Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

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J Dove
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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#1 Post by J Dove » May 6th, 2018, 6:05 am

I'm tired of having my wine offsite and am finally having professional cellar built by a very reputable specialist.

Two questions for people with cellars:

(1) I'm going to be using lacquered (sic) ash. Has anyone had an issue with or heard of an issue with that non-oil based treatment affecting wine?

(2) Any advice along the lines of -- if, I had it to do over again, I'd...

I had a do-it-yourself cellar in my previous home but have stored it for the past 5 years since moving to CT. As great as I think the folks at Horse Ridge are, it's getting old...

Thanks in advance.
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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#2 Post by Kirk.Grant » May 6th, 2018, 6:26 am

More space for Champagne & magnums...
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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#3 Post by Mike Rotondo » May 6th, 2018, 6:47 am

I agree with Kirk on the racking for odd bottles and magnums - you can never have enough as they will always accommodate a standard bottle as well, if need be.

Also for me, to use 2x6 wall construction rather than 2x4. Really not sure why I didn't do that in the first place.

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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#4 Post by Warren Taranow » May 6th, 2018, 8:25 am

I agree with all of the above recommendations. Here are my rules:
1. Err on the side of racking to accommodate larger bottles versus Bordeaux bottle sized racking
2. Few diamond, square or rectangular boxes. Anything but a straight sided Bordeaux shaped bottle tends to slide out of these
3. Calculate what you think your maximum bottles will ever be, then triple that number for your cellar capacity.
4. Consider double deep racking to help you accomplish number 3.
5. Wood case racking if you buy by the case
6. Don’t waste space for tables, chairs, etc. Few friends will want to hang out in a 55 degree room.
7. Leave room for alternative storage (e.g. Weinboxes) in case you’ve ignored or underestimated number 3.
8. If you have a tall room, rack to the ceiling and use a small library ladder.

Good luck, and enjoy!

Cheers,

Warren
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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#5 Post by Steve Brickley » May 6th, 2018, 8:44 am

Well, I do have a chance to do it all over at a second home location. This time I am building a small closet. As soon as you open the wood framed glass insert door, the single row up and down of racks will be in front of you. It’ll be rather small, but perfect size for the apartment with 10+ foot ceilings. The thing I will do differently is that the shelving will be wood panels with no dividers or bars. They’ll just be adjustable flat shelves. Also, I will inset into the wall a cabinet channel that allows for those metal shelf clips. This will allow me to vary my shelf spacing size as needed for bottle size and to allow the shelves to have some pitch or incline. If I find bottles rattle or roll too much I will put down foam rubber shelf liner. I haven’t figured out if I want some type of pull out rack or cabinet on the bottom. At the very top I may put in a stack of half shelves for splits to allow for access up there. Finally, I will put in a split system with the inside unit up in the ceiling. I’ll have two recessed lights (maybe LED, maybe not) with a switch outside the closet. I have a picture of someone elses unit for looks, but it does not have the variable flat shelving. I think the small square stock isn’t necessary in my application. I’ll post the photo and hope the author of the photo doesn’t mind. Recommendations and advice is welcome.
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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#6 Post by Jeff Vaughan » May 6th, 2018, 9:07 am

Warren Taranow wrote:I agree with all of the above recommendations. Here are my rules:
1. Err on the side of racking to accommodate larger bottles versus Bordeaux bottle sized racking
2. Few diamond, square or rectangular boxes. Anything but a straight sided Bordeaux shaped bottle tends to slide out of these
3. Calculate what you think your maximum bottles will ever be, then triple that number for your cellar capacity.
4. Consider double deep racking to help you accomplish number 3.
5. Wood case racking if you buy by the case
6. Don’t waste space for tables, chairs, etc. Few friends will want to hang out in a 55 degree room.
7. Leave room for alternative storage (e.g. Weinboxes) in case you’ve ignored or underestimated number 3.
8. If you have a tall room, rack to the ceiling and use a small library ladder.

