Cellar Construction - New Project

Hi all, some of my favorite threads in the forums are the cellar construction threads and now I have a project of my own. We moved into our new house in Buffalo in June and there is an old coal cellar in the basement that I’ll convert to hold wine. It has some very strange internal dimensions due to concrete walls that slope towards the center to funnel the coal toward the door. You can see that in the pics below. I’ll lay out the plan below and would appreciate any thoughts and answers to the questions I currently have.

  • room is in the southwest corner of the basement so there are two outside foundation walls. The floor is 6 feet below grade, there is roughly 18 inches above grade to the joists.
  • one internal wall has the boiler and hot water heater on the other side. This wall also needs a door which I will have to build due to very odd size.
  • there is a convenient hole in one internal wall that will get a kenmore with the Galli mod. I haven’t been able to find the details on the modification (I know I found it on ebob a while ago but I no longer subscribe). If anyone has it handy I’d appreciate a PM
  • current temp at the floor is roughly 64 degrees - it’s been hot and sunny in Buffalo but I thought the floor temp would be a little lower

Looking in to the coal cellar from the basement:

Here is the sloping poured cement:


Current Plan:
I would love to do sprayfoam on the ceiling and portion of the outside walls that are above grade. I need to get a quote on that, the alternative is cutting foam sheet insulation which wouldn’t be too bad in this case given the lack of obstructions in the joists. If I use the extruded foam, is it ok to leave an air gap between the foam and greenboard? FYI the cellar is right under the dining room which has very nice hardwood floors that we just refinished. In the ceiling picture above you can see the wood subfloor. Moisture issues with the dining room floor would not be ok so I’ll go the extra mile to avoid it.

For the internal walls I plan to do foam sheet insulation on the basement side (i.e. between cellar and boiler) as insulation and moisture barrier. I don’t plan to insulate the cellar side of the outside foundation walls. As you can see they are not flat or smooth so would be huge pain and probably make the cellar too small. Please tell me if I am crazy. I really don’t think the cooling load will be too heavy with this plan given that I’m in Buffalo and the floor is pretty well under grade.

Thanks in advance for any advice. I’ll post progress as I make it.

Enjoy your journey. I recommend drinking heavily during the process. It will help you out.

Also, this board is full of knowledge and will be helpful during the process.

Thank you for sharing the photos. Look forward to seeing the progress.

Wait, I started this thread in JULY?!?! Man, am I ever slow.

Anyway wanted to post an update on the progress. Framing is done, and I have built a six inch insulated door. Electrical is done as well (I hired a pro) with 4 can lights in the ceiling on a timer switch and a few outlets. Closed cell foam gets sprayed tomorrow, very excited to see what that alone does to the temps. The cellar is currently at 66 deg. All interior walls as well as ceiling will get foam, except for the sloped walls. I have the Kenmore AC installed with the sensor hanging out ready for the Galli treatment which I will install after I see what the AC does to the room without it.

After the foam I will do greenboard and racks. Current plan is to order the racks from Wine Racks America. I have been considering building them from scratch but given how long it took me to frame the room that’s probably not a good idea if I ever want to see my wine again. I could be talked into it, though. I will likely not rack the entire room at once so I can get a sense for what works and what doesn’t before finishing it off. As you can see in the pics the room is full of strange angles and dimensions so standard racks are going to take some modifying in order to fit.

Some pics:

Keep posting the pics. I love seeing progress photos.

Are you in the mood where you’d like constructive criticism? Or simple support?

Sometimes showing photos of projects like this can get anyone in trouble, there’s always ten ways to do something, plus buckets of details one could keep in mind… Don’t want to heap on if it’s not going to be helpful!

Either way, you’ve made some good progress, I bet you’re getting excited to move in a figure out it’s not big enough :wink:

Constructive criticism is fine, I need all the help I can get but my main purpose is just to post progress. Keep in mind that this is a functional cellar not a showplace so it will finish out rough. Also foam is going in as I type this so if you suggest a change to the framing it’s too late!

I’ll post more photos after the foam is in. Hopefully a nice nosedive temp graph as well.


Amen, but, at the same point, there can be some valuable information.

