Relaxing outdoors, whether unwinding after a long workday or entertaining friends over a weekend, is one of life’s pleasures. If you have an outdoor bar on your deck, patio, or poolside pavilion, you’ve got the ideal setting, but it needs to be one that will withstand the outdoor elements and remain an attractive feature of your home. What makes a good outdoor bar top?
A good outdoor bar top will last a long time without much maintenance, complement the bar’s cabinetry, and not be too expensive to install. It may be unprotected from sun, rain, heat, and cold, or it may be under cover, and the choice of material should take this into account.
There are many options when selecting the material for your bar top, some natural and others manufactured. Each one has its own properties, pros and cons. At the end of the day, it’s very much a personal decision as to which bar top works best in your outdoor entertainment area. This article aims to give you enough information to help you make the right choice.
Choosing Natural Materials For Your Outdoor Bar Top
Selecting a natural material for an outdoor facility seems logical, but not all products of nature will last forever. Hardwoods, softwoods, and stone in various forms are definite possibilities.
Selecting A Hardwood Outdoor Bar Top
Not all woods are equally impervious to the elements, but hardwoods in general, because of their density, are good options to consider.
- White oak is super strong, far less porous than most hardwoods, and ideally suited for bar tops. It is liable to split if mishandled, so predrilling for fasteners is recommended.
- Mahogany is recommended as it is extremely durable, water- and insect-resistant, so it won’t rot. The color may fade if exposed to extended periods of direct sunlight, but it can be treated to preserve the rich tones which make it so popular.
- Ipe is a relative newcomer, but this South American wood is considered by many to be the best hardwood for outdoor bar tops. Water- bug- and fire-resistant with high concentrations of tannic acid and oils, it’s an excellent choice. The downside of using Ipe is its cost – it’s more expensive than most hardwoods.
We’ve selected these three hardwoods as the top choices, but you could also consider teak, which is beautiful, extremely durable, but even more expensive than Ipe. You can read more about suitable wood for construction projects here.
Selecting A Softwood Outdoor Bar Top
We’re suggesting a softwood option mainly because, if you’re building a bar as a DIY-er, a softwood is far easier to work with.
- Cedar is the densest of the softwoods and is often used for outdoor bar tops as it is durable and insect resistant.
- Redwood and cypress are other choices that are also insect-resistant. Still, they are liable to splinter or crack more easily than cedar.
Softwoods are more readily available than hardwoods and are less expensive. If you’re working with a limited budget, they are worth considering.
Selecting Natural Stone for Your Outdoor Bar Top
Certainly the most durable material to choose for your bar top, natural stone is almost maintenance-free and should last a lifetime.
- Granite is available in a range of patterns and colors, and is able to handle, heat, moisture, and general wear and tear. Its only disadvantage is that it’s heavy and, as with all natural stone, needs to be shaped and polished by professionals before fitting it to your bar.
- Marble is beautiful but not as practical as granite. It is porous, so it will absorb liquids such as wine and get stained unless it is sealed. It’s also more likely to show scratch marks and is fragile enough to crack or chip if mistreated.
- Quartzite (as opposed to quartz) is a natural stone with similar properties to granite but is slightly more flexible. Being a natural stone, it is available in varied tones, mainly greys, and browns, but less than granite.
Choosing Manufactured Materials For An Outdoor Bar Top
Choosing to go with manufactured materials gives you an extensive choice of materials, including ceramics, stone, and metal – not as romantic as natural but extremely practical and cost-effective.
Selecting A Metal Outdoor Bar Top
- Aluminum is recommended for its durability, light weight, and ability to withstand extremes of weather. It forms a thin layer of oxide that prevents corrosion but detracts from its appearance.
- Stainless steel is a very elegant choice, and it’s rust and corrosion resistant, so works very well as a bar top. Its drawback is, like all metal countertops, it absorbs heat from the sun, so it gets hot in summer and will melt the ice in your glass.
Selecting An Engineered Stone For Your Outdoor Bar Top
- Quartz is an engineered stone with stone fragments combined with an epoxy resin and pigments to form a non-porous, extremely durable material in a wide range of colors. It can be affected by extreme heat, and if exposed to direct sun, it will discolor over time, so it is only suited for outdoor bars that are under cover.
- Silestone and Corian are also engineered stone products, with the latter using bauxite (from which aluminum is obtained) rather than quartz. Their properties are similar and very suitable for outdoor bar tops.
- Concrete, while not strictly an engineered stone, can be embedded with decorative stones or aggregate to give it a unique look. Construction of a concrete bar top is relatively simple, even for the average home handyman, and is relatively inexpensive. It’s durable but requires regular sealing to prevent stains as it is a porous material.
There are numerous other options for outdoor bar tops, including laminates, ceramic tiles, and glass, but we are looking for the best possible materials, and these all have serious limitations, so we’ll leave them for the more adventurous to investigate further.
“An outdoor bar” conjures up the image of laid-back relaxation, entertaining friends in a summer backyard setting, and sipping cocktails around the pool. You certainly don’t want it to be a matter of constant repairs to and maintenance of that bar counter.
There are several outdoor bar tops that will look great, will last for many years, and will require little more than an occasional wipe down. Natural materials or manufactured alternatives depend on personal taste, your budget, and the “look” you’re trying to create. There’s no shortage of good outdoor bar top choices, so start your search right now!