Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

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David_K
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Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#1 Post by David_K » April 27th, 2019, 5:35 pm

So we are in the process of moving and just bought a house. While I'd love a home cellar, homes are small and scarce around here so that couldn't be a primary consideration. The house we bought has a finished basement with a few unfinished areas off of it. One is the boiler room, so that's out. The other is this galley-style room with the fuse box in it (not visible in picture). Could this work? I'm not sure what the pipes in there are for, so that concerns me. Thinking perhaps racking all along the left-hand side.

Any thoughts?
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#2 Post by Kirk.Grant » April 27th, 2019, 5:41 pm

I would just buy a Eurocave...probably can be done for less too.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#3 Post by Nathan Smyth » April 27th, 2019, 5:50 pm

I would not enclose the circuit breaker box in any weird temperature/humidity-altering circumstances.

Not only would that almost certainly be a violation of Massachusetts building codes, but it would be an incredibly stupid thing to do.

You'd want something like industrial marine-grade components in there, and even then, the copper wires would probably turn green & nasty & start rotting & oozing gunk all over the place.

When non-stainless metal gets exposed to the elements, it very quickly turns to mush.

And even stainless will rot eventually.

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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#4 Post by David_K » April 27th, 2019, 6:15 pm

Nathan - all good points. What about passive racking, w/o temp and humidity control? I will find out for sure in a few months, but I have a feeling it stays pretty cool down there.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#5 Post by ky1em!ttskus » April 27th, 2019, 6:37 pm

David_K wrote:
April 27th, 2019, 6:15 pm
Nathan - all good points. What about passive racking, w/o temp and humidity control? I will find out for sure in a few months, but I have a feeling it stays pretty cool down there.
If you keep a constant temp that you’re comfortable with, I’d rack every square inch I could and fill ‘er up!

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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#6 Post by Nathan Smyth » April 27th, 2019, 7:17 pm

ky1em!ttskus wrote:
April 27th, 2019, 6:37 pm
David_K wrote:
April 27th, 2019, 6:15 pm
Nathan - all good points. What about passive racking, w/o temp and humidity control? I will find out for sure in a few months, but I have a feeling it stays pretty cool down there.
If you keep a constant temp that you’re comfortable with, I’d rack every square inch I could and fill ‘er up!
Agreed.

Passive is always the best choice.

If that floor is at grade [surface of the soil], or, better yet, below grade, then in Massachusetts, you shouldn't have anything to worry about [unless you're in the flood plain of a river, or within storm surge at the beach].

People Down South would kill to be able to have passive cellars like that.

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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#7 Post by Nathan Smyth » April 27th, 2019, 7:20 pm

Also, in the Northern Hemisphere, the very best passive cellars are on the north of the house.

The south side of the house absorbs the direct hit from the sunlight, whereas the north side of the house tends to be largely in the shade.

Also, big leafy trees can help to keep things cool [or at least cooler than they would be otherwise].

Down South, before air conditioning, people used to grow monster big trees on the south sides of their houses, and then they'd spend the afternoon on covered porches on the north sides of their houses.

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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#8 Post by Dave H. » April 27th, 2019, 7:24 pm

Seems like a great place to put wine. You have a subterranean bonus space—you’re golden.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#9 Post by GregT » April 27th, 2019, 8:07 pm

What are the pipes? Are they supply, drain, hot, cold? You may want to wrap if one is the hot water supply to somewhere, and sometimes the cold supply will sweat, depending on the heat of the surrounding air. The white one on the left looks like some kind of drain pipe. I'd build under that. You may be able to put a wall unit in if the temp isn't that cold - I have a basement at the moment but it's over 70 degrees, so isn't really ideal. You could probably buy a tiny room AC for around $100 and jam it into the wall to keep things in the low 60s if necesary. Don't even need to trick it out.

If you could get a constant temp, I'd do as suggested. Make sure the circuit breakers are accessible and in case the pipes ever leak, you'll want access to them too. Seems small but useful - you don't need to spend a lot of money on it. I'd do everything myself rather than hire someone. Good luck with it!
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#10 Post by David_K » April 28th, 2019, 4:10 am

Thanks all! Greg -- not sure what the pipes are for. Good point re: condensation etc.

