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Build An Outdoor Bar: Expert Design and Construction Tips

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Kick-off your summer plans with a project destined to elevate your home – an outdoor bar. With its endless possibilities, an outdoor bar can be as elaborate or simple as your budget allows. 

Whether you’re living in San Diego, CA, or are upgrading your vacation rental in Tampa, FL, you can build an outdoor bar with repurposed materials, create a fun tiki hut, or work with a contractor to build the outdoor bar of your dreams. Regardless, this home improvement project can spruce up your hosting spaces and bring life to your backyard. We’ve reached out to experts to give you the best build, features, and design tips for building an outdoor bar. Here’s what they had to say.

What features should your bar have

Identify the best layout for the space

“The first questions I ask a client for a bar build is what are they trying to achieve, who will be using the bar, and how many people do they expect to entertain. From there, I then ask for a wish list of essentials, outlets for blenders, beverage coolers, and lighting ideas. Once those items are identified, we work on designing a layout, taking views, traffic flow, and space limitations into play. My goal is always to make it awesome whether it’s a bar for two or an entire brewery.” – Backyard Bar Man

Choose between an ice maker or a drop-in ice bin 

“When it comes to picking the appliances and features you need, focus on the majority use of the space instead of the worst-case scenario. If you don’t have a huge family or friend base and entertain every weekend, you can pass on an ice maker and opt for a drop-in ice bin instead.  You save a couple of thousand dollars and have much less maintenance to deal with.” – NYC Fireplaces and Outdoor Kitchens

Features to complete your outdoor bar space  

“Options are endless: pizza ovens, kegerators, smokers, pellet grills, etc. are all great options when adding extra features to your outdoor bar. Beyond the bar, we love adding TVs in TV cabinets and sound systems within the adjacent landscaping. Don’t forget the electrical outlets. You’ll be glad you have them.” – Nelson Landscaping 

A test party might help you plan your space better 

“Have a pre-BBQ party, invite family and friends you plan to entertain in the future and identify all the needs of the cook, guests, and space that’s available. You can even ask for their input on the planning – you’ll get honest opinions. After this event, you can draw specific plans and purchase appropriate furniture and appliances.” – Pruitt’s Fine Furniture

Designing an outdoor bar

Selecting the right materials and appliances 

“Think of using a product like Dekton for your countertops that are U.V. resistant. Don’t overcrowd your counter space with components – leave space for entertaining. Think of how & what you cook to choose cooking options (grills, smokers, pizza ovens, etc.).” – Keystone Outdoor Living 

An outdoor bar with a cooking space 

“Integrate your outdoor bar into a cook station by creating bar height seating (42”) on top of the cook station backsplash or counter height seating (36”) where there is no backsplash. Make sure to place the grill so that it does not have seating behind it, obscuring the view.” – Gasper Landscapes

Continuous countertops for a sleek modern look 

“As with indoor countertop trends, rather than having a narrow, upper bar attached to the kitchen on the opposite side, having the bar seating as a continuation of the kitchen countertop is a more sleek look and more functional as well for prep/serving space. Even a relatively small built-in with a continuous bar countertop can feel quite gracious.” – Lingren Landscape 

Style of bar seating that meets your needs  

“Let’s talk about seating – bar seats, of course. Seating should be comfy, but it needs to be functional, i.e., weather-resistant and easy to maintain. So what is your level of tolerance for maintenance? Kids will drip popsicles, and wet bathing suits will land on them. Consider these: 

Cushioned: (pros) comfy, opt for a performance fabric like Sunbrella brand or similar, can change cushion colors. (cons) will hold moisture 

Poly material: (pros) super heavy-duty, low maintenance, last for decades. (cons) solid seat surface, not as “upscale” looking. 

Sling: (pros) durable (if from a specialty dealer), very comfy, easy to clean. (Cons) not many – this is our favorite.” – Land and Lake Patio 

Think about adding shade to your space 

“Your backyard outdoor bar is the absolute perfect location to enjoy the sun when you want it and shade and rain protection when you need it – without leaving your home. Install a custom-made retractable awning or retractable pergola. Like magic, with the press of a button on your smartphone, tablet, remote, or wall switch, you will have instant protection from the elements.” – Retractable Awnings

Outdoor kitchen appliances can take your bar to the next level

“Garden bars are perfect for hosting family and friends and quickly become the hub of every party. Our best tip when designing a bar is to add a fire-centric theatrical approach. When designing a bar, many people quickly cover off somewhere to keep the drinks cool. However, somewhere to cook up some food or keep guests warm and cosey is often missed. We recommend incorporating a BBQ to your bar area and enabling it to double up as an outdoor kitchen including a range of cooking capabilities.” – Grillo Living 

Designing a small outdoor bar space 

“Three block sizes, two bar width options, and one magic pattern equals an easy-to-learn system. Build the idyllic high-top bar or open-air counters that allow appliances and more. Use tech sheets for a detailed guide showing several different ideas and sizes, with the initial layouts designed for compatibility with smaller backyards. Build your bar on top of pavers to pull the completed look together for a sleek, modern outdoor entertaining space.” – Allan Block

Invite your friends and family to enjoy the fun

Your outdoor bar can be a big or a small build depending on what you plan to use the area for. Start your project with counters, coolers, and stools. As the space evolves, you can add various cooking appliances, shade, and decor. The best part about your outdoor bar is enjoying it with your friends and family.