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Installing a Rail Bar Top: An Easy and Inexpensive Way to Add Deck Seating

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Adding a bar top over your deck railing is a simple and affordable way to add extra seating and entertainment space. Just like an indoor breakfast bar, a bar top on the deck railing can be paired with a row of stools to allow guests a place to eat and hang out.

A bar top can be installed right over the existing deck rail, so there’s no major construction or reconfiguration that needs to be done. The project can usually be completed in one day. Installing a bar top is also less expensive than other seating alternatives, including built-in bench seating and patio furniture. It also takes up less space, leaving more room on the deck for people to walk around and socialize.

What Are My Options?

Granite Deck Rail

Even though the project is fairly simple and straightforward, there are a lot of decisions to make before the work starts. Do you want narrow rail just to hold drinks, or do you want a full-size bar top? Do you want the bar to span the entire deck, or do you want the bar in just a small area? What about an additional ledge next to the grill to hold food and cooking supplies - is that worth adding while you’re at it?

The next important choice is the material. Many people opt for the same material used to build the deck, whether that’s natural hardwood or composite decking. But there are other options. Some people go simple and inexpensive with plywood, while others go with fancy and more decorative materials like ceramic tile or granite. Some people get really creative and use recycled or reclaimed materials such as an old wooden sled.

If you’re not sure what kind of bar you want, browse sites like Houzz and Pinterest for inspiration. There’s no shortage of ideas. Just keep in mind that a really fancy or elaborate design might blow your budget. It’s easier than you might think to turn this relatively easy and inexpensive project into a money pit.

Wooden Deck Bar Rail with Black Spindles

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Bar on the Deck Railing?

Cost is the million-dollar question with any home improvement project. That’s because there’s no easy answer. The cost depends on the materials you choose, the size and intricacy of the project, local labor costs and more.

Wood Deck Rail

If you use reclaimed or recycled materials and do the installation yourself, you might spend less than $100 on the project. If you hire a deck building company to install a bar using wood or composite, you’re likely to spend anywhere from $300-$1,000, depending on the size of the bar and the cost of materials. If you’re going for the gold with a custom granite bar that requires additional supports, you could easily spend thousands.

Because there’s so much variation when it comes to cost, set a rough budget before you start calling contractors, deck builders or handymen.

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Tell them what you want to pay, and ask them to come up with a solution in or near that range. It also helps to have an idea of what you want. You can be open to suggestions, of course, but the company will have a harder time if you can’t articulate your ideas.

Author: Ashley Smith


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