How To Build A Wine Cellar
How To Build a Wine Cellar or Wine Cellar Closet Yourself
OK, to be honest, this was not a cabin project. But building a wine cellar is a great DIY project and can save you a ton of money. Besides, what better for a long weekend at the cabin than a couple of vintage reds from the south of France?
So, if you love wine and like building things, this may be the perfect project for you. But, before we start a little wine storage 101.
The Benefits of a Wine Cellar
If you like wine and are reading this, you probably understand the main reasons for building a wine cellar.
For everyone else, the bottom line is this: wine cellars provide and maintain the proper storage conditions for wine, which prove the following benefits:
- Maximize the shelf-life of a wine and preserve its quality
- Provide the proper conditions for wine maturation
- Maintain the proper serving temperature for most wines
Wine is a complicated and somewhat delicate compound. Excessive heat, large temperature swings and exposure to oxygen can degrade wine quickly. Ideal storage conditions can help preserve the original quality of a wine over time.
Also, many wines will slowly change or “improve” with age. Storing wines at ideal temperatures and humidity levels provides the proper environment for this slow maturation process to occur.
And lastly, storing wine at the proper temperature, allows you to serve better-tasting wine. Wine is a complex mixture of organic compounds and alcohol, whose flavor profile is largely influenced by the temperature-dependent release of these aromatic compounds.
Wines served at room temperature (too warm) tend to express too much alcohol, making them taste “flabby” and unfocused. Wines served too cold (refrigerator temps) express too little alcohol and volatile aromatics resulting in “tight” and restrained tasting wines.
Nearly all wines are served too warm or too cold. Reds served at room temperature are served too warm and white wines served at refrigerator temps are served too cold.
Both reds and whites will taste better if served at wine cellar temperatures of 50 – 60 ℉. Wines can then warm as you drink them, allowing the flavor profile to evolve as they are consumed.
The Essentials of a Good Wine Cellar
A good wine cellar provides ideal conditions for storing and aging of wine. These ideal conditions for wine storage are:
- Temperature of 55 – 60 ℉ (55 ℉ is ideal)
- Humidity of 50 – 70%
- Dark and vibration-free
- Horizontal bottle storage (wine-cork contact)
In addition to providing the proper conditions for wine, a practical wine cellar will be easy to use and in reasonable proximity to the areas where you will open and enjoy your wine.
A good wine cellar should also be efficient and operate at a reasonable cost.
To obtain the proper wine cellar conditions, you can either choose a location with favorable existing conditions (think deep root cellar or a limestone cave) or create these conditions actively yourself (wine storage cabinet or cellar).
If you happen to have the conditions for a passive wine cellar – like your own limestone cave – great! Simply add racks and enjoy your natural storage conditions.
However, if like most of us, you do not have a perfect passive wine cellar conditions to work with, you will need to create them yourself.
The perfect wine cellar is cool, moist and dark. Consider a location for your new cellar that will help you achieve and maintain these ideal conditions. Avoid locations that are too hot or cold or change temperature frequently, like most unconditioned spaces in your house or garage, or rooms with outside walls with sun exposure.
The ideal location to build a wine cellar is typically a room or space within a conditioned area in your home. The space should have easy access to electricity and be reasonably easy to seal, insulate and install a through-the-wall or ducted wine cellar cooling unit in.
Good locations can include; an extra room in a basement, a spare basement closet, a basement under the stairs closet (the location I used) or a fresh build in the basement or ground floor of your home.
Create Your Own Ideal Wine Cellar Conditions
A well-functioning wine cellar should be insulated, air sealed, and built with moisture-stable materials. A good cellar for bottled wine also needs stable racks or shelving for wine bottles.
Generally, a properly built wine cellar will have the following layers: (from outside to inside the cellar space)
- Air/Vapor barrier (often polyethylene sheeting)
- Insulation (R-12 or greater – more is better)
- Moisture-stable wall finish and racking
- Racks, bins or shelving for horizontal wine bottle storage
- A wine cellar cooling unit or acceptable passive conditions
These are the essential ingredients for a functional wine cellar. Skip any of these components and your wine cellar will not perform as intended. To follow is a closer look at these five essentials of an active wine cellar.
The Importance of an Air Sealed Wine Cellar Build
Many will create a wine cellar with insulation but no air/moisture barrier. The lack of an air/vapor barrier will allow warmer, higher-moisture containing air to enter into the cooler cellar space.
