Get the look of a fancy built-in bar for less. Build a frame around a prefinished upper cabinet and a mini fridge with inexpensive stock lumber to create this custom piece of furniture in a few hours.

By Caitlin Sole
August 09, 2018

Make movie nights, game days, and impromptu parties extra special with a well-equipped dry bar that doubles as storage. Perfect for any room with a blank wall, a power outlet, and a little open floor space, this DIY bar design can be customized to fit your lifestyle. Start with a mini refrigerator, purchase an upper cabinet you love, then build an attractive waterfall frame using affordable stock lumber. A custom toe-kick for the cabinet lets you match the height of your fridge for a built-in look on a budget. New cabinet hardware adds the perfect finishing touch. Once you've installed the custom dry bar, stock it with your favorite games, beverages, books, and anything else you need for a fun night at home.

See more weekend projects from this basement makeover here!

  • Working time 5 hrs
  • Start to finish 2 days
  • Difficulty Kind of Hard
  • Involves Sawing, Staining, Drilling

What you need


How to do it

Step 1

Install Cabinet Toekick

First, measure your mini refrigerator. The rest of the project will be based around its dimensions. Once you've determined its height, you will build a toe-kick for your stock upper cabinet so that the fridge and cabinet are the same height. Make sure to purchase an upper cabinet; a base cabinet will likely be deeper than your fridge. To build a toe-kick, cut a 1x3 craft board down to size. You'll need four pieces that form a rectangle to fit the base of the cabinet. Use wood glue and clamps to form a rectangle with the cut craft boards, then drill together with 1-1/2-inch screws.

To attach the toe-kick to the cabinet, line up the craft board rectangle with the base of the cabinet. Attach with wood glue; let dry. Drill through the bottom of the cabinet into the craft boards with 1-1/2-inch screws to secure. Paint the toe-kick in a shade that matches your cabinet, or paint the entire cabinet and toe-kick in your desired color.

Step 2

Cut and Stain Wood

Next, cut your stock lumber. The size of lumber will depend on the dimensions of your fridge and cabinet. You'll need two pieces that form the sides and one piece for the top. Once cut to size, the boards should be flush to the front of your fridge when butted against the wall.

To find the length of your surface, combine the width of the refrigerator and cabinet, then add four to six inches. This will account for mitered edges and allow the fridge to properly ventilate. Once you have this measurement, cut the surface length to size with mitered corners on both ends. Next, measure the height of your fridge and add 1 inch to account for a mitered edge. Cut the board, with one side mitered to line up with the top surface piece. Repeat to create a second side board. You should now have three boards with mitered corners that fit together to form an upside-down U shape.

Once you've finished all your cuts, sand any rough edges and wipe free of sawdust with a tack cloth. Use a lint-free rag to stain all sides of your three cut boards, including the mitered edges. Let dry before continuing to build.


How to Use a Miter Saw

Crosscuts and miters are common woodworking cuts. Here's how to perfect them with a miter saw.

Step 3

Assemble and Install Sides

Connect the two side boards with the 1x6 plywood board using a drill and 1-1/2-inch screws to form an H shape. The mitered edges of the side pieces should face up. The 1x6 board will be installed against your wall, and the height at which you attach it to the side boards will depend on your outlet placement. Make sure it will not cover the wall outlet needed for your fridge.

Use a stud finder to locate the studs nearest your outlet. Attach the assembly to the wall by drilling through the 1x6 board into the wall studs with 1-1/2-inch screws.

Editor's Tip

Optional: Remove Wall Trim

To install your bar flush with the wall, you may want to remove baseboard trim along the wall where you'll place it. To do so, use an oscillating trim saw to cut the section you'd like to remove, then use a putty knife and pry bar to pull the trim away from the wall.

Step 4

Place Cabinet and Fridge

Place the cabinet flush to the front of the frame and butted against the wood side panel. There will be a gap between the back of the cabinet and the wall. Next, place the mini fridge next to the cabinet and plug it into the outlet. The fridge should be flush to the front of the wood frame, with space on both sides it for ventilation. The amount of space recommended varies based on each model. Refer to your mini fridge's manufacturer's guidelines for best practices.

Step 5

Install Wood Top

Place the final board on top of the assembled frame. Align the mitered edges, then glue, clamp, and let dry. Use a nail gun and pneumatic nails to attach the top to the sides, carefully nailing through the side pieces. Secure the cabinet to the wood frame by drilling through the top and side of the cabinet with 1-1/2-inch screws. 

Step 6

Install Hardware and Finish

If needed, patch any holes with wood filler and smooth with sandpaper. Apply a second coat of stain to the exterior, let dry, then finish with a clear coat of polyurethane. If desired, swap out the cabinet hardware for new knobs or pulls using the provided screws. 


How to Replace Cabinet Hardware

Learn how to cover up any evidence of old hardware and install new knobs and pulls on existing cabinet doors.


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