Dear Pat: I want to add a wet bar in my combined family room/kitchen. I have seen some wobbly ones, so I want this one to be stable. How should I build it, and how large should it be? -- Niki P.
Dear Niki: A wet bar is a wonderful addition to any home, even if you are not big drinkers. With its sink and small refrigerator, your children will love to use it, especially when sitting on the tall barstools. For entertaining adult guests, the advantages of a wet bar are obvious.
The stability of a bar is very important. One reason is that people who have been drinking tend to have impaired balance and may fall against the bar. Also, with the typical tall barstools, even a sober person can lose balance and reach for the bar for support.
If one end of a standard straight bar can be attached to a perpendicular wall, this will provide much more stability than a freestanding, totally detached bar. If you are designing a detached bar, design it to be L-shaped to give more depth and stability to at least one end.
Another design for increased stability for a detached bar is to build a small storage closet at one end. The closet will provide additional depth at that end to support the bar. Make the closet strong by using a 4-by-4-inch post as its frame. It will be hidden inside a corner of the closet, so it won't take up much space.
A homemade bar can be made any size, but a depth of about 24 inches is typical. This is deep enough to provide stability and adequate top surface area. If you plan to use tall barstools, design it with about a 10-inch overhang. This makes it comfortable to reach a drink on the bar top without banging one's knees on the bar front.
It is also wise to have a small overhang in the back of the bar. This not only looks good but also provides protection for the shelves and refrigerator from a spilled drink. For tall barstools, the height of the bar top from the floor should be 40 to 44 inches. A 6- to 8-inch footrest ledge is comfortable for an average-sized person.
Any typical kitchen countertop material also works fine for a bar. These include solid surface materials, granite, marble, laminate, etc. The heavier countertop materials are popular today, and the additional weight creates more stability for the entire bar.
Plan the height and depth of the shelving under the bar based upon the items you intend to store. Measure the height of the liquor bottles so they all fit, unless you want to place them on shelves on the wall behind the bar. A blender is often used at a bar, as well as the typical mixing tools. Don't forget room for glasses and eating utensils and perhaps a small microwave oven.
If you want to get creative with the styling of the bar, consider several options. For a '50s-style bar, consider adding a root beer fountain and ice cream freezer for the children. A stainless steel countertop and black-and-white checkered stool would be nice. Another more contemporary design may use an all-wood countertop and stools.
Pat Logan's weekly column, "Here's How," can be found at creators.com.