As the warmer air moves into the cellar and is cooled, water in the cooling air will condense and form liquid water as it cools and reaches its vapor point or dew point, as warm air holds much more water vapor than cooler air. If this occurs, it will inevitably lead to liquid water accumulating within your cellar walls and eventually mold growth. It will also create excessive water production from your cooling unit.
When installing an air/vapor barrier, install it on the warm side of the wine cellar walls, ceiling, and floor. This way, warm ambient air is prevented from entering the cellar or cellar wall or ceiling cavities where it could cool and release water. If the air barrier is placed on the cool side of the cellar, ambient air will be able to move to the barrier, cool and release water behind the barrier. For my cellar build, I first installed a poly air/vapor barrier, then installed rigid foam insulation over it.
The More Insulation the Better for your Wine Cellar
Building a wine cellar without adequate insulation is also a common problem. Without sufficient insulation of the wine cellar ceiling, walls and floor, temperature changes will occur more frequently and tend to mimic the temperatures of the air surrounding the wine cellar.
In poorly insulated wine cellars, the refrigeration units will spend much more time on and cycle much more frequently, leading to higher electrical costs and more rapid temperature changes and larger temperature range swings.
Also, insufficient insulation will make it less likely you will be able to reach a reasonable target temperature (55 – 60 ℉) for your cellar. Individual wine cellar refrigeration units typically have published thermal performance data each unit for cellar size, based on insulation, and ambient and desired target temperatures. Below is an example of such a chart for the CellarPro 1800 series of wine cellar cooling units (I used the CellarPro 1800 XT for my cellar).
Cover Your Wine Cellar Walls with a Functional, Durable Finish
Two consideration when choosing a material for the walls of your cellar; 1) mounting shelving/racks and 2) mold/moisture resistance.
To store wine in your cellar you will need some sort of wine racking. I used a commercial metal rack that is fastened with screws. Although you can use anchors and install these racks to drywall surfaces, driving screws directly into 1″ cedar boards is easier and sturdier. Cedar boards are naturally rot resistant and durable in higher moisture environments.
Drywall can be used for cellar construction, but standard gypsum drywall may not perform well in high humidity environments and you may want to avoid using it for the interior finish of your cellar. You could consider using a smooth tile backer board (like HardieBacker, or Wonderboard) which contain little or no gypsum or paper and are intended for use in wet environments.
Tile backboard can then be painted (smooth surface products) or finished with tile. Tile is great for high-moisture environments, but comes with the downsides of additional complexity and cost to install and difficulty mounting fasteners for racks or shelving.
Another option is to use rigid foil-faced foam (polyisocyanurate) to insulate your cellar and as the finishing surface inside the cellar. I used this method for a previous wine cellar and it worked well as I had floor standing wine racks that did not require fastener attachment to the walls. If you use this method, you can seal the seams between panels with a foil tape for a more finished look and additional air sealing.
After considering the options, I choose to use rigid foil-faced foam insulation plus 1 x 12 solid red cedar board as horizontal paneling to finish my cellar walls and ceiling. Using solid cedar boards, I was able to mount them to the wall studs and then screw directly into them to mount my wine racks – flexible, simple, pleasing to the eye and slightly aromatic.
Wine Cellar Flooring
For the flooring of the cellar, pick a product that will tolerate a high-humidity environment. Wood flooring may or may not be a good choice with the high levels of humidity within a typical wine cellar.
If you do install wood flooring, an engineered product (solid veneer bonded to plywood structural layer) may be a more stable choice. Tile will work but again is more expensive and complicated to install – especially if you are adding insulation to the floor.
Vinyl products and continuous or tiled synthetic flooring would likely be good choices, but choose a product that does not have a strong odor. Some rubber flooring mats have a strong odor that would be unpleasant in your wine cellar.
I used foam gym tiles. These tiles are inexpensive, easy to install and readily available online or at local home improvement stores. The also add additional insulation value and not affected by water nor provide food for potential mold growth.
Wine Cellar Racks, Bins, Shelves and Cubes
There are many options for wine racks for your cellar made from a variety of materials. Wood and metal products are common, and I favor metal products.
I like metal racks for their strength, versatility, relatively low cost and ease of installation. They also tend to offer designs with less structural material compared to wood, allowing more visualization of the wine bottles.
Wood racks tend to be more expensive and configured in traditional slot-style racks. Many of these wooden slot racks are typically built with small strips of wood that are nail-gun fastened together, giving them a cheap look in my opinion. They also tend to cost a lot more per bottle compared to metal racks. Even so, many like wood racking and don’t mind the limitations of wood wine racks.
