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Well I finally decided to begin construction of a new wine cellar this weekend. I was debating whether I wanted to undertake this project myself. Despite my concerns I just jumped in.

Primarily, I was concerned with the enormous amount of work involved. However, I really need to do something about space. Then when I saw the amount of money I had invested in wine (after setting up Cellartracker); that was it.

I currently have a half basement. The other half is excavated to 6.5 ft. deep but has a dirt floor. Since my house is 60 years old, the first step was to clean out the debris left in the crawlspace from the previous owner, most of it from the 1950's and 1960's (an old swingset, TV tube, lawnmower, go cart, paint cans, etc.). Once that is done I will have to:

1) Cut a doorway through the cinder block wall separating the basement from the crawlspace (there is only a 3' x 3' opening now)
2) put a drain tile system in
3) pour cement footings for the walls
4) frame out and build the walls and ceiling
5) run electricity
6) install a stone floor and some decorative brickwork
7) Install existing shelving and build additional shelving (including island)

So far I've only started the cleanup and made the cuts for the doorway. Since I am going to do all the work myself, I think the project will be done about the same time my 2000 Bordeaux matures.


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Wow. That's quite the undertaking! I admire your commitment to get the project done in spite of all that stands in your way! I'm curious: why are you opting to do the work yourself instead of hiring a company to do it? No doubt the satisfaction of knowing you did it yourself is a driving factor, but what else?

In any case, you'll have a great cellar and will surely enjoy it. Good luck to you! Big Grin
I enjoy the work. It gives me the opportunity to work with my hands which is not something I do in my profession. I've done quite a bit of work around the house myself (remodeled the kitchen and bath, added on a pantry and garage, built a deck and installed a stone patio with retaining walls). I find that is is much more gratifying to be able to do a job yourself. And I can spend the money I save on wine to fill the cellar.


Good luck with the project. Sounds like every man's DIY dream (or nightmare).

BTW, I hear that you are not so good with your hands based on feedback on your wiffle ball skills... perhaps you should pay someone else to do it???

Seriously, good luck. What dimensions are you building too (meaning, how many bottles do you think you'll be able to get in your cellar when it's finished in 2010?).

VM You are undertaking an enjoyable project. Here are a few suggestions to consider that may make your venture easier. You probably already have these suggestions covered (I've already seen your meticulous wine notes), but these suggestions are from experience!

1. Be sure to take some pix at each stage of construction.

2. Consider contacting an insulation company instead of buying the R-33 pink stuff. I used a company which sprayed on 6" of poly something! Anyway, it is super insulating.

3. Consider track lighting, combined with low voltage accent lighting for affect.

4. Alarm your cellar. I have noise, movement, and temperature alarm settings.

5. Considering using the waterproof sheetrock and do a double vapor barrier, with the spay foam or pink insulation in the middle.

6. When installing the sheetrock, use 2 1/2 to 3 inch sheetrock screws (not nails) and use 4 times the screws that a "pro rock installer" recommends!

6. Consider using a pro tile setter for your floor and/or walls. I used slate and sealed it after it was installed. It helps retain the cold and is very attractive.

7. I had to cut through brick and I used a contractor to cut the brick and install the insulated door.

8. If you buy your racks from a company, be sure to consider using a finish carpenter to install them and be sure to include some extra screws (3 inch)

9. If you need to run electricity wiring behind the sheetrock, be sure to clearly mark its path, so you won't be screwing the racks to the rock without a guide.

10. Use some diamond shaped bins, and be sure to consider some OWC storage. I have 20 but i wished I had 40/50! Don't forget the magnum bins....

11. My cellar has a 10' ceiling, but I made my racks only 8' and built a shelf on top, so you have some room to display above.

12. Finally, buy a book on cellar building before you start. It will help! However, I have built three cellars and IMO, I still haven't got it completely right!

Good Luck with your challenge!
VM- Good luck, I'm sure it'll be gratifying. It took me most of last summer to build mine and I didn't have nearly the same volume of work as you do.

