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How to Build a Wine Cellar: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Build a Wine Cellar: Step-by-Step Guide

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You probably have dreamed of having a Wine Cellar. I mean, who wouldn't want to store their finest wines in the optimal location? But imagine all the time and energy it would take to search for the right one. This is why we created this step-by-step guide on How to Build a Wine Cellar to save you time, effort, and maybe even some money.

Pre-Step: Is a Building Permit Required?

You might need to get a permit before you start building your wine cellar. Although not all projects require a permit, it's a good idea to double-check with your local building office to make sure your cellar construction complies with local, state, and national building rules.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Build a Wine Cellar

1. Wine Cellar Location

The location you choose can have an impact on the expense of maintaining your wine cellar or wine storage in the future.

"Can I put a wine cellar at home?" – this is the most frequently asked question we often get. Our answer: Yes. If you’re planning to build one, wine cellars should be kept cool and dry with no natural light, no vibrations, no unpleasant odors, and a consistent temperature.

How to Build a Wine Cellar: Step-by-Step Guide

Finding a good wine cellar location can help you figure out how to size a wine cellar cooling unit and how to determine the size of wine cellar cooling unit. In order to maintain the right conditions, you will need to purchase a larger wine room cooler if the surrounding environment has an average yearly temperature of 85° compared to a temperature of 65°. Also, a dry environment will require more frequent humidification.

A small wine cellar cooling unit and the lower the overall cost, the closer you go to the 55°F–58°F temperature and 55%–75% percent humidity that your wine requires.

It's much easier to control these factors if you start in the right place, which is why installing your wine cellar in your basement is often recommended, as it's much cooler and more humid than the rest of your house (usually around 70% in the basement vs 30% in your house), and it's usually free of other issues like odors, vibrations, and natural light.

These are the most popular locations for a wine cellar:

  • Basement
  • Closet
  • Dining room
  • Living room
  • Guest room
  • Under the stairs
  • Hallway

2. Check for Leaks

Check for Leaks

The goal is to build a wine cellar that is properly sealed. Check the room for air leaks and make sure there are no surprises lurking in the walls that might threaten your wine collection. You need to prepare the room in such a way that you can control all environmental factors that may affect the proper aging of wine. This room will now be the center of your obsession, and the home of your wine collection and you do not want it to damage all your wines simply because you did not properly check the area for air leaks, light leaks or water leaks.

The goal here is to create a tightly sealed space. Thoroughly inspect for air, light, or water leaks and make sure there isn't anything hidden in the walls that could jeopardize your wine collection. You must set up the area in such a way that you can regulate all environmental conditions that could affect wine aging.

When inspecting the space, make sure the ceiling has at least R-19 insulation and the floor is sealed and made of concrete.

3. Framing Walls and Ceiling

Installing Studs

In framing a wine cellar, you will need to stud the space first. And prior to putting up studs, you also need to seal the concrete foundation walls.

Note: If you're going to use a 6 mil vapor barrier for new construction, check out step #4 and do that step during studding. If you're going to use spray foam, keep going with this step as is.

We recommend using either 2x4 or 2x6 framing application for your wine cellar walls.

If you wish to boost the insulating value while reducing wine cooler unit size and energy consumption, the 2x6 construction is a better option. This is similar to insulating your home to reduce your monthly utility expenditures. When building your home wine cellar, you should get a permit and follow all local, state, and national building codes.

Soffits

If you're going to build a soffit to hide the ductwork, pipes, or other obstructions, make sure the lighting in the soffit is far enough away from the finish racking or ducting depth, including the crown molding depth. At this point, you should know about the final depth of your racking, crown molding, and size of the ring of your wine cellar’s light fixture.

As a rule of thumb, a 1-inch gap should be left between the front of the crown molding and the edge of your lighting. You can also use IC can lights to insulate the area surrounding them.

For Ducted Wine Cellar Cooling System Installations

Ducted Wine Cellar Cooling System Installations

If you're purchasing a Ducted Wine Cellar Cooling Unit, a ducting and line set will be needed to be installed. The ductwork will be installed in the wine cellar and will lead to the air handler, which is usually located in a mechanical or utility room. The air handler's line set is then run to the condenser. Standard condensers are typically installed outside, but some can be installed indoors. At this stage, you'll also need to run a drain line and install electricity.

Check out our Ducted Wine Cellar Cooling Systems:

For Ductless Split Wine Room Cooling Unit Installations

Ductless Split Wine Room Cooling Unit Installations

If you are purchasing a Ductless Split Wine Cellar Cooling Unit, you will need to run the line set. The line set is connected from the ductless wine cellar cooling units location to the condenser’s location. Standard condensers are typically installed outside, but some can be installed indoors. You'll also need to run a drain line and install electricity at this point.

Check out our Ductless Split Wine Room Cooling Units

For Self-Contained Wine Storage Coolers Installations

Self-Contained Wine Storage Coolers Installations

If you want to use a Self-Contained Cooling Unit, you'll need to install an opening in the wall just enough to fit the cooling unit. You'll also need to install an electrical outlet near the cellar, which could be on the inside or outside of the wine cooling unit, depending on the model you choose.

