Have you always wanted to build a wine cellar in your home? Do you have a closet to convert to a wine cellar or a little niche under the stairs that would be perfect for wine storage? We can help you with everything you need to build your dream wine cellar.
The purpose of this Wine Cellar 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.
There are basically two types of wine cellars
Whether you have a Passive or Active Wine Cellar, 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.
If the space you choose for your cellar cannot keep these ideal conditions year round, you should consider investing in a wine cooling unit and possibly a humidification system.
Wine cooling units are available in several different configurations. You should choose the best one based on your cellar location and size. Wine cooling units work similar to air conditioners in that they add cool air to the room and exhaust hot air. Most cooling units can be installed by a handy do-it-yourselfer with the exception of the split systems. In order to ensure the proper operation and effectiveness of your cooling unit, it is important to get the proper size unit for your space and make sure the space has proper insulation and vapor barriers.
Our Wine Guardian & WhisperKOOL (images above from WhisperKOOL) lines of cooling units have options for adding additional humidity if your location tends to be drier and require additional humidification
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.
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.
If you have access to both sides of your stud wall, you can install the vapor barrier between the studs and the warm exterior wall. Otherwise 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.
Flooring for your wine cellar should be a hard surface that can handle spilled wine and moisture. No carpet because mold and mildew will grow very quickly. Tile, stone, sealed brick, concrete or hardwood are all good choices.
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. This goes the same for windows whether they will be inside your home or on an exterior wall.
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. Below-ceiling lighting is preferred. 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.
WineRacks.com offers a line of easy-to-install LED lighting that can be installed within your racking to highlight display rows or tasting nooks. Our LED lighting solutions are custom made to be integrated into our wine rack and cellar designs to complement the quality and functionality of each unique racking system with a wine-safe, professionally lit finish. Whether linear, spotlight or light pool effects, LED lighting creates an evenly lit space with appropriate highlights of bottles, shelves or room elements. All the low-profile lights are designed so that you see the effect but not the fixture. These dimmable lights offer brightness control for luminosity that is always perfect. Wine safety is critical: LED lights use 80 percent less power, produce no UV radiation, generate almost no heat and offer a 50,000-hour lifetime that virtually eliminates the need for replacing the lights.
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.
|Bottle Size||Wine Type||Racking Recommendations|
2 3/8" dia.
|Dessert wines, splits||
Advantage Series Cellar Racking
Premium Series Cellar Racking
2 7/8" - 3 3/8" dia.
|Bordeaux, Cabernet, most Whites and Reds, smaller Champagnes||Advantage Series Cellar Racking
Premium Series Cellar Racking
3 9/16" - 4" dia.
|Magnums, larger Champagnes, Turley, other wider bottles||Premium Series Magnum Racks
If you are planning to use wood racking, we offer several choices of wood species. Our racking is constructed of solid wood with no stain or finish unlike many manufacturers who use a soft wood and then apply a finish to get the look of mahogany or other hardwoods. Custom stains and finishes are available upon request.
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.
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.
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.
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