How to Turn Your Basement into a Wine Cellar

Turning your basement into a wine cellar is a dream come true for many homeowners. However, many don’t know what’s necessary for a proper wine cellar. Putting up a few nice-looking racks or cabinets in a basement that isn’t adequately outfitted could cause you to ruin the wine. To help you get a better idea of what you’ll need for a complete remodel, we will give you a few tips and ideas on how to turn your basement into a wine cellar.

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The kind of basement that’s adequate for a wine cellar remodel

We don’t want to crush your hopes, but not every basement will be a good fit for a wine cellar. Before you purchase remodeling supplies, we suggest that you make a checklist and perform an inspection of your basement. This will give you a good idea of what you have to work with and what kind of adjustments will be required. Here are the qualities of a basement that could easily be turned into a wine cellar:

Constant temperature

You can adjust the temperature in your wine cellar with a specialized cooling unit, at least to a certain degree. However, if your home is located in a region with extreme temperature shifts, your basement might require additional insulation. A constant temperature is required during both the hot and the cold months of the year. Therefore, scorching summers and freezing winters are going to be problematic. Unfortunately, the basements in most houses don’t have great insulation since they were never intended to be wine cellars.

If you don’t want your wine to spoil, your cellar will need a constant temperature between 40 and 65 degrees (4-18°C). Keep in mind that you will be able to adjust the temperature a bit through your HVAC. For now, you want to make an initial assessment of how much padding you need to keep your cellar at that temperature. 

You will need to regulate the temperature and humidity in your basement, so the wine doesn't spoil
You will need to regulate the temperature and humidity in your basement, so the wine doesn’t spoil

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Adequate humidity

Just like with the temperature, your wine cellar will require a constant level of humidity. Again, technology can come to the rescue, and a humidifier can do wonders. Ideally, the humidity level for your wine cellar should be between 50 and 70 percent. If the cellar is too humid, you can expect mold to form. On the other hand, dry cellars can cause the corks to shrink and dry up, thus compromising the wine. If you want to turn your basement into a wine cellar, you will need to install vapor barriers.

Some people envision their wine cellar to function as a bar or lounging area where you can entertain guests. This might require that you install a sink, toilet, and other features which could interfere with the level of humidity. Small basements could have issues fitting all of these additional amenities, so you should be realistic when drafting the floor plan.

No natural light

The UV rays from sunlight can ruin your wine, so you will need to wall up all windows. This shouldn’t be a problem for most basements since the windows generally tend to be small. You should also pay attention when selecting artificial light and try to avoid fluorescent lighting. There’s a reason most wine bottles use dark glass, and that’s to protect the wine from ultraviolet light. If wine is exposed to intense ultraviolet light, it will cause the tannins to oxidize, and the wine will take on a strong, unpleasant aroma. 

No vibrations

If your home is in a high transit area, the resulting vibrations could cause the body of the wine to stir. Even micro-vibrations from improperly installed cooling systems can disturb the natural biochemical process of maturation and ruin fine wines. If your basement wall is close to the street or a nearby road, the traffic can cause your wine to roll. Some homes that aren’t near large motorways can still have problems with garbage pickup trucks.

Soft light in a dark wine cellar.
A wine cellar requires dim light and absolutely no sunlight.

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Here’s how to turn your basement into a wine cellar

Below is all you will need to do to runt your basement into a wine cellar that will keep your collection safe. But before you go ahead, consider hiring a professional like 1300 rubbish to clear the space.

Make sure that the room can be hermetically sealed

Most regular basement renovations will require that you patch up any water damage and control the moisture. However, when constructing a wine cellar, you need to consider a few more things. Your future wine cellar will need to be airtight. Close your basement door and check for air leaks. It would be best to also inspect for any cracks in the walls or water leaks. Water in your basement can cause severe problems for your home’s foundation, and such issues should be dealt with immediately.

You might also need to replace the basement door. Due to the light issues we mentioned earlier, no glass panel doors will be adequate. Keep in mind that you will need to check for air leaks after the new door has been installed if you are replacing the basement door.

Decide on the lighting

Besides walling up the windows to avoid natural light, you should also be careful when installing artificial light. You should generally avoid photo-reflective surfaces and steer clear of recessed lighting. Instead, go for low voltage track lighting. Another good idea would be to set motion sensors on the lights with automatic light switches. This way, there will be no chance for you to forget the lights in the basement since they turn off by themselves. Surface-mounted LED lights are also great options for wine cellar lighting. LEDs produce very little heat, and you avoid losing temperature like with some pot light fixtures.

Install insulation

Your wine cellar will require vapor barriers, as well as regular insulation. Generally, the plastic sheeting of the vapor barriers should be placed behind the insulation. Remember that you shouldn’t place the barrier on the cold side of the wall, which is the one facing the wine cellar. If you put the vapor barrier on the cold side, it will trap the moisture in the cellar, leading to mold and other issues. For the insulation, you will need to use furring strips and blue board insulation with a rating of at least R-19. You can patch up any cracks in the walls with spray foam and use a drywall covering.

Basement during remodeling into a wine cellar.
You will need to wall up the windows and remove the carpeting.

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Install a cooling system

We suggest that you go with a specialized wine cellar cooling unit. When choosing the cooling system for your basement, consider the volume of the room and think of a good place for the external unit. Most systems that require a connection through the wall will heat the space behind the cooling unit. Therefore, you should be careful about the placement of the external unit since it will produce a bit of noise and heat. You should probably get the help of a licensed HVAC contractor to install the cooling system for you. 

Modern cooling systems will also help you regulate the humidity in your cellar. However, you should still check to see how the system performs after installation. You can use a basic thermometer and hygrometer to measure the temperature and the humidity. Make a habit of regularly performing these kinds of checks to ensure your system is running well.

Remove all carpeting and hardwood floors

Unfortunately, you will be very limited when it comes to flooring options for your wine cellar. Your best option is to use tiles or even a bare concrete floor. Remember that the concrete floor must be sealed since it can be porous. You’ll want to pack up and remove anything porous. This means that you can’t use your basement for storage and have it be a wine cellar at the same time. If your basement is full of possessions or furniture, you will have to remove them from there. It’s best to rely on experts for this process. Hire a professional packing and moving service to get everything out of the basement in no time. 

Be careful how you decorate

Now the only thing left is the finishing touches. You will probably want to paint your basement. The only paints you can use are water-based, zero VOC paints. Anything else can affect the quality of the wine. Before moving the bottles in, you should wait for the room to dry and adequately air it. We recommend using wooden wine racks to hold your bottles horizontally or tilted so the wine keeps the corks moist.

In conclusion

As you can see, making a wine cellar in your home is quite a project. We’ve explained what’s required and how to turn your basement into a wine cellar. Unfortunately, due to the specific needs for storing wine, not every basement is cut out for the job. Now it’s up to you to figure out if your basement is a good fit and start making the necessary preparation

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