How to Build a Cheap Custom Bar

A bar provides a convenient location to prepare drinks.
A bar provides a convenient location to prepare drinks. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

A feature that some people incorporate into their homes, often in game rooms or a finished basement, is a bar. It can provide a place to store and mix alcoholic beverages for guests, while also serving as a gathering point. Building a basic bar customized to fit your needs is a project that you can complete at low cost, using little more than plywood and 2-by-4s.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Pressure-treated 2-by-4 boards
  • Circular saw
  • Safety goggles
  • Drill
  • Stainless steel screws
  • Masonry screws
  • Non-pressure-treated 2-by-4 boards
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • 1/2-inch-thick plywood
  • Pine, maple or oak board (for the counter)
  • Molding
  • Stain
  • Paintbrushes
  • Polyurethane finish

Measure the space where you want to place the bar. When choosing the location, keep in mind that you need to provide not just space for the bar structure but also a space of at least two to three feet behind the bar so you can comfortably work behind it.

Sketch out the design of the bar so that it fits your needs and the space you have available.

Measure and cut pressure-treated 2-by-4 boards to be the sill plates, based on the dimensions you have drawn up. The sill plates are used to attach the framing of the bar to the floor.

Screw the sill plates to the floor. Use stainless steel screws if the flooring is constructed of wood, and masonry screws if the floor is concrete.

Measure and cut two non-pressure-treated 2-by-4s for each sill plate on the floor. These boards will be the top and bottom plates of the framing.

Cut non-pressure-treated 2-by-4s for the studs. You'll keep the studs spaced no farther than 24 inches apart, so divide the length of the bar in inches by 24 to determine how many studs you need. Bars are usually between 39 and 42 inches tall, as that is the height that most people find comfortable, so cut the studs to fit inside that range, minus the thickness of the top, bottom and sill plates.

Nail a stud into each end of the bottom plate, then nail more studs in between the end studs, keeping them no more than 24 inches apart.

Nail the top plates to the top of the studs.

Lift the framing on top of the sill plates, and nail the bottom plates to the sill plates.

Cut 1/2-inch plywood into pieces that match the width of your bar's sides and the height of the framing from the floor to the top of the top plates. Nail them to the outer edge of the framing.

Cut a counter for the bar. The counter should extend 2 to 3 inches past the front of the bar. Use a wood such as pine, maple or oak for the counter, because it is sturdier and looks better than plywood.

Nail the counter to the bar.

Cut molding to fit along the front edge of the bar, and nail it to the counter.

Apply a coat of stain to the bar, followed by a polyurethane finish. If you want the bar to be dark, apply a second coat of stain before applying the polyurethane.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can add shelves under the top of the bar for storing supplies. Nail pieces of 2-by-4s around the inside of the bar structure and cut a piece of plywood to fit on top of them. Nail the plywood to the 2-by-4s.
  • Wear safety goggles when sawing the wood.
  • Ventilate the area in which you're working while applying the stain and polyurethane finish. If you begin to feel light-headed or nauseated, cease work immediately and go to an area with fresh air.

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