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How to Build a Basement Bar

A bar can be the perfect addition to anyone’s basement. Here’s what you should keep in mind when planning your subterranean entertaining oasis.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

A bar can be the perfect addition to anyone’s basement. Here’s what you should keep in mind when planning your subterranean entertaining oasis.

What’s Your Dream Bar Like?

When you get past the daydreaming phase of basement bar construction, start making your dreams a reality by making a plan.

Begin by formulating your bar element wish list. Do you want a place to just refill beers? Or would you like it to be an entertainment center in its own right, with a mounted TV (or TVs!) and dedicated sound system? What are your favorite beverages? What are their storage requirements? You’d need to treat a big wine collection differently than you would a few rotating taps.

Next, consider your basement’s space and note the locations of any existing plumbing and electrical hookups. You’ll save time and money adhering to your home’s infrastructure and not running lots of lines all over.

Once you have a wish list and a location, think of your budget. How much can you spend on this project? What are you willing to do yourself and what will necessitate a professional to take on?

Finally, check with your local planning and building boards to make sure you have the necessary permits to complete the project. Some locales may require licensed electricians or plumbers to perform or sign off on the work.

Key Components for a Basement Bar

Time to sketch out your plans! If you keep things standard in terms of spacing, you’ll be able to easily source materials like stools and under-counter appliances. For design help, consult pre-designed plans from professional sources online or enlist the help of a designer.

Countertop/bar: The standard height and depth of a bar counter is 42” from the floor and 24” deep. Don’t try to go too much wider than 16-20” wide on your bar top (which includes the overhand) or you’ll have trouble passing drinks over.

Stools: Most bar stools are 28 to 32 inches from seat to floor, with dimensions chosen in relation to countertop height.

For comfort, aim to allow 12 inches from the top of the seat to the bottom of the counter. Make sure your plans provide for enough space between the counter’s edge and the back of the stool to allow people to easily get into and out of the seats (around 18 inches). Also provide for 2 to 3 feet of clearance behind the stool back and any wall or other obstruction.

How many do you want to fit at your bar? A minimum 24” (or a more generous 30”) of bar space for each seat is standard.

Foot rail: For resting tired feet, a foot rail about 7-9 inches above the floor adds a professional touch to a basement bar. Alternatively, look for barstools with footrests that are comfortable to use.

Bar molding: To keep drinks from sliding off, or just to rest your elbows, a curved lip at the countertop’s edge can add a practical and attractive touch to your bar design.

Work counter: From prepping garnishes to mixing drinks, a back-work counter makes for a more comfortable bar experience for all. If you’re building a wet bar, this is where your sink would typically be located.

Taps: If you plan an extensive beer tap system, you’ll need room for taps, a drip tray, and your keg lines, with easy access for regular line cleaning (ideally every 2 weeks). Plus, consider a kegerator to keep that keg cold.

Get an Economical Head Start with Pre-Fab Bar Parts

No need to re-invent the wheel here. Kits are readily available, and your local home brew supply shop should be happy to help set you up.

Keg tap kits: Full keg tap kits run about $200-$300 and include every bit of tube and tap you’ll need to get beer from your cooler to your glass. Talk to your home brewing experts whether you want to buy a kit or buy parts separately.

Kegerators and Refrigerators: Kegorators (a mash-up of the word “keg” and “refrigerator”) can be bought ready-to-go or made from converting a small fridge. For cooling beverages besides beer, plan for a second refrigerator—and for ice at a the ready, consider a freezer with ice maker.

Beer: This is the most important ingredient for a basement bar. Kegs of beer come in several sizes. For a home bar, a 5-gallon keg is plenty. There is no universal keg tap system, however, different breweries in different countries use distinct setups. Always check with your keg provider to ensure you have the right equipment to tap your keg at home.

Pre-Fab Bar: If you’re inclined to go the ready-made route, home bars are available for purchase online and in large home improvement stores. They’ll run anywhere from $300 to $3,000 (and up), depending on how big and grand you want to get.

Materials and Tools You’ll Need

Your bar building plan will dictate the materials you’ll need. Bars are typically framed in wood and are often finished in a finer grade wood or veneer, and sometimes stained or painted.

For countertop materials besides wood, consider stone, granite, metal, or just about anything you can repurpose into a flat bar top. Want an industrial vibe? Try galvanized metal for the sides of your bar. Money no object? Get some brass rails for your footrest or bar molding.

Tools for Construction: