Convert a Closet Into a Wine Cellar With These Tips
You have a love for wine and a burgeoning collection of labels, but what you don't have is a lot of space for wine storage. What do you do?
While you may not have a large basement that you can easily convert into a wine cellar, I'm willing to bet that you do have a closet. And that closet can be a great choice for a small wine cellar. You don't need the perfect conditions to create a functional and beautiful wine cellar. You simply need a tiny bit of space, an innovative spirit, and this handy guide.
Below, we share tips on how you can turn your coat, linen, hall, or even bedroom closet into a wine storage room.
Buying a Wine Cooler Vs. Building a Wine Cellar
Before we dive into the how, let's discuss the why. Specifically, why should you build a wine cellar instead of simply buying a wine cooler?
A wine cooler, also known as a wine refrigerator, is a great option for many people, especially if you rent your home. In fact, we sell a huge collection of wine coolers that you can check out here.
Wine coolers offer a lot of great benefits.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to choose a wine cooler is for its affordability. For less than $1,000, you can have a high quality wine cooler that can either work as a free-standing unit or be added to your cellar as a built-in.
Wine coolers are also flexible. You can add your wine cooler anywhere, whether it's in a dining room, hallway, or even your wine cellar closet. And, if it's a freestanding unit, you can move it as needed.
You can even add your cooler to your closet cellar. This makes for an affordable and ready-made cellar solution. As you can see, it's not an either/or scenario. Many homeowners use this shortcut to create a functional wine cellar in the span of a weekend.
However, wine coolers do have a few limitations. For example, wine coolers are limited in space.
If you have a larger collection, it may be difficult to find a fridge to accommodate your storage needs. On the upper end, a cooler like the Transtherm Double Castel Glass Black Full Shelf can hold a little over 400 bottles, but that requires removing shelves and packing in the bottles. High capacity coolers have to economize space by packing in the bottles tightly. This is not the ideal solution if you want easy accessibility to different wines in your collection.
Wine coolers are not ideal for long term storage. They're meant for wines that you plan to consume within a two-year time frame. This option works best if you're frequently rotating your collection, not if you are looking to age your wine.
The majority of wine is meant to be enjoyed within 24 months of purchase. But if you bought wine that should be aged for over two years or longer, that’s a problem.
Another consideration is light. Because most coolers have glass doors, they'll allow light in. Light control is a major concern for wine storage. If your bottles are exposed to light, they can age more quickly, which can significantly reduce lifespan. Fortunately, most closets are dark, enclosed spaces. So, if you plan to add a cooler to your closet, that may not be an issue. But if you're thinking of adding a cooler to a light-filled part of your home, or adding it to a closet with a glass door, be mindful that you may inadvertently accelerate the aging process.
When you keep the above considerations in mind, you can use a wine cooler with or without building a cellar, if that works for you. Or, if you have the time, skill, and inclination, you can DIY a closet cellar, too.
Is a Closet Enough Space for a Wine Cellar?
Here’s why you should consider building a wine cellar in your closet:
Going small is a good idea. You may associate wine cellars with expansive spaces, but the most effective wine cellars are small and take advantage of every inch of space. It’s often better to go smaller when building a wine cellar, because this allows you to control the space’s temperature and humidity better. It’s much easier to maintain a constant temperature and humidity level in a smaller space.
Consider this: A standard walk-in closet is 5 ft wide by 7 ft deep. This gives you 35 square feet of space. And that’s enough space to store around 700 bottles. A standard reach-in closet is 4 ft wide by 4 ft deep. This gives you a bottle capacity of around 275. For most wine collectors, that’s more than enough space to store a sizable collection.
Tips for Converting a Closet Into a Wine Cellar
Here are our tips for turning your closet into a fully functional wine cellar:
Choose the Right Location
Not every closet in your home will be the right location for your wine cellar. There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the location of your closet wine cellar:
Heat - Wine should be stored at a constant temperature of 55 °F. While your cooling system can maintain that temperature, you also want to reduce your demand on the cooling system by choosing a cooler spot in your home for your wine cellar. Don’t choose a closet that’s close to a heat source, such as a window, bath (steam), kitchen, or laundry room. Every home has warmer zones and cooler zones.
Light - Wine should be stored in the dark. Light can prematurely age wine. So, avoid choosing a closet that has a window or glass door which would allow light to come into the space.