I used metal racks for all of the 3 wine cellars I have built in the past.
In the first cellar, which was a passive basement cellar built in a small foundation block walled small closet where I could not easily drive fasteners into the walls, I used foodservice style metal wire wine racks. They are very strong, are stackable, allowing for easy shelf height adjustment and they are inexpensive.
For my last two wine cellar builds, I used metal wall-mounted display-style racks by VintageView. These racks mount on the walls of your cellar and are offered in one to three bottle deep designs.
I like the VintageView Wall Series wine racks for several reasons; you can see the labels on the wine bottles, and they are not as deep and traditional wine racking making them much better suited for small narrow wine cellar build in small rooms or closets. My last two wine cellar builds converted old closets and these racks allowed me more efficient use of the narrow space. I also really like to visual presentation of the bottle labels.
Recommended Wine Racks
Once you have an idea of the type of wine racking/shelves/bins you would like to use, draw up a cellar rack plan. Use the plan to figure out what you will what and an estimate of what it will cost. There are many tools available from online wine rack sellers to help you design storage within your wine cellar. I knew I was just going to use VintageView Wall Series display racks, so all I needed to figure out was how many racks and of what depth racks to place of which walls (they have single to triple bottle depth racks). I also ordered some magnum bottle racks for bigger bottles (magnums).
A Note on Ordering VintageView Wall Series Racks
VintageView Wall Series wine racks come in one, two and three bottle depths. They also come in one, two, three and four-foot lengths. To create a 7-foot high rack, order one 3-foot rack and one 4-foot rack, for an 8-foot high rack, order two 4 footers. Some retailers will package them for you – example a WS7 for a 7-foot rack, while others will require you to order a WS3 and WS4 to create a 7-foot rack.
Either way, you order, a 7-foot rack will come as a 3 foot and a 4-foot rack that you will stack when installing. All of the racks come with connectors to attach one rack to another for stacking, even if not ordered to create longer racks. Hope this helps if you want to use VintageView Wall Series racks – and you should, they are awesome!
Wine Cellar Refrigeration Cooling Units
If you plan on actively cooling your wine cellar you will need to acquire a wine cellar cooling unit. As tempting as it is to use alternate methods to cool your wine cellar, it usually makes sense to invest in a cooling unit designed specifically for wine cellars. Using central air conditioning ducts to cool a wine cellar space tend to lower humidity levels too much, be difficult to control and may not deliver cool enough air for ideal conditions. Window unit air conditioners generally do not work well as they are not designed to maintain wine cellar levels of cooling.
Cooling units made specifically for wine cellar cooling are designed to efficiently produce proper wine cellar temperatures (55 ℉) and help maintain higher levels of humidity. If you are building a wine cellar that needs cooling, I highly recommend purchasing a wine cellar cooling unit.
There are several different makes of wine cooling units. I bought and really like my CellarPro 1800XT unit. This was the first and only cooling unit I have purchased. I’ve had it since I bought it new in 2010 and used it without any problems since. I highly recommend CellarPro units.
Most wine cellar cooling units are designed as one of two basic configurations: 1) Self-contained “Through The Wall” units and 2) Two-part “Split Systems”.
Through The Wall Wine Cellar Cooling Units
Through the wall wine cooling units contain all the components of a refrigeration circuit within the one unit and are mounted through or across the wine cellar wall.
The evaporator coils, which cool air, are located on the cellar (cold) side of the unit and cool the in-the-cellar air by circulating it across the cold evaporator coils.
The condenser coils, which remove heat from the refrigerant, are located on the warm side of the unit and release heat by circulating outside-the-cellar air across the warm condenser coils at the rear of the unit.
Some through the wall cooling units can be located a limited distance outside of the wine cellar (not mounted through the wall) with the addition of ducting for the cooling air circuit (evaporator coil) and the heat removal circuit (condenser coil).
The advantages of contained, through the wall cooling units include; the simplicity of installation, lower noise levels in the area immediately outside the cellar (unless ducted) and usually lower cost. The disadvantages of through the wall cooling units include; the look and noise of the cooling unit mounted through the wall of your cellar and the required ambient space around the cooling unit discharge side for heat removal.
Split System Wine Cellar Cooling Units
Two-part split system wine cooling units separate the evaporator coils and the condenser coils with the “split” units joined by a copper tubing set for the refrigerant circuit.
The cold evaporator coil unit is located within or ducted to the interior of the wine cellar to cool the cellar air and the warm condenser coil unit is located remotely to remove heat from the refrigerant. Refrigerant circulates between the two units by way of copper tubing.
