How to Construct a Wine Cellar

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How to Construct a Wine Cellar

AABC is a wine cellar builder licensed in Houston for climate control and refrigeration systems. Our technicians are professionals in cooling systems. We do not contract labor. AABC Wine Cellars will install and build your wine cellar from the ground up, and we will match your budget with the best design that you can afford.

Step 1: Picking a Location for Your Wine Cellar
Although you can build your at-home wine cellar anywhere in your home, the location you choose will influence the future costs of maintaining the cellar. The best choice for wine cellar placement is the coolest and most humid area in your home. Optimally, your cellar should be placed anywhere it can be closest to the 55°-58° F temperature and 55%-75% humidity that your wine needs, which in turn means that you will require a smaller cooling unit, thus lowering the overall cost. Additionally, the heat gain calculation for your cellar is also affected by the surrounding environment. For example, if the environment surrounding your cellar has an average temperature of 85°, compared to that of 65°, then a larger cooling unit will be needed to be able to maintain optimal conditions. Additionally, for drier environments, frequent introduction of humidity will also be required.

Step 2: Stud Installation
If the cellar is new construction, it will be required that you stud the space in order to frame your cellar. Before installing studs, the concrete foundation must be sealed. (Stop: Review Step 4 now, if you decide to use the 6 mil vapor barrier with new construction, you must do that step during studding. If you choose spray foam then continue on with this step) You will then use either 2x4 or 2x6 construction. The 2x6 construction is best if you want to up the insulation value, which will then minimize the needed cooling unit size and energy consumption. This is comparable to when you add supplemental insulation to your home to lower monthly bill costs. Do not forget to get a permit and to follow all local, state, and national building codes during your wine cellar construction.

Step 2.1: Soffits
If you choose to build soffits to cover unwanted obstructions like piping or ducting, it is imperative to keep in mind where your lighting is installed in the soffits, so that it does not hinder or interfere with the finished racking and ducting depth, including the depth of the crown molding. To be sure, you will want to ask for the depth of the racking, including the crown molding, and to also be sure to allow for the ring size on the light fixture as well. As a rule of thumb, make sure to leave a 1” gap from the front of the crown molding to the nearest edge of the ring on the light. Another thing to be sure of is the use of IC can lights so that you are able to insulate around them.

Step 3.1: Rough-in Refrigeration for WineZone Air Handler
If you decide to buy a WineZone Air Handler, ducting and line set will need to be run at this step. The ducting will be in the cellar, which will run to the air handler, which would be normally placed in a mechanical room.  The line set then runs from the air handler to the condenser. Standard condensers are usually located outdoors, but there are also indoor options available to you. In addition, the drain line and the electric line will need to be run at this step.

Step 3.2: Rough-in Refrigeration for WineZone Ductless Split
If you choose to buy a WineZone Ductless Split, its line set will need to be run at this step. This line set will need to be run from the ductless split to the condenser. Standard condensers are usually located outdoors, but indoor options are available to you. In addition, the drain line and the electric line will need to be run at this step.

Step 3.3: Installing an Opening for a Self-Contained Cooling Unit
If you have planned to use a self-contained cooling unit, you will now need to make an adequately sized hole in the wall fit for your chosen unit. In addition, you will need to run an electrical outlet near the installation site of the unit, or it may need to be located inside the unit, based on which unit you decide upon. Many self-contained cooling units will also require a drain line, so you will need to make sure to allow for space for a condensed drain. These units do not have the ability to humidify a wine cellar, so it may be required that you allow for a 110V electrical outlet for a humidifier for your wine cellar.

Step 4.1: Choosing Your Insulation and Vapor Barrier
There are two common methods to choose from when it comes to insulation and vapor barriers: spray foam, and 6 mil vapor barrier and fiberglass batts. Although spray foam tends to be more expensive, it will prevent any possibility of a puncture or perforation in the vapor barrier, which can be caused by the use of screws, plumbing, etc. into or through the wall from outside. With the use of non-shrinking closed-cell spray foam, a screw could not compromise or damage the cellar, because the foam will expand in order to fill every crevice, which will guarantee a tight seal. For either method, make sure that there are no air gaps between the insulation and the drywall.

Step 4.2: Vapor Barrier for New Construction
If your cellar is a new construction and you choose not to use the spray foam method, then you will need to install a 6 mil vapor barrier onto the back of your wall studs before you lift them into their final position. In addition, you will also need to wrap your ceiling joists. If you are in an area where it is required by local code that you install the vapor barriers on the warm side of the cellar, it is highly recommended that you instead switch to the spray foam method.

Step 4.3: Wrapping Your Walls & Filling Holes
In order to be able to wrap the walls, make sure to leave some excess from the vapor barriers at the corners after installation. You will need to wrap it, overlap the seams, and then tuck tape it shut. Next, you will need to fill all the holes in the studs and joists with fire rated penetration sealant in order to reduce any air movement.

