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How to Add a Bar to Your Basement

For as long as basements have existed, people have been drinking in them. But what makes the difference between an unrefined weeknight bottom-shelf tequila bender and a sophisticated socialite’s respectable evening cocktail? Many would say it’s all about the setting, which is why the best way to elevate your subterranean drinking experience is to add a bar to your basement.

Basement bar projects aren’t nearly common as we wish they were, but our team at Lamont Bros. Design & Construction enjoys what few opportunities come along. As one of Portland’s top remodeling companies, we help homeowners customize their homes to their needs. Sometimes, those needs include a bar to drink and entertain in their home.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know in order to add a bar to your basement. After reading, you’ll have a better understanding of what a basement bar could look like in your own home and be one step closer to deciding whether this type of feature is right for you. The topics we’ll discuss include:

Why Should You Add a Basement Bar?

Not everybody needs a bar in their basement, but for the right type of homeowner, it can be a worthy investment. If you’re the type who likes to gather with friends for a few drinks, here are a few reasons you might want a basement bar.

Great Entertainment Space

Adding a bar to your basement can create a great space for entertaining your family and friends. If you host parties, game nights, or other social gatherings, a bar provides a centralized location for serving drinks and snacks. It’s also a great place for conversation and socializing.

Basement Bar 3D Rendering

Increases Home Value

Believe it or not, a well-designed basement bar may also add value to your home. According to Remodel Magazine, a basement remodel that includes a wet bar typically adds about 70% of the project cost back in value to the home. Over time, that added value increases as the value of the home increases. In a few years time, the money you spend to add a bar could even turn a profit! Check out Lamont Bros.’ Remodel Investment Calculator to test the numbers, yourself.

Convenience & Customization

There’s also a notable convenience to having a bar in your basement. You won’t have to leave the house to enjoy a drink or socialize with friends, and you won’t have to worry about closing time or finding a designated driver. Plus, you can customize your bar to suit your tastes and needs and stock it with your favorite drinks and snacks. And since you’re the one making the drinks, you can make them exactly the way you like them.

How Do You Design a Basement Bar?

While each basement bar should be uniquely designed to meet the needs of the homeowner, there are a handful of common features that we regularly see in these types of spaces. Here are the most popular.

Bar Sink for Preparing Messy Mixed Drinks

One of the first things you’ll want to do is decide whether you want a dry bar or a wet bar. The difference is that a wet bar has a sink whereas a dry bar does not.

Although not necessary, a sink is more often than not a good feature to have at a home bar. It allows you to easily clean up spills, contain messy drinks during preparation, and wash glasses and other barware. It’s important to consider the placement of the sink to ensure it’s easily accessible and doesn’t take up too much space.

Beverage Cooler or Kegerator for Chilled Drinks on Demand

Both increasingly common features in home kitchens and bars alike, beverage coolers and kegerators are perfect for keeping your drinks cold and easily accessible. A beverage cooler is ideal for storing a variety of canned and bottled drinks, whereas a kegerator allows you to serve draught beer on tap. Kegerators can also be used to serve cold-brew coffee and kombucha, making it a versatile and practical feature to consider for your basement bar.

A beverage cooler conveniently keeps drinks cold and accessible.

Display Shelves for Presentation

An especially popular choice among whiskey connoisseurs and collectors, display shelves allow you to showcase your collection of spirits and glasses. In addition to keeping your bottles visible and within reach, display shelves can add an element of sophistication to your bar area.

Small Cooktop for Preparing Snacks

The point of a basement bar isn’t to add an entirely new kitchen to the house. However, a small cooktop can be a great addition to the space if you plan on preparing snacks or light meals. It can also be used to fry up some greasy bar food, keep snacks warm, or even melt cheese for fondue, nachos, or dips.

Cabinet Lighting for Ambience & Dimension

To improve the mood and ambiance of your basement bar, consider cabinet lighting. These cabinet-mounted light fixtures not only improve visibility when working in your basement bar — they can also highlight the space’s unique design features. While some people use LED strips to accomplish this, lights manufactured specifically for under-cabinet applications tend to work much better.

What are the Common Challenges of Building a Basement Bar?

While the end result of having a bar in your basement is certainly rewarding, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few challenges along the way. Here are a few common issues you should be prepared to address.

Defining the Scope of the Project

The first challenge you’re likely to face is deciding how big or small you want to go with your basement bar. There are many different designs that fall under the category of a home bar. It’s up to you and your design team to figure out what layout and feature will best serve your needs.  It can be as simple as a counter with a sink or as complex as a full bar setup stylized to look like a 17th-century Scottish pub.

Adding Plumbing Lines to the Floor

Chances are, your basement has concrete floors. In order for your bar to have running water, you’ll need water supply and drainage lines, which can be challenging to install. Often, it requires cutting through and removing some of the concrete floors, installing the plumbing lines, and pouring new concrete over top of them. This process involves specialized machinery and many hours of labor.

Adding plumbing under your basement floor can look a lot like this.

Building Code Restrictions

Another thing you’ll want to be careful about is making sure your basement bar doesn’t qualify as an accessory kitchen. There are building codes that apply specifically to kitchen spaces that don’t necessarily apply to a bar area. These codes have specific requirements that can make it more difficult and expensive to build the space. If your basement bar has enough cooking capabilities to be considered an “accessory kitchen,” you may have to follow these rules. Having to follow these rules and go through the permitting and inspection process can increase the cost of your project significantly.

Ready to Start Designing Your Basement Bar?

Do you feel like you have a better understanding of what a basement bar is and how yours might look? If so, now is the time to take the next step in your remodeling journey. To learn more about the cost of renovating your basement, read our article “How Much Does a Basement Remodel Cost in Portland?”

Want to speak with an expert about the home bar of your dreams? If so, click the link below to schedule a free consultation with a member of our design team. We’ll help you brainstorm and formulate a plan to make your remodel a success.