The advantages of a two-part split cooling system include; remote location of condenser coil unit (less noise, no need for open space around the cellar, no rear-of-unit grill on cellar wall), and typically higher cooling capacity. The disadvantages of through the wall cooling units include; higher initial costs, HVAC professional services for refrigerant line connection and fill.
Consider your budget, the size and thermal load (several websites will calculate this for you) of the cellar build when deciding on what size and type of wine cellar cooling unit to purchase. Most well insulated (non-glass) wine cellars of less than 500 cubic feet should be able to use through the wall cooling units. If you are building a large cellar, plan to use a lot of glass or want a remote condenser coil/fan, consider a split system.
Popular Wine Cellar Cooling Unit Brands
Temperature and Humidity Monitoring
There are many options available to monitor the temperature and humidity within your wine cellar. I would recommend a wifi-connected unit that will allow you to monitor your cellar conditions without entering your wine cellar. I use the Temp Stick wireless temperature and humidity monitor.
A well-functioning wine cellar should provide ideal temperature (55 – 60 ℉) and humidity levels (50 – 70%) within as small of range of temp and humidity swings as possible. Properly air sealing and insulating your cellar space is essential for stable, efficient wine cellar conditions. Understanding that warm air rises and cool air sinks, wine cellar cooling units should be mounted as high as possible with your cellar.
Unfortunately, my closet cellar space made it unpractical to mount my cooling unit high in the cellar and I had to settle for a midway location. To help create more uniform conditions within my cellar, I mounted a small USB-powered desk fan at the top of my cellar to help circulate and mix the air within the cellar. The results of this simple addition to the cellar have been impressive, greatly evening out temp swings and temperature stratification within the cellar.
Now that my wine cellar closet conversion is complete, I am very happy with the results. The temperature remains fairly steady at 55℉ with relative humidity just over 50%. I will watch the humidity levels as we move into summer (it is currently early May here in Minnesota). But, all things considered, I couldn’t more pleased with how this wine cellar turned out.
Every time I consider building a wine cellar, I hesitate knowing the work involved and the costs. Yet every time I finish a wine cellar and start using it I can’t imagine not having built it. For me, my wine cellar is one of my favorite places in my home and always seems to bring a smile to my face. If you love wine, you will love having a wine cellar of your own.
My wine cellar building summary points:
- Wines should be stored horizontally, in a dark, vibration-free environment at 55 – 60 ℉ with 50 – 70% relative humidity.
- Most wines should be served at cellar temperature and allowed to warm as you drink them.
- An ideal wine cellar is airtight, well insulated and equipped with a properly sized wine cellar cooling unit.
- Air seal the entire wine cellar space, including the floor and ceiling, on the warm side of the cellar.
- Add as much insulation as practical for your space – at least R-15. I highly recommend using tape-sealed, foil-faced polyisocyanurate insulation when insulating over existing walls (I used 2 layers of 1″ polyisocyanurate for this project).
- Use a properly sized wine cellar refrigeration unit to cool the space and help maintain adequate humidity levels.
- A small USB-powered fan can significantly even the temperature within a cellar and reduce cooling unit cycling.
- Cedar boards make excellent cellar walls/ceilings – they are an excellent fastener base for mounting racks and the look and smell terrific.
- I love VintageView display racks, especially for narrow (3′ wide closet) wine cellars.
- Install a motion-sensor light switch that will turn on when you enter, and more importantly, turn off the lights after a set delay. This way you will never leave the lights on in the cellar which could quickly heat up the cellar.
OK on to the building… keep reading for a detailed, step-by-step guide that details the conversion of my unused basement closet into a high-performance wine cellar!
How to Build a Wine Cellar / Wine Closet – Preparation
Preparation and Materials
How to Build a Wine Cellar Overview
- Level: Easy to Intermediate
- Time: several days or more
- Costs: $500 – $2500+ materials (depends on size)
- Costs: $500 – $2000+ wine racks
- Costs: $1000- $3000+ wine cooling unit
How to Build a Wine Cellar – Big Picture
- Choose a suitable location or frame in space.
- Install the air/vapor barrier.
- Install insulation in the ceiling, walls and over the floor.
- Install wine cellar cooling unit (if using).
- Install wall finish (wood paneling, drywall, tile, etc).
- Install flooring.
- Install wine racking.
- Add wine.
