How To Build A Bar

One of the best home DIY projects that can really pull a space together that we think is always a great idea is building a home bar.

How To Build A Bar

These spaces are the perfect combination of aesthetics and function and work well to make a room have more personality.

However, a project like building a home bar might sound like it will need a lot of skill, but, while you will need patience, it is actually quite a beginner friendly project! So, even if you have never used a saw or hammer yourself, this is an approachable idea!

Also, buying your own home bar can be quite expensive, this is part of the reason why we have made this guide since while it is still not super cheap, it is a lot more affordable than buying one or getting help from a professional.

Because of how simple this project can be, we have put together this guide to ensure that anyone will have all the information that is needed to make your own bar, so even if you are inexperienced, you will know what you need to do.

Also, learning how to make a home bar will give you plenty of skills which are very useful for other projects!

Will You Need Woodworking Skills

When it comes to working with wood, a lot of people assume that it is a lot more difficult than it actually is.

This is not to say that all woodworking projects are easy, and there are plenty of other challenging undertakings you can do to test established skills, however, there are also plenty of more simple projects which are a lot more accessible, and if you take the correct safety precautions, you should be able to make whatever you need to with patience and the right instructions.

Of course, learning to make something yourself is incredibly satisfying, and making something like your own home bar is even more rewarding since you can display it in your own home.

The sense of accomplishment you can get from making a substantial project like  a home bar is hard to match, so if you are tempted to start this project, it is one we recommend trying!

So, even if you do not have much experience, this is an easier project. If you are new, the best advice we can give is to not rush yourself or give yourself any deadlines that could add pressure, but also not to procrastinate and abandon the project prematurely!


The best place to formally start when it comes to making your home bar is to sort out the measurements of your bar and how many of these you want to follow.

The measurements we will list here are just the standard sizings used when creating a bar, so they are worth keeping in mind as the standards.

So when you are deciding the size for your bar, we recommend keeping these measurements in mind, but not needing to stick to all of them perfectly.

For a standard bar, the height will be about 42 inches, you can adjust this slightly, but of course, the more you do, the more off your bar will feel.

Something you sit at like a bar can easily feel too high or too low, so keep this in mind when designing it, however, you might want to change the height for accessibility reasons, so keep this in mind if it is something you want to do at the start of the project.

Then, the standard size for the overhang on a bar is 8 inches, again this can change, but you want people at the bar to have enough space to sit comfortably, but also you need enough hang space to put drinks on or to mix on.

If you do not already own bar stools, the standard height for these is 30 inches. Once again, these are simple to adjust, but we actually recommend buying these if you find a design that matches your space, however, making them is also not too difficult. 

Then, the best width for the top of your bar will be between 16 and 20 inches wide, and keep in mind that this also will include the molding.

Also, when you are designing the bar, you will likely want to choose if you want to use a Chicago bar rail, these are usually designed for resting your arms on, so have a look at other bars for inspiration and see if this is something you will want to include with the bar.

Another common inclusion for a home bar is a drink rail, however, this is less necessary than other features so is by no means a necessity.

Something which we chose to include to keep any spills (which is always a lot more common than you would assume) contained on the top of the bar is a drip lip.

Some home bars also contain a lower counter and these can add some nice depth, however, they of course require a little effort, and if you are crafty enough, you can even add one later on, so do not feel pressured to include one in the initial build!

You will also probably want to include a foot rail, and these should be somewhere between 7 and 9 inches off the floor, however, you can adjust them to the comfort of the people who will be using the bar the most often.

Hopefully this section has given you an indication of how much customization you can have when it comes to a home bar.

However, with all of these, you will want to know in advance what your measurements are going to be as well as what you will be including and not. So, ensure you know what your vision for your home bar is before you get started!

How To Build A Bar

Guide For Lumber

Something that is worth keeping in mind if you are a beginner when it comes to woodworking is to follow a lumber guide. If you follow one of these guides you will know all of the measurements of wood that you will need for this project.

Finding a good lumber guide is not difficult and it will make learning about the measurements and terminology in woodworking significantly more simple!

Standard Sizing

The home bar that this guide is based off is close to 8 feet long along the front and then 5 feet on the left side and then 3 feet on the right. It is worth remembering that the top of the bar will overlap on both of the sides and they will be significantly more wide than this.

This guide will have detailed instructions, so they are a great foundation to follow if you want to adapt the guide to include any differences which tailor the project closer to your tastes.

