Basement Bar Design #5: Water and Washing Up

Basement Bar Design #5: Water and Washing Up

It is wise to bring some water, when one goes out to look for (drink).
Arab Proverb

If you wish to drown, do not torture yourself with shallow water.
Bulgarian Proverb

Est in aqua dulci non invidiosa voluptas.

I think I alluded to this before, when talking about ice, but to have a really great Basement Bar (or Garage Bar, or Shed Bar), it has to be a wet bar. About the only absolute I will issue in this whole series is that you must have running water in your bar, or you might as well not bother.
Running water means both faucet and drain. The stuff that passes between them is really more important as hardware, than as software (as Alton Brown would say) to your bar. Water goes into a lot of cocktails (usually in crystalline form), but it really makes your Basement Bar functional by washing things.
Now, if your bar is a place to put your kegerator, and you just pull the tap into plastic cups, then fine—forget the sink. But quit reading this blog and get your info from Man Caves on DIY (not a bad show, mind you, but more for the brew crew than us cocktailians).
If you mix a lot of cocktails, then you will be producing a lot of washing.

  • You will have cutting boards and knives and squeezers for fresh juice.
  • You will have fine glassware. You will have pitchers, and shakers, and bar spoons, and jiggers.
  • You will want to eat at your bar, so there will be plates and silverware.
  • You will have drinks that you just had to try out that, once in the glass, will taste like stale sweat and smell of feet. (Yes, even the likes of you, Keith Waldbauer, have mixed up a feet-tini or two in your day. Don’t deny it!)
  • You will have lots of sticky surfaces.
  • And you will have lots, and lots of used ice!

Without running water, you will have a lot of schlepping to do. A lot. Like, too much, ya know? No great bar can be great if it is a pain in the ass to use. With a sink, all your liquid waste goes right down the drain, and you have plentiful water for cleaning and washing. And you can say your bar has everything, even the kitchen sink!
Moreover, once you have gotten a sink into your Basement Bar, you have most of the infrastructure in place for three significant upgrades.
The most important is some kind of automatic ice prduction. I’ll avoid repeating myself about how important this is, and just refer you to my award-winning post on ice.
The next thing to consider is an InSinkErator, or similar waste disposer for your sink. These are a nice option, and can be bought for a very reasonable price. What is also nice about this inexpensive luxury is that they can be easily retrofitted later. If you have the budget, put one in to begin with. If you don’t, keep it in the back of your mind.
The last option is a true luxury, but having installed one in my bar, I can honestly say it was the best investment I’ve made in a while. I am talking about a real dishwasher.

I’ve already outlined a lot of the stuff you will need to clean in your bar. A sink and a scrungy will clean them all, and easily so, if you keep on it. Leave the dishes aside until an evening with friends is over (and who wants to scrub when you could be talking about The Celtics, Obama, Aviations, Sex, Literature, Poker, or Sex), and you will find a chore waiting for you. If you have a dishwasher, you just push a button and your troubles largely go away. OK, it isn’t absolutely that simple, but in relative terms it is.
Dishwashers come in an incredible variety of sizes and levels of price and performance. There are half-sized machines, cabinet drawer devices, table top models, and full-sized, ordinary dishwashers. When I was first designing my Basement Bar, I worked under the assumption that I would go with one of the narrow or drawer-sized models, in order to save space and money. Don’t waste your time with this assumption too! If space is at an incredible premium for you in your planning, then the smaller units might be worth considering. But not only won’t you save any money on a smaller model, you will likely spend more! Save yourself some money and enjoy the added flexibility and utility of a 24″ model. In fact, go that way even if space is a problem. Just repurpose your dishwasher as a cabinet, and store your glasses there full-time. Your dishwasher is a cabinet that washes the glasses you put away inside!
A more important decision you should make, if you want a dishwasher in your Basement Bar, is whether to get a low or high-end model. If your budget makes any dishwasher a stretch… well, a Brazillian off-brand dishwasher is better than no dishwasher at all. (Note: A really low-end dishwasher will be hard on glassware. Keep your barware plans in mind when making a decision about a dishwasher.) But if you have room to maneuver, there are some circumstances where a high-end unit from a company like Bosch might make sense.
The chief advantage that the more expensive machines possess is: Silence. Shhh. Hear that? No you don’t. Is it worth the 400-600 dollar increase for a few decibels? Maybe. Think of how you will use your Mantuary. Will it also be your card room? Your yoga studio? Your home theater? Your love shack? If you will be spending a lot of time in your Basement Bar for any such purpose, you won’t be able to run a standard dishwasher while you are down there.
More expensive machines will often have a few other nice features that can save a few bucks on energy and water. A glassware setting, or a top rack only cycle can be very handy and good for the environment.
A dishwasher is a big decision. Don’t dismiss it or jump into it without thinking through the rest of your options.
Oh, and one last thing about washing up: Cocktail glasses should not go in the dishwasher! They probably won’t fit properly anyway, and even if they do, machines are murder on these most delicate of glasses.