Materials – Wine Cellar Build
Tools – Wine Cellar Build
|Item||What I used|
|Compound Miter Saw|
|Razor Blade Knife|
|Magnetic Torpedo level|
|Heavy Duty Scissors (these are the best!)|
How to Build a Wine Cellar / Wine Closet – Step by Step
- Choose a location for your cellar or frame in a new space.
Pick a location for your new wine cellar. I used my under-the-stairs downstairs closet. Consider ease of cooling (avoid sun-exposed exterior walls), size (cooling unit and insulation levels will limit the size of the space you can cool), and practical considerations (ability to install a through the wall cooling unit, access to electrical circuits, etc.) when picking a location for your new wine cellar.
A large closet has been a good location for me in the past and is the location I used for this project. If you plan on using a wine cellar cooling unit, check the cooling capacity of your specific unit compared to the size and insulation level of your new wine cellar space. You can also calculate a thermal load for your intended space to help you more properly size a wine cellar cooling unit for your space.
You can certainly start fresh and frame in a new space for your wine cellar. There are advantages to this approach, including customizing the space to your needs and access to wall framing for vapor barrier install, electrical circuit wiring, in-wall insulation, and others. The details of properly framing an interior wall are beyond the scope of this discussion. For further information see this excellent article on basement room framing by FamilyHandyman.com.
The following steps assume you are starting with an existing, finished space. You will need to frame, wire, insulate wall cavities for a newly framed space prior to proceeding as below. If you are starting with a freshly framed space, apply the air/vapor barrier to the outside (warm) side of the framed walls and ceiling prior to finishing them. If you are starting with a finished room, apply the air/vapor barrier to the inside walls as the first layer, before applying insulation to these inside-the-cellar walls.
- Assemble materials and tools.
Measure your space and purchase sufficient quantities of the following materials:– Air/Vapor polyethylene plastic sheeting and waterproof tape to seal seams
– I used 12 mil reinforced US-made poly from CrawlSpaceVaporBarrier.net
– Insulation and foil tape to seal seams – I used two layers of foil-faced polyisocyanurate rigid foam
– Flooring – I used EVA foam gym tiles
– Wall finish and fasteners – I used 1′ x 12″ solid cedar boards
– Wine racks, bins, shelving – I used VintageView racks
– Wine cellar cooling unit properly sized for cellar specs – I used a CellarPro 1800XT
Assemble tools and create an area for cutting materials (outdoors is best).
- Install Air/Vapor Barrier.
Install plastic sheeting of at least 6 mil thickness on the warm side of all walls, ceiling, and floors. If this is a fresh build with newly framed walls, wrap the outside of the cellar with plastic prior to finishing these walls. If the cellar is an existing room with a finished wall, install the plastic first, as the most outward layer, followed by insulation.
Complete the installation of the air barrier by sealing all seams with waterproof tape. I used a reinforced 12 mil poly purchased previously for another project. The poly I used was a bit heavy, so instead of using a stapler to install the plastic, I used drywall nails to hold the material up and heavy-duty waterproof tape (i used both aluminum foil tape and Gorilla brand clear repair tape).
Air and vapor sealing the cellar space greatly improves the performance of your cellar’s insulation and prevents the entrance of large amounts of warm, humid air. If warm, humid air is allowed to enter the cellar large amounts of water will be released within the cellar and possibly the cellar walls.
The cooling unit will also produce massive amounts of water drainage under these conditions. Make sure to use a stud finder and mark the stud locations on your air barrier prior to installing insulation over it – assuming you will need the stud locations later for paneling install or shelving.
- Install Insulation.
Once the wine cellar walls are air/vapor sealed, install any additional insulation you are planning for your cellar build. If starting from scratch and framing in your new wine cellar, you can add insulation to the stud cavities and ceiling space. If you are transforming finished walls into wine cellar walls it may be prohibitively difficult to add in-wall insulation if it is not already present (with the possible exception of blown-in products). Even with insulated walls, your cellar build will greatly benefit from the addition of 1 – 3 or more inches of foam insulation.
There are a few types of foam insulation available. I like using foil-faced polyisocyanurate insulation. It has the highest R-value per inch and is easily air sealed with foil tape. Although the additional air sealing of the insulation is not necessary if you’ve properly installed an air barrier as above, it will improve the performance of your insulation and serve as a redundant air barrier for the cellar.
To install the foam insulation boards, I first measured the area to be covered, then cut the insulation to fit. Cutting foil-face rigid foam insulation is easy using a push-up razor blade knife. A straight edge may help cut with straighter edges. Use a particulate mask when cutting and installing the product, as it tends to produce fine fibrous dust similar to fiberglass.
