Wine Lovers' Tips on Housing Your Collection

It's only a short step from wine lover to wine collector, and it usually doesn't take long from the point at which an individual discovers the joy of tasting really good wine to the point at which he or she decides to start putting a few bottles away ... and then starts thinking about a good way to house them.

The following E-mail question I received recently from a wine lover in the UK is typical:

I am interested in constructing a do-it-yourself wine cellar in my basement but am having a problem locating any resources for information on proper construction techniques, sizing, etc. Would you know of any resources of information on the net or otherwise that I could consult? My searches have netted very little information thus far and I am getting tired of moving cases around so I would like to get started.

I posed this issue to participants in the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, who responded in that and ensuing discussions with the following comments. As time goes by, we'll add new hints and tips; and anyone reading this page is also encouraged to help us continue to improve this cellar-building FAQ with your E-Mail submissions.


Step 1....
Posted by Eric Stauffer

Convince your wife that this is actually necessary. Jewels, (diamond earrings worked for me) are highly effective. This is the most important step. Additional steps are promising to build her a walk-in closet, trips to southern latitudes, promises not to FILL the cellar...


Step 2....
Posted by Paul Collas

Go see a friendly Bank Manager.

;-)


A bible exists on this subject
Posted by Tom Troiano

I certainly don't intend to throw cold water on the idea but there is a bible on this subject (and perhaps the best advice we can give is to tell people to go get a copy of this book). Its called "How to Build a Wine Cellar" and its written by Richard M. Gold. FWIW he has a PhD in math and shows some cool graphs in the book which help you pick the correct amount of insulation based on several factors (e.g., where you live, what side of the house the cellar is on and how far, if any, the cellar is below ground). Anyway, anyone serious about investing a significant amount in a cellar should read it.

How and Why to Build a Wine Cellar Click here to purchase How and Why to Build a Wine Cellar 3rd Ed. from Amazon.com ($25.95).

Or order direct from the publisher:

Richard M. Gold
Sandhill Publishing
PO Box 9614
North Amherst, MA. 01059

413-549-0841

Also, Big Y in Northhampton, MA. normally carries it. If you give them a call, 800-474-2449, 413-584-7775, (FAX) 413-7732, they will send you a copy.


Let's build a GREAT "how-to-make-a-cellar" tutorial
Posted by Judson Byrn

Timely topic, Robin. I've studied the literature on some of the self-contained units. Since I'm looking for something in the 400 to 500 bottle range, I'm concerned about their weight. Yesterday, I had a gent visit to quote a custom cellar. His claim to fame is that he constructed a cellar for the owner of Silver Oak (not Justin Meyer, the winemaker, but Ron ??? I think?). I'm sure it's not going to be, shall we say, a good QPR!

I'm particularly interested in Eric's rack experience. I thought I wanted individual bottle racks, but the contractor encouraged me to consider diamonds. He uses Whispercool or Breezeaire chillers.

The latest monthly newsletter from the Wine Exchange has Gold's book for about $18. If anyone's interested, their toll free number is 800-76-winex.


Let's build a GREAT "how-to-make-a-cellar" tutorial
Posted by Tim Harrigan

The problem with diamonds it seems to me is you basicaly want to have one wine in there so you needn't "dig" through a bunch of bottles in search of one. As you drink down through your stash of '90 Chateau Nummy, you have more and more wasted space. (Hence "Bin End sales"?) They'd be great for my 6 dollar rhone, bought 2 or three cases at a time, but useless for my 3 bottles of '82 Mouton. I hope to be building soon, am looking to this "cellar tutotal" in general and to Eric (have you seen his cellar pic's?) in particular and will have more single bottle storage than bin storage, for sure.


Let's build a GREAT "how-to-make-a-cellar" tutorial
Posted by Judson Byrn

Re digging thru bins -- you've expressed my feelings exactly. I'm leaning to individual bottle racks, but the price diff may force a different decision. I may go with a split, with the majority being individual bottle racking, with a few diamonds for a mix of everyday wines.

Eric's pix showed racking that I thought looked good. Looking forward to his chapter.


Diamonds & individual racking
Posted by Mark Levesque

I think the best way to go is to have a lot of individual racking and some bins for wines purchased by the case. As most of my wine buying is 1-3 bottles, it makes sense to have mostly individual racking. However, I do purchase some wines by the case. So it is useful to have perhaps 25% of the cellar devoted to bins.


