Setting Up a Home Dry Bar: The Basics

Home bars are very popular, they provide a focal point at parties plus all the drinks, ice and glasses can be stored there, leaving the kitchen free. Although there a quite a wide selection of bars available to buy ready-made, some of them leave a lot to be desired.

Building your own means that you will have a bar that fits well in the décor and size of the location you choose to place it. Plus it’s a great conversation piece as you have a drink there.


Before You Start

Before you consider which bar you want to build, it is necessary to consider what you want to use your bar for, both now and in the future.

• Do you want to have a refrigerator in it?

• Will you want to be able to use a blender at the bar to make your own margaritas?

• How many bottles of spirits will you be storing?

• How many glasses?

And so on. Your answers to these questions will affect how much space you need and therefore the size of the bar.

If you have sufficient area into which to build your bar it is better to go a little bigger rather than too small. Once the bar is built it would be a pity if you could not use it for everything you wanted.

What is the Difference between a Dry Bar and a Wet Bar?

In very basic terms, according to Merriam-Webster, a wet bar has running water, a sink, and drainage, where a dry bar does not.

Both have alcoholic drinks and may or may not have electrical power for refrigerators, blenders, etc. Although when building a wet bar the power outlets must be GFCI protected.

What that means is that a dry bar is much easier to build than a wet bar as no water, and drainage needs to be installed.


Building a Dry Bar

The one constant dimension when building a bar is the height. 42” plus or minus ½” has been found to be the ideal height and is comfortable for most people.

The other dimensions depend on the space that you have available. You can create a bar using your own design or take a look at some of these free plans and copy or take inspiration and alter them to suit your needs.

As many people like to lean when at a bar, a small word of caution. Some of the designs have quite a small footprint when compared to their height, so you may want to check the stability of your bar and secure it to the floor if in doubt.


this old house bar

This Old House – Dry Bar Project (Link)

As with everything on This Old House, building this dry bar looks quite easy, but they do rate the project as ‘Hard’. The only area that requires higher skill levels is ensuring that the miters are accurate. What is really good about these plans is that there is a shopping list for the lumber you need and a list of all the tools required. In the preparation there is a complete cutting list. A short video takes you through all the stages.


homemade bar

Bob’s Plans – Home Bar Project (Link)

This bar from Bob’s Plans is a 6’ long oak bar that uses trimmed ¾” oak plywood. The plans are a pdf download which you can print out or follow from the screen.

The plans are very detailed and quite easy to follow all the individual steps, however, some power tools are needed to carry out this project, check this here for details.

There are a number of links on the plans that say that they will take you and show the latest prices, but these are not working. Take note about what the plans say about the thickness of currently available plywood being supplied being in metric dimensions and not being quite ¾”.


cool bar

Indoor and Outdoor Bar Plans (Link)

My Outdoor plans has a few different sets of plans to build you dry bar. From the plans that are available here is an example of an easy to build outdoor dry bar and an example of an indoor dry bar.

They are not as detailed as the plans from This Old House or Bob’s Plans but the fact that they are less complicated to build means that the plans are adequate.

The simplicity in many of the plans means that someone with even quite basic woodworking skills an attempt to tackle a few of these projects with confidence.


Canply Bar

CanPly – Dry Bar Plans (Link)

The dry bar plans from CanPly, the Canadian Plywood Association, obviously strongly promote the use of plywood. The plans start off by explaining the different grades of the appearance of the sides of plywood and which grades to use for which areas.

The plans concentrate on building the main carcass of the bar, plus shelves and drawers. There are some suggested ideas for the finish, but that is up to you to decide.

Douglas fir is the plywood that is recommended throughout the plans. If the Douglas fir was substituted by oak as in Bob’s Plans a natural wood finish could be achieved.

All the above plans suggest that the bars can all be built in a weekend, but that is with all the right tools to make the job go easier plus someone to assist.

Even if none of these plans suits your need, don’t forget you can borrow inspiration from them and adapt them to suit the environment where you will be locating your bar.

When you are thinking about your bar, keep your eye open for all the little extras that you can add to make your bar look more ‘authentic’. Drinks coaster (or umbrellas for your cocktails), old neon beer signs or vintage drinks ads, all help to give your bar a great feel.

Don’t forget, when you finish setting up your bar, make sure you have a good supply of drinks in because you want to give it a good test to make sure it works.


Final Notes

Thanks for reading! I hope you have learned a thing or two about setting up a home dry bar.

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