When installing the rigid foam, I tried to cut to fit fairly tight, so the panels would hold themselves in place before I could tape the seals with foil tape. I also would use a few screws, especially for the ceiling panels, to help hold the panels and to verify stud locations and marking prior to installing cedar boards.
- Install Flooring.
Next, I installed the flooring. I chose EVA (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate) interlocking gym tile squares for the flooring. They are easy to install, available at home improvement stores and add a bit of extra insulation on the floor. They are also moisture resistant, easy to replace and inexpensive. To install start along a wall and assemble. Cut to fit with a sharp razor blade knife and framing square and a scrap piece of wood to cut on.
- Install Cooling Unit.
Following the manufacturer’s recommendations, install the wine cellar cooling unit. Most will have specific installations requirements/recommendations and generally include:– Cooling units should vent through the cellar wall to a space at least as large as the cellar or have proper ducting to such a space.
– Mount the cooling unit high in the cellar to enhance cooling and uniform temps within the cellar as warm air rises and cool air sinks.
– Supply unit with dedicated 15 amp circuit – typically via standard AC plug. (My unit runs fine on a non-dedicated 15 amp circuit.)
– Connect a drain line to the unit for condensate drain water produced by the cooling unit. The line should run to a drain or receptacle.
– The condensate drain line should have a water-filled trap loop or similar to prevent outside air entering the cellar via the cooling unit and this line.
– Mount the unit slightly sloped toward the drain line (typically toward the warm side of the cellar) to encourage drainage.
– Insulate the gap with caulk backer or similar and seal the cooling unit to the walls of the wine cellar using flashing tape or foil tape.
Choose a location for the cooling unit and cut a hole through the wall for the cooling unit. Slightly oversize the hole to ease installation and insulate/seal around the unit. CellarPro recommends the cutout be 1/4″ oversized compared to the unit.
The cutout should be able to support the weight of the cooling unit, which typically means you should install 2″ x 4″ blocking between adjacent wall studs at the base of the cutout. I did this and also added a piece of plywood to support the cellar side of the unit, eliminating the need for braces under the unit.
Before installing the cooling unit, I covered the sides of the cutout and the plywood shelf with poly sheeting and foil tape. If the unit produces any condensate, I want the cutout and shelf as protected as possible.
To install the unit simply slide it through the cutout so that the warm side is flush or nearly flush with the outside wall. My unit condensate drain fitting was located on this side, so I left my unit slightly recessed so I could feed the condensate drain through the wall cavity and back into the wine cellar. Recessing the unit also allows me to attach the rear-mounted coil air filter and still add a flush grill to finish the wall.
With my unit mounted slightly recessed, I was able to add a rigid foam partition to separate the condenser coil intake (blue air filter area) with the warm air discharge duct. This was not something recommended by the manufacturer, but a modification I made to theoretically reduce mixing of the warm exhaust air with the cooler intake air to the condenser coil.
My unit needs a slight tilt toward the warm side to help drain condensate water. Check your documentation, and tilt as needed. Then, install the condensate drain line. This line will drain any condensate water produced by your cooling unit.
Depending on the conditions within your cellar, your wine cooling refrigeration units may produce condensate water. You can greatly reduce/eliminate condensate water production by completely air sealing your cellar. My experience is that well insulated and sealed wine cellars located in air-conditioned homes, do not produce much condensate water.
You will still need to connect the drain line, but for my cellar, I modified it by adding a ball valve to close the line if the unit is not producing any significant water. If you do this, you will obviously need to monitor water production very closely to avoid water accumulation and possible damage due to lack of drainage.
When you run the condensate drain tubing, you should create a trap for water by looping it or creating a sideways S-shaped curve. The curve should be deep enough to provide a trap of 1″ or so water height. The drain line should continue to an open drain or collection container.
Most systems should also have a vent tee after the trap. The vent tee will prevent negative pressure from emptying the water trap (just like a vent stack in your home plumbing). You may have to add water to the trap over time if your unit is not producing condensate water.
Most drain lines should also have a vent tee, depending on the length and height of the drain line as in use, a vacuum can develop within the line and can empty the drain line water trap. The condensate drain line can be run inside the wine cellar (as I did) or outside the cellar.
When mounting the cooling unit, make sure the bottom of the unit (or where ever the unit vents cool air) is free of obstruction. And, to encourage free cooling air flow from your unit, you should not place racking or other too close to the bottom of the unit.