Since most of these wall mounted wine coolers require a drain line, you'll need to make room for a condensate drain. Some of these units cannot deliver a wine cellar humidity, so a 110V electrical outlet is required in the wine cellar for a humidifier.

Check out our Self-Contained Wine Cellar Coolers:

Who makes the best wine cellar cooling unit?

WhisperKOOL, Breezaire, and CellarCool are some of the brands who make the best wine cellar cooler units.

You can see our whole selection of wine cooling systems, ranging from mini wine cellar air conditioners to large modern wine cellar refrigeration units, commercial and residential wine cellar coolers, and other wine cellar refrigeration needs: Wine Cellar Cooling Units

What is the best wine cellar cooling unit?

Check out our article about the 9 Best Wine Cellar Cooling Units

If you need assistance to determine the dimensions of the wine cellar, or if you have any other questions, please contact our experts on the Contact us page.

4. Insulation and Vapor Barrier

Vapor BarrierVapor Barrier

Choosing Your Insulation & Vapor Barrier

Wine cellar insulation and vapor barriers are the most commonly used methods. These are fiberglass batts and spray foam or a 6 millimeter vapor barrier.

A 6 mm vapor barrier is not required when using spray foam. However, spray foams are usually more expensive, but the advantage is that they can help avoid a vapor barrier rupture produced by inserting screws, piping, running cable, or other materials into or through the wall from outside the wine cellar. The screw doesn’t damage the enclosure when using a non-shrinking closed cell spray foam, and the foam will expand to cover and tightly seal all crevices. For both methods, be sure there are no air gaps between the insulation and the drywall.

The same requirements and instructions should also be followed for building small home wine cellars such as a modern wine closet, walk in wine cellar, and wine cellar cabinet. 

Insulation & Vapor Barrier for New Construction

If you're doing new construction and won't be using spray foam, installing a 6 mm vapor barrier at the back of the wall studs is a good idea. If your ceiling joists and floor aren't on a slab, you'll also need to cover them.

Note: There are areas where the local code mandates that all vapor barriers be constructed on the cellar’s warm side. We strongly advise you to use spray foam insulation in certain areas.

Insulation & Vapor Barrier for Remodeling

If you’re doing a remodeling project for your wine cellar, wrapping the existing studs in the room in the same manner as the ceiling joists is the ideal thing to do. Check that the vapor barrier is on the exterior wall or the warm side of the wine cellar.

Fill the stud and joist voids with insulation once the vapor barrier has been installed. The most common type of insulation is fiberglass batts. Fiberglass has an R-13 insulation value in a 2x4 wall cavity, while a 2x6 wall fiberglass has an R-19 insulation value. Insulation must be fluffed so no voids and gaps can form

Filling Holes and Wrapping Walls

Leave enough vapor barrier at the corners to wrap it around, overlap the seams, and tuck them tightly with tuck tape (not duct tape). To reduce air movement, plug all holes in studs and joists with fire-rated penetration sealant.

Important notes:

  • A closed cell foam insulation is more resistant to air, vapor, and water on the walls of your wine cellar. To avoid moisture leaks in your cellar, you must add insulation and a vapor barrier.
  • Closed cell foam insulation is the best wine cellar insulation for those who live in humid areas because you don’t need an additional vapor barrier, it controls humidity well, and prevents minor punctures caused by screwing.
  • Rigid foam board insulation and fiberglass batt insulation are alternatives to closed cell spray foam.
  • When it comes to insulation, choose R-19 for the walls and R-30 for the ceiling. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.

5. Seal the Concrete Floor

Seal Concrete Floor

The best material for flooring is concrete. Anything other than concrete such as wood and rugs should be avoided in wine storage areas. They're far too leaky and porous. Even concrete can be surprisingly permeable, which is why it needs to be sealed.

Allow the concrete to fully cure for 28 days. After the concrete has fully set, apply penetrating sealers (silanes and siloxanes) or high-performance coatings (epoxies and urethane) to seal the floor.

If you’re going to apply a sealant to a tiled floor, make sure the sealant is compatible with the tile's adhesive.

6. Electrical Outlet Placement

If you’re building a wine cellar, outlets should be placed in the empty spaces at the corners where your racks join together. Make sure it is not blocked by one of the wine rack posts. Also, it’s important to follow your local building code when placing outlets in your wine cellar, since this will overrule any recommendations offered.

There is no need to put an electrical outlet in the high reveal racking area to plug in your lighting. The cord will be able to reach the dead area in the outlet. If you want an outlet in this location for convenience, inform your design consultant so they can locate the outlets correctly for you. High reveals and other accent lighting such as archway lighting, should be connected to a switch.

7. Wall Coverings

Wall Coverings

The next step is to cover the walls and ceiling once the studs, vapor barrier, insulation, and electrical outlets have been placed. You will need to use materials that are resistant to the high humidity levels in your cellar.

The most common choice for wall and ceiling coverings is a water resistant Drywall, also known as the Green Board Drywall, which is resistant to extreme humidity conditions. This is the same drywall that is used in most homes, bathrooms, and kitchens, therefore it is easily available.