Step 4.4: Insulation & Vapor Barrier for the Wine Cellar
If this cellar is a remodeling project, it would be fine to wrap the already existing studs in a similar way to the ceiling joists. Be sure that the vapor barrier is located on the warm side of the cellar, which would be the exterior cellar wall.

Step 4.5: Insulation & Vapor Barrier for the Wine Cellar
Once the vapor barrier installation is complete, you will then need to put insulation in the stud and joist cavities. Commonly, fiberglass batt insulation is used. For a 2x4 wall cavity, the use of fiberglass will earn you a R-13 insulation value. For a 2x6 wall cavity, the use of fiberglass will earn you a R-19 insulation value. The entire cavity will need to be completely filled with insulation, in order to leave no air-filled cavities.

Step 5: Electrical Outlet Placement in Your Wine Cellar
The best placement for power outlets in a wine cellar is in the spaces at the corners where your racks will come together. If an outlet is placed outside of this location, it is possible that it will be blocked by a wine rack post. It is of the utmost importance that you follow any local codes concerning outlet placement.

Step 5.2: Outlet Placement for High Reveals with Lighting
It is unnecessary to place an outlet in an area with high reveal racking to plug in your lighting. A cord will be able to reach the desired outlet placed in the corners where your wine racks come together, as far as 6 feet away. If you desire to have the outlet located in a high reveal area for ease of access, your design consultant will need to be informed. It is recommended that if you choose to have outlets for high reveals and other types of accent lighting, that you use a switch.

Step 6: Wall Coverings
Once all the studs, insulation, vapor barriers, and electrical outlets have been successfully installed, the next step is to cover the ceiling and walls of your cellar. It is extremely important that you choose materials that are resistant to high humidity conditions. Based on this, the most commonly used wall covering is water-resistant drywall. It is readily available, as it is used when constructing kitchens and bathrooms in most homes. It is important that the drywall is screwed into the walls and ceilings of your cellar. Make sure to use fire rated penetration sealant around all penetrations made by screws on both sides of the cellar.

Step 6.2: Finishing the Drywall
It is important that you run the drywall all the way to the floor, not allowing for any gaps, because the base molding will be attached to the front of the racking. It is also important that no molding is installed on the wall because the back of the racks must remain flush with the wall.

Step 6.3: Painting the Drywall
Start with a good primer on the drywall, then move to use a water-based exterior grade paint. If you use an oil or solvent based paint, you run the risk of leaving a lingering smell in your cellar if there is no time to let the cellar air out after painting. Make sure that you or your painter covers the drywall all the way to the floor. Typically, a painter will stop and inch or two above the floor if they know that they will be covering it with base molding. Your molding will be on the front of the racks, so if they do not paint all the way to the floor, they may leave and unappealing gap in paint.

Step 6.4: Alternative Wall & Ceiling Coverings
A stylish and decorative option to cover your cellar walls would be applying tongue and groove material that will complement the wood, stain, or lacquer that will be on your racking. You will need to screw ¾” marine grade plywood onto your ceilings and walls so that you can attach the tongue and groove to it.

Step 7: Flooring
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing flooring for your wine cellar, is that it needs to be able to withstand high humidity conditions. Because of this, you will absolutely want to avoid carpeting, as it will easily rot. Another flooring to avoid is vinyl because the mastic under it will retain moisture and begin to buckle. One good option is a sealed bare concrete floor. For more decorative options, you can use tile, cork, or hardwood. For wood flooring, it is recommended that you leave a ½” gap around the entire perimeter to allow for expansion. If there is time, you should allow the wood to sit in the cellar for 48 hours in order to acclimate to the humid conditions and to minimize any expansion that may occur.

Step 7.2: Alternate Ceiling
Another alternate option for ceilings in your wine cellar is to install a raised panel ceiling, or a soffit. Although it does not make any difference in your insulation value, it does add aesthetic pleasure to the overall appearance of your cellar. Raised panel ceilings are a good choice because they can be made to any room configuration.

Step 8: Installing a Wine Cellar Door
It is important that you install an exterior grade door that is sealed on three sides, as well as having a weather-stripped bottom with a threshold and a door sweep. Using an interior-grade door for this is not an option. Because the environment of your cellar has to maintain such strict temperatures and humidity levels, there needs to be an adequate barrier between the cellar and the rest of your home. If you choose to use a glass door, it will need to be thermopaned, which will allow for insulation and to ensure that the glass does not condensate. Another option is to use a solid wood door.

Step 9: Lighting

For a wine cellar, the possibilities for lighting are not quite as restrained. One thing that needs to be noted is that if you use can lighting in your cellar, then you will have to use thermally fused can lights, which are also referred to as IC rated cans. Although there are some concerns about UV lighting and its effects on long-term storage, there is currently no evidence supporting that is either good nor bad.

If you have any questions, please call us: 713-224-3333 we will be happy to assist you. Or let us call you.

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