6- Using bar mats? Drink rails and how water affects how products are used.

Water creates more than a few issues for deposition cast tops using plywood and hardwood construction.

What is a bar mat?

A Bar service mat is the 4”x24” rubber insert designed to fit in the drink rail on the bartender’s side.

Custom bar mats are also used at service areas where drinks are expedited. Sometimes bar mats are used on bar tops when service rails are not present.

Quoting one manufacturer’s online warranty, “Rubber mats, whether placemats, drink rail mats or service area mats tend to trap moisture and, when left sitting wet, can degrade the metal.”

While it may seem counter-intuitive, some manufacturers do not allow the use of standard rubber bar mats anywhere. The statement continues- “We require stainless rail drink inserts for commercial bar tops and not using an insert risks the integrity of the product. The use of rubber mats in any setting will immediately void the warranty.”

What is a drink rail?

A drink rail is the 4″ metal tray on the bartender’s side where drinks are prepared. Bar drink rails provide a wet service area that can accept rubber bar mats or drip tray inserts. This helps the bartender complete the task of making drinks.

Stainless steel drink rails are the most common in the industry because they are durable and easy to clean.

The statement made by this manufacturer is problematic. The service industry has developed around a basic set of tools and supplies. To deny bartenders their use is absurd.

At 3 Spark, we agree with the idea that stainless inserts prolong the life of any bar top. In fact, we recommend them for more than just drink rail areas. Our experience in making commercial tops has shown that creating a superior product with better details is the best approach.

But other manufacturers do not have this wisdom. Even after years of data from hundreds of projects they stay the course without improving recommendations to customers. Making a blanket exclusion to deal with the shortcomings of their products is hardly the answer.

Manufacturers cannot require stainless to cover every part of your project because doing so would put them in the stainless steel countertop business. If rubber mats laid outside the drink rail also void the warranty, something else must be at play.

Moisture does not degrade metal.

Moisture does not degrade the metal on competitor’s tops, but it does conspire with the substrate below to introduce movement. Over time, this causes the metal to separate from the wood. Moisture destroys wooden substrates.

I’m curious about which product should replace rubber mats on these tops. Request product recommendations from manufacturers and clarify what can and cannot be used with their warranty. No industry-wide recommendations are given.

If these products cannot be used in wet bar environments, does this exclude their use from semi-covered indoor/outdoor spaces? What impact does a little weather have on these tops?

Moisture is an issue for wooden core products and manufacturers know this, but are reluctant to admit it.

3 Spark to the Rescue

At 3 Spark, we have resolved this issue with our full line of products. Our composite substrates handle moisture, so all our products can be used indoors and outdoors. We will help detail your project with stainless inserts where needed, so feel free to use bar mats with your bar top.

Reach out to 3 Spark to begin your next project, and know that worrying about moisture is a thing of the past!


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