Your bar counter can either make a statement or fade into the overall design and style of the basement depending on the focal point of the space. Further, the finished look can be as individualized as you are depending on the materials chosen and affordability.
From the onset, an essential element for consideration is the ergonomics of the pillared structure as this will affect the efficiency and convenience. This requires that due care must be taken to ensure that the structure facilitates minimum discomforts such as unnecessary walking, bending or stretching. The basic layout of the bar and counter normally patterns a linear, U-shape or L-shape design.
Another important measurement is the height of the counter. The market standard and most ergonomic height is 42-inches. This height complements both the seated and standing user. The bar top is in easy reach of a standing person so they can set their food and drink down without leaning over. It is a suitable height for the bartender to prepare and serve drinks on his feet and a comfortable height for most people to lean against. Generally, most bar stools are built to accommodate a 42″ bar top. Note however that this conventional height is typically too high to double as a good work surface and so the bar counter is used primarily for leisure activities.
The design may incorporate a two-tiered bar top subject to space and budget. The second tier is built to the height of a regular kitchen counter (36-inches). It serves as a convenient prep surface and the difference in height allows the work mess to be less obtrusive.
The decision of choosing the material to cover the surface can be a difficult process. The industry recommendation is not to be too trendy and to select a surface that not only looks good when its first installed but will be able to give pleasure in the years ahead. Bar tops are now made from some of the most durable materials both natural and manmade. Each have their distinctive pros and cons. Here is a list of the popular choices:
Granite, Marble and Limestone
Green Surface (Glass and Bamboo)
Stainless Steel and Copper
Epoxy and Resins
Granite, Marble and Limestone are natural stones. They are among the most popular material and but also among the most expensive to install. Their value is in their aesthetic beauty, unique color patterns and their hardness which makes them hard to damage. However, all natural stones are porous and therefore become stained with substances like red wine. Marble is the most fragile. There is far more risk for cracks and chips with marble than granite.
Manufactured Quartz is a manmade stone but still pricey. It is almost as hard as diamond and practically impossible to damage. It is non-porous and so does not need to be sealed. You are able to purchase a uniformed pattern unlike natural stone, but the available colors are limited.
Solid Surfaces are completely manmade with a combination of acrylic and polyester that have color blended within. The known brands include Corian, Avonite and Swanstone. The available colors are almost limitless. The advantage with this choice is that entire counter and sink can be made as one continuous piece from the same material or with mixed colors. These counters feel rich, smooth and luxurious. They are easy to clean and impervious to water damage. The con is they are expensive and prone to scratches, stains and breakage. You should never attempt to install solid counters on your won. All solid surfaces are fabricator sensitive, which means that if you don’t know what you are doing when you put it in, it will break or look horrible. However some repairs can be made.
Concrete Counters are very trendy and because they are custom made. They too come in a variety of colors. The concrete is poured and molded to fit the counter layout and results in a seamless finish. This durable product can crack slightly due to the nature of concrete “settling”. However the cracks are not big enough for particles to enter and because the concrete is sealed, it becomes very hard to stain. One of the best benefits of a concrete top is its price. The materials used to make this style of surface readily available and inexpensive. It is valued as a unique, low-maintenance alternative to ceramic tile or granite.
Wood has been a classic bar top material. It is aesthetically pleasing as wood is warm to the touch and evokes a sense of comfort. Exotic woods can be more expensive than some solid surfaces. Some choices are teak, walnut, cherry and oak. Most manufacturers seal the wood with either oil or polyurethane, but both need to be redone periodically. Wood is the most vulnerable of the options to water. It can warp and crack badly, but this adds to its unique appearance. Some persons may chose to have the countertops distressed before installation so they will not have to worry about nicks and stains.
Stainless Steel or Copper is a great choice for a sleek modern or industrialized style. The material is durable and completely non-absorbent. They are easy to clean but difficult to keep looking good as they easily expose water spots and fingerprints. This is opposite to most surfaces. Installation is expensive and almost as pricey as granite. Copper cost 50% more and is less durable.
Tiles can be patterned in unlimited combination creating a truly individualized look. Tile is water resistant. The price can range from reasonable to expensive depending on the selection. Relatively fragile, tile may chip when things drop on it and it may be difficult to locate a matching replacement. Tile provides the cheapest means to incorporate a team logo or crest into your bar top. The main complaint is the uneven surface of tiling and cleaning stained grout, which can cause spillage and unsightly surface. If you chose tile to cover your bar counter, it is recommended that you select dark tile and grout color.
Glass or Bamboo Tops are the green new surface. As an alternatives glass is one of the best. Bamboo is another choice. Glass provides a sturdy, sleek, modern and eco-friendly alternative to more traditional surfaces because the glass can be made out of recycled glass. Because the glass is non-porous, this sleek alternative to granite or even concrete is stain resistant. In most designs there is no seaming, since its’ crafted as an all in one piece. The glass may also come in tiles. Art can be incorporated into your design as well as tiles or portions of other material such as stainless steel and give a great modern look for any taste. Companies such as Vetrazzo are making counters out of 85% repurposed glass. Bamboo, which is used as a green choice is pressed into solid plywood pieces and laminated with a formaldehyde-free adhesive.
Laminate is a great choice when cost is a major factor. Laminate is a tough but thin material that is glued to strong plywood or other wooden surface. They are durable, water-resistant and easy to clean and can last indefinitely if treated with basic care. The popular brands are Formica or Wilsonart. They come in a variety
of colors, textures and patterns, some of which mimics natural stone, but lacks the luster. The main drawback is that they are prone to damage especially at the edges but this can be contained trimmed with laminate, wood or even more exotic material. Laminate is inexpensive as compared with the other options, especially if it’s done as a ‘Do It Yourself’ project.
Epoxy and Resin products offer some distinctive finish to home bar tops. The product is a thick, clear material that is poured over something else. When it hardens, you are left with a hard, smooth surface that acts a lot like solid surface counters, except that you can see through it to whatever you have underneath.
This works great for sports themed bar, just lay out your trading cards, pictures, pennants, et cetera, and seal them in forever.
Another great use for epoxy resin coating is with tile surfaces. The drawbacks of an uneven surface and the accompanying discolored grout can be solved with a clear, deep coat of resin.
Your Bar can be a place for self-expression and its surface a showpiece. There is no limit to the options available to create a distinct and durable counter that will continue to satisfy your needs for years to come.