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How to Build a Custom Coffee Bar

A coffee bar offers a dedicated place to fix breakfast drinks and store cookbooks and other kitchen accessories. With the right DIY know-how, you can build this coffee bar from reclaimed materials.

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Coffee Bar Project
  • Time

    Day

  • Price Range

    $250 - $500

  • Difficulty

    Moderate

Highlights:

Gather Materials

To save on disposal costs, homeowners remodeling their kitchens may be happy to give away a few old cabinets. There are many possible configurations; the coffee bar shown incorporates one 36” base cabinet, two 12” upper cabinets and salvaged 1x6s from an old fence.

Keep an eye out for nails and wood splints when handling job-site materials. Items painted prior to 1979 may contain lead-based paint. Be sure to consult the EPA's Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools pamphlet before disturbing any potentially lead-based paint. Building materials produced before 1983 should also be tested for asbestos. Contact a local building official for exact requirements.

Additional materials required for this project include an old mantel, mason jar oil lamps, an assortment of antique kitchen supplies, 12” reclaimed boards and a new piece of 25” butcher block.

Prep the Cabinet

Fence boards will serve as a vertical wall treatment for this piece of furniture. To achieve this custom look, first carefully remove the cabinet back panels.

Next remove all doors and hardware. Keep interior shelves and shelf pins if they suit the design. Secure cabinets to each other on a level surface with wood screws through the side frames. If cabinets are different heights, align them at the top. If necessary, infill the bottoms of any short cabinets with toe kicks made from claimed wood. For this piece, a 4” piece was needed on the middle base cabinet to match the height of side cabinet uppers.

Assemble the Back Panel

Start by stripping any old nails from boards. To prevent gaps during assembly, run boards through a table saw to straighten sides. Next cut boards to a 6' length. Place first board in the center of the middle cabinet. Attach the middle of the board to the back of the cabinet with one screw. Then, using a framing square, ensure board is perpendicular to the cabinet before driving a second screw in board at the bottom. At least two screws may be required at each location to straighten boards. The remaining boards should then be laid out and attached so they are flush at each end of the outer cabinets.

Face Cabinets

The base cabinets can be left as-is or faced with additional reclaimed wood. For this coffee bar, cabinets were faced with salvaged wood using 15-gauge finish nails. The remaining wood was then cut to size and used for shelving.

Install the Bar

Mark a horizontal pencil line along the installation wall at the top of the coffee bar. Mark each stud location along this line using a stud finder or small finish nail. Also note and mark any wall plumbing or electrical outlets that need to be cut into the back of the bar. Next, carefully move the coffee bar into place against the existing base trim. Use the side of the cabinets to mark a vertical line across the base trim. Pull the bar away from the wall and carefully cut out this base trim with a vibratory or undercut saw*. Once the base trim is removed, move the bar back into place against the wall.

*DIY Tip: To avoid damage to drywall paper, carefully score any caulking at the top of the base trim prior to removal.

Along the top of the vertical boards, drive 3” wood screws at each stud location. Then using a 4' level, plumb down and drive another row of screws at each location along the top of the cabinets. Repeat again at the bottom of the cabinet backs. Next check the factory edge of the butcher block countertop. If necessary, trim this edge to ensure a clean perpendicular surface. Now measure the total cabinet width, add 2” and cut the butcher block top to this length. Using construction adhesive, apply a 1/8” bead along all edges of the top of cabinets and set the countertop with a 1” overhang on each side. To secure the top while the adhesive sets, drive short finish nails through the cabinet framing into the bottom of the top. Use the shortest nails possible.

Attach the Mantel

Ask a helper to hold the mantel in place (overlapping and flush to the top of the vertical boards) and mark it for each stud location using the previously marked locations. Countersink a 45-degree hole through the top of the mantel at each stud location. Level the mantel, then install using 6" wood screws. Make sure at least 1 1/2" of screw is engaging each stud.

Finish Up

Lightly sand the butcher block with steel wool and apply butcher block oil per the directions indicated on the label. The remaining wood should then be sealed with two coats of matte polyurethane. While the polyurethane is drying, touch up any installation blemishes in the surrounding walls and caulk the base trim to the side of the cabinets.

If you cut out for any electrical or plumbing, ask a qualified tradesperson to pad out any fixtures in the back of the coffee bar. To accessorize, mount hangers on the bottom of the mantel to display new or antique cookware. Additionally, an antique paper cutter makes a great paper towel dispenser; be sure to dull any sharp surfaces along the cutter first.

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