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Should I Get a Basement Bar?


May 06, 2020 by Barbara Zito

If you enjoy entertaining at home, you may have considered adding a basement bar as an upgrade to your finished basement. Even though social distancing has made it necessary to curtail all of our gatherings for the time being, a bar stocked full of beverages (and cocktail mixers, should you imbibe) could still be a great asset for hunkering down at home.

Whether you're looking to turn your basement into your own personal speakeasy or simply want to keep cold beverages within reach for family movie night, here are some things to consider for your underground pub.

The return on investment (ROI) of upgrading your basement

In general, taking any steps to finish your basement is a great idea because you are expanding your living space. That's great for the inhabitants of your home (hello, man cave!), but it's also a great way to increase the resale value of your home. In fact, Remodeling magazine's cost-versus-value projection of a basement remodel with a bathroom and a wet bar is around 70%.

The wet bar vs. dry bar debate

You might think a bar is all about the drinks. But when you're adding a bar to your basement, it's actually all about the plumbing. There are two options for home bars: dry and wet.

A dry bar has a countertop for preparing drinks -- preferably near an outlet for a small refrigerator to keep everything nice and cold. But a wet bar has a sink with running water that makes washing glasses an easier chore than carrying them back up to the kitchen. This setup, however, is no doubt a luxury upgrade -- not to mention it might be impossible, depending on how your basement is outfitted.

If you want just the bare minimum for your bar at home, dry bars are a good choice. A dry bar can be premium, depending on the furniture (and the beverages you stock it with), but this way you're keeping things simpler for sure.

Should you go top shelf with your basement bar?

In its very basic form, a bar is a counter with a top for preparing and pouring drinks with space to store glasses and beverages on shelves beneath or nearby.

Of course, you don't have to model your basement bar after any trendy cocktail lounges. Sure, refrigeration would be nice -- bonus points for an ice maker -- and glassware with your monogram is always a classy touch. But the main idea is simply to have an area in your basement where you can go and quench your thirst without having to traipse through your house to the kitchen.

If you're looking to go premium with your bar, you could install a countertop with bar stools and a digital jukebox nearby. But you could also just as easily set up a beverage cabinet with a tray of glasses and drinks with a bucket of ice you fill from your kitchen freezer. Add a picture of dogs playing poker (or the bar decoration of your choice), and you'll be toasting to happy hour in your very own basement bar.

Why you might want to skip a basement bar

If you're a teetotaler, this bar talk might all be a moot point. Then again, there are plenty of nonalcoholic beverages you could stock your bar fridge with, including water and smoothies for your post-workout refreshment.

There are two better reasons for not installing a bar in your basement: space and the people who are using it. If you have a tiny basement, then there are other ways of upgrading your lower-level living space without worrying about a bar, dry or otherwise. Also, if you have underage kids in the basement more often than not, then it would be a no-brainer to ditch the bar -- unless you securely lock up the booze or swap it all out for nonalcoholic drinks when they're around.

In short, a basement bar is supposed to enhance your living space, not encumber it. If you can't set up a beverage station without disrupting the whole flow of your basement, then think twice about adding one to your underground lair.

The straight-up decision on a basement bar

The final decision on whether to add a basement bar for your home is best left up to the expert: you.

If you don't entertain often and don't care much about having cold beverages at the ready, then perhaps you can find a better way to enhance your basement -- or not. After all, a finished basement can remain a blank canvas and still let you recoup a good part of your investment at resale.

But if you know you would make use of a bar, then go for it. This is one of those home improvement projects where if you really want it, then count the joy it brings you as your true ROI. Cheers!

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