For example, many people have used these guides as something to just start them off and then adapt when it comes to actually working on their own house.

Tools Needed

One of the most important tools you will need for making your own home bar is a compound miter saw. Other power tools that you will need to include are a circular saw, and a drill.

If you are a beginner, buying all of these new is not recommended for the massive investment needed. Because of this we recommend either renting the equipment or borrowing it from someone who already owns it with their permission.

When it comes to more accessible tools that are needed for the project, you will need a trustworthy hammer, finishing nails as well as a nail gun for adding them in.

You will also want some Brad Nails around 15-16 Gauge, however these are optional as you will find when going through the instructions. 

When doing woodwork it is also worth remembering that you need to use safety glasses to keep your eyes protected as it is very easy for them to get hurt when making something like this.

You will also want to use a pencil, a tape measure, and a level. For the cleanest results you will need a hand sander, you can use sand paper, but it will be a lot easier to use a sander. A caulk gun will also be useful to apply the necessary adhesive and wood glue.

How To Build Your Bar Frame

DIY Frame

The best place to start when it comes to building your home bar is using your standard 2x6s and wood screws. You will want to lay down your bar frame so you construct it in three pieces separately before you put it all together.

On each end there will be two 2x6s and each will be on the end of a large wall which will be wide enough to support it and keep the 2x6s attached and give it more support. 

If you are following our guide with the same sized left frame and a right frame the bar frame will be 84.5 inches on its front and will be the recommended 40 inches tall.

You will also have a much easier time when following DIY plans. It is worth remembering as well that the standard height for a bar is 42 inches, however, when we add the top onto this frame, this will add some extra height to get it closer to this desired height. 

Keeping It Level

One of the most important things that you will need to do while working on your home bar, especially at this stage is to ensure that the tops of all of your sides are completely equal and level.

If this is not the case, the process will get continually more difficult and it will just get more awkward to fix. This is why checking thoroughly at this point is important.

For example, when you add the bar top you will immediately notice issues and the bar will be permanently wonky, so ensure that you check this properly,

Also remember that at this point in the process that you have nothing actually attaching your bar to the wall, because of this you want to ensure that you are not tipping the bar when you are working on it.

You will also want to avoid mounting yet at this point, the main reason for this is that there is a good chance that you will need to make adjustments to the bar.

The best time for you to mount your bar will actually be when you are finished with the project. This will ensure that there is little tipping and that your floor will be level when mounting!

Gaps In The Bar Frame

At this point in the process there is a good chance that you might have noticed gaps on the corners of your home bar. However, you will not have to worry about this too much, that is because these pieces will eventually be covered by trim.

To help with this, we actually placed some screws onto the perimeter of our frame. By doing this we could easily remember where we would be covering the bar frame with trim.

How To Build A Bar

However, you want to ensure that you are not leaving any gaps in the center of your frame, that is because these will be seen later in the process and will not look great even when you have finished the bar.

Wrapping In Plywood

The next main step of the process is to finish your bar framing, and you do this by wrapping your bar using plywood. You can do this using plywood that is about ¾ inch and we love using pine.

The reason why we think pine is preferable is that it has a much lower cost than other woods and while it is softer, the grain looks amazing once you have stained it. Also, because of the lighter color, the color of the stain you choose will be a lot more clear.

While you are adhering your plywood onto your bar frame, one main thing to keep in mind is that you should pre drill your holes. If you do this it is much less likely for your wood to end up cracking.

You can at this stage use your wood glue to attach the plywood to the frame, but this is not a necessity at this point so if you want to skip it for now, this will be fine!

Adding Trim

Now your bar has been wrapped in the plywood and is looking a lot more finished and put together, you can start to work on adding the trim onto the exterior of your home bar.

The best way to adhere a trim onto your home bar is by using 1×8 pieces of pine wood onto the bottom of your bar and then finish this using wood glue with some finish nails.

The reason why we prefer using finish nails is that they look significantly cleaner and they are much more simple to conceal when you are building the bar.

A reminder from the previous section that also applies to this step, we strongly recommend that you pre drill your holes. For something like your trim, you want this to look as clean as possible, so you will not want to risk your wood cracking like it is more likely to if you do not pre drill your trim.

Once you have added these 1x8s onto the bottom section of the bar, you can move onto the smaller 1x4s on the side and also the top sections. Once again you can use the useful combination of wood glue with finish nails to keep it securely attached.

Adding Finishes To The Trim

Once you have added all the trims to your bar it should be looking pretty neat and the only thing it will really be missing is the bar top.