If you need insulation advice I'd be glad to help. Also, I'm assuming you have Gold's book. Remember that cinderblock and brick are terrible insulators. You're best off insulating every wall, even the external ones.
Congrats on the undertaking VM!

I built my own as well (not as complicated as I converted finished basement space, needed to build one wall). I agree with what's been said above.

My additional thoughts:

1. You can combine insulation. I used the thick foam board insulation that comes in 4x8 sheets over existing pink stuff in external walls. I also inserted pink stuff in ceiling and then put up the foam board. I used deck screws with cheap plastic washers to secure. Cut it to fit between studs for new wall and covered with a second layer.
2. I lined the entire room with 1/2 inch plywood because I did tounge-and-groove mahogany walls/cieling. Not a bad idea even if you are doing green board so you can mount anything anywhere with the plywood backing to ensure strength. Again deck screws into studs.
3. I did not install electricity (other than for lighting hooked to external switch). Cooling unit electrity is run externally. I'm regreting not having a plug in there. I keep worrying about humity (perhaps unnecessarliy)and would have like to put a "cool mist" or evaporative humidifer in there. I may add an outlet.
4. Despite hyperinsulating (R40-50), I installed triple-pane refrigeration windows and double-paned french doors as the entryway. Wow do I have alot of cold loss. (Good news is I will likely expand the cellar to take over the rest of the room so QPRs can go outside the main cellar in the cool, but not tryly climate controlled, part of the area). Just know you be losing cold through glss if you use it for your door.
5. Scary how fast it fills up. Really scary. Depending on the space layout and location of existing walls, it may be worth going a little bigger. You don't have to install racks in every square foot, and extra space leaves room for stacking wooden wine boxes.



If brick is such a bad insulator, why do we build houses in cold places with it instead of wood and polystyrene?


Why a finnish carpenter? Aren't american carpenters just as good (see pt 8).

Ok, so I admit I'm bored. Anyone have a job that pays exceedingly good money for not doing alot except cracking bad jokes all day?

VM One more thing, but I'll bet you already have this covered: Half bottles spaces are necessary--I have very few half bottles of Red Wine, but the dessert wines fit in those spaces, so be sure to have enough to accommodate your collection. Also Champagne & Pinot bottles demand their own racks and Cal Cab & Bordeaux bottles will fall though the Pinot racks.....In other words: take a good look at your collection as of today, project its future, then select the appropriate racking construction!
BirD- Brick is a better insulator than nothing and stands up well to weather, that's why we use it. I think it has an "R" value of something like 1 or 2 per inch, compared to real insulation with values of 5-8 per inch.

Tua- I've used Thermax, also known as Tuff-R (it's the same stuff, both made by Dow Chemicals). The 1" and 1/2" stuff is available at Home Depot, IIRC about $12 per board. It's light, easy to cut, and generally easy to work with. The only thing is that you can get nasty little fiberglass-like splinters from it, so you need to wear gloves. The "R" value of it is 6.5 or so per inch, compared to 4 or 5 per inch for the pink extruded polystyrene. It has a reflective coating on one side that works a little as a vapor barrier, but isn't that big of a deal. My insulation thread is here. A lot of it is me talking to myself, but there may be helpful information for you.
I'm getting started on my cellar soon (as soon as the bathroom is done!?!?) I'm one of those guys with good taste and not enough dough to pay for it. Doing this kind of work is necessary for continuing my expensive hobbies. I also do intricate work with my hands all day long and like to come home and just swing a hammer sometimes. Good luch vino me and lets see some pictures. I could learn from your process.
Originally posted by Vino Me:

I hadn't thought of having the Lady Vino Me do any of the heavy work. I don't know what I was thinking. Our anniversary is just arounf the corner and a new sledgehammer would be the perfect gift. She does look cute in leather work gloves and goggles.



don't forget the hardhat, and you can get her a Village People CD for her to work to.
I did not look real close but you must have an airconditioning (and Chicago) heating unit. I am in Huntington Beach and a friend had his dry up but I had my airconditioning/heating unit set at an angle so that the moisture came back into the cellar. It worked well. The friend without who let it dry out, had over 250 bottles with cork problems before he realized, he needed to do what I did. Keep the moisture in the cellar.

