Instructables

How to convert a closet into a mini wine cellar

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I decided to build this website after becoming frustrated while searching the Internet for practical information on how to inexpensively convert a coat closet into a wine closet. It seemed like everything was either sites for companies that sell full-blown wine rooms, or blogs by people who converted their cellar / child's room into a walk-in wine museum. Given that (a) I didn't have a large budget, (b) I only had a closet to work with, and (c) I was going to build it entirely by myself, most of what's out there on the Intertubes was useless.

So, with a handful of power tools and enough knowledge to be dangerous, off I went to build my own mini wine cellar. After numerous mistakes and trips to Home Depot, here is a chronicle of what I built and how I built it.
 
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Step 1: A Discussion about Budget and Requirements

Before I started sketching out what my wine closet was going to look like, I did some "back of the envelope" budgeting. Most entry-level wine cooling systems, such as the ChillR, start at $500 and quickly go up from there. Replacing the closet doors with properly-insulated doors would come in around $600 (more if installed). Add another $500 for everything else, and I was easily looking at $1,600. That seemed a bit much to me. After all, we're talking about a closet, not the Taj Mahal of wine here.

Capacity Requirements

So, I started over again, but this time I thought about what are my actual requirements. Without getting into too much details, I buy in bulk in order to save money. That means I typically buy approximately 15 cases of wine roughly every eight to twelve months. That batch of wine will be consumed over the next one to two years. I do have a few "special" bottles, but I keep those in a mini wine refrigerator. So, that means I'd need to have storage for nearly 200 bottles.

System Requirements

Most wine-related sites say that wine should be kept at a constant temperature of 60 degrees. However, this requirement seems to be more appropriate for long-term storage. I wondered about what destroys wine in the short-term. After talking with some vinophiles, it seems that the factors that can really hurt a bottle of wine in a short period are:

1. Constant exposure to UV light;
2. Rapid and/or extreme temperature changes; and
3. Lack of humidity.

UV Light

The UV light issue was solved by the fact that I was building inside a closet.

Temperature Changes

With respect to temperature changes, I have a few things in my favor. First, I live in Orange County, CA, where it can get quite warm in the summer, but for the most part it's fairly mild. Second, the closet is on the ground floor with all interior walls. Consequently, the temperature inside the closet is already fairly stable.

My only real concern is during the summer months where temperatures can get into the high 90's. I'm no thermodynamics engineer, but it seemed to me that if I could insulate the closet well, the inside temperature would not fluctuate as quickly or as wildly as the outside. In other words, a little temperature change would be OK, even a larger temperature change would be acceptable, so long as it took a long time to move the thermometer.

Therefore, I decided I would forgo a wine cooling system and try out passive-cooling. And, since I wasn't going to actively cool the closet, I didn't need to upgrade the doors in order to get an airtight seal. Now, my budget was much more reasonable. Plus, I figured I could always had a cooling unit and a real door later, if needed.

Humidity

Anyone who's been to Southern California knows it's not a humid place. I knew I would need to humidify the air inside the closet. Thankfully, the wife had bought a room humidifier a while ago, but stopped using it because it was too noisy. I figured that would do the trick.

Other Requirements

Finally, my wife had one last requirement: don't make anything permanent. She figured if we ever sold our house, the next owner may prefer to have a coat closet, so anything I did had to be reversible.
jpastor4 months ago
Moisture on your insulation could be an issue.
camcmt6 months ago

I'd really encourage this! You would be surprised what spaces you can have turned into your very own wine cellar. Theres a number of different storage solutions you can have a look at. Personally id say go for oak wine racks that can be custom built to slot perfectly into any space.

I guess what I'm wondering is what your idea of short term storage is. Some wines are not intended to be aged, like the inexpensive Bogle, Barefoot, Little Penguin, etc. and other wines are made to be aged. This closet is no good for the latter. I love the DIY spirit and think this is a great liquor cabinet. I think you could have had fun with these wine cubes in that closet space. I consider these partial DIY wine racks as you can configure these in any way you choose.
BigAl3235 years ago
I like your idea, good easy access to your wine. My brother would love you if i showed this to him (which i will), but... Like Slice_rulz said green board would've been the wisest choice. I'm surprise the people at home depot did not mention that to you. It's about twice the cost (depending your location) but saves you ALOT of problems for when you start to smell the mold and would have to take it down to change the drywall again and possibly the studs. To make things easier and cheaper you could've used XPS (rigid insulation) and tuck tape the edges. you get you insulation, vapour barrier, and you can Poly your moisture resitant drywall right onto it. you could get more R-value out of something alot thinner, AND it's way cheaper because you dont need your studs or the your other vapour barrier. (for reference, I worked at homedepot and studied in building science and moisture management) I love your idea, and will most likely do the same. Great work A++ BigAl
SinAmos5 years ago
I just realized how much booze you have. I just finished making my first two bottles of mead and I just put them into a cabinet for now, but I definitely want to get something like you made up and running.
slice_rulz5 years ago
very nice work i would only suggest that you should have used green wallboard to prevent moisture from building up in the drywall. i would hate to see your hard work go to waste when the moisture goes into the walls and mold becomes a problem.
Sk1z0tT^5 years ago
Looks like a bottle of absinthe at the top there? :)
dedub01 (author)  Sk1z0tT^5 years ago
That's crazy... ;)
abbtech5 years ago
Looks great! Are you going to paint the inside of the doors or put some light paneling on them to dress it up a bit?
dedub01 (author)  abbtech5 years ago
Thanks everybody for the feedback. With respect to the door, I don't think paneling would work because of issues with bonding the panel to the insulation. So, I'll probably paint it or maybe I can find some decent wall paper.
luvit5 years ago
that's a lot of wine. ...purchased from the gas station?
bscarano5 years ago
Excellent work. I'm not a wine drinker, but this has made me want to start. Way to go and thanks for sharing with us.
scoochmaroo5 years ago
5 stars
kirnex5 years ago
Wow...I am seriously envying this. I converted a hall closet near my dry-bar into a liquor closet, but it just looks sad compared to yours! (I used those cheap wire-cube storage thingies you can get at Target, and some zippie-straps.). I really love what you did. Hadn't even considered the insulation factor, although I do store my wines in another area (which I am now considering insulating!). Genius, really. Thanks for posting this!
SinAmos5 years ago
So, are you making your own wine yet? That is the only logical next step. Good work on the wine closet.
Looks like you did an awesome job!