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Wine Cellar Preparation Guide

The purpose of this Wine Cellar Preparation Guide is to outline the proper wine storage conditions and provide you the information necessary to create and maintain those conditions in your personal wine cellar. Achieving and maintaining those conditions will allow for proper development of your favorite wines and champagnes. By paying attention to the details now, the enjoyment of your wine will be maximized and your investment will be protected.

Ideal Wine Cellar Conditions

Most experts recommend an average temperature of 55 degrees F for all wine storage. Cooler temperatures won’t damage your wine but will slow its development. A temperature of 65 degrees or more will have a negative effect on wine the longer it’s stored.

The ideal humidity in your wine cellar should be 60-70% but anything over 50% is acceptable. High humidity, 80% or more, may cause mold to form on the corks and bottles. In addition, the ideal long term wine storage should avoid heat, direct light and vibration.

Choosing a Wine Cellar Location

The best location for a wine cellar is below ground level in a basement. The reason for that is this is where generally cooler and more humid conditions already exist. A corner of a basement, with two exterior walls and free of windows, is ideal. Wine cellars built above grade, where basements do not exist, simply require special attention and materials to properly insulate and seal the room thoroughly.

One of the most important factors in choosing a wine cellar location is deciding on the type and location of a cooling system. Most cooling units are installed through a wall and exhaust into an adjacent interior room that is at least equal in size to the wine cellar. The ambient temperature of the intended venting area should not be higher than 85 degrees F in order for proper operation of the cooling unit. Other cooling unit options such as split systems and special units are available and may require installation by certified HVAC contractors. Please feel free to contact WineRacks.com to discuss your environmental control options prior to building out your room.

Wine Cellar Construction

Unless local codes dictate otherwise, standard 2 x 4 framing is sufficient for R13 insulation, but ideally R19 should be used for insulation and that will require 2 x 6 framing. Electrical work should be completed to code prior to insulation and drywall. A Vapor Barrier is critical in controlling the humidity of your wine cellar. The ideal humidity of your wine cellar will be much greater than that of the rest of your home. A vapor barrier separates the two conditions and keeps the higher humidity from flowing out of the room. It also prevents warm and moist air (in high temperature and humidity areas) from entering the room, eliminating excess condensation buildup from the cooling unit.

A 6 mil poly/plastic (sold in rolls or sheets) should be stapled over the studs before the insulation is applied. The interior walls of your wine cellar should be insulated with a minimum of R13 for 2 x 4 framing and preferably R19 insulation in 2 x 6 framing. If you live in areas of very high summer temperatures or very low winter temperatures, we recommend that you insulate with R19(minimum) and R30 where your framing allows. Ceilings should be insulated to a minimum of R19. Concrete walls and floors should be sealed with a “paint on” sealant (such as “DryLock”) to seal all cracks.

Generally, 1/2" plywood sheeting will be secured to all walls (after electrical rough in and insulation) to anchor your wine racking but it is not required if using nailers between studs. Although a standard 1/2"– 3/4" sheet rock may be used, it is highly recommend that you use moisture resistant “green board”. Your wallboard may be finished with a quality oil base or latex enamel paint. We do not recommend installing a baseboard as the racking will be flush to the entire wall and include a toekick molding.

In selecting a door for your wine cellar, please choose a solid core, exterior grade door. All doors should be weather stripped and completely sealed to prevent loss of cooling and/or infiltration of warm air that will cause condensation. If you select a decorative glass door, be certain that the glass is thermopane and tinted.

Other factors to be considered in the construction of your wine cellar include locations of electrical switches (in order to not be covered by racking) and locations of plumbing and lighting. Proper lighting should be low heat (if lighting will be left on) and properly insulated and installed. If your wine racking is single depth, your lighting should be a minimum of 16” from walls and 28” from walls when double deep racking will be used.

You can download a printable version of this guide HERE

Choosing The Right Wine Racking

Your favorite wines come in containers of all shapes and sizes. When it comes to planning wine storage, you want to choose racking that will properly store your collection. All of our wine racking is designed to comfortably store most standard 750ml bottles and we have created specialty racks for storing splits and magnum or larger Champagne bottles in our Premium Cellar Series collection as well as our Custom racking line. For storing the whole gambit of wine bottles, our cellar cubes and bin racks are always a great solution.