Vibration - When you shake wine, even gently, you can disturb the sediments and set off a chemical reaction. This will result in a duller-tasting wine. One area of your home to avoid is the aforementioned laundry room, because when the washer and dryer are on, they can gently shake and cause vibrations in the immediate area. Also avoid a closet that’s in a well-trafficked area. Constant footsteps can lead to unintentional vibration in your cellar.
Insulate Your Closet
Once you’ve decided on the location of your closet, one of the most important steps to turning your closet into a functional wine cellar is to insulate correctly. This will support your cooling system so that it's not overworking and ensure that your closet maintains a stable temperature and humidity level. (The ideal humidity for long term wine storage is somewhere between 50% to 70% and prevents corks from contracting and exposing your wine to air.)
When choosing insulation, we recommend using a thick insulation with a high R-value of between R-19 and R-30 (the higher the R-value, the better insulated your space).
We recommend closed cell foam insulation because it acts as a vapor barrier, preventing water vapor from accumulating on your closet cellar's walls. This type of insulation also does a great job at controlling humidity.
And yes, you should insulate all surfaces of your closet—not just the walls. This includes the floor and ceiling.
After you've insulated your closet, it's time to install a drywall. But not just any drywall will do. You need a water resistant drywall called “green board.” This resists mold and moisture, and can stand up to the relatively high humidity found in climate-controlled wine cellars.
Remember the Floor
Your closet's floor is also an important consideration when it comes to creating an air-tight refrigerator. The best type of floor for a cellar is concrete, but that may not be a practical choice in a closet cellar. However, you can choose any flooring material that can be properly sealed, including engineered hardwood, cork, tile, and stone. Remember that the floor you choose should be able to withstand a high humidity environment.
Choose Your Cellar Door
Your mission is to create an airtight, climate-controlled wine cellar. This way, your cooling system doesn't have to work too hard to maintain the ideal storage environment. When choosing a door, consider one that's specifically designed for wine cellars. Avoid doors that contain glass (unless the glass is tempered, double paned, UV-protected, and specifically graded for wine cellar use). The ideal door will ensure that no air seeps into your space.
Choose the Right Cooling System
When it comes to cooling your wine cellar, you have options. You can go with the aforementioned wine cooler/fridge. This is perhaps the easiest option because all of the components are self-contained. However, it limits your design flexibility and you may severely restrict how many bottles you can store in your closet.
Another option is to go with a wine cooling system. There are 3 types of wine cooling systems, and we'll briefly examine each below:
A non-ducted system is self-contained and similar to a window AC unit. However, instead of a window, this unit sits in a hole that you've cut in the cellar's wall. As you can imagine, cool air goes into the cellar space but hot air comes out of the opposite side of the unit. This means that you should mount this unit in an area that allows for proper exhaust. This can be another interior room of your home, as long as its ambient temperature is 80°F or below. You can also vent this unit to the exterior of your home.
There are two types of ducted systems: self-contained and split.
In a self-contained ducted cooling system, the system is ducted in a closed loop between the evaporator and the condenser components.
In a ducted split set up, the system has two separate units (an evaporator and a condenser) that are connected by a line set. In most ducted splits, one part of the unit is inside the cellar and the other part of the unit is located on the exterior of your home, much like a traditional HVAC system.
The difference between a ducted system and the non-ducted system is that with a ducted system, there's no unit inside of the cellar. There's only a vent. This gives you more space to store more wine. But ducted systems are generally more expensive and complicated to install.
A split system can be ducted or ductless. As mentioned above, in a ducted set up, the condenser and evaporator are located away from the cellar. In a ductless split, the evaporator unit is mounted on the cellar wall and the condenser is located remotely, but not necessarily outside. This option is usually not the best for closet cellars because it's quite expensive for a small space.
The best cooling unit for a closet cellar may be the non-ducted, self-contained cooling system because it's affordable and you can install it yourself as a DIYer. Plus, most of these self-contained systems have built-in humidity control.
Shop our wine cooling systems here.
Choose a Racking Style
When it comes to racks for wine storage, you have a lot of options. Decide on what’s most important to you in your space. If you’d like to store as many bottles as possible, consider a racking system such as a cork forward wine wall. But if you’d prefer a more decorative closet wine cellar, choose a wooden wine rack like this which allows you to display select wines in your collection.
You can shop for wine racks here and here.
A wine cellar doesn’t require a lot of space. A closet is plenty of space to create a usable and functional cellar for your collection. Use the above tips to convert your closet into a wine storage room.
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