Any comments on building an inexpensive (relatively) cellar?

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Any comments on building an inexpensive (relatively) cellar?

Postby David Cohen » Fri Mar 24, 2006 8:06 pm

Hi Everyone

For the past several years I have used a wine fridge. It is presently filled to the point that I cannot find anything. Bottles are placed to permit maximum number in.

I just asked a fellow to give me a quote on constructing a wine cellar. One member of this group, used boards to create diamonds that could hold about a dozen bottles at a time, and did not concern itself with shape or size. Do you have any idea's?

Could you give me some do's and don'ts on constructing the cellar? If you know of a good cooling unit, let me know. Understand, I am looking for a low price cellar, that I currently have about 500 bottles from many places in the world.
Cheers

David
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Re: Any comments on building an inexpensive (relatively) cel

Postby Paul Winalski » Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:29 pm

If you are lucky enough to have an in-ground basement and the appropriate climate, you can try to build a passive wine cellar. A book by a Mr. Gold called something like "How and Why To Build a Wine Cellar" is the bible on the subject, as I recall.

Personally, I blocked off 1/3 of my townhouse's in-ground basement for use as a wine cellar. It is liberally insulated with fiberglass insulation. The cooling unit is a modified 8000 BTU air conditioner. The modification consists of replacing the thermostat with one that operates within the 50-60 degree F range that one wants for a cellar cooling unit. I posted details on the unit in the original WLDG (not the Netscape variant). I'll repost them here if requested.

That is by far the most economical solution. But if you aren't electrically inclined, and don't want to go tinkering with the innards of a room air conditioner, there are commercial cooling units available from places such as The Wine Entusiast--at a very hefty price premium compared to buying a generic room air conditioner and modifying it.

For a large area, you might also want to consult a local HVAC contractor.

-Paul W.
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Re: Any comments on building an inexpensive (relatively) cel

Postby Randy Buckner » Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:46 pm

By all means get the Gold book. My contractor used it for my passive cellar -- stays around 60 degrees. Even if you use a cooling unit, it is worth the tariff.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0967159806/002-5390846-2653659?v=glance&n=283155
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Re: Any comments on building an inexpensive (relatively) cel

Postby Dale Williams » Fri Mar 24, 2006 10:40 pm

A few thoughts:
Passive or active, the better insulated you are the better (your wine will be safer in former case, in latter it'll save you energy -and provide peace of mind in a power outage).
Beyond insulating the walls & ceilings, foam insulation (or caulk) in the seams can help. I had an odd size door where an insulated exterior door wouldn't work, I put in a cutdown interior down and put in spray foam through drilled holes.
As to racking, it will depend on what you have. Diamond racking is great if you have a lot of wines with 10+ bottles. But if you're like me- lots of ones, twos, threes- racking might be better. I used some "black tie" metal grids fromWine Enthusiasts, as well as another rack I found used (which works better for big/odd bottles). I made some bins (not diamond, but same principle) in some odd spaces (I had to work around some pipes and stuff). And left space for some wooden cases to be stacked.

Keep us posted!
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Re: Any comments on building an inexpensive (relatively) cel

Postby Roy Hersh » Sat Mar 25, 2006 4:51 am

Cost savings ideas:

a. buy cork or especially rubberized floor tiles. They not only insulate, but have prevented a couple of near mishaps. A great inexpensive addition.

b. Lighting - find small spotlights that give off little to no heat. You can aim them where you want.

c. find a reliable refrigeration unit for your cellar if there is any way you can afford it.

d. forget the diamond cubes. Instead get inexpensive wood = cedar instead of redwood, which has all the same properties and the only diff is aesthetics. Save the money and buy single or double deep racking. Make sure to build a couple (or more) rows for MAGs and 375 depending on your drinking preference.

e. Save money on your door for now, but make sure you'll be able to add a better one (insulated) whenever you can afford it.

f. If you don't have a ton of bottles, you can have some of the racks built now and you can always add more to your room as you can afford it. You don't need the Taj Mahal to get started. Leave some room for OWC to be stacked or to go on top of your racks.
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Re: Any comments on building an inexpensive (relatively) cel

Postby Bill Spohn » Sat Mar 25, 2006 12:49 pm

I built racks out of plywood and drywall screws.

Once they are full of wine (and there was no question mine were going to be FULL), you can't see what they are made of anyway (if the edges offend you, there is molding or paint as an alternative).

I just laid out a bunch of bottles and calculated the largest space a dozen bottles would need and built to suit, double depth as Roy suggests. Cheapest possibel way to house the most wine per cubic metre (foot, for you Yanks)

I think Jenise has been in my cellar - it holds a fair bit of wine, doesn't it..... :roll:

There are cooling units available in the $600 range that work reliably and that is a nice way to go if passive would result in too high summer temperatures, but do a realistic assessment of your wine storage needs. There is nothing at all wrong with conditions that slowly swing up to no more than 70 F. in the summer - your wine will simply mature a bit more quickly. Get higher and you are into territory where generally held opinion is that you will risk damage to the wine.

So if you get up to 70 deg. for 3 weeks in the worst of summer, no big deal and you can avoid buying a cooler.

And don't forget to insulate the ceiling - you can gain a lot of heat from that otherwise.

If you DO need a cooling unit I like the Canadian built Drobot - they market under Koolspace. They fit bewteen studs in a wall and if you have a handy space on the other side of the cellar wall, the heat pumped out of the cellar goes into the house to reduce your heating needs.
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Re: Any comments on building an inexpensive (relatively) cel

Postby Jenise » Sat Mar 25, 2006 1:23 pm

forget the diamond cubes. Instead get inexpensive wood = cedar instead of redwood, which has all the same properties and the only diff is aesthetics. Save the money and buy single or double deep racking. Make sure to build a couple (or more) rows for MAGs and 375 depending on your drinking preference.


Roy, I'm surprised you're against the diamond cubes. I built my own, and was so happy with the system that when I built a second wine cellar in another home, I built them again. Easy for inventory, and much easier to re-organize since constant re-organization is required by the rate at which we pull and replace bottles. And, as David mentioned, this system is immune to bottle-size issues.
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Re: Any comments on building an inexpensive (relatively) cel

Postby Bob Cohen » Sat Mar 25, 2006 9:32 pm

I found the Gold book to be quite helpful when I had a passive cellar built. The key is insulation - lots of it - and being below ground level if possible.

A lot depends on your climate. I'm in upstate NY where it typically doesn't get very hot for very long.

I found diamond-shaped bins to be difficult to deal with. I guess a lot depends on your personal taste (no pun intended) in these things, but I preferred the "black tie" system among commercial racks. Much more flexibility for the particular group of wines I had.
--Bob
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