wine bottle sizes

Bottle Size Wine Type Racking Recommendations
350ml
2 3/8" dia.
Dessert wines, splits Split bottle racks
Advantage Series Cellar Racking
Premium Series Cellar Racking
Cellar Cubes
Stackable Racks
750ml
2 7/8" - 3 3/8" dia.
Bordeaux, Cabernet, most Whites and Reds, smaller Champagnes Advantage Series Cellar Racking
Premium Series Cellar Racking
Cellar Cubes
Stackable Racks
1.5L
3 9/16" - 4" dia.
Magnums, larger Champagnes, Turley, other wider bottles Premium Series Magnum Racks
Cellar Cubes

Getting a Custom Wine Cellar Design

Once your wine cellar area is prepared, it's time to plan for racking. If you choose to have a custom wine cellar, our designers will work closely with you in order to ensure we create the perfect design to fit your space. Before you contact us to create a design you will need to do a little preparation. The guide below should help you to understand the steps necessary to provide us with accurate information.

Measuring your Wine Cellar Walls and Ceiling Heights

One of the first steps is to create a simple sketch of your room. It doesn't need to be a fancy architect's plan, just a simple line drawing with dimensions. On your drawing/sketch, please draw an overhead view of your room and label your walls, A, B, C, D, etc., indicating your door opening and the direction that the door opens.

Draw a separate sketch of each wall, being sure to indicate which wall it is. For each wall, measure the width in three places, at the bottom, the center and the top and provide the smallest measurement. We ask for the smallest of the 3 measures because not all walls are perfectly square, so this will help insure the racking will fit even at the smallest point.

Measure the ceiling heights in all corners and the center of all walls. Provide us the minimum and maximum measurements. All walls that jut out or form in should be measured from corner bead to corner bead (outside the pocket) and wall to wall (inside pocket) in the same fashion as the wall width measuring instructions, providing us the smallest measurement. Indicate exact locations of obstructions such as light switches, plumbing, overhead beams, poles, soffits, access panels, air vents etc.

As a general rule, racking should end 3” from door casings, existing light switches that are to be used, thermostats and cooling units.

Complete the Cellar Design Questionnaire

Once you know your measurements, please take some time to complete our Wine Cellar Questionnaire. This will give us some idea as to the storage capacity you need from your cellar as well as what racking styles you like.

The Consultation

Once we receive your measurements and questionnaire, one of our designers will contact you to review everything. In order to create the most effective design for your space, we need to know a bit more about you, your goals and your space. Our Design Experts will make sure we completely understand what you want to achieve in your wine cellar and any challenges or limitations that we need to account for in the design. This usually involves a phone call that will take 15-30 minutes of your time and then we can begin creating the cellar of your dreams.

The Design

One of the things that sets WineRacks.com apart from our competitors is the fact that your Cellar Consultant IS your Cellar Designer as well. Since you are communicating directly with the designer of your room, you can be sure there are no mis-communications. All of our designs are created in 3-D, so you will receive a high quality rendering of what your room will look like, instead of a flat 2 dimensional line drawing. If your architect or contractor has need of full AutoCAD drawings, we can provide those as well, but for most cellars, it is not necessary.

The Design Review

Once you receive your cellar design, our Cellar Consultant will contact you to review the design, ensure you understand all the features of your cellar and answer any questions you may have. We will do up to 2 revisions of the design based on your input for no charge. If you would like more designs, we ask for a small deposit that will be credited toward your final cellar. Your Consultant can also assist you with all the other details for your room, including cooling, lighting, flooring, doors and whatever else you might need to make your room a real wine cellar. Only after you are satisfied with the design do we provide you with a pricing quote for your cellar.

Verification & Deposit

We cannot begin manufacturing any wine cellar before we are sure that we confirm that all of our information is correct. When you have chosen your final design, we will send you a Verification & Policy form for your signature. Only when we have received that sign-off, as well as a deposit on your cellar, will it go into production. It is very important that you verify all of the details of your cellar, so that we can ensure that you receive the cellar you are expecting.

Manufacturing

Your wine cellar will be manufactured to the highest standards out of the finest environmentally responsible raw materials right here in the U.S.A. Each step undergoes quality control inspection until your complete cellar is carefully packed and shipped to you. We are also able to offer White Glove delivery.

Installation & After

Our wine cellar systems are designed to be easy to install. A handy do-it-yourself-er could complete the installation, or you may want to hire a local general contractor or finish carpenter. We have our own network of dealers and installers that can do installations for you as well. We take great pride in our product and warrantee our wine cellar racking to be free of defects in material or workmanship for as long as you own the cellar.

Once your cellar is finished, don't forget to visit WineRacks.com online catalog for all the accessories you need to manage your cellar and serve your wine.