Once the unit is in position, stabilize the unit and insulate and seal the opening to the unit. Some units have clips or brackets to secure the unit to the cellar walls. I was able to hold the unit securely with the ceiling the cedar boards. Once secure, I pulled the units AC cord into the cellar (you can obviously connect the power cord on either side) and filled the gaps with air conditioning unit strip foam seal and foil tape. Your cooling unit may include such foam and sealing tape.
Finally, plug the unit into a grounded electrical receptacle. Check the power requirements for your unit. My unit draws 3 amps while running, and like most cooling units draws more at startup. I am using a shared 15 amp circuit without any issues.
- Install Wall Finish (Cedar Boards).
Decide on a finish for the interior of your wine cellar and install it. I like using 1″ solid red cedar boards. I used standard boards, you could use a grooved product like shiplap or tongue and groove siding to create joined edges. Cedar boards are readily available at local lumber yards in a variety of lengths and widths. I used 12″ wide boards for this project in lengths long enough to prevent end-to-end joints. Unfortunately, the price of cedar lumber has risen considerably in the last several years. You can save money by using lower grade boards which are cheaper than clear grade boards. I used #3 two-face (two smooth sides) cedar installed with the smooth side out.
I installed the cedar boards starting at the base of the wall and working up. I used exterior-grade screws to fasten the boards to the underlying wall studs. I had previously marked the studs on the surface of the insulation. You will need screws long enough to pass through any wall insulation and underlying drywall. My cellar walls are covered with 2″ of rigid foam over 1/2″ drywall. So adding it all up, I get 1″ cedar + 2″ insulation + 0.5″ drywall + 1.5″ stud penetration = 5″ of length or 5″ screws. Ideally, your screws should penetrate at least 1″ to 1.5″ into the wall studs.
Prior to driving screws through the cedar boards, I drilled 1/8″ pilot holes to help avoid splitting the cedar. I also created a small jig from a short piece of the cedar to help create uniform screw placement.
Continue adding the cedar boards, stacking and fastening them as you go. I used a compound miter saw for end cuts and a circular saw for ripping boards and performing longer angle cuts. Cedar boards tend to have sharp slivers. Wear gloves and lightly sand the ends/edges with a fine sanding block after cutting them.
Cut holes for electrical boxes with a hole saw and air seal and insulate the underlying hole with spray foam. Even a small air leak can significantly reduce the efficiency of your cellar and allow large amounts of water vapor into the cellar.
After all of the cedar paneling is installed, you are ready to install the wine racks, shelves, and bins.
- Install Wine Racks, Bins and Shelving.
After all of the cedar paneling is installed, you are ready to install the wine racks, shelves, and bins.
Organize and arrange your racking to prepare for installing it. Read and instructions and obtain any additional materials for the install. The VintageView WS wine racks I used came with all the necessary hardware to install them, but I used a different screw than the included screws.
I used a #8 1 1/2″ cabinet screw instead. The cabinet screws that I used by GRK had very sharp points and did not require pre-drilling before driving the screws to avoid splitting the cedar.
I also cut scrap pieces of cedar to use as spacers between the frame pairs (7 1/2″ wide) and rack sets (5 1/2″). Then, once I had the first frame installed, I can use the cedar spacers to gap the frames without having to measure and try and hold them steady while passing fasteners. These spacers worked great and made installing the frames super easy.
As noted above, when installing the VintageView rack frames, they need to be spaced properly. Each rack frame pair has a recommended spacing (7 1/2″ for standard bottle racks) between frame pieces. There is also a required spacing between installed sets of racks (5 1/2″).
If you haven’t planned rack placement yet, use the total width of the installed two-piece rack plus spacing between rack sets (8″ + 5 1/2″ or 13 1/2″) to figure out how many racks you can fit on a specific wall in your cellar.
Begin the rack install by first spacing the proper distance from the adjacent wall (2 3/4″) and installing the first frame. I found driving the top-most screw made it easier to install the VintageView frames plumb and level. After the first top fastener is in, use a beam level or magnetic torpedo level to plumb the frame, then install the remaining fasteners into the wall. Then gap the other frame of the rack set 7 1/2″ wide, level and install its’ fasteners.
I found placing the small torpedo level at the top of the two frames made it easy to locate the second frame at the correct height prior to installing it. I then used the cedar spacer I had made, sliding along the frame to perfectly locate the paired frame while fastening it to the wall.
To install the longer racks, use the included rack connector plugs. Remove installed plugs at the ends of the two frames you plan to connect and insert the connector. Then, push the two frames together and fasten as usual to the wall.
