Thus far in our Guide to Building a Home Bar series, we’ve covered:
1. Exploring Your Options
2. Layout and Design
3. Building Yourself vs. Hiring Out
4. Refrigeration, Part 1: Standard Refrigeration and Draft Beer Systems
5. Refrigeration, Part 2: Wine Refrigeration, Beverage Centers and Ice Machines
6. Look and Feel
Today, we’ll talk about Bar Foot Rails and Arm Rests, and how they set your bar apart from the rest.
There is nothing like pulling a stool up to a well-designed and well-built bar. Few accessories can take your bar to the level of authenticity and comfort that foot rails can. Along with arm rests, bar rails add a touch of class that make an ordinary home bar extraordinary and with our help, they’re easy to order and install.
When it comes to bar add-ons, installing a foot rail should be at the top of your list. Foot rails, or bar rails as some call them, are available in various styles and finishes, to fit your bar’s style. Plus, they’re customizable so you can make them work with a bar of any shape or size.
There are three main components in a foot rail system:
The tubing is the actual metal rail that you will rest your feet on. Choose from finishes like polished brass, polished stainless steel, satin stainless steel and unstained wood, to match the unique look and feel of your bar. Brass foot rails seem to be the most popular choice but for outdoor use, stainless steel rails are your best bet, as they have increased durability. Once you’ve decided on the finish you’d like, you’ll have to take some basic measurements to determine how much tubing you’ll need for your bar.
Measure for Your Bar Rails
First, measure each side of the bar that will have a foot railing and make a simple sketch of your foot rail.
It’s helpful to make a virtual rail on the floor around your bar, with string or painters tape; doing this will help you to visualize how much space you’ll need for your foot rail.
Once you have laid out your design on the floor, measure each section to calculate how much tubing you will need. Tubing comes in lengths from 2-feet to 8-feet, in one-foot increments. So if your bar is longer than 8-feet, you may have to join two pieces of tubing together to make a rail that fits your bar perfectly. Connecting the pieces is easy with a splicer, an internal connector that you insert into the end of each tube.
When you’re determining the length of a tube that will be connected to an elbow and joined with another tube (to round a corner), remember to include the dimensions of your bracket in your measurements.
When ordering tubing, it’s always wise to round up to the nearest foot. It’s much easier (and cheaper) to cut off excess tubing than it is to connect more.
Next you’ll want to determine the number of brackets that you will need to order.
To support your foot rail you’ll need to install brackets that hold the tubing in place and provide stability for the tubing. Select your brackets from a variety of styles and finishes, so they too will match the look and feel of your bar. There are bracket styles that mount right to the bar face, floor mounting brackets and combination style brackets to choose from, all available in an assortment of finishes.
You’ll want to make sure your foot rail has the right amount of support, so you’ll need a bracket 6-inches from the end of your tubing or elbow and an additional bracket for every 4-feet of tubing to ensure that your foot rail is nice and sturdy. For example, if you have 8-feet of tubing, you’ll need 1 bracket on each end and 1 in the center, for a total of 3 brackets.
Measuring for brackets and fittings is especially important when your foot rail turns corners. For example, if you select a bracket that holds the rail 6-inches from the face of the bar, that bracket will add nearly 6-inches to the overall length of rail you will need. So, add the length of the bracket, minus the dimensions of the elbow you will be using.
There are elbows with 90- and 135-degree bends, so you can choose which works best with the layout of your bar.
Once you’ve determined how many brackets, splicers and elbows you’ll need for your project, make a detailed list of those parts, including sizes and quantities. A written list will be a huge help when ordering.
Adding end caps to your foot rail adds style and a finished look. Who wants to leave their bar rail tubing open on the end, anyway? You can choose from rounded, flat or decorative end caps that all come in a variety of finishes. Whether your end caps are sleek and simple or detailed and ornate, either way they’re super easy to install!
If you’re looking to use metal end caps with a wooden rail, just make sure to select end caps that are marked as "external fittings". External fittings are components that fit around the outer diameter of the tubing and, since our wooden rails are solid, your end caps need to fit around the wood.
Arm rests add comfort and a professional touch to your bar. You can get them in metal or unstained wood to keep your look and feel consistent.
Wooden Arm Rests
If you go with wooden arm rails, the first thing you’ll want to do is stain or paint the arm rests to match your bar and give them plenty of time to dry completely.
Installing wooden arm rests is a fairly simple process. It is most common to glue the lip of the arm rest to the front corner of the bar and then use finishing nails to secure it. Then, you can brace the underside of the arm rest with a 1-inch by 4-inch (or appropriate sized) piece of wood, depending on how far the top of the bar overhangs the front.
Metal Arm Rests
Metal arm rests are also easy to install and they’re available in several finishes. Just like foot rails, metal arm rests have 3 components: the rail, the bracket, and the end caps. First, the rail extends the length of the bar and gives people something to lean on. The brackets are used to connect the rails to the bar and hold the rail up. The brackets should be installed at least every 4-feet to make sure the rails don’t bend. To make your bar look swanky and polished, the end caps go on both ends of the rail.
Our next post in the series will delve into all the things you need to know and do Before You Order Bar Rails. Check back soon!