The water resistant drywall should be screwed into the walls and ceiling of your DIY wine cellar. Seal all penetrations on both sides of the wine cellar using fire-rated puncture sealants.

Drywall Finishing

The drywall must be installed all the way to the floor with no gaps. The base molding must be connected to the front of the racking. In addition, no molding should be put to the wall to keep the back of the rack flush with it.

Drywall Painting

When painting drywall, start by priming the drywall and then painting it with a water-based exterior grade paint. Try to let the room air out because oil or solvent-based paints may leave a persistent odor in your wine cellar. Ensure that you or your painter goes all the way to the floor when painting the drywall. They usually end about an inch or two short of the floor since base molding will cover it.

Alternative Wall & Ceiling Coverings

A decorative option to cover your walls and ceiling would be to apply tongue and groove material that complements the wood, stain, and/or lacquer that will be on your racking. You will first need to screw ¾” marine-grade plywood on your walls and ceiling so that you will be able to attach your tongue and groove.

Apply tongue and groove material that matches the wood, stain, and/or lacquer that will be on your racking as a decorative alternative for covering your walls and ceiling. To install your tongue and groove, you must first screw ¾” marine-grade plywood to your walls and ceiling.

Your wall finish should mirror the look you want for your wine cellar while also being humidity resistant.

Following the drywall installation, you can finish the walls with whatever you like to create your desired look, whether you like:

  • Faux rock
  • Real rock
  • Brick
  • Tile
  • Stucco
  • Wood

8. Lighting

Lighting

When it comes to lighting options for a home wine cellar, there are a few limitations. If you plan to use can lighting in a wine cellar, you must use thermally fused can lights, commonly known as IC-rated cans. 

Concerns have also been raised about the harmful influence of UV lamps on long-term storage. Although there is currently no scientific evidence to support either side, some industry experts advise you to avoid UV lighting.

9. Wine Cellar Doors

Wine Cellar Door

Selecting the Right Wine Cellar Door

Glass paneled doors are very elegant and widely used but they provide a very low R-value (insulation) within a wine cellar. If you're going to use glass, you might want to choose a cooling unit with a higher BTU output to compensate for the lower R-value. The next size up will usually provide appropriate cooling compensation, but larger cooling units will never fully compensate for a poorly insulated wine cellar.

Glass doors should be a well-sealed thermal pane unit, with an overall thickness of ⅝” or ¾” and must be at least double-paned and the glass elements should be tempered glass if applicable. The glass in the frame should also be sealed at the edges.

A wine cellar door should be an external grade front door with suitable weather stripping and an appropriate threshold. It is essential that when the door is closed, it creates an audible seal and prevents the heat from entering the wine cellar.

What is the ideal thickness of a cellar door? It is recommended that the cellar door be at least 1 ¾” thick.

Wine Cellar Door Installation

You must install an exterior grade door that is weather-stripped on three sides and has a threshold and door sweep on the bottom. This application will not work with an interior door. The ideal temperature in a wine cellar should be between 55°F - 58°F and the humidity between 55% and 75%, so you'll need a barrier between it and the rest of your house, which will be closer to 70°F and 20% in most of the United States. If you choose a glass door, it must be thermopane to provide insulation and ensure that condensation does not form on the glass due to the temperature difference. Solid wood doors can also be used if you desired.

The ideal cellar door isn't made of glass. A glass door may look beautiful, but it isn't ideal for wine cellars. If you really want a glass door to fit the aesthetics of your wine cellar, choose deliberately. A single pane of glass gives essentially no insulation value, it should be at least 1/2 inch thick, UV-protected, and tempered to provide the best results. An upgraded version would be framed glass, which would consist of thermally broken frames with dual-pane glass, similar to what you would put on your home's exterior entryway.

Your best solution is to get a door made specifically for wine cellars. If that is too expensive, the next best alternative is an exterior quality door. Interior doors with hollow cores will not provide the necessary insulation. The goal is to have a well-sealed wine cellar door.

10. Wine Racks

Wine racks are the core of your cellar. You can purchase them in kits or have custom wine racks created. The sizes and forms of kit racks are consistent and they're less expensive than custom wine racks.

Custom wine racks are specially designed to hold your wine collection and fit the size and shape of your wine cellar. If you have strange shapes and corners to fill, this is the best alternative. It also has excellent details and craftsmanship.

Wine would also need to be stored at a certain angle. If your wine bottles have corks, store them horizontally in a wine rack to prevent corks from drying out and spoiling the wine by allowing air through the cracks in the cork.

Wine Racks

Check out our wine racks collection for ideas on how to organize your wine collection: Wine Racks

One of the best wine racks is featured in this blog. Take a look at this article: Introducing Ultra Wine Racks & Cellars

11. Wine Cellar Design

Once you’ve completed building your wine cellar, contact a design consultant and send them the final dimensions to finish your wine cellar's design. If you want to purchase a Wine Rack, we can definitely assist you.

We hope you found this information useful and we wish you the best of luck.

Wine Coolers Empire also offers wine cellar ideas and designs, feel free to contact us or call us at +1-888-407-7770 for inquiries.

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