Guidelines to Constructing a Wine Cellar
Guidelines to Constructing a Wine Cellar
When constructing a Wine Cellar, be it a dedicated room, a closet renovation, or a cold room conversion, the basic element you are trying to achieve is an environment in which your wines can be safe and protected while they mature.
To maintain this environment you must isolate the interior of your wine cellar from exterior conditions. The ideal set of parameters - a constant ambient temperature of 12 C (55 F), little or no light, relative humidity around 60 - 70 % and an undisturbed area free from vibration and odors - defines the environment your trying to create for your wines. If your stray outside these ranges the greater the chance the wine may age poorly. With this ideal set of parameters your wine will age gracefully on a smooth path to perfection.
Before going any further, check with your local guidelines and building codes.
Insulate, Insulate, Insulate... and insulate some more.
The general rule when building is, the thicker the walls the better the insulation factor, the better the cellar maintains a consistent temperature.
A vapor barrier and insulation is required. 6-mil plastic sheeting should be applied to the hot side of the cellar walls & ceiling. If it is impossible to apply to the outside walls then apply the vapor barrier from within the cellar. Wrap the entire cellar, walls and ceilings, in plastic, leaving it loose in-between the stud cavity so the insulation can be placed easily.
Recommended MINIMUM R Factor: Walls: R 11 Ceilings: R 19
Ridged Foam and Fiberglass insulation are normally used in cellar construction. It is very important that all walls and ceilings be insulated. This will ensure that the temperature will remain constant and not be affected by the outside elements.
If the floor is concrete apply a sealer before applying the finish flooring. This will prevent any moisture from transmitting from the ground. This moisture will rot wood and keep mastic, used to apply tile and linoleum, from setting properly.
Wall, Ceiling & Floor Coverings
What type of finishing materials should be used? There are certain ones not to use, but what it really comes down to is a matter of taste and budget. The cellar usually has a decor theme that is carried throughout the interior.
The walls and ceilings are often covered with drywall and then plastered or painted (when painting only use a latex covering). If drywall is used we recommend that a waterproof drywall be used for added protection. Cedar, Redwood and other wood coverings can be applied to the walls and ceiling, usually in a tongue and grove application. This can provide a uniform look to the cellar especially when the racking material is the same wood as the wall and ceiling coverings. Stone, granite or even ceramic tiles can be used as wall covering material.
For the flooring, tile, in the form of slate, marble, stone, ceramic, or composite, is an attractive and practical material. Linoleum or vinyl is often used, but NEVER use carpet. This will lead to rot, mold and mildew from the cool and damp conditions of a cellar. Wood flooring can be used but it can be more involved. The floor must be leveled and care must be taken to leave room for expansion around the perimeter or it will buckle when the floor absorbs the moisture. There are even new products on the market, like cork flooring.
Doors & Lighting
Two more elements that can have an effect on the environment of a cellar are doors and lighting. Doors must be of an exterior grade with a full weather stripping. If a cooling unit is being installed, without the weather seal the cellar will not maintain its proper humidity or temperature levels. This is the most common problem with cooling units running continually. Solid core doors, or doors with glass inserts, make sure the glass is double thermo pane and tempered, are used most often.
Lighting becomes a very important part of the decor. The possibilities are endless, but make sure the lighting is air locked or of exterior grade. Use sufficient lighting to make an enjoyable atmosphere and one that is possible to see in. While it is true that leaving your lights on for long periods will have an impact on the temperature, for short periods it will not. Install a timer light to avoid leaving the lights on by accident when you leave the cellar.
If environmental cooling systems are required Winecave can assist in the application. There are two types of units used to control temperature and humidity in a wine cellar. One is a self contained "through the wall" system, which can handle cellar space up to 1500 cubic feet. The other is a "split system", which is comprised of a condenser located outside the cellar, and an evaporator and thermostat located inside the cellar. For large cellars there are Split Systems that require commercial refrigeration installation.
Passive cellars, rooms that are built below grade, rely on the ground temperature to cool them, and no cooling system may be required. Make sure that the cellar will retain a constant temperature between 52 and 58 degrees; otherwise a cooling unit will be required.
There are many types of wood racking in different shapes and sizes. Most popular are the redwood and solid pine racking. Powder coated enamel racking is functional and easy to install. The racking designs are endless.