How To Build a DIY Basement Bar With Wall Cabinets

May 02, 2024

How to build a bar using upper wall cabinets. 

This tutorial will take you step-by-step through our basement bar build made with wall cabinets as the base. 

I'm so excited to share this DIY bar project with you! I had this in my head for years, and I finally finished it up recently. There's even a secret door. ;) 

Last time I shared this space, I took you through the DIY steps to build this kitchenette in our basement
gray kitchenette wood counters

More recently, I shared this fun wine cork wall around our dart board that I just love: 
DIY wine cork accent wall

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Now it's time to share the bar reveal! 

I've had this project in my head for years. The plan was always to build a bar height peninsula off the end of those cabinets to the left (pictured above). 

1. Figure out the size of your bar.

Before I did anything, I needed to figure out how long I wanted the bar to be. I played around with some ideas using painter's tape on the floor:
testing layout with painter's tape

I knew I wanted to use that space in the corner against the wall, so that would need a 24 inch wide cabinet (because the existing base cabinets are 24 inches deep). 

The final plan I decided on was three cabinets -- two 24 inch cabinets and one 21 inch one. In hindsight, we could have just done three 24 inchers, but I didn't want the entrance to this space to be too tight. 

Make sure to account for the countertop and/or any decorative end pieces that will add a bit of length to the end of your bar as well. 

2. Decide on the cabinets for your bar.

When deciding on your base cabinets for this project, you'll need to decide if you want a counter height bar (like an island), or a traditional, higher bar height. 

Counter height is typically between 34 to 36 inches tall and bar height is around 40 to 42 inches high. 
We wanted our bar to be higher for bar stools, so I needed to either build bases at that height or buy them. I knew this build was going to be a lot of work, so I went the slightly easier route and ordered cabinets. 

The problem is, base cabinets only come in a few heights, and store bought versions are usually 34.5 inches tall. So, I went with my go-to for all of my built ins and bookcases...upper cabinets!

I ordered the same wall cabinets from Home Depot that I used for the rest of this area: 
tall upper wall cabinets

You can read all about why I love these cabinets that you assemble at home so much here! They come in three different heights and I went with the 36 inch option. 

Wall cabinets aren't as deep as base cabinets (only 12 inches front to back), but that was going to be plenty for our needs. 

3. Secure your cabinets into the floor. 

When installing upper cabinets into a floor, you'll first need a base to raise it off the ground a bit, to create a toe kick. This also makes wall cabinets look less...wall cabinets

I do this by building a wood base in the height that I need:
bases for bookcase cabinets

I use this method for my DIY bookcases as well. You can either attach them to the bottom of the wall cabinets or build long base that can be attached to the floor and/or walls, and then install the cabinets on top.

For this part, we used 2x4s and I got help attaching the base to the cement floor in our basement. You need a powder actuated hammer tool to secure wood into the cement, so I had the professionals do that. 

After the base was secure, I was able to install the cabinets into it with screws:
attaching cabinets to base

I marked where the 2x4s were underneath and screwed through the bottom of the cabinets to attach the cabinets. 

I ended up changing the spacing just a bit as I was installing, so the end cabinet ended up hanging over the 2x4s just a bit. I knew I'd be covering that anyway: 
DIY bar height island

Next up, we had the flooring extended a few feet to meet up with a doorway nearby. It looked SO much better and made this room feel much bigger: 
wall cabinets base for bar

The LVP Lifeproof flooring is from Home Depot and we love it! 

4. Add trim and baseboards.

You may have noticed that the end cabinet (closest to the wall) is installed facing the opposite way from the others. 

I like to utilize empty space if I can. I hate wasting potential storage and I knew I could make this look cohesive and create a "secret" door in the process.

My first step was to cover the backs of the other two cabinets (the ones facing into the kitchenette) with thin plywood: 
plywood on back of bar

I took these boards all the way down to the floor and to the end of the bar as well. 

When I installed the cabinets, I placed the one closest to the wall forward by 1/4 inch so it would be flush with the plywood on the rest of the bar.

Flathead screws work best for this, because they can be sunk into the wood and then filled: 
filling screw holes

I filled over all of the screw heads with my favorite wood filler and then in between the boards as well, so it looked like one large board. (I was using up some scrap, otherwise you could have one piece cut to the size you need.) Make sure to let the filler dry completely and then do a light sanding. 

After that was dry and smooth I started painting. I had the cabinets color matched at Sherwin-Williams by taking a door into the store. 

Because I wanted to match the super smooth finish of the store bought cabinets, I did a good sanding after each coat of paint: 
channeling dust sanding block

I also did more coats than usual, to really fill in that texture on the plywood. 

Next up, I installed baseboards around the whole peninsula. Since the plywood went to the floor, I just nailed them on top. I used these primed 1x6 inch boards as the base: 
1x6 wood baseboards

With everything painted, it was time to figure out how to make that existing cabinet door look seamless with the rest of the bar front.

To do this, I grabbed some MDF boards in the same size as the trim around the cabinet front (2.5 inches wide). I created the look of two more cabinet doors by adding these worked beautifully!:
trim paneling on front of island

You really have to get up close to figure out where the real cabinet door is! I love it.

I'm so pleased with how this secret door turned out. It's a fun little addition:
secret storage in island 

Next up, it was time to figure out the countertops! I cut and installed butcher block for the rest of this kitchen, but wanted something different for the island. 

I went to a stone warehouse with a specific look in mind, and couldn't believe it when I found exactly what was in my head! 

I loved this black granite with the gold and white veining throughout: 
black white gold granite large veins

This particular stone is called Orinoco granite. 

I really wanted a waterfall look, where the countertop continues onto the side of the end cabinet. To save a little bit of money, they did this look by cutting the granite so that the top extended over like a regular counter, and the piece on the side was cut so that the movement of the granite continues seamlessly:
Orinoco black white granite

This was easier than the perfect mitered cut needed for a traditional waterfall counter. It turned out beautiful!

5. Finish up the final details. 

I finished up the bar by adding some long brass handles to the cabinets on the kitchen side: 
long brass cabinet hardware

Thankfully I had some leftover from the other cabinets in this space. Check out my method for easily installing hardware here!

I had some spots to fill on this side with some of the scrap plywood as well:
bar built with upper cabinets

I'm so proud of the final result! We love this spot!: 
DIY bar peninsula

secret door storage in bar island

We haven't used it to make many drinks just yet, but we do use it to sit and eat, and our son often does his homework here: 
black white gold Orinoco granite

We got the faux leather bar stools from At Home. They are quite comfy!

If you don't do a waterfall on the side, you can find end panels at hardware stores, or do a custom look on the end of your cabinets like I did in our kitchen. 

I'll share a full basement tour soon...I've done SO many project down there and haven't done a full tour yet. 

This spot was an underused area with cement floors for six years and we absolutely LOVE having it finished up!
empty basement kitchenette

DIY basement bar waterfall counters

Please let me know if I missed any details for this DIY. I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments. 

Thanks for coming along on this kitchenette progress over the past year! 

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  1. Wow, it looks fantastic! Well done! Now come on over and let's do my basement! Woohooooo!

  2. You continue to amaze me. Looks awesome. Give those kitties a cocktail. Ha!!

  3. Wow AMAZING! You never miss!!!


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