Good luck, and enjoy!

Cheers,

Warren
I agree on all counts here. Warren nails it.
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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#7 Post by alan weinberg » May 6th, 2018, 10:25 am

Jeff Vaughan wrote:
Warren Taranow wrote:I agree with all of the above recommendations. Here are my rules:
1. Err on the side of racking to accommodate larger bottles versus Bordeaux bottle sized racking
2. Few diamond, square or rectangular boxes. Anything but a straight sided Bordeaux shaped bottle tends to slide out of these
3. Calculate what you think your maximum bottles will ever be, then triple that number for your cellar capacity.
4. Consider double deep racking to help you accomplish number 3.
5. Wood case racking if you buy by the case
6. Don’t waste space for tables, chairs, etc. Few friends will want to hang out in a 55 degree room.
7. Leave room for alternative storage (e.g. Weinboxes) in case you’ve ignored or underestimated number 3.
8. If you have a tall room, rack to the ceiling and use a small library ladder.

Good luck, and enjoy!

Cheers,

Warren
I agree on all counts here. Warren nails it.
+1, also magnum storage.

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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#8 Post by Brian S t o t t e r » May 6th, 2018, 10:28 am

Warren, nice setup! How many bottles does it fit?
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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#9 Post by GregT » May 6th, 2018, 10:31 am

Don’t waste space for tables, chairs, etc. Few friends will want to hang out in a 55 degree room.

Especially this.

Except that unless you're really expecting to buy a lot of sparkling wine or magnums, I wouldn't worry about too much space for those. Over 30 years it's never been something I bought or drank a lot of. Burgundy/Rhone bottles are definitely an issue though, and bins are a pain for those.

I'd also slightly angle the bottles towards the back so that they're not exactly horizontal. If you do have to stack, especially in a bin, that is a lot more useful than having them slide out on you and if there's a minor tremor, you have a slight bit of protection if the bottles aren't perfectly horizontal.

I don't know what you're worried about with lacquer. You don't need any finish at all if you don't want one.
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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#10 Post by Warren Taranow » May 6th, 2018, 10:48 am

Brian S t o t t e r wrote:Warren, nice setup! How many bottles does it fit?
Thanks Brian! It’s a small space, a tool closet in my garage which I modified to my needs. I have about 2k bottles in it, but it’s really overfilled beyond its comfortable capacity.
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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#11 Post by alan weinberg » May 6th, 2018, 12:03 pm

also maximum R value insulation and consider cooling unit redundancy.

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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#12 Post by Anton D » May 6th, 2018, 12:23 pm

If I could re-do a few things...

Yup, larger capacity.

Double deep racks.

A dead zone/staging area for boxes yet to be sorted out.
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Building cellar: finishing the racking and 'what I would do differently'

#13 Post by Alan Eden » May 6th, 2018, 12:45 pm

I was surprised at cost of racking. A design for 1900 bottles was quoted at $10 k unfinished pine upto $16 k stained. Does that seem about right ?

Does include 300 mag/ bubbly slots and all bins are pinot size
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#14 Post by Lee Short » May 6th, 2018, 12:57 pm

GregT wrote: I don't know what you're worried about with lacquer. You don't need any finish at all if you don't want one.
For sure. My homemade racks made from unfinished cedar decking are 12 years old and still look nearly new.

I've settled on a mix of case-sized and individual bins. The case sized bins get you better bottle density. The individual bins are for bottles that don't play well with others (champagne, german, and oversized pinot come to mind first).

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#15 Post by Nathan Smyth » May 6th, 2018, 3:09 pm

1) How's the geological stability near you - any fault lines which could throw a 5.0 Richter tremor at you?

2) How's the meteorological stability near you - any Cat 2 or Cat 3 hurricanes coming your way in the near future?

3) Etc etc etc for brush fires, tornadoes, mud slides, floods...

