(For this week’s Weekend Warrior post, I enlisted the assistance of my husband, Tom, who recently finished this project! -Megan)
A few weeks back, one of our neighbors posted a bar for sale on the neighborhood Facebook group. We’d always talked about getting a bar for the basement, but it was more of a longer-term goal than an immediate need. So when Megan texted me at work to ask if I was interested, I said “sure — but only for the right price”. We decided to low ball offer them $50, and then I turned my phone off to head into a meeting. When I came out, I had a text waiting for me that said, “We just bought the bar, and we have to go pick it up tonight!”
And so we wrestled the bar out of our neighbor’s basement, into their SUV (since it didn’t fit in ours) and drove it two blocks home. Then we wrestled it into the house, or at least, we tried to. We got as far as the landing halfway to the basement, and couldn’t make the turn to go down the other half of the stairs. It was too big! That necessitated something we hadn’t considered:
Cutting the top of the bar off.
The original top was glass tile, and weighed a lot. A LOT. We didn’t have a sawzall like the ones you see salvage companies use on reality TV, so we used what we had — a jigsaw. Megan and I took turns slicing into the bar, and eventually we wound up with this:
With the top off, Megan looked at it and decided since we had the opportunity to make it shorter, we should — it was probably a good 4-5″ taller than most bar stools would accommodate, even without the original top. So we sawed some more, and then we were ready to start sanding. Since it was in the basement, we eschewed the use of an electric palm sander — which is much faster and easier, but also much messier — and instead sanded by hand. When we were satisfied with how smooth it was, we covered the brown paint with several coats of Kilz Latex Interior Primer to ensure the brown was completely covered.
Next, we went to Home Depot and bought a 2’x4′ piece of MDF, which they ripped down to size for us. This would serve as the new top. As we were sanding the edges and ensuring the bar was level, Megan had a stroke of genius: what if we used some of the scrap boards from my workshop to cover the front of the bar? We had a bunch of boards left over from the fence project. Was there enough of them?
Answer: yes! And not only enough for the front, but the sides as well! These 1×4 cedar boards are some of my favorite for projects, and there were lots of them in my scrap pile of various lengths. I laid them out in the driveway to create the desired pattern, cutting longer boards into shorter segments as needed, and then stained them. For this process, I used a rag — not a brush — and alternated between some leftover stain from another project and the same Kilz primer we used to cover the original paint color. By “roughing” the paint/stain on instead of brushing it, and intentionally covering only portions of each board I achieved a reclaimed wood look with very minimal work. I also alternated between using the rough and the smooth sides of the board, to add some further dimension and interest.
Then we nailed the boards to the bar using industrial-looking nails — that’s a technical term, ha! — and were amazed by our dumb luck that the boards were the perfect depth to match the original framed edges of the bar! Next, we attached the new top using wood screws, taking care to make sure it was centered on all four sides.
To cover the top, I used a bunch of old baseball cards from my youth — in my case, Minnesota Twins of the late-1980s and early 1990s, of which I have boxes and boxes. There’s lots of tips online that suggest using Mod Podge to glue them down and protect the surface, but since the bar came with a glass top that would protect the cards, I decided to experiment with a different method. Using decoupage to glue paper down AND to protect the front is hard to accomplish without wrinkling from excess moisture (I speak from horrible experience on this one). Instead, I used spray adhesive — 3M Super 77 is my favorite — to glue the cards to the surface.
Finally, we placed the beveled glass back on the top, and the bar was complete! To finish off the area, we bought a glass cabinet from IKEA and some shelving. Most of the glassware and collectible decanters were in my Grandpa’s basement bar, and we’re proud to give them a home in ours.