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Weekend DIY: Building an Outdoor Bar

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Our series of easy backyard projects continues with a refreshing project: building a DIY outdoor bar! There’s no shortage of ways you can put together this little backyard oasis, so this is a great project to make your own through unique materials and styling. If you have some empty space under the pergola or even a small corner that doesn’t get enough use right now, an outdoor bar might just be the perfect thing to complete your backyard hosting space.

An outdoor bar isn’t just for cocktails, beer, and wine. It can also be used as a fresh vignette to hang out around while you’re lounging in the yard this summer, or even just additional backyard seating. Whether you have a small deck you love spending time on or a large yard complete with a pool, you can craft this DIY outdoor bar to suit your needs perfectly.

Tools You May Need

DIY outdoor bar, sanding the wood for the bar top

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

We’re going to leave the selection of a kegerator to you, and stick to the actual structure. (And who knows, maybe you’re more of a Merlot person. You can include a wine fridge instead, or even a liquor cabinet. It’s totally up to you.) If you’re a frequent DIYer, you probably have a lot of these materials on hand from other projects, but if not, focus on simple framing—a 42-inch bar height is pretty standard—and then decide on your outer materials.

For the counter: If you really want to go the stone route (and we’re assuming you don’t have the ability to cut it yourself), you can oftentimes go to a countertop manufacturer and get cheap, off-cut pieces. They’re usually leftovers from a larger slab, but they could be the perfect size for a bar, and you can get them cheap. The installer may even cut them to your measurements, if you ask nicely.

Otherwise, you can use pretty much any wood, as long as you seal it properly. Some woods stand up better to the elements, like cedar, but it might depend on what you have lying around. Whatever you choose, be sure to fully sand down your counters for a smooth surface.

outdoor bar with stools and modern accents
(This outdoor bar is actually from Brother Vs. Brother, but it’s a good example of seating height!)

Step 2: Decide On Bar Seating

Make sure you get the right height for your bar stools—if you’re going with that 42-inch option mentioned above, look for chairs or stools around 30 inches tall. You’ll generally want something that’s pretty easy for people to pull out and hop onto, so you might want to check out seating options in person. Make sure to take note of the material of the bar stools. For example, upholstered chairs don’t mesh well with the outdoor elements. We recommend going with a material that can withstand rain, wind, and sun well, like wicker or woven rope.

man building a DIY outdoor bar

Step 3. Assemble Your Bar

Depending on your materials, assembly should be a pretty simple hammer or drill job. As with most projects we do, storage is always key. If you have the depth you need behind the bar, it’s nice to include some shelves and potentially even a space for a beverage center. It all depends on your design. You might want to have a raised bar for people to stand at to put their drinks down, thereby providing the backsplash surface for the bartender, who has a lower working surface.  

finished bar area

Step 4: Seal the Surface

The color of your stain and sealant is up to you, but first look around at any other wood in the space, and make sure you choose a color and a finish that is going to complement the other wood. You don’t want something that will clash. Same with the hardware: If you already have some of the equipment, like the beer tap, then look to get hardware that matches; for example, chrome or brass for your corbels or foot rail. 

Spills inevitably happen, so the top surface of the bar should be something smooth and easy to wipe (remember that sanding tip from earlier?) That being said, you wouldn’t want to have something like a rough cedar surface on top. But if you’re feeling crafty, you could take a flat surface (surrounded by a raised border) and cover it with collectibles, like stamps, stickers, postcards, bottle caps, etc. Pour resin over the whole thing, and voilà! You have a waterproof surface with a unique feature that tells a story about you.

cute outdoor bar with beer barrel

Step 5: Enjoy a Cold One!

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy a cold beverage. Maybe even invite some friends over to check out their new favorite neighborhood bar.

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