Wine Cellar Preparation Guide
The purpose of this Wine Cellar Preparation Guide is to outline the proper wine storage conditions and provide you the information necessary to create and maintain those conditions in your personal wine cellar. Achieving and maintaining those conditions will allow for proper development of your favorite wines and champagnes. By paying attention to the details now, the enjoyment of your wine will be maximized and your investment will be protected.
Ideal Wine Cellar Conditions
Most experts recommend an average temperature of 55 degrees F for all wine storage. Cooler temperatures won’t damage your wine but will slow its development. A temperature of 65 degrees or more will have a negative effect on wine the longer it’s stored.
The ideal humidity in your wine cellar should be 60-70% but anything over 50% is acceptable. High humidity, 80% or more, may cause mold to form on the corks and bottles. In addition, the ideal long term wine storage should avoid heat, direct light and vibration.
Choosing a Wine Cellar Location
The best location for a wine cellar is below ground level in a basement. The reason for that is this is where generally cooler and more humid conditions already exist. A corner of a basement, with two exterior walls and free of windows, is ideal. Wine cellars built above grade, where basements do not exist, simply require special attention and materials to properly insulate and seal the room thoroughly.
One of the most important factors in choosing a wine cellar location is deciding on the type and location of a cooling system. Most cooling units are installed through a wall and exhaust into an adjacent interior room that is at least equal in size to the wine cellar. The ambient temperature of the intended venting area should not be higher than 85 degrees F in order for proper operation of the cooling unit. Other cooling unit options such as split systems and special units are available and may require installation by certified HVAC contractors. Please feel free to contact WineRacks.com to discuss your environmental control options prior to building out your room.
Wine Cellar Construction
Unless local codes dictate otherwise, standard 2 x 4 framing is sufficient for R13 insulation, but ideally R19 should be used for insulation and that will require 2 x 6 framing. Electrical work should be completed to code prior to insulation and drywall. A Vapor Barrier is critical in controlling the humidity of your wine cellar. The ideal humidity of your wine cellar will be much greater than that of the rest of your home. A vapor barrier separates the two conditions and keeps the higher humidity from flowing out of the room. It also prevents warm and moist air (in high temperature and humidity areas) from entering the room, eliminating excess condensation buildup from the cooling unit.
A 6 mil poly/plastic (sold in rolls or sheets) should be stapled over the studs before the insulation is applied. The interior walls of your wine cellar should be insulated with a minimum of R13 for 2 x 4 framing and preferably R19 insulation in 2 x 6 framing. If you live in areas of very high summer temperatures or very low winter temperatures, we recommend that you insulate with R19 (minimum) and R30 where your framing allows. Ceilings should be insulated to a minimum of R19. Concrete walls and floors should be sealed with a “paint on” sealant (such as “DryLock”) to seal all cracks.
Generally, ½” plywood sheeting will be secured to all walls (after electrical rough in and insulation) to anchor your wine racking but it is not required if using nailers between studs. Although a standard 1/2"– 3/4” sheet rock may be used, it is highly recommend that you use moisture resistant “green board”. Your wallboard may be finished with a quality oil base or latex enamel paint. We do not recommend installing a baseboard as the racking will be flush to the entire wall and include a toekick molding.
In selecting a door for your wine cellar, please choose a solid core, exterior grade door. All doors should be weather stripped and completely sealed to prevent loss of cooling and/or infiltration of warm air that will cause condensation. If you select a decorative glass door, be certain that the glass is thermopane and tinted.
Other factors to be considered in the construction of your wine cellar include locations of electrical switches (in order to not be covered by racking) and locations of plumbing and lighting. Proper lighting should be low heat (if lighting will be left on) and properly insulated and installed. If your wine racking is single depth, your lighting should be a minimum of 16” from walls and 28” from walls when double deep racking will be used.
You can download a printable version of this guide HERE