Having a basic pattern with your trim can help your bar look a lot more aesthetically pleasing and you can even line up columns of your trim as an indicator of where the bar stools are going to be.

If you are new to woodworking we recommend keeping the design of the trim pretty simple, however, if you are looking for something a little more intermediate, you can switch up the pattern and try something different!

Trim Design

Our simple aforementioned design to mark out where each bar stool is going to sit used 1x6s as well as the simple combination of finish nails and wood glue to attach them.

You want to measure the sides of your bar to ensure that the pattern will look the same on each side of your bar. These trim pieces should of course be pre drilled before you use the finishing nails and wood glue to get it attached. 

If you are pre drilling you will be allowing your finishing nails to get attached to the studs and the frame that is behind it, however, if you want to add more nails for the sake of security, then adding a couple extra will not go amiss. 

Something else that you can try if you do not want to manually add all of these trim pieces and to save yourself getting all of these extra cuts is using shiplap as an alternative.

If you choose to use shiplap, this will give a different look that some people prefer, but in certain spaces it can look jarring so keep this in mind if you want to use it.

But, if you are going to use shiplap or something similar, it will save you a significant amount of time when it comes to doing cuts and measurements! 

Now at this point you might be thinking that most of your home bar is complete and that you only have to add the top, however, that would be forgetting all the attention that needs to be paid to the inside of your home bar to make it fully functional.

Home Bar Ideas

There are some more simple and more complex ideas you can try for your bar, especially when it comes to designing the front of your bar.

We recommend that before you start working on the trim that we recommend, that you research other bar designs that you like to see what you prefer.

Some of these will require far fewer cuts and will save you a lot of time with measurements. However, some of these will require more, so make sure to keep in mind your skill level and how much time and money you have to spare on the project.

Building The Bar Top

This stage of building your home bar actually has a little more depth than you would imagine. This is because the top of your home bar will actually have 2 separate layers.

There will be the first layer, and then there will be the sub bar top, you will usually need 2 pieces to ensure they will span the top of the bar.

How To Build A Bar

You may not always need two pieces if you can find one that can span the length of your bar, but unless you are working with a very small bar, this can be quite difficult.

For this step you can easily just use any ¾ inch plywood, or any other piece of plywood you have that is durable enough.

You can use any type of wood you want, but you want to keep in mind that this project will need a fair amount of stability, so ensure that you are not going to be relying on cuts of wood that are unreliable.

This cut of wood is also what will be needed for your Chicago bar rail if you are choosing to include one. However, this piece of your bar is not the piece that will be on the top, so you do not need to worry about the look too much!

Attaching The Bar Top

The top of your bar will be using a similar combination of wood glue alongside screws and these will go into the top of your frame, again using pre drilled holes to reduce the chance of any cracking along the top of the bar.

When we were making our bar we did not choose to include a drink rail in the back, but this is an option if you want to. 

To ensure that the pieces were the right size, we measured and double-checked plenty of times to ensure that we would not need to re cut the piece of wood or do anything to fix it after it had been attached.

You want to ensure that all of your pieces of wood have the correct L shape.

You also want to ensure that the pieces will align perfectly, this will be covered of course, but you want to make sure that the foundations for the second bar top are well constructed. 

For the measurements we are following, this bar top will have a hang of 8 inches in the front and then about 4 inches in the back making sure that you have plenty of room to work with.

Sometimes you might regret the end size of your bar since you might want more room to stand or sit, and want the top to be smaller, or you might want more room for drinks and mixing and regret not making it bigger. Keep all of this in mind when choosing the size of the bar top.

Building Your Second Bar Top

Before you start measuring and then cutting off the bar top you will want to ensure that it matches the size of any bar rails that you are going to be using.

These tend to have pretty standard sizes, but you will struggle to adjust these, so ensure that they will fit comfortably into your home bar.

These bars will usually come with directions to ensure that you have a simple time attaching and using them, so before you continue to ensure that you have read these closely so you know what you are doing.

Once you are sure you know how your rail attaches (if you are using one) then you can cut the second top piece of your home bar.

Make sure that all the measurements are lining up since your bar rail will be resting on this layer, so if it does not fit, you will have a rough time fixing it. 

Once you have cut this layer you can adhere it to the other top layer and you can do this using your wood glue and your wood screws.

We actually recommend screwing these in from the bottom, while this is a little more difficult, it means that your screw heads will not be visible, but they will also not create any bumps on your bar top.

