How to Create a Wine Barrel Sink (with updates 10 years after construction)   43 comments

This step by step description should help anyone create a beautiful outdoor bar sink from an acquired wine or whisky barrel. This is your typical 55 gallon oak stave barrel. I bought this one for $30 from John at Quinta Ferreira  winery in Oliver, BC. Some fancy garden shops price them at an outrageously high $130! So shop wisely. Firstly you will need some tools, so I will list them as we go. This barrel sink is now 10 years old! built and posted in 2008, and still working, and holding its own. Some of the staves are a bit loose, but it has always been out of the direct weather and gets a fresh treatment of teak oil stain and now has a new Ikea GAMLESJÖN Dual-control kitchen mixer tap, in brushed black metal! Lets face it, the brushed chrome single lever tap I originally installed looked a bit cheesy.. Nuf said there.

BARREL almost done 003

Above is finished sink from 2008 – Notice the tube TV in the back ground which has been replaced with a flatscreen LED. The spa tub has also been replaced. But the Vermont Castings barbeque is still burning my dinner to perfection 10 years later.

2018-07-23 21.00.02

Same sink 2018, and with new taps and masks more than half the circumference. It is important to keep a generous coat of oil stain every year, in the spring, after a wet cold winter, but the sun will also take its toll on its finish. Teak oil stain is what I use. Dribble some on the surface and using an old cloth, rub it in with a circular motion. You can see the new taps from Ikea. About $139 Cdn. Since it is a cold-only system here, you will have to cap off the hot line, or you will have water spraying out the bottom. A trip to the plumbing section of your local hardware will find all the standard fittings to prevent that.

2018-07-23 20.59.37

As you can see, the old white resin chairs have gone the way of the dodo bird to the recycle yard and been replaced with a comfy Martha Stewart set. No, not from her cell, from Home Depot. The fireplace in the background I built from scratch, well after I acquired the free metal firebox left at the side of the road. Some day I will show you how to build that too. It’s a real hit with our Airbnb guests!

Below is the Original Blog from 2008, which describes the building of the project. The next time you are in wine country, and you have finally convinced the vintner to sell you a barrel, you are well on your way. Next you will need a small bar sink. This one was $45 from a new & used building supplier.

typical 55 gallon wine barrel

With your tape measure, centre the sink in the top of the barrel. Either end of the barrel will do, so pick the best end for the top. Orient the sink the same direction as the end slats. Trace the outline with a pencil, remove the sink and measure in 1/2″ on the ends and 3/4″ on the front and back so your cutout will be smaller that the outline of the sink.

Trace the outline of the sink, and the inner cut-out line.

drill corners of the cut-out

Cut out the hole with a sabre saw.

The top opening of barrel will be your workspace. You may want to lightly sand the edges of the opening, because you will be spending some time leaning into this hole. You will also want to fasten the Drop in the sink to check the fit. If the barrel has dried out significantly, the staves and end boards will shrink and become loose. If this is the case, you may have to reinforce them with galvanized metal strapping, or a wood strip screw fastened from underneath. If so, do yourself a favour and lay the barrel on its side on a cribbing of 2×4’s that will hold it steady and not wobble, roll or rock. Save that for the dance floor! That strapping will also prevent those short end slats from sagging over time, and help support the sink and its contents.

Now drop the sink in gently, and check the fit. Adjust with your saw, if the hole is too small. You don’t want the hole too large of the fit will be sloppy. On the back side of the sink, as you will now determine which side of the barrel is the opening side, drill 4 small holes just inside the two metal hoop straps, on a stave joint. This is in preparation for the access door into the barrel, for plumbing, and storage access. The reason for the holes is to to locate where to saw the top and bottom of the door.

Drill 4 holes on the stave joints, 7 staves apart, looking through the top hole, look for the 4 drill holes. These will be the corners of the access door. Get some Simpson Stong-Tie straps, and 1/2″ Robertson screws, and fasten straps about 1″ inside the top & bottom holes, and about 1/2″ inside stave joints. Hint: As this is an awkward way to work, use Robertson square bit screws to hold on the impact driver bit.
Fasten galvanized straps to hold stave access door together, to create the access door, use a hand saw to cut along the metal hoop straps from drill hole to drill hole. Only top and bottom cuts are required because the stave joints are only butted and will come apart. Fasten metal tie-strap to the outside of the access door.
Cut between the drill holes, just inside the straps. Once the cuts are started with the hand saw, they can be finished off with your sabre saw.

The access door comes out in one piece. Now your project is read for stain. Use a sponge sanding block to remove grunge, mold, stains, and the like. A good even sanding will really bring out the character of the wood. This barrel is oak, and the sanding and water based stain will bring it to life. I used a foam brush, and stroke in the direction of the grain, and wipe excess off with a cloth as your go.