Also, a tip, if you open some wines that are not so good, pour them out on the cellar floor, they will add a nice aroma to the cellar.

In my case, because some of the shelves not treated perfectly, I poured a little wine on the floor for the first month, to get the sting out of the air. Wood has to be properly treated and stained correctly.

Like the above says, it is hard to do it all correctly, especially the first time.

Good luck and you will enjoy.
Vino Me, great pictures! This will be a great wine cellar when it's done (at this rate, let's see... in 2010)... Smile

How big will the room be?

My advice and opinions if you want them:

When I was designing my cellar, a decorator friend told me that "lighting is key", and she was right. I have four different light switches outside my cellar, all with dimmer switches. For my tastes, track lighting is a little cheesy. I would go with small can spotlights, or pin lights. And a whole bunch of them. About 3-4" or so; the kind that you can point where you want. Stay away from white. Cheesy. I'd also plan on a display row of some type and install rope lighting here and wherever else appropriate - what I'm trying to say here is that you might want to hide some lighting within whatever racking and display shelves you decide to have. You want to be able to have a fair amount of control over the lights, so I would make sure that you spread the lighting up over several different switches, all with dimmers. This really doesn't cost much, and you will be sorry later if you don't do it.

Don't go with off-the-shelf racks in a room with this much potential. Go floor to ceiling with custom racks that fit the space, and put crown molding on the floor seam and ceiling seam. Don't leave space on top of the racks for boxes; you can always design room for boxes within your racking design. Putting the boxes on top of the racking makes it look like a closet. Also cheesy. Go with curved corners. It looks so much better. Make sure some of your racking fits half-bottles and magnums. Double-deep racking is an easy way to racking is a way to increase your cellar capacity, and it also give some texture to the room if you do it right - for example, you can have the lower half of one wall be double-deep racking, and the upper half be regular racking, with a countertop (e.g. granite) above the lower racking. And curve the corners - sharp corners = cheesy. Diamond bins add some great visual texture if done right, but whatever you do, don't do the "X in a box" thing. Cheesy.

I've never liked the look of a painted wall behind a wine rack. Cheesy. If possible, panel the room with the same type of wood as the wine rack. Or maybe some sort of stone or stucco.

What sort of door are you going to have leading into the cellar? What about the floor?
Latour- I hope it will be mostly complete by next Summer. I will be building the racks myself. It will be passive with the capability of adding an A/C unit if the temperature does not work out the way I hope.

SM- I will be doing the electrical myself so I can set up the lights however I want. Thanks for the suggestions. The racks will be floor to ceiling because I will build them. I already plan to build shelves for half bottles, double deep racking and diamond racks (the latter will be set into an arched brick cove. There will be no curved corners though as every corner will end at a brick column (hard to explain but it will look nice). As for the painting, I think my wife is looking forward to painting a mural on the exposed areas. The door will be a 12 pane old glass door and the floor will be Pennsyvania blue stone to match our exterior patio. Did I answer all your questions?

It sounds great, Vino Me.

Glass doors work fine, but I think it needs to be external-grade. I have one leading to my wine cellar. If it's not, I think it will lead to condensation problems on the door. But glass on the door is a must - you want to be able to look in at your wine cellar!

What are the dimensions of the room, Vino Me?
VM Depending on the ambient temp during the hottest summer months, (but perhaps after insulation, your temp will be constant year round) I think you might want to consider a Breezeaire, Whisperkool, or even a Home Depot portable A/C which stands outside the cellar but carries the air into the cellar thru a small vent (the hot air can be vented into unused cellar space, or to the outside). I'm fairly sure you don't need to go to the expense of a split system at your latitude.

Anyway, I seem to remember reading that RMP has a friend who has a passive cellar where the temp is 61-62 degrees, and Parker says wines from his friend's cellar seem to always taste better than wines from his own cellar. I just don't know if he means quality or economy! Eek

Keep up the good work and keep us posted on the progress.

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