Glad to hear this may have some promise. Now just need to wait until summer to see how the temperature is in there.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#11 Post by Brian Gilp » April 28th, 2019, 5:15 am

Is the finished part to the left where there is a door and is that wall insulated? It should be but I hate assuming. Is the right wall the exterior wall? From the picture I’m not sure. But if you have one exterior wall and the floor as heat sinks you should be fine. I have a set up that is similar in MD but not as good given mine has a window and and it’s still fine. In Massachusetts there shouldn’t be any problem.

If both walls are to finished spaces then I am not sure and probably depends on how temp is maintained in the finished spaces. My finished spaces run significantly warmer even with the A/C pushing cold air into the basement. I attribute that to the insulation on the exterior walls and the flooring over the cement cutting down on the natural heat sink that would otherwise exist. But there may be other reasons as well such as the southern exposure.

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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#12 Post by David_K » April 28th, 2019, 10:04 am

Brian Gilp wrote:
April 28th, 2019, 5:15 am
Is the finished part to the left where there is a door and is that wall insulated? It should be but I hate assuming. Is the right wall the exterior wall? From the picture I’m not sure. But if you have one exterior wall and the floor as heat sinks you should be fine. I have a set up that is similar in MD but not as good given mine has a window and and it’s still fine. In Massachusetts there shouldn’t be any problem.

If both walls are to finished spaces then I am not sure and probably depends on how temp is maintained in the finished spaces. My finished spaces run significantly warmer even with the A/C pushing cold air into the basement. I attribute that to the insulation on the exterior walls and the flooring over the cement cutting down on the natural heat sink that would otherwise exist. But there may be other reasons as well such as the southern exposure.
Hi Brian, yes, to the left is a door and the finished part of the basement. To the right is the exterior. Glad to hear yours is doing well. I'll make sure to test the temp in mine (don't move in for a couple of months though).
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#13 Post by Nathan Smyth » April 28th, 2019, 8:55 pm

If that space is fully subterranean, and if that floor is a concrete slab sitting on bedrock, in the state of Massachusetts, then you'd need something akin to an ironworks with a blast-furnace in the next room in order to create temperature problems.

Subterranean, with a concrete floor, as far north as Boston - passive cellars just don't get much better than that.

[And if it happened to be on the north side of the house? Pffft - you could practically store ice in there all summer.]

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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#14 Post by David_K » July 5th, 2019, 7:32 pm

I thought I'd post an update here now that I've moved into the home. Nathan, you were perhaps a little too optimistic. The room is cool, and during the last (hot) week it's been holding a steady ~68-69 degrees. Not terrible, but I'm concerned it's not quite cool enough if it's going to hang out around that temp for a while. What's the next step? Get an infrared gun and figure out where the heat is coming from and try to insulate against it? Get a pro in to take a look?
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#15 Post by Nathan Smyth » July 5th, 2019, 8:47 pm

David_K wrote:
July 5th, 2019, 7:32 pm
I thought I'd post an update here now that I've moved into the home. Nathan, you were perhaps a little too optimistic. The room is cool, and during the last (hot) week it's been holding a steady ~68-69 degrees. Not terrible, but I'm concerned it's not quite cool enough if it's going to hang out around that temp for a while. What's the next step? Get an infrared gun and figure out where the heat is coming from and try to insulate against it? Get a pro in to take a look?
Is that a carpet in the picture?

If so, what's beneath the carpet?

Three thoughts:

1) Hopefully beneath the carpet there's a concrete slab which is sitting on either soil or bedrock. If so, then the carpet is acting as a natural insulator and keeping the room warmer than it would be without the carpet. If not - if there's a wooden floor beneath the carpet - then you need to figure how to get under the wooden floor and into the cold stuff.

2) Buy three el-cheapo thermometers, place one on the floor, one at the middle of the wall, and one near the ceiling, and try to get a sense of the temperature gradient within the room.

3) Is your attic ventilated? Non-ventilated attics can ruin your entire house's cooling profile in the summertime. [Of course, in the wintertime, New Englanders would whine & bitch & moan about the ventilation system allowing a bunch of cold air into the attic, which would likely be their argument for NOT cutting a hole in the attic.]

But if you were to discover that simply removing a carpet gave you a peak summertime temperature at floor level of, say, 65 degrees, then I wouldn't worry in the least about storing my best wine in boxes directly on the floor.