Once the wood stain is dried a couple of days, mask off the barrel to paint the metal barrel hoops. I chose a satin black enamel. This is the time to fasten hinges and a door pull. For hinges, you will want a long strap style hinge, and position them towards center, in from the top and bottom edges of the access door. This will allow for the distorted swing caused by the curvature of the barrel. If the hinges are too close to the top and bottom edges, it will stress the hinges. Add a barrel bolt to keep the door closed.


Screw strap style hinges to the door, and mask off barrel to paint the metal barrel hoops. Our barrel is now all stained and door hardware is fastened.

Our barrel is now all stained and door hardware is fastened.

Our barrel is now all stained and door hardware is fastened. Now we can add some plumbing. I used a discarded single handle Delta faucet from a past kitchen renovation. Note the right side cold inlet will be the only side used and the hot left stem will be capped off. Single stem kitchen faucet with cold-only side right. Hot left is capped off.  Water is supplied by a 1/2″ PEX waterline run underground from the house. (more on this below). The PEX line is terminated at a regular garden hose shut-off valve, on a screw-mount base. You will need a female hose thread to 3/8″ faucet stem coupling to connect. I found one for $2.39 at the hardware store.


For drainage of our sink, I clamped on an old 1 1/4″ flexible shop vacuum hose and clamp. More on where this goes below.

Drain stem goes to an old vacuum hose.I decided I wanted a frost-free underground water supply to my outdoor sink, rather than a tacky looking garden hose attached to trip over. This takes some effort and planning to source the water from the house. I chose to put a tee connection on the closest inside basement cold water line, and inserted a shutoff immediately after the tee. I then ran a PEX plastic and then copper through the wall of my basement, and terminated at a hose bibb. Just before the hose bibb, I soldered a tee downward which would be my water source.

Water source for our outdoor sink connection to the house is in fact the last     connection to make in the line, but I prefer to show it in reverse order.

  • Install a PEX waterline from the house to the sink, underground. Almost all PEX used for pipe and tubing is made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE). PEX contains cross-linked bonds in the polymer structure, changing the thermoplastic to a thermoset. Cross-linking is accomplished during or after the extrusion of the tubing. (Thank-you Wikipedia)

Open all the valves starting at the sink, and going backwards to the source. Be sure to seal all threads with silicone thread tape. Check all connections and solder joints for leaks. Basin is stuck in place with plumber`s putty. Roll the putty out into long worms and place around the hole in the top of the barrel. Press down firmly on the sink. You can fasten the sink down with hold-down screw-hooks which hook under the sink on welded tabs.

Check all connections and solder joints for leaks.You will notice a side table attached to my sink. This was an afterthought after I finished, which worked out well. It is a teak fan tail off a small boat, which washed up on the shore of our lake after a big storm. It sat around for years waiting to be used in a project.
An extra (optional) feature was this teak wood fan tail from an old  boat for a side table. I traced the outline of the barrel onto the fan tail and cut out the crescent with a sabre saw, hence the chalk line below.
Trace outline of barrel, and cut out crescent with sabre saw it fit snug and just below the rim of the barrel, but need some support from some wood brackets and added hooks that fit into the support brackets on the fan tail.
Side table in place on the barrel. Lastly, you will need a drainage connection to your sink. Unless you are spilling sewerage and toxic chemicals down the sink, which this was never intended for, draining into a rock pit should satisfy the City Fathers, and Mothers. I tied into a 4`inch yard drainage system with a 1.25 inch drain line and some elbows. The drain flows safely off site and keep the grass watered.

Drain connection. Finally, we are almost done, and ready to call the guests over for a few brews, some barbequed steaks and never again have to run in the house to wash the raw chicken off your hands and contaminate your doorknobs! Good luck with your project!



Posted November 13, 2011 by Mondolake in wine barrel sink

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43 responses to “How to Create a Wine Barrel Sink (with updates 10 years after construction)

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    • yes you can but it makes it easier to keep the staves aligned as close as it was built and fitting well when it’s finished. I would recommend reaching in and strapping them together first, a bit of a pain I know, but a bigger pain if you don’t.

  2. One other step to modify the construction and longevity of your barrel sink, when you cut out the top of the barrel for the sink, fasten the short top pieces on either side together or they could (will) fall inside. Screw a Simpson strap from underneath spanning from the long fixed barrel top staves on either side of the cut out. This will cradle the potentially loose short staves and hold them in place.

  3. what color stain did you use

  4. precioso, me encanto. y donde se puede conseguir hecho, y su precio. gracias.

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  7. How is your barrel holding up? Have the hoops stayed secure in place and have the staves maintained their curve?

  8. The barrel is holding up like the day it was finished. It winters very well with the water lie blown out, although I’ve had to realign the washers a couple of times. It could use a fresh coat of water based stain on the top due to some standing water. I will be adding some more tribal masks to the front soon.

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  11. Could you have made the access panel around the bung hole and/or used the hole as the supply line/drain line access?

