How to Build a Wine Cellar

Your wine collection is a source of passion and pride.

Have you always wanted to build a wine cellar in your home? Maybe convert a closet or a little niche under the stairs? We can help with everything you need – big or small – to build your dream wine cellar in any size space.

Details are so important. The enjoyment of your wine will be maximized and your investment will be preserved with a little planning ahead. Our Wine Cellar Guide outlines proper wine storage conditions and provides the necessary details to create and maintain the perfect conditions for the best storage of your favorite wines (champagnes too!)..

Types of Wine Cellars

There are basically two types of wine cellars

  • Passive Wine Cellar – no environmental temperature or humidity control
  • Active Wine Cellar – active environmental control of temperature and humidity

Ideal Wine Cellar Conditions

Whether you have a Passive or Active Wine Cellar, we recommend an average temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit for all wine storage. Cooler temperatures won’t damage your wine but will slow its development. Keep in mind, 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. The ideal long term wine storage should avoid heat, direct light and vibration.

Ideally, your space can accommodate these conditions year round. If not, consider investing in a wine cooling unit and humidification system.

Choosing a Wine Cellar Location

The best location for a wine cellar is below ground level in a basement, generally where 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 simply require special attention and materials to properly insulate and seal the room thoroughly.

Wine Cellar Construction

Unless local codes dictate otherwise, standard 2 x 4 framing is sufficient for R13 insulation; ideally R19 should be used for insulation, thus requiring 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. This barrier keeps the higher humidity from flowing out of the room, and prevents warm and moist air in (especially in high temperature and humidity areas) – 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.

Typically, 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 recommended 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.

Types of Wine Cooling Units

Wine cooling units are available in several different configurations. Take some time to choose the best one based on your cellar location and size. Wine cooling units work similar to air conditioners – they add cool air to the room and exhaust hot air. Most cooling units can be installed if you’re handy, with the exception of the split systems. For proper operation and effectiveness of your cooling unit, it is important to get the right size unit for your space, with a proper insulation and vapor barriers.

Types of Cooling Units
  • Through-the-Wall Cooling Unit – installed through a hole in a wall and exhausted into another room
  • Fully Ducted Cooling Unit – allows you to mount the cooling unit remotely (in a ceiling or utility room) and uses ducting to both blow the cool air in and exhaust the warm air out
  • Split System Cooling – works like your home central air conditioning. Half of the unit is located inside the cellar and the other half is located outside of your home. These units usually require installation by a certified HVAC technician.

Our Wine Guardian & WhisperKOOL lines of cooling units have options for adding additional humidity if your location tends to be drier.