And then I'd store the cheap stuff at higher elevation within the room.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#16 Post by John Morris » July 6th, 2019, 6:37 am

Nathan Smyth wrote:
April 27th, 2019, 7:17 pm
If that floor is at grade [surface of the soil], or, better yet, below grade, then in Massachusetts, you shouldn't have anything to worry about [unless you're in the flood plain of a river, or within storm surge at the beach].
Nathan Smyth wrote:
April 28th, 2019, 8:55 pm
If that space is fully subterranean, and if that floor is a concrete slab sitting on bedrock, in the state of Massachusetts, then you'd need something akin to an ironworks with a blast-furnace in the next room in order to create temperature problems.

Subterranean, with a concrete floor, as far north as Boston - passive cellars just don't get much better than that.

[And if it happened to be on the north side of the house? Pffft - you could practically store ice in there all summer.]
This is completely wrong. Even in Massachusetts, the ground even five or seven feet down will likely be in the 60s in the summertime, so being partly or even fully subgrade won't bring your wine room down to ideal cellar temps. And when other walls face a basement that will be much warmer in summer time, you may be well above an acceptable temperature.

The open areas of my mostly-subgrade basement in the Catskills at 800 feet elevation where it cools down at night, and with its windows covered over, is in the mid-70s this week. A basement may feel cool if the rest of the house is warm and its 90 outside, but if you measure it, you'll be surprised how warm it is.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#17 Post by David_K » July 6th, 2019, 6:42 am

Nathan, it's not carpet but a type of rubber flooring. It seems to be easily removable which I'll do. But then underneath THAT is a wooden sub floor. I suspect these two layers may be part of the problem. Under that appears to be concrete. Next I'll get these floors up and test the temps and report back. Thanks for your thoughts.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#18 Post by John Morris » July 6th, 2019, 7:15 am

David_K wrote:
April 27th, 2019, 5:35 pm
So we are in the process of moving and just bought a house. While I'd love a home cellar, homes are small and scarce around here so that couldn't be a primary consideration. The house we bought has a finished basement with a few unfinished areas off of it. One is the boiler room, so that's out. The other is this galley-style room with the fuse box in it (not visible in picture). Could this work? I'm not sure what the pipes in there are for, so that concerns me. Thinking perhaps racking all along the left-hand side.

Any thoughts?
I don't think this will stay under 60F -- maybe not even under 70F -- in the summer unless you have a cooling unit. I see a number of problems.

1. You would have to insulate the hell out of the ceiling and the walls to the basement. (In a larger room, you would insulate the foundation walls, too, but in your case they may help bring this under 70.) Adequate insulation (R-30-plus) would require 6-8" of insulation. The ceiling joists likely allow for that, but if you have standard 2x4 studs along the walls, you won't be able to achieve anything close to that.

2. There appear to be three copper pipes, which suggests hot and cold water plus a radiator line. As Greg said, you'll have condensation on the cold line in warm, humid months, so you'd have to put insulation around that pipe. That's easy enough to address with gray, rubbery pipe covering. But the hot water pipe could produce a lot of heat build-up in that very small space if someone's taking a shower, doing laundry or washing dishes. And if the heat is on in the winter, there would be much more heat build-up. Simple pipe covers won't help much.
In a larger room, the heat pipes might not be an issue in winter, but you have a lot of warm pipe for a very small volume of air.

3. As I said above in response to Nathan, merely having below-grade walls won't bring the temperature levels down enough. I'm dealing with that now in a passive cellar. (There's an active thread on passive cellars with a lot of information.)
Your only friend is the floor. It's the only surface that is cooler than your target temp, and thus can compensate for all that wall and ceiling surface that will be substantially warmer. But your floor is not likely to be very cool in summer. In a larger room, the floor might be 55F-60F in the summer if you're lucky. But concrete conducts heat, so the floor is warmed by the rest of the basement, and in your small space, that will be a very large factor. Based on my floor temp measurements in an 11' x 10' wine room, where the temps at the basement-facing perimeter are several degrees higher than those toward the foundation walls, I'd guess your floor might be well over 65F.

Have you measured the temps in that space and in the rest of the basement?

If you're content with temps of 70F or a bit more in summer, this might work for short and medium-term storage, but geometry is against you: You have a very high ratio of warm surfaces (walls and ceiling) and warm pipes to a cool surface (floor), which may not even be that cool.

