A Step-By-Step Guide For Building a Wine Cellar in Your Basement
Are you constructing a wine storage space in your house?
Rosehill Wine Cellars helps homeowners build-it themselves and has been helping handymen for almost two decades. Some of the steps listed below are explained in greater detail (including reasons why constructing a hermetically sealed space is necessary) in this handy blog on proper wine storage, and please peruse our page on wine cellar construction tips. Most DIY wine cellars are born in residential basements, and that’s because the subterranean realm is often the easiest space in which to control the light, heat and humidity. If you have a spot in your basement that you’re renovating for wine storage, read the wisdom laid out below before you order the wine racks.
In summary, your mission is to make a manageable space that you can control completely regardless of the time of day or month. The wine must remain perfectly chill and stable; there can be no temperature spikes! And no bright light (UV light) and no vibrations. Simply follow these handy steps to prepare your cellar space:
1. Check the room for leaks
It’s your desire to make a room that can be hermetically 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.
When scrutinizing the room, make sure that the ceiling has a minimum R-19 insulation. The floor should be concrete and be sealed with a proper concrete sealant – more on that below.
2. Install vapour barrier
Vapour barrier plastic sheets are commonly installed behind the insulation on the warm side of the wall (the interior of the wine cellar being the cold side). The vapour barrier acts to protect both the warm and cold side of the insulation. You may wonder why vapour barriers are not installed on the cold side (otherwise known as the wine cellar side). Well the reason is that when it’s installed on the cold side, humidity will condensate and that creates moisture which creates mold. Such rot can ruin the finish on basement walls. A dense pocket can damage a whole house and worse, mold can ruin printed paper wine labels!
It is important then to install this plastic surface either on the external ceiling or walls. If you find it difficult to install directly on the exterior, you should apply the plastic sheeting from inside the cellar going out. It’s common to wrap the interior first and to make sure that the plastic sheet is loose enough so that the insulation can then be placed in between the studs in the stud cavity. Make a complete vapour barrier on both ceiling and walls of the area.
3. Seal the concrete floor
Rugs and wood floors are not recommended for wine storage spaces. They are way too porous and permeable.
Concrete is best. Indeed, anything except properly sealed concrete is suspicious, and even concrete can be surprisingly porous and that’s why it must be sealed.
Penetrating sealers (silanes and siloxanes) and most high-performance coatings, such as epoxies and urethane, should only be applied after the concrete is fully cured (generally 28 days). Almost all sealers can be applied after the concrete is 28 days old.
When making the application on a tiled floor, you should ensure that the sealant you bought is compatible with the tile’s adhesive.
4. Begin furring the walls
In construction, furring (furring strips) are thin strips of wood or other material used to level or raise surfaces or to prevent dampness, to make space for insulation. Furring refers to the process of installing the strips and to the strips themselves.
Use either 2-inch by 2-inch strips or a 2-inch by 4-inch strips of foam and begin furring the walls. It’s best to use the so-called rigid foam board version for insulation. Here at Rosehill, our installers insulate the wine cellar’s wood framed walls with R-22 batt insulation (Roxul) for 2 x 6 framed (exterior) walls. This is installed after the vapour barrier in-between the wooden studs. R-32 batt insulation is very often installed in the ceiling.
You should make sure that the cracks on the walls are treated with a spray foam. Take note that when the walls become thicker, the more likely will it be to provide insulation to the wine cellar. It will help the cellar adhere to varying temperature and humidity levels of the room.
5. Choose the proper wine cellar door
While very attractive and widely used, glass paneled doors provide very little R value (insulation) within a wine cellar. If you’re using glass, you might consider selecting a cooling unit with a greater BTU output to off set the diminished R value. Generally speaking, the next size up will deliver adequate cooling compensation, however, larger cooling units will never truly compensate for a poorly insulated wine cellar.
The glass in the door should be a proper sealed thermal pane unit, usually 5/8” or ¾” overall thickness. The glass should be sealed around the edges in the frame. A wine cellar door needs to be an exterior grade front door with weather stripping and a proper threshold. Its important that when closing the door it makes an audible seal and blocks the heat and warmth of the house from entering the cellar space. How thick should the cellar door be? A door with at least 1 ¾” thickness is recommended. Glass doors must be double paned (at least) and the glass elements should be tempered glass (if applicable).
6. Check for room for air leaks after installing cellar door
Test the room to make sure the space can be hermetically sealed when you install the wine cellar door. This is a great time to check the room for air leaks. Pay particular close attention to the wall and floor areas around pipes, vents and light switches just to make sure that there are no air leaks at all in the room. The door should close with a solid ‘thump’ which means you’ve affected the air pressure which means the room is air tight. In the rare case you opt to install windows in the cellar, the glass must also be double-paned and thermal insulated (and UV protected too if possible). Never ever use recessed lighting on the room. Low-voltage track lighting is a better option. But with all that being said, there is a danger that homeowners can over-seal or over-insulate a wine cellar.
7. Put a finish on the walls
If done correctly, finishing the walls will help achieve the look you envision for the cellar space and help secure the wine at a stable temperature. Make sure that you choose water-based paints or stains for the interior walls.
Also, it’s imperative to allow air to flow outside once you are done painting or finishing the wall surfaces so that the wine cellars will be rid of odours that may worsen once the humidity and cooling systems begin operation.
8. Create a Wine Cellar Cooling System
No matter what size the space, if you want to do things right, you’ll need a wine cellar cooling unit. This machine will become the beating heart of your temperature-controlled storage area. Wine cellars are always chilly and consistency is the key to success. and so you’ll need one of these mini refrigerator units to maintain a constant chill in sunny weather. There are a number of different factors which will help determine the best cooler for your space.
The first thing we generally do is determine size of your wine cellar in cubic feet (length x width x height). Then we look for an adjacent room, a room in the house beside the cellar space where we can install the cooling unit and use a simple “through the wall” air-conditioning system. This allows the most options; please see the chart for wine cellar cooling units sizes and specifications on the page.
Please keep in mind that ALL through-the-wall cooling units will have some heat and noise at the back of the cooling unit into adjacent space. If this is not acceptable, this may be reason to look at a ducted or split system.
Depending on your situation, you may need a through-the-wall system for inside application or for outside application, or you may may seek a split system or ducted system. Keep in mind that a ducted system may allow for ducting of the cold air, the hot air or both.
9. Put necessary finishing touches on your cellar
Once you are done with the above steps, you are now ready to do some finishing touches. Finishing touches should include your personal touch on the wine cellar. You can invest in furniture, humidifier fountains or anything that you think will go well with the cellar.
Wooden wine racks are still the best choice for aging wine, and the racking design should be determined before cellar construction commences. Then the walls can be properly proportioned to the exact size of your racking layout thereby giving the racks the look of a true custom installation. This is for both walls and ceiling height.
Wine racks should be stylish and utilitarian. They should be selected according to the homeowner or wine collector’s style. Rosehill’s experienced staff would be happy to assist with the design of your wine racking layout. Depending upon your budget, design ideals and available cellar space, we’d be happy to quote from our Modular, Premium, Custom VintageView racking or metal racking catalogs of options.
When you’re ready to turn that empty space in your basement into a wine cellar, please feel free to consult us.
We can help you with your wine cellar design to maximize storage and efficiency (and cut costs) and make it exactly perfect for your home or business.