What'll It Be? When Building a Wet Bar in Your Home, Consider These Things

by Michael Franco
modern wet-Bar in a home

Love entertaining? Have an unused corner of your house in need of transformation? A wet bar might be the solution. This can be done professionally, it can be done partly with pros and partly using your skills, or you can go the whole do-it-yourself route and install a wet bar solo.

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Here are some guidelines to help you in your wet bar installation.

Wet Bar Vs. Dry Bar

The difference between a wet bar and a dry bar is very simple: plumbing. A wet bar has a water source so you can include a sink, an icemaker and a dishwasher, if you want. A dry bar does not. A dry bar is obviously much easier and cheaper to install. But a wet bar has many advantages, especially if your kitchen isn’t nearby. Having a convenient water source means you have quick access to water for drinks, making ice and washing up quickly, without needlessly running back and forth from the kitchen while trying to entertain.


How much or how little you want your wet bar to contain will be dictated by space and budget constraints. You may want to go big and install a widescreen TV, surround sound and seats for 15 friends. Or you may just want a nice spot to relax with your favorite beverage and a few close friends. Going back to your favorite beverages, what type of storage requirements do they have? Do you need a wine fridge plus a regular fridge? Are beer taps a must-have? What about a dishwasher or microwave? The number and size of various items you want will help you properly plan your wet bar.

Next think about what you’ll have to do to get the wet bar you want. First thing is the space. Are you in a corner of your living room or dining room, or will this be in a basement, attic or other underutilized space? Are there existing electrical and plumbing hookups, or will those need to be installed? If you have a cold water pipe already running to the space you can save money by installing an electric water heater under the sink instead of having hot water pipes added to your wet bar. Will you have to hire a professional for the electrical and plumbing work or can you take this on yourself? It also pays to check with the local building authorities in case you need any permits to complete the project.

Building the Wet Bar

Once you’ve answered the big questions listed above, you’ll next need to decide on the shape and size of your bar. Two things you’ll want to take into account include space for the sink (most wet bar sinks are small, with an 18-inch-wide sink base) and how much cabinetry you need. Think of all the bar tools you’ll want to have on hand when entertaining: plenty of glasses in a variety of styles (cocktail, wine, beer, etc.) small plates and silverware for munchies, plus tools, wine or other bottle openers, shakers, a blender, and other accessories.

As there’ll be a lot of liquid on your bar, you’ll want a water-resistant top for both the serving and prep areas and you'll definitely want to add a backsplash behind the sink. You might also want to consider laminate flooring behind the bar, in the prep area. Get creative with your design. You can choose your finishes to complement the rest of your home’s design or, if you’re building your wet bar in an unused space, you can use the freedom to create something completely different.

If you want a beer tap system, you’ll need to plan space for taps, a drip tray and your keg lines. Keg lines need to be cleaned regularly so don’t hide them away. You might also want to include a kegerator to keep kegs cold. It’s also smart to get a fridge with a built-in icemaker to avoid trekking to the kitchen every time a new cocktail needs to be made. This is when it’s really important to know your electrical system. Having a few plugs is great, but will they be able to handle the increased electrical load?

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Other Work

If you’re making structural changes or need plumbing or electrical lines installed, you may also have to factor in concrete and drywall work plus painting, and perhaps flooring or even ceiling repairs. Installing a wet bar can turn into a large remodeling project, so be sure you’re aware of all the factors before starting your planning. A wet bar is essentially a tiny kitchen, so approaching it that way should give you a realistic picture of what to expect. A wet bar can add value to a home, but most importantly it will give you a place to have fun.

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