After 6 months of nights and weekends…it's ready for beer! The finished design presented first, as with tradition.
built these from scratch, everything except the cabinet doors.
I have always been intrigued with the WWII nostalgia of Royal AF pilots and American pilots assembling around a bar after they returned home from their combat sorties, they'd toast to those who didn't make it. That's where the old-world beams come in, the backbone of the design and a throwback to their time. I really like the more modern shaker style cabinet/column look and also drew inspiration from Irish pubs with the darker theme. It's a mixture of a bunch of different eras, basically what I like the most from each.
The two-tiered curved bar will be made with DIY poured concrete countertops that flow around the columns. This idea became a huge pain, during the build I regretted it. Google puts this random guy in your 3D models that some say he looks like Stan Lee…thought He'd be my first bartender.
This column was a mockup with 2x6s, I ended up buying 4x4s. Cut the interior arch for where the bartender(s) would stand.
Once i had the arch made I lifted it up in pieces to the ceiling and screwed it in place to create a soffit that matches the bar
Then I used a level and made 2x4s come straight down….duplicated the arch for the bottom piece and I got myself a cool arched bar overhang.
I put LED retrofit can lights throughout, I think 22 total. I went with 4" instead of 6" LEDs because I thought a bunch of them looked cool. You'll see later on in photos but it almost gives a night sky / star effect.
I built ledges for the decorative 6×6 red cedar rough sawn beams These cost $80 each. At this point I'm not exactly sure where they'll go left or right so I made room to "slide" them later on and then use metal brackets for the final fit.
The columns and beams are just balanced here to make sure it'll all work. Everything has to come down before sheetrock…
IMPORTANT: Notice the spool of messy wire on the left side of this photo? That's the wire for the LEDs, column gas lamps, bar power outlets, and chandelier. For the sake of not posting 300 images I'm skipping the wiring how to…match black to black, white to white and copper to copper and call out the inspector before you sheetrock. My inspector was awesome, very helpful. Forgot to put GFI protected outlets on the side walls in the bar area. Easy fix.
There's a lot of good DIY guides out there on sheetrock, again I want to focus this post on how to build a curved bar.
I had a huge debate whether I'd prime or skip it and go straight to the paint color I want with a paint/primer mix. I decided to not mess around and do a full coat of PVA primer.
I used a $300 airless paint sprayer from the box store…worked like a champ. Tape off all your vents in your home.
Starting to look like a basement. I Scraped and mopped up sheetrock/paint gunk. This was pretty brutal, took two nights.
Lay down a tarp or something beforehand, forgetting this cost me a day or two of work.
If you notice I didn't paint to the ceiling, that's because I'll do a crown molding which saved me the time to cut-in that paint. Also, ONE coat of paint and I don't see any mud/tape seams so I'm happy.
So initially I brought home a few pre-built cabinets from the box store. They were oak but were so boring they looked like they belonged in a garage. It happened to be MLK day so I found a sale online and got cabinets that were the same price…fully finished inside/out. I just had to assemble.
Because I had a good google sketchup design I knew the widths I needed for the cabinets. The style is "pepper shaker" if you're interested. Two fridges cost me a few hundred each but that's about the price of a base cabinet so it was an easy decision to do two fridges instead of one…plus it ads to the symmetry.
Standard cabinet hanging, I had never done this before and thought it was this mystical process. Here's the process: you screw them into studs with 3.5" cabinet screws. (not cosmic at all, just make sure it's level/secure).
These wine racks came pre-assembled you just use 2" cabinet screws to secure them to the upper and then 3" screws to the wall.
This is the cabinet structure I'll be talking about over the next few photos. Each of those cabinet sidewalls was a struggle…
I came up with this to have a standard countertop height where the bartender stands and then a standard bar overhang where you can sit with stools. This is basically the same design you'd see for a breakfast bar on an island. The toe kick is key to not jam your toe into a cabinet face.
I made sure it was level and then sandwiched it with two 2x4s to really secure it. Next I made two cabinet faces to work my way out from the center point.
These are the square faces that you secure the cabinet doors to. I chose poplar because I'm painting them, it's a great wood that's not too expensive but fairly strong. If I was staining I would have probably gone with an Oak. Here's a finished one first, breakdown to follow.
How big do you make the cabinet faces? It depends on the cabinet door and hinges. I just ordered extra doors from that RTA cabinet store, so the doors will match the other cabinets perfectly and I copied their cabinet face overhang. It is 1/4" bigger than the cabinet on all four sides so if you add 1/2" to the cabinet door's width and height you know your outer face size.
Also found this clamp on Amazon Prime…$25 and it makes a perfect 90 degree corner every time. Use some wood glue and the special pocket screws included in the kit.
LPT: If you're building in place make sure your base is level and also level as you go.
