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Floating Bartop Construction1/9
I have been asked to bid on a "floating" or "cantilevered" bartop in a cocktail lounge. This is part of a larger cabinetry job. I have no experience with bar tops. I don't want to sub because I'm getting more commercial bar/lounge/restaurant work.
The proposed 18' long x approx. 15" depth bar is to be installed across a few tall windows in a historic brick building, second floor, overlooking Main St. It will be likely be supported by custom fabricated architectural brackets lagged screwed into the brick wall. All cabinets and millwork will be Mahogany and finished in Red Mahogany.
My question(s) is the construction of the bar top. Initial thoughts are laminating 2pcs 3/4" Mahogany plywood into two separate 9" sections with a scarf joints where necessary on the top lamination. Maybe a 5" backsplash and hardwood edging for easy cleanup.
Would it make sense to prefinish offsite and join them onsite and maybe use some kind of decorative seam cover?
If I joined them onsite, I would think it's necessary to finish onsite as well to cover the seam. This could be an issue as this location and the first floor is active.
Finally, as far as finish, most of the bar top finish postings are older and technology has changed. Barrier coat? 2K Poly? Epoxy? Over the stained red Mahogany.
Thanks in advance
There are so many unknowns in your post that it is difficult to give an opinion. But, there is no way I would do a bar top in plywood or veneer. I would use only hardwood.
18' is not really a big deal. You should be able to get that into the space in one piece and do the fabrication and finish in your shop. Even if you have to have someone with a Boom truck raise it up and bring it in through a window, this would be better and cheaper that finishing on site. I have taken long pieces up through the stairway. It takes a few guys and just pass it up.
I would do a test drilling for the anchoring of the supports into old grout. I did some work at an old historic barn and the grout there just crumbled when we touched it with a drill.
Anyway, this really does sound like a fun job, You might have to have some steel supports fabricated and powder coated. People will be leaning on the bar. This could and probably will be a focal point.
The design, construction, and installation of the bar is not spelled out by a designer or architect? I agree with Paul Miller's comments. Old brick can be a disaster. Drill in a hole for a red head anchor and you can get everything from it not holding, to broken brick. Bar tops can stay wet for long periods, and then be sanitized with any number of products. Plywood won't last, and any seams will also be a disaster with liquids seeping in to them. I have no personal experience with the finish schedule, but I do have bar attendance experience.
I also agree with Paul Millers comments. No way would I do plywood. We only build a few bar tops a year. Always in laminated solids, avoid seams at all cost. Always prefinished, top/bottom, usually with epoxy.
In addition to agreeing with Paul Miller about a one piece bar out of solid wood, I would also add that since installation of steel supports on masonry is not really in the cabinetmakers realm, that whoever the general contractor is should furnish and install any supports for the bar, fabricated in such a way that your installation is only to place the bar on the supports, and secure the bar to the supports. No sense taking on more liability than you need to, and it would be one less thing to worry about. Old brick is a bitch.
As Larry suggested, definitely solid wood, laminated pieces into one continuous length, with an epoxy finish. Don't forget the underside of the bar. I'm sure your finish supplier will set you up with the necessary "space age" materials and a finish schedule. What I have done in the past for drip rails is a Corian drip rail/edge, screwed to the bottom of the bar with a continuous piece of metal under the Corian where the screws are, so that the Corian does not snap off at the screws. I don't think the health inspector would question that, but a small bead of silicone may be needed to seal the drip rail/bar seam, in order to make the inspector happy.
The first floor may be active, but it is probably not active 24/7, so that delivery, if the bar can go in that way, can be arranged during off hours.
You will probably regret using plywood and playing with field seams. You will definitely regret field finishing of a bar.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
Thanks a bunch guys! Very helpful and insightful. I will rethink these issues before proceeding with this part of the bid.
Thanks for the valuable tips, fellas! Would definitely take note of these.
we do this type of work.
18' long is likely too long to get into the building as one piece (especially on the second floor). a simple butt-joint with mechanical fasteners (draw bolts) should be adequate. i'd suggest putting both pieces together in your shop and level sanding the joint before taking it apart to finish and reassemble. you can achieve a very nice joint this way and it beats finding 19'-20' sticks of lumber.
finish-wise, epoxy, depending on the brand, can be tricky to work with and scratch easily. we spray 2k poly (with the proper protective equipment for our finisher) and i would recommend this for this application. it is expensive vs. other cabinet finishes but performs very well for this type of application. you'll need to coat all sides equally in order to balance the piece.
we do this work for other shops around the country so send me a message if you decide to sub it out. tops like this are pretty straightforward but there are advantages to sending this work to a shop that specializes in this work.
Time for a little field research.
Rich - I'll meet you at the bar. Everyone else is encouraged to join us. I've got the first round.
We should be able to reach a consensus before too long, eh?
Not too soon I hope!