Tips on how to build a wine cellar

Insulation is essential to ensure maximum control

Warning! Failure to insulate increases the power required to condition your room by 3 fold.

Traditional building materials such as stone concrete and brick are very poor insulators and only underground sections represent any real insulation. We need to keep in mind that here in Canada we have to deal with temperature ranging from - 30 ˚C during winter to +30 ˚C during summer. It is therefore essential, to minimise temperature fluctuations, to insulate the entire room to be conditioned.

Insulate – yes but how? 

We recommend you use extruded polystyrene best-known as Styrofoam of type III and IV (*insulation factor R – 5/inch) or sprayed polyurethane foam (* insulation factor R – 5,8 to 6,8/inch) which can easily adapt to different surfaces. Contrarily to extruded polystyrene, sprayed polyurethane foam need to be applied by professionals. They are currently the most efficient product on the market. They’re the least flammable and the most durable material. Furthermore, extruded polystyrene boards can be layered and therefore prevent thermal bridges. Respecting those recommendations will increase your conditioner’s lifespan, reduce electricity consumption and preserve the natural humidity of your wine cellar.

The way the insulation is installed plays a large role in its effectiveness. Compressing the insulation, leaving air spaces around the insulation and allowing air movement in the insulation all reduce the actual R-value of the insulation.

How can you determine whether or not a material is a good insulator? The insulation performance of a material is established by its R thermal resistance (m2. ˚C/W). It determines the material’s ability to conduct heat.

R=e/λ – The greater the R coefficient, the better the insulation is.

To reach a insulation factor of R-22 we would need 3, 5 inches of sprayed polyurethane foam (R-6/inch) or a 23 feet concrete wall (R-0,08/inch). 


  • There must be no outside windows in the wine cellar.
  • No heat source must pass through the area to be conditioned (e.g. under-floor heating).
  • The exterior of the conditioner must not be located in an area subject to temperature below 0°C.
  • No heat-producing appliance must be located in the area to be conditioned (e.g. refrigerator, radiator, boiler).
  • Do not install the conditioner opposite the door of the area to be conditioned.
  • Do not place the exterior of the conditioner above a source of heat or inside a small unventilated room.
  • Do not obstruct the air outlets.

Building the walls and ceiling

Properly insulating your wine cellar will assure a optimum stability of the temperature and also maximise the preservation of it’s natural humidity. Therefore we recommend a minimum insulating factor of R-22 to R-30. To obtain that factor you can either build your walls with ‘’2x4’’ or ‘’2x6’’.

The vapour barrier is an important component of the cellar envelope; it provides some protection from moisture damage to the structure and the insulation materials. To be effective, the vapour barrier must be resistant to the flow of water vapour, durable and must be installed on the warm side of the insulation.

Whatever the method used, all kinds of decorative finishes resistant to high humidity levels are possible to obtain an attractive wall.

On the floor (insulation optional)

The size and location of the wine cellar will determine the necessity of insulating or not the floor. All wet strength material can be use to cover the floor the most common being slate, tile, ceramic and marble. To avoid: rug, wood, scented stain or lacquer.

A levelled floor will facilitate the installation of the wine racks.

The conditioner unit
Essential for the temperature control, the wine cellar conditioner is a precious tool to avoid excessive temperature variations (recommended temperature 10oto 14oC). Contrarily to residential air conditioners that dry’s out the air by rejecting the humidity outside, the wine cellar conditioner needs to preserve the natural level of humidity by re-injecting the humidity inside the cellar (recommended humidity level 50% to 80%). From the French manufacturerEUROCAVE, we recommend the INOA. Specially equipped with the patterned technology ‘’Neofresh’’, which was specially developed for wine cellar use, those one piece units are easy to install and will preserved the natural humidity level the cellar.

To optimise the performance of the conditioner, install it, where possible, along the length of the room.


In order to ensure the air tightness of the cellar, use a door frame equipped with adjustable spring weather-stripping. Insulated cored and a minimum insulation factor of R-16 is what we recommend. If you prefer a glass door we recommend you choose one with thermal and UV resistant glass. To manage and restrained the access to the wine cellar don’t forget to install a lock.
For maximum security choose a tempered glass.

Lightning system
To avoid unnecessary temperature variation, we recommend to choose a low heat emission lightning system such as LED light. Avoid fluorescent light due to they high heat emission. We also recommend the use of dimmer.

Racking system
A wide variety of racking system are available on the market today. From individual racking system to bulk stacking system they can be made in metal, terra-cotta and mostly commercialised in wood. Available in a wide range of species such as Redwood, Mahogany, Cherry and much more. When purchasing make sure it can well resist to a high level of humidity, ask for what kind of stain nor lacquer was used and finally that it is a odourless product.

Réf. Richard Bourgault / Martin Landry        * Source : Natural ressources Canada