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Ultimate Guide to DIY Wine Cellars

You love wine and find yourself collecting more and more of it. The pile of cases under your stairs is growing, and so is your anxiety as your uncork older and older bottles; will they have aged gracefully, developing nuances in flavor or will they have turned to vinegar?!?!

Building a wine cellar is certainly no small project, but for those on a budget and willing to roll up their sleeves we've prepared the ultimate guide to DIY wine cellars:

Step 1: Location, Location, Location!

Find a space in your home that is away from direct sunlight, preferably north-facing. A basement or other naturally cooler area is best. Avoid areas with in-flooring heating or other heat influences. An existing storage room or other small room that can be dedicated as a wine cellar means you won't need to frame new walls. 

Step 2: Consult with a Professional & Choose a Refrigeration System

Many wine cellar companies, Blue Grouse included offer complimentary wine cellar refrigeration consultations. If you want to build a proper wine cellar, you will need a cooling system and that's not a component you'll be able to DIY. When consulting with a professional, they will need to understand the dimensions of your room (length, width and height), the maximum temperature in the spaces around the wine cellar, and the space surrounding the cellar. Explain during your consultation that you'd prefer a self-contained wine cellar refrigeration unit as they do not require a licensed HVAC technician to install and can often be as simple an framing an opening in the wall and mounting the unit through the opening. If you have basic carpentry skills, you can DIY the install! A few things to keep in mind to make a self-contained refrigeration a reality for your cellar space:

1) The unit will need to exhaust warm air directly outside of the cellar. So, when choosing where to mount the unit through the wall, make sure the non-cellar side of the wall is open to a large, well-ventilated area where the heat can dissipate.

2) There will be some level of sound from the condenser so you won't likely want to vent it into an area or room where this sound will be undesirable.

3) You will see the backside of the unit where it is mounted through the wall on the outside of the cellar. Factor this in when choosing where to vent the unit to as it will be visible on/through the wall.

4) Many self-contained wine cellar refrigeration systems have the option to duct them either into the cellar or to duct the exhaust side of the unit to another room. This can be a good option to limit sound from the condenser, eliminate the view of the unit from inside or outside of the cellar, or to address more complicated ventilation scenarios. Just keep in mind that ducting for these units is typically at least 8" round and two ducts are required on either or both the supply or exhaust side of the unit. This takes up quite a lot of room!

Step 3: Make the Space as Efficient as Possible

When it comes to climate-controlling a wine cellar, the refrigeration system isn't the only item to consider. The space that the refrigeration system is cooling needs to be air-tight and well-insulated/vapor barriered.

You'll want to strive for R-20 insulation in the walls and R-30 in the floor/ceiling. A vapor barrier should be installed on the warm side of the insulation (ie. the non-wine cellar side). This will require either framing in the room to add this insulation/vapor barrier or demolishing the existing drywall to add the insulation and vapor barrier to the wall cavity and then installing new drywall. Note that skipping this step will present a challenge to your refrigeration system so it won't cool the room properly and over time, you may develop an issue with mold. 

Step 4: Choose a Wine Racking System

The fun part! There are many wine racking systems available but they generally fall into the categories of modular or custom. For the purposes of building a DIY wine cellar, you'll want to choose a modular or off-the-shelf system as it will be simpler to install and comes with detailed assembly and installation instructions.

If you're really handy, you may be able to build your own wine racking, but in our experience, the time and expense involved in building racking from scratch often outweighs that of sourcing a modular system and installing yourself.

Again, even if you're going to DIY the installation of the wine racking, use the resources of a wine cellar design professional to help you choose the best racking system for your space, budget and collection. Book a complementary consultation here

To give you an idea of some more cost-effective, DIY-friendly wine racking systems, check out the list below:

VINdustry Wine Peg and Panel Kits

Precision Wood Racking Display Sets

Vintage View W Series Wall-Mounted Metal Wine Racks

Vino Mode Wall- Mounted Metal Wine Racks

Millesime Wine Racking with Aluminum Rails

Step 5: Finishing Touches for Your DIY Wine Cellar

Beyond the construction of the walls, wine cellar refrigeration system and wine racking you'll want to consider the door, flooring and other room finishes.

Wine Cellar Door
The most important thing when sourcing a door for your DIY wine cellar, is that it should be exterior grade with weather-stripping and threshold or drop down sweep to provide an air-tight installation. You may want to choose a door with a glass insert to provide visibility into your cellar and make it more of a show-piece. This is fine, but we recommend the glass be dual pane with an argon gas sealed unit for maximum efficiency. 

Wine Cellar Flooring
This comes down primarily to your aesthetic and budgetary requirements. Almost any flooring works in a wine cellar, just avoid carpet. Some clients like to choose a softer surface like cork so its a little more forgiving should you drop a bottle.

Wall Finishes
The simplest finish will be painted drywall but you may want to add some interest to your DIY wine cellar design with wood cladding, tile, stone or anything else. Just keep in mind that surfaces like tile will be a lot harder to drill though (and the potential for cracking is real) and that any uneven or textured surface may limit you to installing a floor-to-ceiling mounted system. And on that note, if you are planning to install a floor-to-ceiling mounted wine racking system, you typically need to ensure you have solid, structural backing to mount into. Consider this when building out the room and before new drywall is installed!

 Step 6: Stocking up your DIY Wine Cellar

Ok, this is really the fun part! Now that you have a properly-constructed and climate-controlled wine cellar, you have a safe place to store and gracefully age as much wine as you can fit in the space. Consider purchasing at least a few of the same bottle at a time so you can drink one now, and the others at different intervals down the road. It's great to see how the wine develops over time and as the producer intended! When purchasing wine, consider using an inventory management system to keep track of your collection, make tasting notes and identify when specific bottles will be at their prime. 

Happy collecting!