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Building a breakfast bar

Updated February 21, 2017

Breakfast bars are structural amendments to the kitchen counter or island, designed for the use of morning commuters and evening guests. They are also a concession to modern life where simple meals are eaten in solitude due to hurried, differing schedules. Whether convenience or concession, a breakfast bar increases the versatility of counters and kitchen islands, allowing better use of space in the heart of the home. Like the kitchen "nook" of the last century, the breakfast bar is a small, versatile addition where kids can get their morning nutrition or do homework, guests can kibbutz or chat and Mom and Dad can share a quiet moment away from video games and the general clatter of the day.

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Breakfast bars are generally constructed from 18 to 24 inches deep to allow for place settings and food to be placed on top and should extend beyond the wall of a cabinet or island at least 12 inches to allow for stools and knees to be tucked under the overhang. Most bars are set at a height determined by the homeowner but should be at least 10 inches taller than the stools that will be used. Breakfast bars may be set a few inches lower than the typical counter height of 36 inches for use with kitchen chairs or above counter height for use with taller stools to separate their space from the workspace. They may also be built as simple extensions of the counter, adding workspace when not in use for diners or guests. The bar is generally built to be the same length as the counter or island, but those that are made shorter generally have 24 to 30 inches of length for each stool or place setting. Brackets of wood or metal support the bar surface and are spaced as appropriate to the material. Since same-height breakfast bars are cantilevered overhangs (balanced by the area that sits on top of the cabinet), they need fewer brackets, but brackets are always placed near the corners to brace against the extra use these areas receive.


Materials used for the counter or island are also used for breakfast bars. Contrasting materials may be used for bars that are set below or above counter height. Since the material overhangs the cabinet by at least 12 inches, very heavy materials like granite are laid on top of an underlayment of wood or engineered material that is supported by more closely spaced brackets. Like countertops, breakfast bars may be topped with laminate, tile, metal or slabs of composite stone, slate, marble or granite. Unlike countertops, which are supported around all edges, materials used in cantilevered bars must be strong enough to withstand the pull of gravity (and observers who lean on them) on the outside edges or be backed by underlayment such as an engineered wood. Natural stone tops that match countertops should be fabricated out of the same sheet as the rest of the kitchen for a good match.

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About the Author

An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.

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