The first consideration when thinking about adding a custom wine cellar to your home is location. Will it be on the ground level of the home? Do you have a basement? Will it be on the 2nd floor or higher? Will your cellar be in the interior of the home and is it adjacent to an outside wall? Do you have a specific space you want to use like an existing closet, below a staircase, off the dining room, a pantry, an unused room or will you be adding an addition to your home? A wine cellar can be built in any of these locations. Each presents different challenges when adding a climate control system to the home.
The Climate Control System or Refrigeration or Cooling Unit… however you want to refer to it, is the second thing to consider. There are several types of systems available today. Each type comes in a variety of sizes to fit the size of your cellar. It is best to consult a wine cellar specialist to figure out the correct size and type of unit you will need.
Most units say they are good for a specific cubic footage size of cellar but don’t rely on that completely. There are many factors that come into play when deciding the size of unit you will need. Do you want a solid or a glass door? Are any of your walls exterior walls? If so, do they get direct sunlight? Do you have or are you going to have any windows in the room? What is the R value of the insulation you have used in the walls and ceiling? How much lighting are you using? Do you have any other things running in the room that would create any heat? All of these things will make a difference when determining the BTU’s needed to cool your wine cellar. A wine cellar specialist can do a “heat load calculation” using your specifications to determine the size of unit you will need.
The most cost-effective is a self-contained unit or “through the wall” system. This type of unit is just what it says. The evaporator and condenser are built into one unit which sits in the wall and vents from the cellar to the adjacent room. For this system to work, you must have a room next to the cellar that is at least twice the size of the wine cellar you are cooling and has heat and air conditioning. The unit will give off heat as it removes that heat from the cellar. You must also be OK with the unit showing through on the wall of the next room.
Some manufacturers make their units so that you have an option of making the self-contained unit into a ducted system. The unit can be placed in another room up to 25 feet from the cellar and the intake and return air can be ducted into the wine cellar. Please consult a wine cellar specialist before attempting this as only certain units will work correctly using this configuration.
Split systems come in two types. Ductless split systems and Ducted split systems.
With a Ductless split system, the evaporator fan coil will be inside the cellar and it will be connected to the compressor via two copper lines. The compressor can be in another room, which needs to be at least twice the size of the cellar, or outdoors, usually within 50 feet of the cellar. There are many varieties of ductless split systems to choose from. When designing your racking you can hide the evaporator fan coil with a grill cover and box in wood if you like to match your decor. Your wine cellar specialist will help you make the correct decision as to what will work best for your situation.
With a Ducted split system, the evaporator fan coil is located in another space from the wine cellar. The cold air is ducted into the cellar and the warm return air is ducted out. This is a great way to cool a wine cellar if you don’t want any cooling unit to show up in the room. For this system, you must have enough space to run the ductwork to and from the evaporator to your cellar. The compressor will sit either in another room that is at least twice the size of the cellar or outdoors and it is connected to the evaporator with two copper lines.
All cooling units require a drain line and all split systems require installation by a licensed HVAC contractor. It is best to use an HVACR contractor, one that is familiar with both air conditioning and refrigeration.
Once you know which cooling system you will use in your wine cellar, the next step is the racking design. Do you want a modern look with metal racking? Do you want a traditional look with traditional wooden racking, or do you want the look, feel, and smell of a winery in your wine cellar? All of these styles can be accomplished using different types of racking.
Metal wine racking is great if you want a modern look, need an easy way to store bottles around a curve or want a display in front of a window. The standard colors for metal racking is black or platinum, however, custom colors are also available.
Traditional wood racking is the most used type of racking for a wine cellar. The most common woods are redwood, mahogany, and alder. Pine can be used if it is not in a climate controlled room as pine does not hold up well in high humidity conditions or cold temperatures and it could crack or mildew with time. Other woods can also be used, but the price begins to climb.
