So You Want To Build a Wine Cellar…


I continue to receive numerous questions from people looking for advice on building a wine cellar, and whilst I can usually help to answer most peoples’ queries, I prefer to occasionally defer to the superior knowledge of my good friend Curtis Dahl, co-owner of Joseph & Curtis. Curtis is an expert in all matters wine cellar related, since his company builds some of the finest wine cellars known to humankind!

I accumulated a few wine cellar questions, as well as a few of my own and sent off an email to Curtis. This is what he said:


I’m looking to install a wine cellar in my house. Is there any reason why I can’t just do it myself?

“The explosion of wine enjoyment has many people installing wine rooms, cabinets, and even tasting rooms and creating everything from simple wine storage to full blown adult entertainment destinations. I cannot tell you how vital it is to have a design team which can capture the full potential of each space.”


Are there ever times when people contact you after having tried to build their own wine cellar, and you had to “step in” and fix it?

“All the time! Several times people have called us to help build a wine cellar after they started by purchasing a flat-packed ‘wine cellar in a box’ one of the leading on-line wine rack retailers. They then tried to assemble it themselves, only to find it extremely difficult and time consuming, and even when they got the thing built, they realized the quality to be poor.
Other times its been cooling systems that were purchased, but burnt-out, with the reason being the system that was purchased was not the right size and the vapor barrier/insulation was in-adequate.”


Let’s say I have a small room that I’m looking to convert into a wine cellar. What are the different options that are available to me?

“In a simple wine cellar there are often 6-10 different trades for a 10 x 10 wine cellar…and with that comes specific design challenges that require professionals. They can help to foresee vapor barrier issues, electrical layouts, climate control locations, materials specific to a refrigerated space, energy efficiency, types of racking and finishes, and decorative touches as well. So having a professional look over the available options will help in overall efficiency,bottle capacity, and longevity (all of which will save you money in the long term)”


So, you would say it’s important to have a professionally designed “sketch’ done before attempting a larger wine cellar project?

“Clients should feel as comfortable with the designer’s wine cellar design vision as the designer does. This is where the importance of 3D CAD drawings come into play. Joseph & Curtis always takes specific measurements and implements them into our sketch ups so that there is nothing left to interpretation. A creative design team can turn eyesores into focal points with just a little creativity and some hard work.
An example would be an ugly beam running through the wine room which could be boxed out and veneered over with case bins (shown below). That particular application would be shown in the actual 3-d cad. So, as you plan your wine room, it’s always great to look at photos from the web, but the best bang for your dollar is a certified wine cellar designer who can bring all of your dreams to life.”

So You Want To Build a Wine Cellar...

What type of wine racking works best? Are there any benefits and constraints to the different types? What do you prefer?

“It really comes down to the look desired and budget. Mahogany is our first choice but we have built wine cellars out of exotics such as African Wenge,Jarra,Lyptus,Brazilian Cherry,White Oak so really sky is the limit. You just have to make sure the wood will hold up to the conditions of the wine room. Pine is never an option, at least for us.”

How long does a professionally built wine cellar take to build; for example, for a 10×10 room?

“The wine racking normally takes 4-6 weeks. The construction phase would be 2-3 weeks.”


Do all wine cooling units always need to have a way to ventilate? If so, that will obviously play a big role in the room of the house where the cellar in located, correct?

“Self contained cooling units do vent out the back and should vent into a room that is at least the size of the wine room, but ductless splits and ducted units do not need to vent outside or need the same venting size.”


Does wine cellar design vary according to the types of wine a collector plan to store? Say for example, if I only plan on storing red wine…?

“Sure it can be crazy specific (we had a client ask for 65 Magnums) or it can be generic with common openings like diamond bins or cubes. We build all of our racking, so anything is possible.”


I hear a lot about how it’s important to have appropriate wall insulation and vapor barriers. Why is this important and what do you use?

“Best scenario is 2lb closed cell spray foam…it is both the vapor barrier and insulator. Rigid foam is also a good choice if used properly.”


Ok, so what kind of budget are we talkin, and what is the most inexpensive wine cellars you have built, and the most expensive?

“There is no budget too small or large – your cellar, your budget! Our inexpensive would be a passive wine cellar without cooling which was $7k. The most expensive would be 100k ++++”


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