As I discussed earlier in the article, VintageView Wall Series racks come in one, two, three and four-foot lengths. Longer racks are created by connecting the shorter ones – for example, a seven-foot rack is created by connecting a three and four-foot rack.
Once the screws are driven and the rack frames are secured to the wall, supplied caps can be applied to the screw holes for a more finished look.
The following two photos show the installed VintageView racks in my new wine cellar. Notice the variety of the racks that you can mix using this system to accommodate narrow wine cellars. The top picture shows, near field to far, single bottle depth magnum bottle racks followed by double depth standard bottle racks and triple depth standard bottle racks along the far wall.
The lower photo shows a grouping of triple depth standard bottle racks and a group of double bottle depth racks. The total capacity of the installed wine racks is just under 500 bottles.
- Insulate and Air Seal the Wine Cellar Door.
The last thing I did for the cellar build was insulate and seal the door. Having a well-insulated wine cellar is key to a happy cellar, and the door is no exception. In fact, it will often be the most vulnerable areas of the cellar for heat loss and lack of proper air sealing.
The best way to create an air-tight well-insulated entry for your wine cellar may be to use a high-quality exterior door and frame. I’ve never done that, as it would be fairly expensive and might look odd, depending on the door.
What I have done is insulate the existing door with rigid foil and carefully weatherstrip the door stops.
This closet, unfortunately, had double doors without a central stop (astragal), making it more challenging to create a dependable seal where the doors met when closed. I was able to solve the central seal problem by running a self-adhesive 3/8″ strip of weather stripping down the middle of the fixed door, allow them to seal when closed. I also added a 3/16″ self-adhesive foam weather strip to the door stops on all sides.
To insulate the doors, I attached 1 1/2″ foil-faced polyisocyanurate (Thermax) insulation with double-sided carpet tape. The sides were sealed and finished with foil tape. The 1 1/2″ Thermax will add almost R-10 to the door. To help with air-sealing the doors, I applied 3/16″ self-adhesive foam weather stripping to the door stops.
Adding the rigid foam insulation to the back of the cellar doors can be a bit tricky to line up correctly. What I did was cut the height of an insulation panel correctly and leave the width a bit long. Then I placed the cut piece behind the door and positioned it snuggly against the door jam. I then marked the width by tracing along the free door edge to mark the proper width on the insulation panel. I then cut along this line to cut the panel to the proper width. Next, I again positioned the panel behind the door, closed it and checked the fit. The width should be just shy of the door free edge so it can close without catching.
If the cut panel is a bit proud in areas you can easily trim it back with an extended push-up razor blade knife. After you are happy with the fit, open the door carefully as to not move the insulation panel and apply double-sided carpet tape to the back of the insulation panel (or door). Then carefully close the door to make contact with the tape on the insulation panel and adhere it to the back of the door. Rub over the surface of the insulation panel to ensure good contact between the tape and the door.
The carpet tape works surprising well and sticks like crazy, so make sure the door and panel are properly aligned before taping the two together. After the insulation is secured to the back of the door, check that the doors still close properly.
If the foam is too tight against the door jam you may notice the door will not close completely. This happened to me with one the doors and I needed to trim the foam back slightly to get the door to close all the way. Once you are happy with the panel fit and the door(s) close, finish the edges of the foam by running a strip of foil tape down the panel and the door edge.
- Add Wine, Cool Cellar, and Monitor.
OK! Now for the fun part!
Fire up the cooling unit and add some wine. Each cooling unit has a slightly different setup. The CellarPro 1800xt I used has settings for minimum set point temperature, temperature differential, and humidity. There are a few other features like a Quick Chill and Energy Saving function.
As we’ve talked about, ideal wine cellar temps are generally 55 – 60 ℉ with humidity levels of 50 – 70%. I set my unit for a minimum set point of 53 ℉, temperature differential of 5℉ and the highest humidity setting. This means that the unit will cool until its’ front-mounted temperature sensor hits 53 ℉, it will then let the temperature drift up to a 5 ℉ rise in temperature (58℉) and then cycle on to cool back down to 53 ℉.
These settings are working perfectly! The average temperature at mid-height in the front of the cellar is 55 ℉. My humidity could be a bit higher, currently at ~ 54%, but summer is coming and it should rise with the season.
- Enjoy Your New Wine Cellar and the Joys of Collecting and Drinking Well Stored Wines!
- Choose a location for your cellar or frame in a new space.