even.
A final epoxy coating will help seal the wood, prevent rot, and give it a beautiful sheen like what you’d find at a high-class venue. If you’re new to pouring epoxy, we recommend watching a few videos ahead of time to prevent bubbles and speed up the otherwise tedious job.
Build And Install Bar Shelves
Although they’re not necessary, adding bar shelves will give your bar a polished and professional look. They also give you more vertical space to store bottles of liquor, glasses, shakers, and other drink-making materials. If you decide to build them, start by creating a frame.
You should use 2×4 planks to create the shelving frames before inserting a final shelf.
The frame should be narrower than the bar itself, otherwise, the shelves will extend to the interior edge and create a potential drop risk. The shelves also don’t have to be anything special. You can simply cut the wood to size and slide them into place.
Attach the shelves using finishing nails and some wood glue to secure everything in place. If you’re struggling to get the shelves into place, you can try sanding the edges down until everything comes together. Just be sure to make every piece as uniform as possible.
Add Some Finishing Touches
With the final construction done on your budget home bar, you can then begin adding some finishing touches. Think of this stage as the decorating part of creating a bar.
You’ve done the hard work of bringing it into reality and now you can make it look beautiful, polished, and professional.
Staining a Home Bar
Your first step should be to stain the wood of your bar. Staining wood not only makes it more aesthetically pleasing but also helps seal the wood and preserve the natural grain of the wood. Without a stain, your bar will remain the same color as the pine or plywood you used to build it and your guests won’t notice the deeper beauty of the wood.
If you’ve not already sanded the wood, start by sanding it down. This will help the stain adhere evenly.
Then, apply an even coat of stain on the wood and let it dry completely. You’ll need at least 2 coats of stain to get the color you want but if it’s still not deep enough, don’t hesitate to apply an additional third coat.
Add Some Bar Lights
If you want to go all out, you can illuminate your bar by installing some lighting. LED strips placed under the lip of the rail create a nice under glow or, alternatively, you could hang some neon or LED lights above the bar. Again, lights are completely optional but they add a nice finishing touch to an otherwise standard bar.
Don’t Forget Bar Stools
Your guests will need somewhere to sit while they enjoy their drinks. For a typical 42-inch bar, you should try to find 30-inch bar stools that will give your guests enough space to fit their legs under the bar top. If you position the bar stools roughly 2 feet apart, you should be able to fit 4 or 5 stools around the bar with ease.
A Bottom Bar Rail
One last finish touch to consider is a bottom bar rail. This will give your guests a place to rest their feet so their legs aren’t just hanging from their barstools. We don’t recommend building your own bottom bar rail unless you’re skilled with metalwork. Instead, you can find them for sale at restaurant supply stores or online.
Bottom bar rails can be expensive but they’ll give your bar a finished and professional look that not many home bars have.
How Much Will A Home Bar Cost To Build?
Let’s say you don’t want to build your own home bar. It would be easier to just pay a contractor to build one for you or just buy a prefabricated version from a home décor shop. These would easily be the most expensive options, costing you as much as $10,000 for a finished product. If that price tag seems excessive, you’d be right.
You can construct your own budget home bar for a fraction of that cost. Between the cost of materials, tools, and finishing touches, you can build your own home bar for as little as $1,000 and still have a quality bar that you can your friends can enjoy.
Your highest expenses will go to power tools and wood. The rest is relatively inexpensive to buy in bulk. If you’re really on a tight budget, you can even cut costs by renting power tools from Home Depot or Lowes. With those expenses out the way, you could be down to just $500 for a home bar.
Going out to a bar with your friends just isn’t smart when you could stay at home and enjoy the same experience for a fraction of the cost. Even without woodworking skills, you can construct a professional-grade home bar on a budget.
It just takes some research, some patience, and a little bit of time to find quality yet affordable materials. Be sure to measure everything closely and don’t hesitate to pull back if you’re not sure what you’re doing.