How to Build a Wine Cellar
Wall & Ceiling
Build wine cellar walls using standard 2” x 4” or 2” x
6” construction methods and ceiling joist following the guidelines of local and
state codes in your area. The general rule for a cellar is the thicker the
walls, the better the insulation factor, the better the cellar remains at a
Vapor barrier is REQUIRED if a climate control cooling
unit is installed to keep the cellar at the correct temperature. The 6 mm
plastic sheeting is applied to the hot side of the cellar walls. The vapor
barrier must be either applied to the outside walls and ceiling, or if it is
impossible to get to the outside, then the plastic must be applied from within
the cellar. The most common method is to wrap the entire interior, leaving the
plastic loose in the stud cavity so the insulation can be placed between each
stud. All walls and ceiling must be wrapped in plastic for a complete vapor
Insulation is REQUIRED if a climate control cooling unit
is going to be used. The R-value or thickness of insulation is determined by the
thickness of the walls and ceiling. For example, fiberglass insulation of R13 is
designed to be used in a 2” x 4” wall and R19 is used in a 2” x 6” wall. It is
important to use the correct insulation for the wall thickness. A minimum of R13
should be applied to the walls of a cellar. R19 to R30 is recommended in the
ceiling. Standard "Fiberglass" or "Rigid Foam" insulation is normally used in
cellar construction, or in some cases, blown in insulation is used. Note that cement is not a good insulator and construct proper insulation on top of cement. It is very
important that all walls and ceiling be insulated to keep the cellar temperature
as consistent as possible during the summer and winter
Wall & Ceiling Coverings:
The interior wall and ceiling covering is determined
by the decor theme of the cellar. Often times drywall (green board) is applied,
then painted (always use latex paint) to match a color theme of the cellar. Most
commonly used is cedar or redwood (depending of the racking materials) tongue
and groove material applied to the walls and ceiling. This T&G 1” x 4”
paneling is the same wood species as the racking material, which makes for a
very uniform look throughout the cellar. Stone or granite is also used as a wall
If a cooling system is installed, an exterior grade
(1¾") door must be installed as a cellar door. It is very important that weather
stripping is attached to all 4 sides of the doorjamb. A bottom "sweep" or
threshold is also recommended. The door must have a very good seal to keep the
cool cellar air from escaping out of the cellar. One of the most common problems
with cooling units running continually is due to not sealing the door properly.
Solid core doors or doors with a full glass insert are most often used. Glass
doors must have at least double pane-tempered glass.
All types of flooring are used in cellars. Most commonly
used is slate, tile, marble, or vinyl. NEVER USE CARPET. Carpet will mold and
mildew in the cool, damp climate conditions of a cellar. As with the case of
wall coverings, flooring is normally chosen to match the overall decor colors of
the cellar. The flooring should be applied to a level surface. It is best not to
apply base trim or moldings to the walls behind the racking.
Lighting a wine cellar is an important part of the
overall cellar decor. "Air Lock" recessed ceiling lights are the most popular.
These should be put on dimmer switches to control brightness. In most cases,
these are used as the main lights within the cellar. Also popular are various
display lights to accent different areas of the cellar. Some cellar contractors
offer display "rope" lighting that is specially designed and built to fit into
the display angle of individual bottle racking. Different types of spotlights
are used to highlight picture openings, table areas, or large format display
bottles. It is recommended that all lighting be on a timer system so they can't
be left on for long periods of time. Lights cause excess heat and will cause the
cooling equipment to over work itself.
Climate Controlled Systems:
If a climate controlled cellar is
required, we can provide cooling equipment to properly keep the cellar at
constant temperature about 55-58° F and humidity at 50%-70%. For cellars less
than 2000 cubic feet in size, there are two main types of units: "Through The
Wall" systems and "Split Systems". For larger cellars, some cellar contractors
provide commercial refrigeration equipment that must be installed by a certified
refrigeration expert. Contact our Wine Cellar Consultants to assist with sizing
the correct cooling unit, and to get installation and power supply instructions.
We recommend that the customer consider purchasing a system with a larger
capacity to compensate for the design limitations. Passive cellars are rooms
that are built below ground level. The natural ground temperature will be
consistent at about 55° F to protect your wine for long-term storage and no
cooling equipment is required. We recommend the reliable Breezaire or
Whisperkool Cooling Unit, both built in California. Please contact us for
pricing and specifications.
Ventilation: The necessity of dissipating heat away from
the system is critical to the units performance. As the unit operates and cools,
an equal or greater amount of heat is generated on the exhaust side of the unit.
Adequate ventilation is required in order to dissipate heat away from the unit.
If ventilation is inadequate, the exhaust will heat up and adversely affect the
unit's inability to cool. Also make sure there is a 3 foot horizontal clearance
in the front and rear of the unit. This will assure the unit can vent air in an
Mounting the System: The cooling system should be mounted
at least 18 inches from the top of the room in order to achieve sufficient
cooling. As the room cools down, the warm air will rise to the ceiling. By
mounting the unit high in the room, the system will capture the warm air and
cool it creating a cool environment. Mounting the unit low in the room will
result in a temperature variation in the room due to the unit's inability to
draw warm air from the ceiling of the cellar to the unit itself.
Ducting: The system is designed to exhaust into an open
area. Any attempt to ducting the exhaust ports in an effort to redirect airflow
is not recommended. The fans of the cooling system are not designed to push air
through a restricted duct system. The fans will be over worked and may result in
Electrical Needs: Most systems require a dedicated
110-volt, 20-amp circuit. The system draws a large amount of amps at initial
start up. By designing a dedicated circuit breaker, you will guarantee the
system has enough power to run efficiently. Contact your electrician for
installation of this dedicated electrical circuit. As with any sensitive
electrical equipment, we suggest purchase of a surge protector because the
circuitry may be damaged by power surges and spikes.
Standard wine racks are made in All Heart Redwood. This
soft wood is very resistant to rot in the cool, damp environment of a cellar.
Mahogany wood can be used as well, but costs more than the Redwood. Customers
usually choose one over the other due to matching decor colors in the cellar
design. Mahogany is a hardwood and more of a brownish tone, whereas redwood is a
smooth wood with more of a reddish, darker tone. We can send wood samples at no
charge. The racks will be shipped unassembled with instructions on how to
install your custom cellar racking. If you are located in California, we can
recommend a few licensed contractors to assist you with your installation and/or
wine cellar preparation.
If you need more assistance on how to design and build
your wine cellar, please contact our Wine Cellar Consultants.