Of course, you want to ensure that the screws are not too long that they will penetrate the top layer and go through as this is very difficult to fix. This is easy to check by putting a layer next to it to see how long it is.

Shelving For Your Bar

Now it is time to consider the inside of your bar, and the main consideration you want to spend time on is the shelving.

The first step of working on shelves for your bar is to create a frame on the bottom of the bar, we did this using simple 2x4s and then attached these onto the frame of the bar.

Then all you need to do is cut a shelf of the bat to fit with the size of this frame, you can easily do this with any leftover pieces of pine that you have. 

You can attach these shelves using finish nails, so it will be best for you to build the shelves as you are going, so building upwards. This means you are not just putting them on the back wall, but stacking them while you are working.

How To Build A Bar

There are some alternate ideas for bar shelving, so you do not need to follow our guide and you can simply just try something else that will fit with the framing that we have given you to work with.

There are ways that are more simple, and there are ways that are more complex, but since this is a beginner project, we recommend staying as simple as you can get to ensure that you are making it easy, especially since this element of the bar is often hidden, so the aesthetics do not matter that much anyway.


These top bar shelves will be getting support from your 1x4s that are in the front and then these will work as the back support as well.

To get your 1x4s in the front of your home bar, they will be able to both support the shelf and still look clean.

We attached another piece of 1×4 to the back of the front of the back using 1x4s essentially meaning that we got 2 1x4s attached to each other for extra support.

Bar Shelf Support

If you want/need extra support for the back of your shelf, we actually cut one of our ¾ plywood pieces that will be used to go up against the back of the shelf to then rest on this.

Then we put the trim onto the bottom of the shelf to ensure that the frame is hidden using the 1x4s. You of course want to ensure that your shelf is properly level in all directions before you decide to attach this permanently.

A simple way to do this is to use a level if you have one or drop a pencil. We used a similar technique to the last step by adding another piece onto the bar’s back and then using this to rest a shelf on and then sandwiching the 1x4s to create extra support.

Attaching Your Shelves

Like a lot of the steps in this process, we attached the shelves using wood glue and finishing nails and then attached all of the pieces that were involved in the shelving.

The main reason to use finishing nails over wood screws for this stage is that they are much easier to cover.

For the top shelves, for extra stability, we opted to use ½ inch birch since it is easily accessible and it can often be quite cheap. To add some extra flair, you can add extra trim pieces to the top as well!

Chicago Bar Rail Tips

If you are curing your own Chicago bar rail you will likely need to build a jig to ensure that it will sit on the bar in the way you intend it to.

We recommend finding a video guide to ensure that you do this in the safest way possible and to ensure the best results!

Finishing Touches For Your Bar

For the last stage of this guide we will go over some common steps you can do to finish your bar which can make it an even better final product.


If you are using a wood like pine like we recommended, we strongly recommend using a wood stain since it will make the final product look a lot better. Try to find a color that works with the space and do some swatches on the same wood you are using before committing.

Pouring Epoxy

If you want to further waterproof the top of your bar with something more than just a waterproof stain, something that is becoming more common is pouring epoxy over the top of the bar. This takes a lot of effort and patience, but you can customize it to look however you want.


Depending on the lighting in the space you are working with, you can build lighting into your bar. The best space to do this is under the hang at the front since it will be hidden. This can really complete the bar however, it is quite a complex process.

Bar Stools

Finally, no bar is complete without bar stools. These are a relatively simple DIY project, however, you can save a lot of time buying these, and you can find some great sets pre owned.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Will Building A Bar Cost?

To build a bar similar to the one in this guide, you will need to spend somewhere between $400 and $500 however, this will be significantly cheaper if you already own most of the materials you need, or if you have any leftover pieces of wood that you can use on this project.

What Type Of Screws To Use When Building A Bar?

Depending on the part of the bar you are working on, you will want to use wood screws or finishing nails, and occasionally brad nails.

Recommended Size For A Home Bar?

This will largely depend on how much space you have to work with, this is the main benefit of making your own bar since you can tailor the size to fit the space you have to work with.

If you want 2 people to be able to sit at the bar comfortably you will want it to be at least 45 inches at the front, so you can use this for reference with how many people you plan for.


Hopefully this article has given you some useful information on what you need to do to build a bar properly.

This is quite a big undertaking of a project, however, it can still be a suitable project for a beginner if you ensure that you are patient with each step and do the apt amount of preparation as well.

John Whitford
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