Summer is in full swing here in Southern California! We knew heading into Summer this year that we wanted to make the most of our outdoor space, and that all started with a hot tub.  Then of course, me being me, I had to DECORATE the hot tub area. 😛 (I mean, duh. Right?!)

So, add on a pergola, rugs, pillows, plants, and the best part – an outdoor bar area with bar stool seating. Not only can we now eat a nice dinner out here (because yes, every pergola also needs a vintage chandelier hanging from the middle), but the bar is the same height as the hot tub itself, which gives us a safe place to set our wine, beer, water, etc, when we are taking a dip.

easy DIY outdoor bar

The bar is hot tub height and width. It’s narrow enough to not feel cramped, but wide enough to eat a meal on!

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What You’ll Need:

  • 2″ by 12″ wood cut to your desired length (we used THIS wood from Home Depot, though our store has a 10′ option that is about $18, and then just had them cut it to the length we needed in store)
    • I highly recommend using 2″ thick wood – 1″ thick will not be strong enough to support much weight, and will bow/warp much more quickly over time)
  • 4 hairpin legs (ours were 34″ – remember to get legs that are 2″ shorter than the height you want the table, as the wood will be 2″ thick)
  • Wood Wax of your choice (we used Fiddes & Sons in Rugger Brown)
  • Drill
  • 1.5″ Wood Screws
  • Rags
  • Electric Sander (ours is Ryobi, but the linked sander is a great and inexpensive option too!) and sandpaper (we used 120 grit)
  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Plastic gloves
  • Painters tape (optional)
  • And Bar Stools! Because you’ll probably want to sit and enjoy your new space! (Make sure you get the appropriate height stools based on the height of your bar – ours are standard counter height stools)

And that’s it! So easy and inexpensive!

How to:

Step 1:

After your wood is cut to the length you need, use your electric sander to sand the wood until it is fairly smooth to the touch.

Be sure to wear your dust mask and safety glasses! Sorry to hubby for posting this pic 😉

Step 2:

Decide which side of your wood will be the top, and flip it over so that the bottom of the wood is facing up.

Step 3:

Align your hairpin legs to the very edge of each corner.  We weren’t super precise about this, we just lined them up to sight and touch.

Now take your drill and screws and screw each leg into place.

We attached the middle and outside screws of each leg first, and then went back and secured screws into the remaining inside holes.

Step 4:

Now that your legs are attached, flip your table to stand.

DIY outdoor bar hot tub height

Here is what it looked like prior to waxing. Perfect height and length for our hot tub!

Step 5:

Time to wax!

I originally planned to tape off the legs to ensure I didn’t get wax on them, but it really wasn’t needed – the legs are black, and the wax essentially wipes right off. So no painters tape for me!

PRO TIP:  If you PAINT your bar, you’ll want to do so BEFORE you attach the legs.  You could also wax your wood BEFORE you screw the legs on, but I didn’t have an issue doing it after the fact. I personally wasn’t sure how I was going to finish the table top, and I wanted the bar to actually use ASAP.  It worked out that I ended up waxing and not painting!

Use your first rag to apply the wax liberally to your wood, in the same direction as the grain.  Make sure you get the top, sides, and bottom.  Be careful with how much wax you get on your rag though, as the wax tends to fly off and land on the floor (or you!) when you least expect it! You could always put down a plastic tarp to save the floor surface, or tackle this step in the grass where it wont matter!  Also make sure you’re wearing clothes you don’t care about!

When spreading the wax, apply it in the same direction as the wood grain.

Step 6:

Once your bar top is completely waxed, allow to sit for about 20 minutes.  Now take a clean rag and buff the entire thing – really put some elbow grease into this, as this is what makes the waxed wood super smooth to the touch.

PRO TIP: DO NOT apply Polycrylic on top of your wax.  Yup, I totally did – no bueno.  (This is what happens when you DO first and RESEARCH later.  Lesson learned on that one!)  I applied the Poly because I wanted to ensure maximum waterproofing, but water based over oil based is a no go.  So, we had to sand ours back down and re-wax.  No big deal really, just annoying. (And honestly, the wax itself is really a very decent water barrier, and you can always apply another coat of wax to increase the waterproofing and/or increase the richness of the color).
However, if you PAINT your bar top, you’ll definitely want to seal it with Polycrylic or Water based Polyurethane of some sort.  Even if your bar is not next to a hot tub, I can assure you it will still get wet!

Step 7:

Allow to dry for 24 hours before use.  Now enjoy, and relax!

I just love this relaxing space!

DIY outdoor bar outdoor oasis

The bar and bar stools added the perfect touch of coziness to this space – now we just want to hang out here all the time!

It’s that easy friends! And such a great inexpensive alternative to all of the outrageously priced outdoor bars that are actually on the market (seriously, the ones I liked were between $300 and $500, where as this cost under $100)!  And the best part is you can customize it to your exact specifications!

Soon I’ll do a blog about all the other details of this space, because the before and after is really quite mind blowing (we used to have a metal shed on this concrete slab and a bunch of giant banana palms/black birds of paradise in that flower bed)!

But until then, I hope this tutorial gave you a fun new idea for transforming your outdoor space into a fun place to gather with family and friends.  Until next time…


October 2018 Update:

It seems with the general wear and tear and moisture changes that naturally happen from being outside, that I will likely have to do a quick sand and re-wax seasonally.  The wood, due to moisture levels, has seeped sap, which I need to get off.  Now, my guess is I could use an outdoor oil based varnish of some kind to really seal it, which I might do.  But for now, having to spend an hour or so every 5-6 months to clean the bar up isn’t a big deal!  Just know if you want it SUPER outdoor proof, you’ll have to add a topcoat to your finished product!