Digging up a basement for a wine cellar


I live in Southern California and I have been entertaining the idea of digging my crawlspace up
to make a wine cellar.

First am I crazy? is that feasible? Any SoCal people out there who did it?


One ebob guy did it in San Diego. Seemed fine. He did have a cooling unit

I’m surprised more Californians don’t do this, preferring to put wines in a garage rather than make a true cellar for wines. Considering the housing costs out there, excavation costs can’t be that prohibitive, can it?

Many homes in California, especially homes built from the 80’s on, are built on slab foundations or post tension slab foundations and would not lend themselves to digging underneath. I imagine if you have room to excavate it would be a good idea. I’d consider getting a soil engineer out to verify you aren’t affecting compressive soil strength around the footings in case of an earthquake, just my $0.02
Would love to see pics if you end up going through with it.

We’re near a river and creek, but I’ve been mulling this over too. I worry that in a (rare) wet year that the water table might rise enough to cause a problem with this.

A cellar in another house sometimes would get damp after huge snowy years.

Get a contractor and engineer, and if they give you thumbs up, woo hoo! Cellar time, baby!

Looking at weekend places up the Hudson Valley two years ago, I inspected the “basement” of a house on a hill. There were rock outcroppings under the house. “Oh, you could just excavate this for your wine cellar,” the realtor said.

Uh, I don’t think so. …

I’ve since seen several other places up there with rock in the basement, including the wine cellar of a friend, where the rock protrudes through the poured concrete floor. I take that as evidence that it’s not easy task to dig into whatever that rock is.

The house we owned before our current one originally had a crawl space. The previous owner dug out about six feet of dirt, 25’x50’ to create a basement and garage. I talked to the neighbor kid who helped him, it was back breaking work.

Check it closely for rock and hire someone do to it.


I will investigate this deeper (!). I have the name of the structural engineer that built the house,
so we will see. I had a quote from another company that told me 60-80K for an unfinished small
basement, but they did not really have information how they would do it. I’d rather go with the guy
that built the house back in 07.

The main challenge would be to find a spot to put the stairs without screwing up the flow of the house.

I’ll let you know guys if I go through with it.


I was going to dig one too. Easy access because I have a split level house on a terraced rock quarry.

Permit: $2,500.00 (normally 500 but it’s a special permit and requirements to build under an existing structure.

Soils Engineer: Required. If he gives the okay, then:

Architect/Engineer: Design and plans

If all goes okay, there are inspections required each step.

(If it is in a commercial building, add electrical and mechanical engineers to the cost.)

Or do it the old way. Dig it out. Build it and hope you die before they find out it’s there. If you’re rich enough, you can ask forgiveness, pay large sums of money and possibly get to keep it.

Don’t mean to rain on your parade, but no sense you running into the boars nest I did.

What randy said plus are you in an earthquake zone, what’s the city/county code issues, etc. Lots to consider…

Rocks are why God made jackhammers (also dynamite, for the larger sizes). It’s not like those rocks are Kryptonite or something!

i assume you plan to be in this house for a long friggin’ time, and recognize that this very expensive project will probably add ZERO value to your home in the event of resale. Or, you could just store wine offsite for a couple thousand years for the same money. Christ, for that kind of money, you could lease some space and start your own wine storage facility and be the sole client! Any other paying clients would just be a bonus!

I’m a G.C. here in L.A… Definitely get the structural engineer to explain the situation. The instant reply is that footings have a requirement for depth below the soil level to prevent toppling or lateral movement. So one usually one can remove some soil from the side of the vertical foundation wall, one usually can’t just remove soil from even one side of the footing. All is made even harder if you are in what LADBS terms a hillside grading area.

While doable I think you will find the cost prohibitively expensive. I would start with an architect and engineer to find out about the suitability of your location and cost estimates. I’d figure 6 figures plus. A quick chat with the local building inspector may help you get a better grasp on the requirements

I have a friend in Oakland who is in the midst of having this done as part of a home remodel. Excavation started a couple weeks ago. I’ll ask him about the cost factor. I know he went through architect, engineer, City planning and it took forever to get the permits.
He’s in the MacArthur area if Oakland so earthquake issues are big as that area was hit hard in '89.

$.02 more here. I would also check with my insurer.

You should look around and see if anyone close to you has done this before. This kind of tells you something. And it is important to note what is it worth to you? You will probably never get anywhere near return on money spent. It is not a matter of could you, more a matter of should you ?

Was kinda done here -


If you have read Gold’s book on How and Why to build a wine cellar (the title is something like that), you know that even the very deep underground temperature is at the annual average temperature for your area. Plus you have to consider sun exposure on nearby soil, especially rocks, etc. So I’m wondering, in So. Cal., how much you would gain by going underground? I know in some southern states it is not possible to have a passive underground cellar, and I suppose you would need a cooling unit too, at the very least…