Building a simple wine cellar

I have long fancied the idea of having a wine cellar and took inspiration from this thread when I got my kitchen/diner extension built over the last 6 months. I have outlined below the project and my thinking behind aspects of it in case helpful for others.

I looked into spiral cellars and the £30k plus price tag put me off, as did the fact that I have a drain going bang through the middle of the extension plus a listed wall in the way which I had to retain, which together meant that the available space was too small for a spiral one even if the cost of them had been much lower.

Hence Plan B – ask the builder how much it would cost to build a big rectangular hole in the ground inside the new kitchen/diner extension they were building (on my old patio).

I tried to find out how deep the cellar needs to be to maintain a fairly stable temperature around 14oC and could not find the answer anyway on the internet (I appreciate that there are many factors determining it). So I went for a hole that roughly measures 2m long x 1m wide x 1.9m deep on the basis that it would need to be fairly deep to keep cool and if I am going deeper than a metre why not make it head height. The answer on cost, £6.6k + VAT, excluding a hatch door. But this was subject to a structural engineer agreeing the spec. The next step was to speak to an engineer and the answer was, ‘no you need something a bit more substantial’ than what the builder had planned, namely:

• Use 215mm 7 N/mm2 hollow concrete blocks laid in a 1:3 mortar
• Use 1:2:4 concrete core infill and each void should have a single H12mm diameter bar.
• Use a 200mm thick 1:2:4 concrete base, A39 mesh top and bottom.
• Use H12 diameter bars into the blockwork

This pushed the cost up to over £8k + VAT. After a weekend of agonising, I gave the green light.

The build took longer than the builders had anticipated I think, especially the tanking to stop it endlessly filling with water which was a rather depressing spectacle in the early weeks – even after the extension roof went on and the only water was that seeping through the new cellar walls.

I got them to add a couple of ventilation pipes, exiting under the new deck (the house is on a slope from north to south). The sparkie then added a power supply for a light and the builders rendered the walls.

Then came the decision about a cellar door. I liked the idea of a glass one, but after much googling and speaking to door suppliers I realised that the ones I found advertised on the internet/eBay are not thermal rated (at least the remotely affordable ones I could find) and the extension is south facing with large windows. I couldn’t find an answer as to what that might do to the cellar temperature, but decided that it was too big a risk. I eventually decided on a metal frame access door (which will take floor tiles on top) for half the cellar roof (extension floor), with a walk on glass rooflight for the other half (that is thermally efficient). Glass rooflight was £1600 + VAT, and the entrance hatch £500 + VAT.

Which is where I am now. The extension is nearly finished bar a floor going in in a couple of weeks’ time (including on top of the cellar hatch door), and the cellar was painted this week. Another decision – what paint to use. Some sites recommend waterproof paint to seal the whole thing, others breathable paint to let it breath. I have no real idea, so opted for Farrow and Ball masonry paint on the basis that it is breathable and may help with keeping the humidity up. Only time will tell what I should have gone for, but that at least is fairly easily changeable.

The big question – will the temperature be cool and stable? The next few weeks should give me the answer to that – that is, whether I have built a near £13k useless hole with the only benefit being that I can watch mould grow through the walk on rooflight, or a useable wine cellar that will be a fantastic feature and somewhere to store wine for years to come. Either way I will be turning to drink, to celebrate or drown my costly sorrows.

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Pictures of the masterpiece?

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From the quotes I saw £30k may be an underestimate. I think you’ll have saved more. Well done and congratulations for going for it

Any tips you can gain from this project? Hats off to you both!

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Sounds very good - and you have done a proper job - I imagine the £13k will be offset by being able to store wine yourself instead of paying off-site fees. A few questions just out of interest:

What headroom did you finally finish up at?
What about air circulation - is it passive or are you thinking of a small air-con type system?
Can you get insurance for the contents?

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Pictures or it didn’t happen

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I love a bit of maths me, so I worked out you’d need to be storing 110 cases / 1,320 bottles of wine to break even in 10 years, assuming a 5% inflation rate on TWS storage fees.