    • Hi Jeremy. I suppose you could put the access door about the bung hole, but it could weaken the door itself by having the hole in it. I took the supply and drain through the bottom directly into the ground through a space in the brickwork and into a 4″ sand base. As for the hole, I would just plug it, or leave it as is.

  12. How are you getting the barrel to stay together? I sell them on the side, run up to Kentucky to several distilleries to get 100 or so at a time. One thing I have always had to tell my customers, as the distilleries have told me, including Jack Daniels, is that you must keep water in them to keep them swelled to maintain structural integrity; usually a gallon per month is sufficient. My own experience is that if you let them dry out, the hoops fall off, and the barrel staves shift and move.


    • No problem with the barrel delaminating. Our climate is fairly damp and barrel stave shrinkage is minimal. It is obviously outside, and semi-exposed, so it may get rained on if the wind blows in sideways.

  13. Hmmmm. I have a home in both Georgia and Florida. I sell the barrels in both places, especially in Florida, as the people here have rarely seen a barrel, and buy them up like gold. Florida, as you might imagine, is probably one of the most damp and humid places in the country. Even here the barrels must be irrigated from time to time, even if stored outside. Lots of my buyers use them for small ponds, waterfalls, rain barrels, etc. and in such a use, irrigating them is not necessary. But if stored inside, like using them as bases for bartops, etc., the barrel cannot be allowed to dry out, which it quickly would, and the buyer must irrigate them from time to time by pouring water into the bung hole and replacing the cork bung.

    I have seen several online depictions of people making sinks out of them for bathrooms, where they have cut into them, like you have, and wondered how they stay together, as obviously once cut into one cannot pour water into them. Surely something must be being done to maintain structural integrity once the staves dry out and shrink. I myself have left the bung out on several by accident storing them outside, and if I don’t feed them with water, after a few months, simply trying to move the barrel will cause it to fall apart in your hands.

    I only buy and sell whiskey barrels, and thought maybe the charring process contributes to the easy delamination of the of barrel without frequent water feeding to keep the staves and tops/bottoms swelled. I notice yours is a wine barrel which is not subjected to the charring process. Yet the distilleries I buy from have told me they sell used whiskey barrels to wineries, so many of the wineries are using the same barrels I am.

    It is a mystery I am trying to solve. Any thoughts you have would be appreciated.


  14. Hi Robert, what if you screwed the straps to the staves or fiberglassed the barrel on the inside.

  15. Robert, another thought, if the barrel is finished with varnish wouldn’t that seal in the moisture and keep the wood from drying out?

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  17. Could this be used for a inside sink and hold up good?

    • Inside would be a better environment for longevity of your barrel compared to outside, for sure. The plumbing is your only risk, to prevent leaks. The finish should last for many years.

  18. I am attempting to turn a wine barrel into a wet-bar for my lofr and have run into problems with the door hinges. I used strap hinges as you did and have sanded a champher on the hinge side of both the door and the barrel. However when I try to open the door, the hinges bind. I noticed when I remove 2 of the 3 screws on the hnge, the door works well but the hinge attempts to swivle to one side or the other which is obviously what’s binding. Any ideas?

    • Mark,
      I encountered the same thing with the hinges because of the curvature of the barrel. I tested the swing with a single screw in each hinge and noted how they would slightly twist when the door swung. I picked a neutral middle point and added the other screws. Another consideration is to space the hinges closer together so the angles are more similar than a wide spacing. The drawback is with closer spacing, the door is not as sturdy. Trial and error. Remember I built mine without instructions! Good luck

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  20. Hi, Just wondering what kind of paint you used to paint the hoops? And did you roll it on with a foam roller? Looks great!

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  22. Where did you find the sink base? Im having a hard time finding one that fits! thanks!

  23. What are the “buttons” on the metal straps. I think this would help hold it all together but I can’t figure out what is being used.

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  26. when you cut the hole or the sink do you ever have problems with the top falling apart? i’m doing one my self and im afraid that when i cut the hole the top will start coming apart since its several pieces of wood making the top. i’m just starting on this barrel. do you get rid of the original top and replace it with plywood? i have never done anything with a barrel before. any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Try screwing pipe strapping to the underside to “buddy up” the short pieces, or they will tend to fall out. Take it slow and carefully as the sabre saw will tend to jar everything loose.

  27. I too am about to use simular idea for bathroom… robert saying the barrel shrinks and has trouble staying together when kept ondoors has worried me abit. The barrel i have bought is an old whiskey barrel and has already been emptied and dried out. It feels solid as a rock. I intend to cut the barrel down and drill holes for piping. Surely as long as metal rings are secure i shouldnt have any structural issues? Any heads up before making cuts would be greatly appreciated, thanks, tom south wales

    • Tommy, the wood staves will shrink slightly in time. Perhaps try inserting small wedges from the inside where the gaps are worst. Don’t over stress the staves and keep the wedges uniform in spacing if possible.

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  32. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

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