General Wine Cellar Info

General Info on Building a Wine Cellar
The following information is provided as a guide for the creation of the proper environment for your wine cellar. Because fine wine requires a controlled environment to age properly, it is imperative that the following cellar design parameters and installation be followed as recommended.
Wall & Ceiling Framing:
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 consistent temperature. 

Vapor Barrier:
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 warm 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 studs. 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 barrier. 

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. R30 is recommended in the ceiling. Standard "Fiberglass" or "Rigid Foam" insulation is normally used in cellar construction; our preference is the Rigid Foam insulation.  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 months.

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.  You can also use tongue and groove for the walls or stone.  A faux finish looks great on cellar walls if some of the walls are being exposed.

Cellar Doors:
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, wood 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. 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 efficient manner. The Whisperkool and Breezaire self contained systems are designed to exhaust into an adjacent room that is well ventilated and larger than the size of your cellar.  It is advised that the area venting into does not get over 90 degrees for long periods of time…this will cause your unit to run hard.  If you must vent outdoors or into a hot areas exceeding 90 degrees, we recommend the Whisperkool EXTREME series that can handle these environments

·         Mounting the System: The Whisperkool XLT and Breezaire  cooling systems should be mounted no further than 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.  The Breezaire 3000+ is able to be mounted on the floor.  The Whisperkool Extreme Series and Wine Guardian can be ducted so you may place the units anywhere in the cellar.

·         Ducting:  We offer the Wine Guardian Cooling System if you would prefer to duct the system to other areas.  We can send you the installation guidelines for this system per your request.

·         Split Systems:  allow the condenser to be installed outside of the room.  Whisperkool Split Systems handles up to a 55 degree variance for those hot areas and Breezaire Split systems handle 30 degree variance.  Split Systems are highly recommended if the “self contained, wall mounted units” is not an option for your cellar location.

·         Electrical Needs: Most systems require a dedicated 110-volt, 15- 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. Please review the installation manual for the proper electrical requirements

Wine Racking:
Our most popular choice of wood is All Heart Redwood.  We also offer Pine, Alder, Mahogany and stained Mahogany.   These woods are resistant to rot in the cool, damp environment of a cellar.  Customers usually choose one over the other due to matching decor colors in the cellar design. Mahogany is a hardwood and more of a lighter reddish and blond 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.

General Questions:
If you need more assistance on how to design and build your wine cellar, please contact our Wine Cellar Consultants. Or simply fax your room layout to (925) 447-8015 and we will preliminarily fax back to you a drawing of the racking system for your review at no charge with no obligations.

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