DIY= done it yourself? MY PLANS!
Posted by Tom Troiano

For the record, when I get started, and I have approval from CINC (Commander in Chief) -Household!!! I will go with the follwing:

2 x 6 construction vapor barriers on both sides R-19+ "pink" insulation the blue sheet rock that you use in bathrooms

A Koolpace 400 and (the highest cost item) an Andersen exterior French door - not sure the R value.

my cellar will be located in the north end of a large finished basement. The floor is about 6 feet below ground and the exterior wall is essentially under my deck - so its well shaded. I think I'll have no problem keeping 57 or 58 degrees F since I could ALMOST do that passively (I'm almost tempted to try the super insulated passive technique but I figure I'm doing this once in my life!!) and I like to use the fireplace in the basement so in order to enjoy the fireplace AND properly cellared wine I'm going with the cooling unit.


DIY= done it yourself? MY PLANS!
Posted by Mark Levesque

That french door will have a lousy R value. If I remember correctly, even the best ones have R values in the low to middle single digits. (I remember 4.5 for some reason). Not much you can do about it, but if you want a showplace (as opposed to just a place to store your wines) you'll potentially have to compensate with the cooling unit.


DIY= done it yourself? MY PLANS!
Posted by Tom Troiano

I'd be happy with a boring ugly solid door with excellent R value but my mom, wife, priest friend, and neighbor who is a builder all say get a well insulated "double pane", "thermal pane", whatever, glass door. "French door" may not have been the best description. I will NOT go with something that has a low single digit R value. I would also consider building a custom door (like they did on This Old House on the Milton house) if I can find a nice well insulated window (that doesn't open) - sort of like a casement window but one that doesn't open.


Anderson Doors
Posted by Jeff Cuppett

Tom,

If you go with Anderson doors, they have some excellent double and tripled pane windows with high R values. I helped folks install one in Arizona. Works great. You may end up with some sort of special framing to hold the slightly thicker door if you want a real high R value (more than 14), but the triple pane door we put in had an R14 rating as I recall. There are lots of Anderson window dealers around me so you might just hunt around for one with experience with the higher R rated doors.

Hope this helps and good luck with your cellar, JC


DIY= done it yourself? MY PLANS!
Posted by Bob Noland

I am locating my cellar in the southwest corner of my basement but I am planning on just passive cooling. How would you insulate and vapor barrier with just a passive setup? Currently, the open room temperatures in the basement range from 55 to 68 degrees F. and the humidity ranges from 40% to 80%. I would like to tighten this up a bit and I think construction technique could play a big factor. The room I am planning will be about 6 ft. by 7 ft. and the concrete floor is approx. 6 ft. underground. Any suggestions would be appreciated....


DIY= done it yourself? MY PLANS!
Posted by Mark Levesque

You've already got a good temperature range, so it sounds like passive would definitely be workable for you. I would go with 2x4 construction all the way around with fiberglas insulation. If you want you can paint the basement walls with a special paint that will serve as a vapor barrier prior to putting up the studs. Use greenboard sheetrock (moisture resistant- the stuff you would use in a bathroom) for the walls. As you are in the southwest corner (longest sun exposure if you house is in the open) you may want to do the ceiling as well. My cellar is in the southwest corner, and about 1 - 1.5 feet of it are above ground. The sun does eventually heat it up to around 68 degrees, so I'm going to improve the insulation up there to hopefully keep it at 63 or less. But even 68 is not going to harm any but the most fragile wines.


DIY= done it yourself? MY PLANS!
Posted by Bob Noland

Thanks Mark, These are all good suggestions, especially putting in a ceiling which I had not thought of. I also have a window to contend with which I may end up replacing with glass block and putting a curtain over to keep out the light. I was planning on putting some sort of paint or sealer on the walls but do you think they should be insulated also? I was thinking of building the racks directly against the walls for the full chilling effect.


DIY= done it yourself? MY PLANS!
Posted by Joe Cz

Bob:

I'd recommend insulating the walls too. As you are in the SW corner and floor only 6 ft. below grade, the upper portions of your walls will certainly be warmed by the sun, probably leading to warmer temps in the summer. Do something about that window, too!


DIY= done it yourself? MY PLANS!
Posted by Bob Noland

Thanks, I will use your suggestions, but I am having a rough time determining how to insulate the walls since the cooling and humidity come from the walls, I do not want to totally block them off. Maybe I could insulate only the upper parts? Thanks again. Bob


How a cellar in Denmark was made
Posted by Leif Borg

Hey Guys

Here are my cellar located in Denmark - Europe.

I live in a danish standard house with all rooms at the same level. No natural place for a cellar.

What do you do. My house has two doors. A front door and a back door. At my house the back door are the natural entrance therefore I made my cellar by the front door. Here there are a little room at 3.25 sqm. next to the kitchen. The front door are heading at north.

Winter temp. in my cellar are about 14-15 degres celcius. Summer temp are about 17-19 degres celcius.

I've made the cellar with a mix of diamonts and place for up to 8 bottels and place for boxes.