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#16 Post by AndrewH » May 6th, 2018, 8:17 pm

Alan Eden wrote:I was surprised at cost of racking. A design for 1900 bottles was quoted at $10 k unfinished pine upto $16 k stained. Does that seem about right ?

Does include 300 mag/ bubbly slots and all bins are pinot size
What's included - assembly and installation?

To give you a baseline, I ordered from Wine Racks America, which worked out to about $3.50/bottle (all individual slots, most double deep). I had to assemble and I put my own finish on, so adding a fair amount of time.

If that's an all-in price, I think you're doing okay. If you have to assemble and install, I suspect you could get lower.
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#17 Post by Nathan Smyth » May 6th, 2018, 10:28 pm

Warren Taranow wrote:
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I don't mean to be rude, and I sincerely hope that that particular cellar is sitting atop a highly stable geology [wherever it is], but if if a 5.0 Richter tremor were to pass through that neighborhood, then that entire cellar is gonna be rendered into so much broken glass lying on the floor.

Which is the kinda thing that guys in California & Washington State & Alaska & Hawaii need to be obsessing about.

Even guys in places like Missouri & South Carolina, which have histories of very nasty quakes, need to be keeping that in mind when they design their cellars.

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#18 Post by Steve Brickley » May 6th, 2018, 11:42 pm

Nathan,

The earthquake topic is one I continue to consider. It is one of the reasons I like my offsite at Wine Bank. There I have my wine in boxes on metal shelves with a metal door that completes the tight quarters. At home where I keep a few, there is a risk but my cellar is only about four feet high with a cushioned floor where the better bottles are stored near the floor. I have thought about installing drapes of roll down netting that is used in commercial storage, but haven’t done so yet.

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#19 Post by Andrew Hamilton » May 7th, 2018, 1:28 am

Depending on your use case it might make sense to put a table in your cellar if you have the space. I've put one in mine for things like standing up old Barolo bottles for sediment settling before decanting. I feel much better having bottles standing up on a table in the cellar when compared to leaving them standing up on the floor. Plus when the day arrives for me to open the bottle to decant off the sediment I do everything in the cellar and don't move the bottle (other than to pour). I've done this process a couple times and I can tell you the amount of wine left behind with the sediment was absolutely minimal at best. The most recent case was the best result I've ever had in a decanting off sediment process from a leftover liquid perspective. Sadly, the wine itself (1964 F. Rinaldi Barolo) was oxidised. :/
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#20 Post by AndrewH » May 7th, 2018, 6:22 am

GregT wrote:
Except that unless you're really expecting to buy a lot of sparkling wine or magnums, I wouldn't worry about too much space for those. Over 30 years it's never been something I bought or drank a lot of.
Yeah, this is one of those tastes things. I wish I'd installed more half-bottle racking, as I've collected a few of those that well exceed the 2% of slots I have allocated to them. Magnum racks are still half empty (about 3% of racking). It all depends on what you tend to buy.
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#21 Post by J Dove » May 7th, 2018, 6:56 am

Alan Eden wrote:I was surprised at cost of racking. A design for 1900 bottles was quoted at $10 k unfinished pine upto $16 k stained. Does that seem about right ?

Does include 300 mag/ bubbly slots and all bins are pinot size

I'm doing something roughly the same size. My quote is a little more than double that for racking alone. There's a very wide range in what you can spend for racking. Given mine is being done with local Northeastern Ash (which is plentiful because all of the trees are dying) -- I'm now wondering if it's high. That said, I've seen the finished product and it's first rate.
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#22 Post by CJ Beazley » May 7th, 2018, 6:59 am

AndrewH wrote:
GregT wrote:
Except that unless you're really expecting to buy a lot of sparkling wine or magnums, I wouldn't worry about too much space for those. Over 30 years it's never been something I bought or drank a lot of.
Yeah, this is one of those tastes things. I wish I'd installed more half-bottle racking, as I've collected a few of those that well exceed the 2% of slots I have allocated to them. Magnum racks are still half empty (about 3% of racking). It all depends on what you tend to buy.
Fwiw, I put in quite a bit of half bottle racking (and I’m glad i did) but honestly half bottles are definitely the thing I buy in bulk the most. Having half bottle sized wooden/case size boxes might be the best storage solution.
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#23 Post by JonF » May 7th, 2018, 8:44 am