Notice all the wires in the big cabinet on the right? That's where all the LED controllers will hopefully go. If you're considering doing this project, take a moment and look at the mess in the background. It was like this for 6 months.
Used pocket screws on the top because it'll be covered in concrete. The bottom should be clean of holes because it'll be visible after the bar is done.
4×4 columns standing up. I also got the faux-rock panels in so I set one on the backsplash to see how it looks.
Lighting and trim really made this project, look how boring the back wall looks without downlights compared to the final images.
I cutout the sheetrock for the beams and set them on the columns to start mocking up where they'll stay.
There's one of the LED lights connected (the wire I pre-ran worked!). I used RGBW LEDs which means they do red, green, blue and white. The W is key because with white you can get a full range of colors outside just bright cheesy nightclub lights. You can get more subtle effects.
Here's the pour-in-place edge forms. These things are amazing, you literally snap them off after the concrete dries.
There's a huge debate between the merits of pour-in-place concrete countertops and pour-and-flip concrete countertops. If you make a form upside down, you'll get a smooth surface due to the pressure of the concrete. If you pour it in place you have to use a float to make it smooth. Because of the columns and the complex curves flipping wasn't an option. I'm pouring 18 bags of 60 lb concrete in place…
Electrical tape is great because when you snap the edge forms off later it'll stretch and not effect the snap. The places I used duct tape were really challenging…had to use a razor blade. Also E-tape is thinner than duct tape so it doesn't leave an imprint in the concrete. i was skeptical this would hold concrete sitting there but it did!
To reinforce the concrete you can get fiber mesh that is held at the perfect height by these plastic tabs. Cool solution…
A good shot of the column secured to the cabinets. These things are lag bolted to the floor, they're not going anywhere.
Okay so I was working solo here with fast drying concrete, I had about 4 bags to mix before it dried, and I had to float it. I apologize for not stopping to take action shots but it was a mess anyway. I used a fiber additive and mixed that in with the concrete, it's supposed to make it way stronger.
The first step is to cover your cabinets with concrete board. This is so the concrete has something to bond to that won't grow/shrink in humidity changes. I used a jig-saw and destroyed about 15 blades. There's no great solution for this…not too many people in the world have a need to cut curves in concrete board.
Here's how I sealed around the columns…they make wall forms for the back of your countertop. I just cut them to fit and wrapped the column.
Second pour…I got worse on this one because I had to mix even more concrete and floating around the column was as horrible as I imagined. I mixed probably 6 bags of concrete with a plug in electric drill and a 5 gallon bucket. Just mix half-bags at a time. The manufacturer recommends this…it's like cooking where u mix flour and water in a small-batch slurry.
Far wall..who knows how I'm going to clean up all that. What a mess. You can't tell from the photo but it's ALL over the floors, the air is 80% humidity of pure concrete dust and I'm spent. This was a high point in progress but one of the lowest points in epic mess.
I woke up and ran downstairs…I was convinced the whole thing just imploded. I never figured out what that was but the countertops looked fine.
So when you screed the concrete you basically just push it using the wall and edge forms as guides. The kit i bought came with a sticky back, bendable form to block the sink from filling with concrete.
You just fill it with concrete, it's not that glamorous.
Pictured here is the screed (screeder?) the thing you push that miserable, salt-filled death cream around with. Concrete gets in the pours of your hands and wears them to the bone. It's like you put on gloves that are lined with 80 grit sandpaper and then rolled them in a flowery, bloody, bed of salt. Even if you wear rubber/padded gloves it is literally just pure salt that finds it's way in there. I would rather eat glass than pour another countertop. That's how I feel about that.
Now I've moved onto the back stone wall. I used a faux stone made of foam that comes in sheets. It's super easy to work with.
Here's the back side of the fake stone panels. You just cut them with a regular jigsaw and use screws/finish nails to secure i
Notice in the top right of this picture there's a hole that matches the final piece I'm holding perfectly…let's see if it fits
Here it is finish nailed with the LED wire pulled through. Much better. The screw in the bottom right is temporary to hold it.
I used the same trick for two layers of crown-style molding. Filled it with sparkling and painted away.
I built the trim down with some simple strips and then added one last layer. Feathered it to connect it to the overhang ceiling
All columns painted and baseboards wrapped around the base of the bar. This makes it flow out from the wall seamlessly.
Ordered a diamond sanding kit…use water and stepped the grits from 50 to 6000.
Final touch was a layer of concrete countertop wax to make sure it's protected, feels soft to the touch now.
I found all the artwork on a website called squadronposters.com, Airfield Map Art is on the left and Jet Black Super Wide B-2.
Best advice I can give is "measure twice cut once" is NOT what you do for trim. "Measure once, add an inch so it's too big and then cut 10 times using half-saw blade cuts until it fits perfect" is more like it.