Where it's possible I've placed a Wine Labels in front of the Wine. When I do this it fast to get a quick view of the location of bottles. And the bottles can 'rest in peace'.

If you will use the label way you can find labels at - Art - Manfred - Mike - Too Many Wine Labels

If anyone of you need some more details put any answers here or mail me.

Leif Borg Denmark


vapor barriers and stud walls (for winecellars!)
Posted by Tom Troiano

I'm getting a bit confused (reading Gold's book) with respect to vapor barriers. The book talks about a necessary gap in the vapor barrier (it claims the ceiling is the logical place). Does this make sense? How should I do the vapor barrier? If I use something like Thermax over fiberglass filled studded walls is that a better vapor barrier? I was thinking about doing fiberglass filled studded walls (2x6s), then Thermax, then blue board. Is that overkill? Also, the Gold book says that for an interior non load bearing wall that you will build you really only need to space the studs 24 inches on center. Is that really OK? Do they have fiberglass that fits that spacing? I thought fiberglass was made to fit inside of studs that are 18 inches on center.


vapor barriers and stud walls (for winecellars!)
Posted by G. Leak

I cut corners in building my celler and now have a ton of water kicked off by my AC in the summer. Go the whole route with fiberglass, barrier, and *blue* wallboard or you may kick yourself later (and for the next 20 years -- not worth saving some $$).

Posted by Mark Levesque on February 20, 1998 at 10:56:34 in response to vapor barriers and stud walls (for winecellars!) posted by Tom Troiano on February 20, 1998 at 09:54:29

I thought fiberglass was made to fit inside of studs that are 18 inches on center.

16 inches on center, Tom.


vapor barriers and stud walls (for winecellars!)
Posted by Tom Troiano

So the rolls of Owens Corning pink insulation at Home Depot won't work for a 24 inch center stud walls?


vapor barriers and stud walls (for winecellars!)
Posted by Mark Levesque

I dunno. They might have some extra wide insulation, but the standard stud spacing is 16", so the insulation itself is around 14.5" or so (for 16" studs.) It's worth calling to find out if they have anything wider...

Also, the Gold book says that for an interior non load bearing wall that you will build you really only need to space the studs 24 inches on center. Is that really OK?

DON'T DO IT!!! From an structural standpoint it is find. However, I found that there was a noticable bulge from the fiberglass bat due to the spacing being so wide. They do, however, make 24" fiberglass. I would go 18" o.c. were I to do it again.


vapor barriers and stud walls (for winecellars!)
Posted by Joe Cz

Eric:

Just curious (I used 16" centers), but where are you seeing this bulge that you speak of? I'm trying to picture what you mean and not having any success.


vapor barriers and stud walls (for winecellars!)
Posted by Eric Stauffer

The insulation was crammed in so tightly that the drywall bulged out. Here is some crappy ASCII art:

         ___________
    +--+/           \+--+ 
    |  |             |  |

The +--+ are studs. You are looking down from the top. The insulation I got was R-22 24" wide. It didnt' seem to fit perfectly into the studs and 'bulged' out. When I put the vapor barriers, the drywall, then the paneling on you could still see a slight bulge from the insullation. Most likely 99.99% of folks who walked into the cellar would never notice it. I hope I explained myself a bit clearer.


vapor barriers and stud walls (for winecellars!)
Posted by David Newell

OK, time for the "blue collar" contractor to throw in his $.02. (and you thought we all drank beer :-) )

First, the purpose of a vapor barrier, is to keep moisture from the cellar from penetrating the walls, soaking your insulation (which makes it useless), and rotting the studs. Only put the vapor barrier on the INSIDE, so that the walls can dry out if moisture gets trapped inside. I would recommend that you use "unfaced" fiberglass, with a 6 mil polly vapor barrier stapled over the studs. You should also tape all joints in the barrier with a water proof plastic tape.

Second, even though the walls aren't bearing, a 16" OC wall will be much stronger than 24" OC especially if you are attaching racks or other heavy items to the walls. In a 8' x 8' cellar with 4 walls, you would only save 8 studs, or less than $30.

Third, "If" you plan on sheet rocking BOTH sides of the cellar, you may want to look into using 5-1/2" commercial steel studding. These are usually less expensive, and are ALWAYS straighter, than wood, but you MUST screw rock to both sides for structural strength. You also should not use these for load bearing walls.

Fourth, If your walls will be placed directly on a concrete basement floor, place a vapor barrier between the concrete and the walls, AND keep a 1/2" of space between the sheet rock and the concrete to prevent moisture from "wicking" into the rock from the floor.

Fifth, Did you get your building permit yet? :-))) Seriously though, remember that any electrical work that is not done by a licensed electrician, or is done by the homeowner without the proper inspections, MAY void your homeowner's insurance, if a fire is traced back to it.