For that kind of money i would want Stainless Steel modular racking. However, i'm a metal fabricator and I made my own so that's my preference. Never did like the look of the vast expanses of dead tree carcass racking that lines the walls in the garish "homage to bacchus" rooms commonly seen in high end cellars. Shame there's few options for steel but they are out there.
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#24 Post by Sean Malloy » May 7th, 2018, 8:56 am

I especially second Warren's comment about diamond racking. It's pretty, but not very efficient. With all the different bottle sizes out there, it's really not great for anything except Bordeaux bottles, and is still a PITA with Bordeaux style bottles that get wider at the top. Stick with slots.

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#25 Post by Nathan V. » May 7th, 2018, 9:31 am

We made the cellar as part of a renovation and on the advice of fellow board member John Sprow, I don't have anything I would do differently because John's advice was spot on. The cellar isn't a showpiece and was never meant to be, but it is perfect for my needs and I don't think a bigger one would be a good idea for me.

I used redwood racking and for 1536 Champagne (fits everything but Krug), 1632 bottles (fits everything but Fourrier) and 180 Mags and I paid less than $11K delivered, but not installed. It is all double deep bottle racking and I wouldn't change that. The room has uneven wall height so I racked to the ceiling of the back wall, which is lower, and left a top shelf on either side. I use this to store the random 3L bottles that I have in their own boxes as well as a couple of things I want to keep in OWC. I think that diamonds or other bulk storage are useless. I need a step ladder to reach the top racks, but it's not an issue.

I used a Mitsubishi split system with a Cooltbot and it works great. The upside is that my home HVAC guys installed it and can repair it if necessary, this is really critical. We also had backup generator installed that can run a bunch of the house, including the cellar.

We used spray foam insulation and the temperature is really stable and the cooler rarely needs to run. We used a glass exterior door but it is in a spot where it won't get direct sunlight.

I have a table on casters that I find very useful for storing bottles upright and decanting as well as for half-finished re-corked bottles. It's also useful for cataloging and putting wine away. Being movable means it is never really in the way.

Something you will want to get are decanting baskets/cradles. I find that when I am at home, pulling the bottle on its side directly into the basket and then either serving as is or decanting using that is great. No more planning ahead to get sediment down.
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#26 Post by johnbonds » May 7th, 2018, 10:25 pm

I just finished my cellar and I'm actually redoing part of it because Krug bottles don't fit in standard racking and tip horribly in mag racks. I used unstained redwood which is perfect for my more modest budget friendly cellar. +1 on the double-deeps as it's a great way to get more space. Also I am definitely keeping 2 offsite lockers to store bottles that I'm not going to look at for at least 10-20 years (I'm still youngish).

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#27 Post by GregT » May 7th, 2018, 10:52 pm

However, i'm a metal fabricator and I made my own so that's my preference.
Well that's a great thing for you but most people don't do their own. I don't know from metal, but I made mine from wood because I like that dead tree expanse. I would never pay what some people are talking about and surely wouldn't pay to have someone build a cellar, but most people don't build things for themselves nowadays and wouldn't know where to begin.

Of course, they don't make their own wine either, or mill their wood or mine their metal.

I wish I could do some metal work. I like building things, and with wood to some extent know what I'm doing, but given that most people hire people to do things today, the OP kind of asked for lessons learned, no matter who built the cellar. Based on that request, a lot of the notes made so far are on point.
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#28 Post by Warren Taranow » May 8th, 2018, 8:38 am

Nathan Smyth wrote:
Warren Taranow wrote:
5BDA8E61-74D0-4FAC-B4E0-03564AC95021.jpeg
I don't mean to be rude, and I sincerely hope that that particular cellar is sitting atop a highly stable geology [wherever it is], but if if a 5.0 Richter tremor were to pass through that neighborhood, then that entire cellar is gonna be rendered into so much broken glass lying on the floor.

