Revamp a Basic Shelving Unit Into a Do-It-All Outdoor Bar
To cut down on trips between the deck and the kitchen, this homeowner remade a slim shelving unit into a multilevel bar table that cleverly contains a basin for chilling drinks.
After rehabbing the deck of their suburban Des Moines, Iowa, house, Jessica and Kirk Eno were almost ready to celebrate. The missing ingredient: a place to set up snacks and beverages. A $60 outdoor metal shelving unit that Jessica, an art director for BH&G Do It Yourself magazine, spied at a discount home goods store had the slim profile she wanted. "I decided to reposition the top as a shelf, put on a bar top to make it look more like furniture, and add some sort of cooler," Jessica says. Two hours of tinkering and about $40 in supplies and she had her bar—with a cedar top that matches the planks the couple installed over a section of vinyl siding.
How to Create a DIY Outdoor Bar
Jessica turned the slatted top into a shelf, installing it to leave a few inches of space under the 6-inch-deep basin, which she spray-painted black.
Step 1: Choose the Base
Because she used a ready-to-assemble shelving unit, swapping out the top was simple. Slatted shelves keep water from pooling. Jessica's unit (no longer available) is 40" wide, 30" tall, and about 14" deep.
Step 2: Add the Basin
Jessica used a stainless-steel steam table pan (the kind used on buffets) as a drop-in beverage tub. Find them online or at restaurant supply stores.
Step 3: Install the Counter
Jessica cut a 1×8 cedar board into two pieces the width of her unit. With a pocket hole jig and a drill, she drilled holes along one long edge on the bottom of one of the boards then screwed the two boards together. Pocket-hole joinery ensures a flat, strong surface without exposed screws. For the cutout, she marked the dimensions of the basin (below the lip) on the wood top and cut it with a jigsaw.
Step 4: Apply Wood Sealer
To protect the wood, Jessica applied a clear waterproofing sealer. The base has a powder-coated finish designed for outdoor use. If yours doesn't or is an indoor piece, spray it with a clear protector that will resist rust and decay, such as Stops Rust Clear Enamel from Rust-Oleum ($4, The Home Depot).
Step 5: Assemble the Unit
The original top and shelf on Jessica's piece screw into the legs, so she drilled a new set of holes 10 inches down, installed the top as a shelf, then attached the new top using L brackets and the original holes. She screwed a cup hook into the wood as a towel holder and dropped the beverage tub into the cutout. The lip rests on the wood top and covers the hole's raw edge.
Step 6: Protect the Outdoor Bar
To extend the life and look of her bar, Jessica stores it in the garage off-season. Still, she says the top has weathered a bit. To restore wood, scrub off dirt and the old finish with a soft bristle utility brush, then brush on a clear sealer.