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The most common height for a bar top, whether it is a kitchen breakfast bar, a basement wet bar, or a commercial bar down at the corner pub is 42-inches.
Standard conventions support the 42-inch bar height. Most pre-made backsplashes are four to six inches tall. When that height is added to the standard countertop height, the backsplash can slip underneath the overhang of the finished bar top for a smooth transition.
The optimal and most ergonomic height for a top that services both the seated and standing user is 42 inches. With a bar stool of the proper height, it is comfortable to sit at a 42-inch bar. This is also a comfortable height for most people to lean against. Additionally, the bar top at this height is in easy reach of a standing person, so they can set their food and drink down without leaning over.
A bar top is typically too high to serve as a good seated work surface and is mainly useful for leisure activities.
The Multiple Benefits of Bars
The main benefits for a bar top come from one person working standing up on one side and another sitting on the other. The bartender has a comfortable height to prepare drinks on his feet and the customer has a comfortable height to drink them while on a seat or standing. The standing bartender is also at a comfortable height to engage the seated customer, whether for the simple business transaction or for the age-old tradition of chatty banter or deep heart-to-hearts that often happen in this setting.
The other benefit of a bar top is its aesthetic appeal. In another common context for bars: A kitchen bar top can divide the space up nicely by serving as a transition area, between the cooking area and the eating area.