DIY Network

How to Install a Bar Top and New Cabinets

A maple bar top and new cabinets can add sophistication to any home. Learn how to install cabinets and a new bar top with these easy to follow step-by-step directions.

More in Remodeling

attach base cabinets to wall

Step 1: Remove the Old Top

To replace an old bar top, you need to remove the screws from underneath and remove the top.

Step 2: Install the New Top

Install a rough sheet of ¾” plywood cut to 22-1/4” deep. This will give you the overhang you need for a bar top. Since plywood is 8 foot long, we had to add a 6” piece to the end in order to reach the desired length for a new top.

To make it less noticeable, place the seam on the end nearest the wall. Since you are placing the new top directly onto the counter, attach the first piece of ¾” plywood directly to the frame using 2" wood screws.

Place a second sheet — a ¾” piece of maple

line top board up on top of half wall

Step 3: Round the Edges

Rout out the top edge of a 1" x 2" piece of maple. This will make all the difference in the look of the top once you have it installed. Cut the corners at a 45-degree angle.

rout out top edge of a piece of maple

Step 4: Install Trim

Place the routed trim to the edges of the plywood that make up the bar top. Using clamps will help as you attach the trim. Use 2” finish nails all the way around. Take your time and make sure everything lines up straight.

Use maple wood filler to fill in the nail holes and then sand the top with a soft sanding block.

installing the trim

Step 5: Add Finish and Sealant

Give the top the finishing touches by applying a clear polyurethane sealer. Brush it on with the grain of the wood. Once the first coat has totally dried, give it a light sanding with 120-grit sandpaper. Apply a second coat of sealer and let it dry.

Tip: Before you begin applying any stain, you should use a conditioner on the wood, especially porous woods. Using a conditioner first will allow the stain to soak in evenly and it gives you time to wipe off any excess before it is too late.

Tip: It is always a good idea to test your sealer on a scrap of the same wood you are using in order to make sure the color is what you want.

Step 6: Measure the Area for the Cabinets

Locate and measure any wires or outlets that need access through the cabinet. Transfer those measurements to the back of the cabinet. Cut out an access hole and run your cables through it.

Tip: If you can't find ready-made cabinets to fit your space, use your yellow pages for a company that specializes in storage solutions. Usually they will come right to your home and help you identify what your specific needs are.

cut access hole and run cables through

Step 7: Attach the Cabinets

Identify where your studs are and attach the base cabinets to the wall using 2-1/2” wood screws.

Step 8: Attach Countertop and Finish up.

Attach the countertop to the base cabinet using 1-1/4” wood screws and attaching them from underneath. Measure to make sure the screws will go deep enough but not go through the wood.

To clean up the edges, we added corner round trim to the half wall and another piece at the fireplace.