Only get to do this once in your life. Maybe a few times. I hope you enjoy it. Might suck at times, but, just drink your stock.

Looking forward to seeing more photos.

Below are pics of the closed cell foam that was sprayed yesterday. As far as temps go, I have a weather direct sensor that measures at the device and probe. Right now the device is about 4 feet high and the probe is on the floor. Prior to the insulation the device was always a few degrees higher than the floor but they converged by this morning to 66.7 deg. I have to seal around the A/C unit and put the final door trim on today and at that point the room should be airtight. I am headed out of town this weekend so will leave the room closed and see where the temp settles.

Other than the general hassle of framing all the non square and sloping parts of the room, the door was the hardest part so far. I loosely followed Gold’s design but learned some things as I went and modified it. It’s 6 inches thick and about a half inch wider on the outside face because the swing clearance is so much greater than the door width with such a thick door. I’m not sure how well it will function as an insulator but it does open and close! If anyone cares about more details on how I built the door let me know.

some random thoughts…

You are extremely brave to take on such an awkward space.

Why do I see an outlet inside the joist cavity?

The framed “floor” does not look like it would support much (wine is heavy).

I’d be concerned with all the airspace behind the drywall (your going to use MR type?)

Perhaps a little late but you want the bottom plates to be pressure treated.

Do you have a good air seal on that door?

FWIW the temp may RISE after the insulation, don’t worry about it.

Make sure the ends of those joist cavities are sealed well.

Good luck, keep the pics coming.

That caught my eye as well–a bottle of wine is at least 2 lbs., and that space looks like it could fit racking for ~ 16 bottles wide (4’) and 16 bottles up (4’), probably double deep. That’s over 1000 lbs. At a minimum you should consider some vertical studs from the floor to the board at the front of the shelf

Chris, thanks for taking a look. Well, I am extremely [insert adjective], not sure brave is the right word [wow.gif]

Why do I see an outlet inside the joist cavity?

Just tucked in there temporarily

The framed “floor” does not look like it would support much (wine is heavy).

Thanks so much for noticing this. I agree as I think about it and will beef it up

I’d be concerned with all the airspace behind the drywall (your going to use MR type?)

I am going to use MR board. What’s the specific concern, that the extra air will hold moisture behind the drywall?

Perhaps a little late but you want the bottom plates to be pressure treated.


Do you have a good air seal on that door?

Not yet but I’m putting it in today

Pretty close, should hold 14 wide and 12 tall double deep. Clearly needs some more support, thanks for noticing.

I’m also noticing it appears the “joists” for that shelf appear to be hung only with screws from the shelf board. Definitely need some stronger support than that–although if you brace from below with some studs that should take care of the issue.

True. They are 7" deck screws but still just screws. The vertical piece at the front of the shelf is a 2x6 that supports that one joist. The problem with vertical supports elsewhere is that the floor underneath isn’t level. What I will likely do is sister another 2x4 next to the joists and support them on the front face with vertical posts. If that still seems flimsy I can add more support.

david. looks awesome and welcome to the area… if you are looking to meet up with some tasting groups let me know as we meet weekly or more sometimes. looking forward to more progress pics

Nice construction thread David. Keep posting photos

+1. It’s inspiring me to get my similar project underway (fortunately no bizzaro angled floors)

Leslie, how is your weather direct thermometer working? Mine seems to lose connection periodically but comes back on its own.

Thanks Joe. I would love to connect with some groups in the area. I’ll PM you.

Based on the feedback above I beefed up the “shelf” framing. Pic Below. Eventually I think this will have double deep racking on the right, and on the left some shelves for case storage.

Below is my Galli mod for the kenmore. The grey resistor gets attached (i.e. taped) to the temperature sensor of the AC unit and provides a little heat to fool it. I tested it this week and at 72 deg on the AC the room was about 57 deg. It took some experimenting to find the right power supply/resistor combo but all in I probably have five bucks invested in the modification.

Today I start the drywall, which will go on walls and ceiling. Should have that knocked out in a tidy two or three weeks [help.gif] On the shelf (both the top surface and face) I would like to use some 12 inch pine tongue and groove paneling I found in the garage. Should I treat the back of the panels in any special way to resist mold?