I don't know so much about cooling units, but if you opt for that, you'd still need to cover and insulate the pipes, seriously insulate the walls and ceilings. And you'd need to investigate how a cooling unit would work in that very small, very narrow space. I could imagine air flow issues.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#19 Post by John Morris » July 6th, 2019, 7:17 am

Nathan Smyth wrote:
July 5th, 2019, 8:47 pm
But if you were to discover that simply removing a carpet gave you a peak summertime temperature at floor level of, say, 65 degrees, then I wouldn't worry in the least about storing my best wine in boxes directly on the floor.

And then I'd store the cheap stuff at higher elevation within the room.
That's a very good point!
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#20 Post by Brian Gilp » July 6th, 2019, 8:26 am

Like already stated, you need to remove the flooring before you can assess the real status. John maybe right in that you don’t have enough floor space to compensate. I hadn’t considered that when I responded previously but I have significantly more floor area and my cellar is at 64 measured at eye level between the door and window which is close to worse case for me. I’d remove the flooring and wait a week or two and see where you are then.

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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#21 Post by John S » July 6th, 2019, 8:45 am

I am late but know a decent amt on the topic. I may have missed it but what temp range is your goal here. If under 65 maybe. I would not bank on staying below that. I have a passive cellar on North side at 8,000 elevation in CO where soil year round temp was 52. Floor was 10 ft under grade. Part of finished space and well insulated etc. Still got up into lower 60s and we never saw outside temps about 80/83 degrees. So 65 in Mass I think is about best case. That may be fine.

Pretty sure a cabinet will end up being cheaper if you put in proper insulation, rip our wood flooring, and the vapor barrier etc. But it is a fun project. If you do read Gold's book for sure.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#22 Post by Todd Hamina » July 6th, 2019, 11:30 am

And some damp rid too.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#23 Post by Nathan Smyth » July 6th, 2019, 11:51 am

David_K wrote:
July 6th, 2019, 6:42 am
Nathan, it's not carpet but a type of rubber flooring. It seems to be easily removable which I'll do. But then underneath THAT is a wooden sub floor. I suspect these two layers may be part of the problem. Under that appears to be concrete. Next I'll get these floors up and test the temps and report back. Thanks for your thoughts.
Yeah, rubber on top of wood would be just about a perfect insulator.

Work your way down to the cold stuff, and see what it has to offer.

[Again, though, the New Englanders were doubtless thinking that they wanted the rubber over wood insulator to keep things warm in the wintertime, so you'd be undoing all their handiwork.]

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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#24 Post by Nathan Smyth » July 6th, 2019, 11:58 am

Todd Hamina wrote:
July 6th, 2019, 11:30 am
And some damp rid too.
Yeah, the rubber may have been put there to keep moisture from evaporating up into the house.

OTOH, you do want cold AND moist for a proper wine cellar.

If it is cold & moist without the rubber, then I'd urge you to use exterior grade components in framing the room - pressure treated studs & plywood [green] rather than white wood, stainless fasteners [screws] rather than painted fasteners, Hardiepanel rather than drywall, exterior grade plaster rather than interior grade drywall mud, and of course an exterior grade paint.

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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#25 Post by John Morris » July 7th, 2019, 8:57 am

Here's why I think you'll have a problem keeping a decent temperature, David.

This is the temperature of the floor at the corner of my wine room. At this point, the room is about 6 feet below grade, and this is the northwest corner of the house, yet the infrared temp gun says the floor is 59.5F. And we've only had 10 days or so of really warm weather.

The other parts of the floor are warmer, as are the walls, and ceiling is 64F. So the air temp is up to 65F.

My floor just isn't cold enough to bring down the temps, even though my room is much larger than yours, so there's much more floor relative to the other surfaces in mine.
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#26 Post by David_K » July 7th, 2019, 9:28 am

You may be right, John. I'm going to get one of those temp guns and run some tests. At the very least, they look awfully fun!
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Re: Can I put a (small) wine cellar in this room?

#27 Post by John Morris » July 7th, 2019, 9:37 am

I was going to suggest that. They're fun and yield lots of surprises.

Check out the additional photos I just posted in the more general thread on passive cellars.
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