Which is the kinda thing that guys in California & Washington State & Alaska & Hawaii need to be obsessing about.

Even guys in places like Missouri & South Carolina, which have histories of very nasty quakes, need to be keeping that in mind when they design their cellars.

Nope, built on unstable geology, right near the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The wine is insured, and I have some "earthquake safety" measures built in, such as rubber straps I've fabricated, and pipe foam insulation over parts of the racking to lessen the sliding of bottles if things get rattling. However, if the Juan de Fuca plate slides further beneath the continent (North American plate) in my lifetime, I'll have bigger things to worry about than broken glass in my wine cellar.

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#29 Post by JonF » May 8th, 2018, 9:23 am

GregT wrote:
However, i'm a metal fabricator and I made my own so that's my preference.
Well that's a great thing for you but most people don't do their own. I don't know from metal, but I made mine from wood because I like that dead tree expanse. I would never pay what some people are talking about and surely wouldn't pay to have someone build a cellar, but most people don't build things for themselves nowadays and wouldn't know where to begin.

Of course, they don't make their own wine either, or mill their wood or mine their metal.

I wish I could do some metal work. I like building things, and with wood to some extent know what I'm doing, but given that most people hire people to do things today, the OP kind of asked for lessons learned, no matter who built the cellar. Based on that request, a lot of the notes made so far are on point.
OP asked what you would do differently. I had some wooden racking initially, not built in, just freestanding stands really. It wasn't modular so i had issues when i wanted to expand things. I looked at some various options being well aware that sometimes its cheaper to buy vs build but didn't see anything that fit the needs of my space. Still there some good metal racking options out there but its often overlooked since wood is just what people traditionally use for some unknown reason.
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#30 Post by Mike Maguire » May 8th, 2018, 3:30 pm

I had my space ready to go, Apex wine cellars finished it from there 1,200 750 spaces and 100 Magnum slots a couple glass racks, redwood racking.Mind you this was 2002 7k
For the racking and installation.

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#31 Post by Derek P » May 8th, 2018, 7:17 pm

Per the point on bottle shape variation, also look into bottle height variation if you're putting in an inclined display row on a single-depth racking. Some of my bottles (Carter is one) are too tall to go into the display row.

I could have easily solved for this at installation time by adding in some spacers where the racks mount to the wall (instead of mounting flush)

Minor inconvenience, but something I would do different.
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#32 Post by Jeffrey Neal » May 9th, 2018, 6:00 pm

Alan Eden wrote:I was surprised at cost of racking. A design for 1900 bottles was quoted at $10 k unfinished pine upto $16 k stained. Does that seem about right ?

Does include 300 mag/ bubbly slots and all bins are pinot size
That sounds high, but the finish is probably adding cost. I assume that includes installation? I have space for c. 1000 bottles and paid just over $4K for the racks in redwood. Go them from a Apex via Costco. They did the design based on my input. That did not include installation.

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#33 Post by Gerry Morrisey » May 10th, 2018, 4:29 am

Jeffrey Neal wrote:
Alan Eden wrote:I was surprised at cost of racking. A design for 1900 bottles was quoted at $10 k unfinished pine upto $16 k stained. Does that seem about right ?

Does include 300 mag/ bubbly slots and all bins are pinot size
That sounds high, but the finish is probably adding cost. I assume that includes installation? I have space for c. 1000 bottles and paid just over $4K for the racks in redwood. Go them from a Apex via Costco. They did the design based on my input. That did not include installation.
Unfortunately Costco is no longer offering racks from Apex. I went with Vigilant in Dover, NH. Total was just over $3k for about 1000 bottles in unfinished redwood. They do mostly commercial and custom work but do offer a very high quality selection of standard racking.

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