How to Build a Club Bar Part 3 of 5 Install the Kneewall Coverings

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Owning your own in-house bar makes a statement about you. For some, it might say “I have arrived and this is my space!”


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Owning your own in-house bar makes a statement about you. For some, it might say “I have arrived and this is my space!” While for others a bar might say “Welcome, friends, our home is your home.” And for others, well, let’s just say the possibilities are fairly wide-ranging. But whatever story your bar tells—be it one of quiet aperitifs before dining, casual afternoons watching the big game, or raucous evenings of wild revelry—building your bar yourself personalizes the tale and adds a feature to your home that will have a direct impact on how well you enjoy your home life.
The bar shown here is sleekly styled and smartly laid out for the efficient barkeeper. A small refrigerator gives you access to cold drinks and ice while convenient cabinets create excellent storage spots for party favors.
While this is a “dry bar” (no plumbing), the design could be modified in any number of ways to add running water if you wish. All you need to get the party started is a GFCI electrical outlet and the proper floor space.
This compact corner bar design features glossy black MDF aprons with decorative cherry appliqués forming a horizontal grid pattern on the aprons. A cherry plywood bartop sits atop a 2 x 6 L-shaped kneewall, harboring some practical amenities on the bartender side. A flip-up lift gate in the bartop on one end provides pass-through access and can even function as a wait station if you want to get really fancy in your hosting
The key components—base cabinets, a laminate countertop, the fridge, and the wood for a sleek Asian-inspired style trim-out—set the stage for your next gathering. Let’s party.

Cutting List
11⁄2 x 5 1⁄2 x 68"
2 x 6

11⁄2 x 5 1⁄2 x 38"
2 x 6

3⁄4 x 16 1⁄2 x 80"
Cherry plywood

Bar substrate
3⁄4 x 16 1⁄2 x 80"

Bar substrate
3⁄4 x 16 1⁄2 x 65 1⁄4"

Lift gate
3⁄4 x 16 1⁄2 x 22 1⁄4"
Cherry plywood

Bartop trim
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2" x cut to fit

End cap
3⁄4 x 7 3⁄4 x 41"

Trim stiles
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x 41"

Trim rails
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x cut to fit

Countertop cleat
1 1⁄2 x 1 1⁄2 x 22"
2 x 2

Lift gate stop block
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x 18"

1⁄2 x 40 1⁄2 x 68 3⁄4"

1⁄2 x 40 1⁄2 x 68 3⁄4"

From: Complete Guide to Custom Shelves & Built-Ins, 978-1-58923-303-4

What You'll Need


Miter saw
Table saw
Circular saw
Stud finder
Pull saw
Flat bar
Pneumatic nailer/compressor
Combination square


(10) 2 x 6" x 8 ft. SPF
(1) 3/4 x 4 x 8 cherry plywood for bartop
(1) 3/4 x 4 x 8 particleboard
(2) 6 ft. strips 1/2 x 16" cement board
20 sq. ft. 4 x 4 wall tile
Thinset and grout
3/4" thick cherry- 2 @8 x 42" (actual)
3/4 x 1 1/2" cherry approx 80 lineal ft.
(2) 1/2" x 4 x 8 ft. MDF
36" base cabinet- corner (12" wide doors)
24" base cabinet
Refrigerator (19w 22d 32-3/4" h)
Postform countertop
(mitered, 6 ft. each leg)
16d common nails
Panel adhesive
11/2" wallboard screws
Finish nails (4d, 6d)
Finishing materials
Piano hinge


Step 1

Install the Kneewall Coverings

The front faces of the L-shaped kneewall are covered with the aprons and apron trim. The back sides (the bartender view) can be covered with just about anything you wish. We used a cement board backer and some wall tile for a nice looking wall covering that’s durable and easy to clean. It’s easier to install these wallcoverings before the bartop has been installed.

Step 2

Install the MDF Aprons

You don’t need to create full toe-kick recesses at the bottoms of the apron panels, although you certainly can if you wish. But it is a good idea to install the MDF aprons so they are not in contact with the floor, especially if your installation is going into a basement or any other area that may be subject to moisture problems. The easiest way to do this is simply to cut a piece of 1/4"-thick sheet stock scrap and slip it up against the sill plate. Then, test the fit of the apron panels.

Step 3

Attaching the MDF Aprons

Trim if needed, then apply beads of panel adhesive to the front edges of the wall frame members and attach the aprons with a pneumatic nailer and 21/2" finish nails. You can hand-nail them at wall stud locations with 6d finish nails if you prefer. Cover nail heads with wood putty.

Step 4

Cement Board & Tile

Depending on what type of cabinets you’re installing, it likely is not necessary to finish the inside faces of the kneewalls lower than the countertop height. For installing wall tile, we cut 16"-wide strips of 1/2"-thick cement board and attached them to the wall studs flush with the top of the cap plate.

Step 5

Set the Tile

Make sure that seams fall over studs.
Install the wall tile. We used inexpensive 4 x 4" ceramic wall tile set into a layer of thinset adhesive that’s troweled onto the cement board. Whichever wall covering you use, it should extend down past the top of the countertop (in this case, the top of the preformed backsplash), and the edges should be covered by the end panel you’ll be installing at the free end of the kneewall.



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