How to Lower a Raised Kitchen Bar in Your Home RenovationJune 27th, 2023 | by Elizabeth | Posted in construction, design, kitchens, remodeling
Back in the ’90s, it seemed that almost all newly built kitchens came with a raised bar. At the time, open concept homes had become really popular. The intention of the raised bar was to give a little definition to the kitchen space, while typically hiding the kitchen sink and counters. (Where y’all can imagine dirty pans or dishes pile up after a meal, especially with kids.)
That logic, I understand. So why are so many people asking us to lower their raised bars these days? Well, here’s the thing…
What a raised bar also does is block off the site-line of the kitchen, visually cutting it in half. This makes the room feel less spacious and has the added disadvantage of the kitchen actually being less spacious. It decreases the surface area of your countertop (and y’all know that’s some valuable real estate!). Plus, with so many of us at home more often these days, we don’t want to feel cut off from the rest of the family.
Chances are you’ve felt this way too. If you’re considering lowering the bar physically (and “raising the bar” figuratively), you’ll need to know what’s involved. Is it an easy fix? Do you need to hire someone? Let’s talk about it.
Here’s a great example of a raised bar. This is my kitchen. It was originally designed in the ‘80s, when this raised bar (and soffit) were all the rage, and it’s safe to say, it doesn’t look like this anymore. (Nor do my babies fit at that tiny table anymore!) I’ll show y’all what we did to update it, but first, some tips…
Tip 1. Start with a plan.
Who’s Involved: Interior Designer and/or GC
“Lowering the kitchen bar” seems like it would be a quick and easy job, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, many times we are called in mid-job — the client believed it was going to be much simpler than it was, got stuck, and then needed a professional to do damage control and start again. (I can tell y’all, it would have cost less time and money to do it right the first time.)
That said, the level of involvement required to lower a raised bar does vary from project to project. It depends on what is in the island or peninsula (sink, electrical, etc.) and where the raised bar is located. For all these reasons, the main first step for a job like this is to have a plan. Y’all can do this by hiring or consulting with an interior designer and/or GC.
Here is a client’s original Mt. Juliet home, with its own raised bar situation. Although it isn’t a bar you could sit at, it visually chops the room in half, blocks the view into the kitchen, and decreases counter space. In this case, we didn’t just lower the bar, we renovated the entire thing, but I’ll show you the results at the end…
Tip 2. Countertops will need to be replaced.
Who’s Involved: Countertop specialist; carpenter or cabinet maker
This one is the non-negotiable. At the very least, your countertops will have to be replaced. Since you’re going from a raised bar to a bar that is an extension of the countertop, this makes sense. It will all be one piece. As far as trades go, a skilled carpenter or cabinet maker will need to be the one to actually cut down the raised part of the cabinet on the back of the bar.
There are also typically cabinet panels which appear as doors on the back of the bar, for decoration. The carpenter will either remake them or lower them at this time.
Note: If you’re looking to refresh all your cabinets, it could be efficient to do it as part of your bar-lowering project. In 2 weeks, I’ll be talking about repainting vs. remodeling cabinets to help you make a smart decision for your project and goals. Stay tuned!
Back to my kitchen. Now, the countertop is one solid piece of beautiful Cambria quartz, there’s plenty of room to sit (even as my babies are now teens), and that soffit has been replaced by pendants that look just as classic over a decade later. That’s the beauty of classic design, y’all!
Tip 3. Weight-bearing supports, if any, should be addressed.
Who’s Involved: Countertop specialist; carpenter or cabinet maker
If your raised bar includes corbels, those will need to be removed in order to lower it. Many times, these are only decorative, but in some cases they are actually there for support. If the countertop is going to extend past 12” or so, the supports will likely need to be replaced, either with new corbels or metal supports. The countertop fabricator will need to be in on this.
Tip 4. Plumbing may need to be considered.
Who’s Involved: Plumber
If there is a sink in this location, which is typical, you will need a new sink because of the countertop replacement. There is not much you can do to avoid this. A new sink also means you will also need to have a plumber involved in the process. Look on the bright side…you can get that new sink you’ve been dying to have!
Here that same Mt. Juliet home, transformed! In this case, we really pulled out all the stops, making this countertop space into an island, adding plumbing and electrical, bar top seating, and of course, removing that awful half-wall. They are SO much happier now, and the kitchen flows right into the surrounding space. It feels social and welcoming for family and friends, and y’all know that’s what the South is all about.
Tip 5. Hire one to get them all.
The best thing you can do for your peace of mind, investment, and efficiency is to hire one professional who can bring in and coordinate all of the others to get your project done. This is what we do as general contractors. First, we’ll make a plan for your kitchen. Then, we’ll bring in talented trades we trust. Then, we work together to deliver you the finished result.
However, whether you hire a GC or manage the project yourself, again, I cannot stress enough how important planning is for any (perceived) small jobs. Without enlisting a professional, you typically end up spending more money repairing mistakes than if you would have hired someone with a plan and experience in the first place. I am committed to helping y’all avoid that mistake.
And now, we make it to the final result — a beautiful kitchen that feels open, spacious, and is more functional for your everyday needs, whether that includes cooking for a crowd, getting the kids to sit down and do their homework, or enjoying a quiet moment at the bar top with your morning coffee.
Have any questions about lowering a raised bar? Looking for some hands-on guidance? Leave me a comment below or book your complimentary Discovery Call here.