If you want to follow this specific series of posts on the Pegu Blog, you can subscribe to our Basement Bar feed here. Or you can just subscribe to the entire blog, with all its brilliant content, here!
Here’s a list of the other articles in this series that have been posted so far:
[catlist id=47 orderby=title order=ASC numberposts=-1]


  1. Tex

    30 July

    Doug-what do you think of those glass washers that some bars have, the type that has four or five spinning brushes? Regarding sinks, how many compartments do you think are ideal? We are in the process of bar design and while running water to the sink is no problem, draining it is b/c it would require cost prohibitive measures like blasting through the slab. I was thinking about draining into five gallon buckets. Is this unwise?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  2. Doug

    30 July

    I love the brush thingies, as they look cool, and they certainly seem to make quick work of a lot of glassware. I haven’t used them myself. Frankly, I think they are overkill for a home bar, especially in your situation. They also need a full sink AND running water to work with. In your situation, that might be REALLY uncalled for!
    I think a single basin sink is fine for most applications like the Basement Bar. Multi-basins are great in the kitchen, where you want someplace to store dirty dishes while still having a basin clear to do prep work in. But you won’t be doing much prep in a bar sink anyway.
    I doubt there would be much problem on the face of it for the five gallon bucket method for a couple of big, strapping texans. You don’t have a basement, right? Stairs would make your average hernia surgeon go ahead and make a reservation for you. If you empty the bucket often, and well before full, it is a pretty creative solution. If you get lazy, you’ll probably have a smell and/or bug problem. I’m also pretty damn sure it won’t pass code, and could pose some resale issues.
    Is there a drain line under the slab where you want to put the bar? Or would you have to run a long trench? If there is a line close by, you should at least try to position the bar so that you can easily go back and upgrade later.

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  3. Deep

    13 July

    Basements Planning and Design

    1. The first step toward any successful basement remodeling project is to come up with a
    plan. The decisions you make at this point will affect your entire project. You don’t want to have all the walls built, sanded, and primed only to realize you don’t have enough storage space!

    2. From getting started, to basement waterproofing and establishing a budget for this

    3. Measure the available space. Decide how various areas will be used. Measuring most
    basements is relatively easy. With a little practice you can easily work out the total square footage of the space you have to work with. Having the square footage available is also very helpful when estimating the materials you will need.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  4. Sonia Berks

    13 March

    I’m rubbish at any plumbing jobs,only wish that i possessed a little primary skills just to save money on plumbers!

      (Quote)  (Reply)


    23 September

  6. I go to a bar frequently that has a small glasswear washer in every bar. I need to find out the detials, but it would be perfect for a home bar as well.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  7. Doug

    24 December

    Bob @ Finished Basements Yorkville,

    In my experience, the glassware only washers are a value only if you are extremely cramped for space. A new full-size with a top-rack only setting costs as much or less, and you have the flexibility of a full-size. They are also cheaper to service.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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