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What You Need to Know About Outdoor Bars

An outdoor bar allows you to turn your patio, deck, or garden into an entertaining space. Outdoor bars come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so it's easy to find one that is right for you. Consider the types of parties you plan on having and the features you may want before purchasing an outdoor bar.

For many, the addition of a bar in the backyard is a luxurious accent to their outdoor living space. Outdoor bars, whether at home in the backyard or at a commercial outdoor venue, are highly social pieces of furniture. Here are a few things to consider about outdoor bars before you design and install your own. 

When designing an outdoor bar, it’s important to consider the sizing dimensions, style, positioning, and material you’re going to use. These elements combine to create a seamless outdoor bar experience and therefore must be coordinated with each other in the planning process. 

Outdoor bars are a trendy add-on to outdoor living areas and can give the yard an air of sophistication and ambiance. Keep reading to learn more about the best sizes, materials, and layouts for outdoor bars. 

How Wide Should an Outdoor Bar Top Be?

One of the questions to ask when you’re designing your outdoor bar should be the dimensions of the bar top. How wide does the bar top need to be for an outdoor bar?

A bartender making drinks.
As a rule of thumb, outdoor bar tops should be between 12 and 28 inches wide.

Bar tops are generally designed to fit their intended setting, which means that there is no incorrect width. As a rule of thumb, outdoor bar tops should be between 12 and 28 inches wide. The average width of bar tops generally depends on if the bar is intended for domestic or commercial use.

Pros and Cons of a Wider Bar

There are benefits and drawbacks to having a larger bar top for an outdoor bar or kitchen area. The advantage is an increased serving capacity, opening your yard up to host social gatherings, team meetings, and holiday events. A wider bar top also provides more room for other activities when the bar is not being used as such, which is handy if you’re putting in the outdoor bar in your yard or living space.

One of the disadvantages of a wider bar is limited moving space around the bar. Naturally, a larger bar top will take up more room, which runs the risk of cramping other elements of the outdoor living space or surrounding yard. If you want a wider bar, be sure to account for the additional surface space of the bar top when planning the spacing of your outdoor living area.

Girls having fun while drinking liquor.
A wider bar top also provides more room for other activities.

Another benefit of a wider bar is more room for decorations. If you’re building an outdoor bar, chances are you take your yard décor pretty seriously. A wider bar will create a platform space for a centerpiece or light fixtures, depending on your decorative style.

Still, some homeowners prefer a sleek, clean, modern look for their outdoor living areas. Bar tops are manufactured as narrow as twelve inches across, which allows for an elegant stripe of bar tops to accent the furniture and ambiance of the area. Narrow bars, however, provide less space for drinks to be held and increase the likelihood of regular spills and broken glasses.

How Tall Should an Outdoor Bar Be?

Once you’ve figured out how wide you want the bar, the next question on your mind may be the height. How tall should an outdoor bar be? As with the width, it depends on if the bar is intended for a commercial or residential setting, as well as the surrounding elements. 

A bartender and a man having fun talking.
Outdoor bar tops should be elevated about 42 inches off the ground.

According to Outside Magazine, outdoor bar tops should be elevated about 42 inches off the ground. This height is perfect for the standard 30-inch bar stools, ensuring that patrons or friends, and neighbors sitting at the bar will have the bar top at the perfect height for their drinks and elbows.

What Material Is Best For Outdoor Bar Tops?

Although traditionally bar tops are made of polished and sealed wood, the outdoor elements can be hard on some wooden surfaces. For this reason, many homeowners choose a more weather-resistant material for their outdoor bar tops, according to Planet Stone.

Here are a few options for materials that will withstand the elements while still looking great with the rest of your outdoor bar and living area:

  • Granite: Granite is a hard stone material that has gained popularity as a counter and bar top option. The speckled visual effect that granite naturally has makes it aesthetically appealing, in combination with the surly weatherproof nature that granite possesses, making it desirable for outdoor furniture and surfaces. Polished granite is also easy to wipe down, which is helpful for a bar setting.
  • Polished wood: It’s hard to escape the visual appeal of tradition. Wooden bar tops are nostalgic for many, which makes them a popular choice for custom outdoor bar designs. In order to ensure a wooden bar top will survive the elements, choose harder woods and make sure to seal the bar top with wax or shellac.  
A wood outdoor bar top.
Wooden bar tops are nostalgic for many, which makes it a popular choice for custom outdoor bar designs.
  • Stainless steel: Stainless steel is popular among modernist-design enthusiasts, presenting a sterile and sophisticated appearance when incorporated into the outside bar. Stainless steel is weather-resistant and easy to clean, however, the highly reflective surface can get annoying for homeowners if the bar is in a position to receive regular sunlight.

Find the Right Place for Your Outdoor Bar

The positioning of an outdoor bar is heavily dependent on what’s already there in the yard. When choosing the right place to build your bar, be sure to take the surrounding factors into account. Build in the shade whenever possible, but remember that you’ll have to clear away tree droppings regularly if you choose to construct the outdoor bar under a natural canopy. 

The ideal place to build your bar is somewhere that receives natural or manmade shade, but still is reasonably close to the house, pool, or some other social gathering point. In essence, you don’t want to make your guests walk too far to find a drink. 

Choose a Style for Your Outdoor Bar

When you’re designing your outdoor bar, it’s important to establish a stylistic theme. If you’re building from scratch, your options are open. However, if you’re adding the bar to an existing house and outdoor living area, try to match the style of the bar to the styles present in the surrounding residence. 

Ladies having fun at the bar.
Try to match the style of the bar to the styles present in the surrounding residence. 

Here are a few of the most popular styles homeowners are choosing for their outdoor bars. 

  • Modern – Modern styles typically include either stainless steel or marble. Modern architecture is often minimalist and sleek, using a lot of negative space, which makes it ideal for a smaller yard. 
  • Rustic – Rustic-style bars are typically polished hardwood, giving the outdoor bar a little bit of a gritty dive bar aesthetic. This is typically paired with brass or similarly sturdy metal accents. 
  • Tropical/Tiki – Tiki torches and wooden masks never go out of style with some and can make a fun outdoor bar setting. Be sure to space tiki torches sufficiently far from wood, straw, or other combustible elements of your outdoor bar. 
  • Wicker thatch – Wicker thatch, often topped by seat cushions, is favorable for its weather resistance and variable style. 

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