There are two types of redwood, both from the same tree. The outer part of the redwood tree is a light color with reddish streaks running through it. There is more of this wood per tree so it costs the least. The heart of the redwood tree is a deep rich reddish color and is called All Heart Redwood. Since there is less of this wood per tree, it costs more.
Mahogany is a light brown color if left unfinished. Any of these woods can be left unfinished or stained and/or lacquered. Mahogany takes stain the best as it is a harder wood with a smoother color and grain. Do not attempt to stain or lacquer your racking yourself. The correct type of stain must be used so that the odor of the stain dissipates quickly and does not affect your wine. Lacquer, when applied at the factory where the racking is manufactured, is sprayed on, hand sanded down, and sprayed with a second coat, leaving you with a beautiful furniture finish. You can try either staining or lacquering using special products after you receive your racking but it will be very time consuming and cost you more in time and labor than having this done at the factory.
Traditional wood wine racks can come as “kit racks” or “custom racks”. Kit racking comes in several styles and types. However, it is what it is and the size of each kit is the size it comes in. Custom racking however, can be made in any configuration we can dream up. This offers you the most possibilities.
Racking can be made to fit just individual 750 ml bottle styles or you can add magnum storage, large champagne size racking, racking for split size bottles and even Jeroboam, Methuselah, or other big bottle sizes. You can have X bins or Diamond bins, rectangular or square bins all in either solid or lattice styles. You can have case storage that is stationary or with pull out shelves. High reveal or low reveal display rows, with or without LED ribbon lighting above. Even horizontal display rows can be figured in.
Do you want to lock up your most expensive wines? How about adding some lockers? A lazy susan rack for the corner is now a possibility. If you can dream it, it can be made. When considering your wine racking be sure to check that the individual bottle niche size is 3 ” wide to accommodate most of your larger or odd-shaped 750 ml bottles. Also, be sure your solid pieces are being made from real solid wood. Some companies will use veneer in the construction of their solid pieces. A good wine cellar design specialist will not use plywood and veneer, only real wood for their solid construction.
Most wine cellar specialists will provide you with a free 3D drawing so you can see what your wine cellar will look like when completed. Let your design specialist know if you are looking for maximum storage or if you are looking for a showplace. You may want a bit of both. The more you tell your design specialist about what you have in mind for your cellar, the better they will be at recommending and designing the cellar of your dreams.
Reclaimed wine barrel racking is another way to go. The beauty of the wood from reclaimed wine barrels and tanks will make a statement in your wine cellar. When entering a wine cellar where the racking is made from the reclaimed wine barrels, you can smell the wine that has permeated the wood. Your cellar will smell just like a winery and the racking is truly magnificent. Most styles of racking that can be constructed using the traditional method can also be created with wine barrel racks. No screws or nails are used as this racking is constructed with dowels and glue. The cost is higher than traditional racking but if you want a cellar that is exceptional, choose the wine barrel racking.
Choosing flooring for your wine cellar is one of the easiest tasks. You can use tile, granite, reclaimed wine barrel flooring or cork. You can use almost any flooring that will hold up well in the higher humidity of a wine cellar but do not use carpet or any product that might mold or mildew.
Your wine cellar door will take some thought because you will need a door that is made for a high humidity climate. LVL construction allows for the best insulation for your door and is less likely to warp from the higher humidity in a wine cellar. Your door must have adequate weather stripping. It must have a good seal below the door; this is where most of your cold air is lost in a wine cellar… under the door. An automatic door bottom is a great way to seal this area. If you want a wooden threshold instead, be sure to have sufficient weather stripping installed below the door to create a seal between the door and the threshold.
A solid door will provide the best insulation for your wine cellar. Many people want to see into their cellar, if this is the case, be sure your wine cellar door has dual pane tempered glass. Remember normal interior doors and hollow doors will not have sufficient insulation and core construction and will warp and will not help insulate your cellar. There are many designs available to choose from or a design specialist can customize a door just for you.
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