One last thing about fiberglass insulation
Posted by David Newell

Tom, DO NOT use insulation that is thicker than R-19 for a 2x6 wall, as Eric did below. When you crush insulation, you will lose some of the R-value (it's the trapped air in the fibers that insulates). Fiberglass must be "fluffed" not "stuffed". You may run across some of the newer, higher R-value "high density" insulation, but make sure it is designed for a 2x6 wall.


Do I have this right now?
Posted by Tom Troiano

Let's see if I can summarize what I think I´m hearing:

In my cellar three of the walls (the back wall and the two side walls) are the foundation and I will build a fourth wall (the front wall) that will have the door.

So, for the three walls that are there I will do the following (in this order)

1. "paint" the walls with water proofing paint (e.g., dry lock) 2. install 2 x 6 stud walls, 16 inches on center 3. the sill (which sits on the basement floor) should be installed over a vapor barrier (or how about just using caulking?) 4. install unfaced R-19 insulation in the stud walls - don´t over stuff!! 5. staple gun a 6 mil polly vapor barrier 6. finish with "blue" board (bathroom type sheet rock)

Now, for the new wall I'm building:

I'll skip step 1 above

the only question remains is do I put a vapor barrier on both sides of this new wall? (the winecellar side and the side facing my basement)? If not, just the winecellar side?

Other than that (and dealing with the door and AC cut outs) this wall is essentially built the same way as the other three.

Do I have this straight?


Anyone Know How to Contact Wine Rack maker of RedRack
Posted by Bob Henrick

Floyd, I know this isn't the company you are looking for, but here is an alternative.

There is a company in Cininnati that specializes in wine racks. The company name is wineracks unlimited. Their ph# is 1-800-229-9813. They are on the WWW at http://www.wineracks-unlimited.com, I have never bought from them and am not involved with them in any way, just trying to help.


How to Contact Wine Rack maker of RedRack
Posted by Floyd D. Warren

Here is an update on mine. I was looking for racks to put in a basement cellar which I HOPE will function passively. After much searching and helpful hints from Wine Lovers Disc., I found the RedRackII racks I was looking for. They are made by Vintage Keeper (Droboc, Inc) at 1-888-274-8813. They also make the racks advertised by another name in IWA. You can buy single bottle racks, diamond modules, case modules, etc and design your own cellar to fit your individual needs.

I am starting with a 400 bottle combination single bottle and diamond rack on a single 7X7 ft wall. I have room to expand down the perpendicular if I need to at a later date. I am using your suggestions for studding and insulation but don't intend to use the blue wall board. The rack will just back up to the vapor barrier plastic. I am excited about the new cellar and can hardly wait to get it up. I am buying 92 thru 95 cabs and zins and just laying them down in the storage room for now. The cellar will help me organize and display my new prizes!


An update on my passively cooled cellar
Posted by Eric Stauffer

I must admit I'm a bit disappointed at the temperature.

For a refresher: Built in basement. Floor approx 6 ft below grade. All walls 2x6 constructions, R-22 insulation, two 6mil sheets of plastic (yes, I know, overkill) 5/8" drywall, T1011 type exterior wood panelling with two coats polyshades type stain. Full view exterior door (R-8 or something like that)

The temp hovers right around 62 degrees. We've had a very mild winter and I'm really concerned about the summer months. I was hoping for something around 58. Looks like I might have to talk to, in Tom T's terms, the CINC about investing in a cooling unit.


An update on my passively cooled cellar
Posted by Art Nathan

Eric: I don't think that I'd be too disappointed with the temps. you've mentioned. My cellar is passively cooled and varies between hight 50's in the winter to low 60's mid-summer. It takes a LONG time to get from one extreme to the other and I'm not sure that the wines ever make the full range. I've never pulled a bottle from my cellar that I thought was wrecked because it wasn't kept at that mythical perfect "55". I think you have other things to be more concerned about... (G). ART


An update on my passively cooled cellar
Posted by Tom Troiano

I'm sure some will disagree but I'm not sure 62 is such a bad thing. I think you told me you have central air, right? So, if you house is esentially the same temp - plus or minus 5 degrees or so - all year your cellar may stay in the low 60s and you'll be fine. The cellar temp may also drop over the next few months as you use your heating system less and less - at least thats the case for me.


An update on my passively cooled cellar
Posted by Bob Henrick

Tom, Your description is about the way my basement is too. My temp hovers in the low 60s...occasionally rising to about 65 on the hottest days. Coolest temps have been in the upper 50s. I shut off the registers in winter and open them in summer. I honestly think that the rate of temp change is more important than hi/lo readings, provided the high end remains below 70, and doesn't approach that very often.


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