How Should I Size a Snack Bar Countertop?
Question: "We are knocking out a wall between the kitchen and living room, leaving a 4-foot tall by 8-foot long wall so I can put a snack bar on top of it. The bar stools will be on the kitchen side. How wide of a bar should I put on? (This is going to be made out of maple.) I thought 8 inches, but my dad thought that would look too much like a surfboard. Should I go wider? Is there a standard? The wall that the new bar will be sitting on is 4 inches wide. My dad also thought to put a wood or a wrought-iron spindle on one end from the ceiling to the bar to offset the look."
Answer: Taking out part of the wall between the kitchen and living room is a great way to modernize your home, improve lighting and make better use of your existing square footage. However, you may want to take down a bit more wall than originally planned.
Eating surfaces come in three standard heights, as outlined in the National Kitchen & Bath Association guidelines. Most tables are 30 inches high. Standard countertop height is 36 inches. "Bar height," which is the tallest standard height, is 42 inches-6 inches short of the 4 feet you were planning. With a snack bar of this height, 30-inch stools work best. If you stick with installing the counter at 48 inches, you probably will have to purchase or build custom stools.
When it comes to width, good design calls for about 24 inches of space per person, providing for plenty of elbow room. Your 8-foot-long snack bar will seat four people comfortably.
What you haven't addressed, however, is where your family and friends will put their knees. Table-height surfaces should be at least 18 inches deep, because your knees are bent at right angle. Taller chairs require less bend in the knees. The NKBA recommends a depth of 15 inches for a counter-height surface and 12 inches for a bar-height surface. Your 8-inch "surfboard" isn't going to cut it.
Because the counter will be resting on a narrow 4-inch wall, you'll want to engineer the installation carefully. Ken Williamson, founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Craft-Art Wood Countertops, has some advice:
"There are two ways to accomplish this: Assuming that the wall is a standard 3½ inches plus Sheetrock, the countertop would lip over the [living room] side approximately 1 inch past the vertical surface. Approximately 4½ inches will sit on top of the wall, which should be as flat as possible. Apply at least a tube of clear GE Silicone II evenly to the top of the wall and set the countertop down. Push down hard and move the countertop slightly back and forth to assure a tight seal. If the wall is open when the countertop is installed, the countertop can also be screwed from below through the capping plate.
"Next, install two corbels or 'L' brackets on the seating side of the countertop, 10 to 15 inches in from the ends. Make sure they are mounted on a vertical stud. The combination of the silicone and the corbels or brackets will support the top. Everything will be surface mounted, so the corbels or brackets should be decorative.
"A variation on the brackets is to have the countertop maker route out ¼" x 3" on the bottom side of the countertop. The steel brackets are recessed into the mortise. The Sheetrock is then removed from the wall where the brackets will be installed, and the down leg of the bracket is screwed to the stud. The back of the Sheetrock is notched out so that it fits flush over the bracket leg. The countertop will appear to 'float' and people will not hit their knees on corbels."