Wine Handyman Needs Advise

I’m not much of Handyman or Do-it-Yourselfer. I can mow a lawn like nobody’s business and hammer a nail. But taking a space and creating something in it? Not me. I didn’t get the "spacial" or "engineering" genes.

So it’s with great trepidation that I have decided to attack the space you see in this post and create a place to store up to 10-15 cases of wine. However, before I begin and potentially dislodge the house from its foundation, I thought I’d run it by readers of FERMENTATION.

My thought is a simple one: nail pre-made wire wine racks against one side of this skinny space under the stairs and put a few lights (battery powered—I wouldn’t touch wires if my life depended upon it) on the walls. As for that funky space way in the back…maybe an unbroken case or two can be slid back there. The key is being able to access whatever wine goes into this space.

So here’s my question. Is there any reasonable way to assure this space does not get over 65 degrees?

The closet is in the middle of the house and Wirewineracks_2under a flight of stairs. The furthest back part of the space where the case goods go backs up to the outer wall of the house that faces northwest.

This is really the only problem with wine isn’t it? It’s so damn temperamental. It’s not enough that you get
nice little racks for the bottles to lay down comfortable upon. It’s not enough that you inventory the stuff and keep track of it. It’s not enough that you organize it so you can find what you want and so that the Chardonnays aren’t forced to mingle uncomfortably with the merlot (what would they talk about about?). No. You also have to keep the stuff at a fairly constant temperature or they’ll go and die on you…or
at least ripen quickly into old age. They are very ungrateful guests.

I figure I could buy some fancy refrigerated unit that might fit into this weird space, but it would block access to the back of the space and not hold the amount of wine I need to place in here. Or I could invest in turning an entire room in to a place to store wine. But I’m not that nice of a host and not all the wines that will be staying with me have proven themselves worthy. So, it’s this little closet and simple wire racks.

Anyway, I’m building these guests their own home and want to see if I can accommodate their basic needs while they are at rest.

Any advice would be appreciated.

13 Responses

  1. dhonig - October 6, 2008

    Is there a doorway into it? Or is it exposed to the outer hallway? If there is a doorway, or if you build one, you can install a relatively inexpensive wine cooler above the door. The install is a do-it-yourself, but you should have an electrician put an outlet there for the plug.
    You’re not going to be able to slide cases into the back space once you have racks filled with wine along the wall.

  2. Tom Wark - October 6, 2008

    Yes, there is a door. But I think there will be enough room to slide cases though if I put racks only along one wall.
    I should probably buy and learn how to use a tape-measure, huh!

  3. Perry - October 6, 2008

    What is the temperature swing of the space now? You can get an inexpensive thermometer which records the min and max temperature. Put that in the space in the summer (sorry about the timing!) to find out how hot it will get and that, along with the size, will determine how big a cooler you will need.
    It appears that you will have to put in a door, and get a good, well insulated door, or your cooler will be running constantly.
    I’m not sure what dhonig meant by installing a wine cooler above the door – the only wine coolers I know are refrigerator like units. If there is something closer to an A/C unit, I’d like to know what it is, because I want to turn a spare closet off my garage into a wine storage space, but it gets too warm during the summer.

  4. Tom Wark - October 6, 2008

    The Door already exists and the house does have air conditioning, but obviously not in the closet. But I will need to keep close track of the temp.

  5. dhonig - October 6, 2008

    I was referring to a wine-specific air-conditioner unit. Koolspace makes a small one that would provide far more than enough cooling for that space. It is for 300 cubic feet-

  6. Arthur - October 6, 2008

    You can put in a portable swamp cooler. Cool and humid. But you have to monitor for mold and you have to have a place to plug it in.

  7. Mike Duffy - October 6, 2008

    I second the idea of monitoring the temperature in the space (ideally, over the course of a year), as I suspect it will get warmer than 65 during the height of summer (even though it may be cooler than the rest of your house).
    Once you determine whether the space needs to be cooled, you can figure out your next step.

  8. el jefe - October 6, 2008

    The previous owners of our house turned the laundry room cupboards into wine storage and installed a small wine cooling unit (like a mini A/C) in one end. Works great.
    I think you have a great idea as long as you have the room to slide yourself in there, and you have a place to put the cooling unit where the noise won’t matter.
    Whatever you do, I’d just hire an electrician to come in and install a couple of plugs so you have a place to plug in the cooling unit and any lighting.

  9. gregg bell - October 7, 2008

    because the space is so skinny, every inch could count, avg bottle is 12 in tall (more or less). If the drywall is removed from both sides, you get 3 1/2 inches of depth into the wall, and the structural rigidity of the studs so you could, theoretically, get more wine in the space, while still being able to drag your not so narrow ass into the space.

  10. Dylan - October 7, 2008

    I agree with dhonig on the unit. If you’ve made an investment in the wine, enough so that you want to make sure it lives a long life, it may be worth the extra money for a unit like that.
    Besides, you’ve seen what heat can do to people; look at Boca Raton, FL those people are only 20 years old. Be wary.

  11. Damien - October 11, 2008

    Three suggestions, none of which may be possible, but two of which will make a big difference to the temperature stability.
    Firstly, instead of purchasing sets of wine racks, try using concrete reinforcing frames, and fix them into timber beams, affixed to the floor and ceiling.
    For temperature control, consider purchasing sheets of polystyrene as an insulating agent. These can easily be fixed inside your existing space (or if you remove the existing walls, as mentioned above, you can fit each piece within the cavity). You will just need to measure the width for meeting your space requirements.
    Finally, if you install an inner door (or some sort of snug-fitting barrier), then the temperature in the cavity will be kept surprisingly constant.
    Try that. But I have to know, whatever you do, what it looks like after you finish building your structure. Post some images for us to see your handiwork.
    Good luck!

  12. Atlanta Handyman - June 16, 2009

    Wow! That sounds like a great project, being a fellow wine connoisseur myself. My only suggestion, is that sometimes jobs become more involved than you think when you begin. When you start ripping out drywall, etc. you may find some unwelcome surprises. Always err on the side of safety and get a professional opinion. I always call Atlanta Handyman when I’m thinking about a new project, and they have never steered me wrong.

  13. Pro Handy Man - February 25, 2010

    When using this automatic software to comment spam, be sure to delete this text and add something that looks like you read thier article.

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