You’d then need another 12 years to drink it all, assuming average consumption of 2 bottles per week :slight_smile:

So while the economics are questionable, it still sounds like a great project and a nice focal point of the house. Can’t wait to see the pics!

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Thanks for doing the actual maths on that, my ballpark was at least 1000 bottles ten years :rofl:

I’ve been repurposing my understairs cupboard into a mini cellar. 10-14c over the last three months so I think might be way less cool (can’t stand there) but sufficient for a few years of storage. It also doubles up as my daughter’s doll room :rofl:

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I applaud what you’re doing and would love my own cellar. I sometimes do a fantasy search for an eventual retirement place in circa 10 years time and do you know it’s hard to find places (no workable search criterion most of the time) for properties with cellars. It has to be adding some value to your house I would guess. So there is some additional comfort to be drawn from that perhaps. We look forward to the pics!!

Oh, is that average? I’m way above average in that case :laughing:

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Ha! I converted part of my Victorian cellar to hold wine. I thought that the space, and my rate of consumption, would align perfectly, and that I’d have a constant stock of 350 or so bottles.

It currently holds 550ish.

Never underestimate how much you can cram in there, if you really try. And never underestimate the bad influence of the community and how this drives outrageous over-purchasing

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Yep. whatever your storage capacity amounts to, it will be too small in a very brief time.

I was initially poised to contribute - “just buy a large wine fridge and stick it in the garage” - but then realised that the Grand Designs Project (Respect +++ by the way) had already assumed an irreversible momentum…

All the very best and, like other contributors, we need photographs !!

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I’m currently doing the opposite, and REDUCING the number of bottles in the garage - with a moratorium on wine purchasing until there are sizable gaps in the wine rack !

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I managed this last year. It wasn’t easy but it can be done. I believe in you! :superhero:

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It’s an assumed average for the purposes of my calc, maybe not the average :smiley:

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Self deception is the key to reducing one’s wine stock. Wine in members reserves & ordered E.P. for instance, is technically ‘free wine’ and does not count.

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I wrote last year about building a wine storage unit in the garage on the cheap, I did have and purchased all the relevant materials and agreed a price with a builder to assemble the lot.
Unfortunately I fell extremely ill at the end of November and spent four months in various hospitals after three operations, two brain and a very big bowel op all while suffering from covid, luckily I was sedated for nearly four weeks so have no knowledge of the nasty bits, I am not going into detail but I was extremely lucky to come through it all, and having a DNR notice pinned on me when supposedly recovering, there is an article there but not for this blog, and the recovery route is long despite now being home.

I managed to get to the garage yesterday and all the materials are still in a pile, when ready I will start to have it assembled.
I think I gave the approximate costs when I first wrote about it and it proves with a structure like that you need not spend a fortune, I will have a look at old entries/threads and see if I can find the relevant entry.
Although cleared for wine drinking I have not sampled anything yet as the inside has not settled properly and the last thing I need is complicate the recovery, mind you there is an awful lot of good stuff staring at me needing my attention!

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Sounds dreadful but fantastic that you’ve come through it. Certainly helps with perspective. Make sure the good stuff gets the attention you mutually deserve!

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Makes one realise wine is not actually that important - good to hear you made it through it

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Being short of a coupla feet of bowel myself I feel ya …But this is on another level… extremely resilient Bravo !! Hope you soon return to the pleasures of the grape

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We’d planned to put a wine store in the garage and had a garden full of insulation ready to go. Mid-last year, on removing a floor elsewhere in the house, we discovered the outline of a cellar which had been filled in back in 1906 (as we now know). That’s since been reinstated giving me space for c.3k bottles. Luckily it ‘had’ to be done as part of stabilising that end of the house or we’d have struggled to justify the cost. Does mean we may be left with a half finished house for a while though.

As an aside, if anyone’s building an above ground cellar, worth looking at wood fibre insulation rather than the more commonly specified PIR/Kingspan [insert brand of choice]. I’ve only recently appreciated that PIR is actually really bad at resisting heat transfer - a room insulated with it will warm up in a matter of hours, whereas wood fibre resists heat transfer much better (technically referred to as ‘decrement delay’).

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