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By Steve Hughes
T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S!
A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes, 2010
” A roll top desk in a wine cellar? I’d never heard of such a thing. and the 300+ bottles left from the last few years of winemaking. I NEED I had a few options on where to put a new wine cellar. Doing the math. could see that this thing was getting out of hand. Like Goldilocks checking the bears’ chairs. windows. 2010 2 .! I a cellar. I realized that in about 10 months I was going to have about 600 bottles of new wine to store. We had just returned from Eastern Washington vineyards with a truckload of grapes to be turned into wine. another was to steal space from a very much used and needed storage room. and after ﬁguring out how much room I’d need for around 1. not to mention the nearly 10 cases of wine we had collected from tastings in our travels. light ﬁxtures. My wife was sad that I was considering selling our ﬁrst antique purchase and asked. “Where am I going to put all this wine?” I wondered. “why don’t you work it into the plans? You can do it. A third space I identiﬁed was a ﬁnished open space at the end of a long hallway that was getting used more and more to put stuff that we were accumulating faster than we could get rid of. An ad on Craigslist yielded no results. the storage closet was too small. I tackled the clutter and made a run to the dump and Goodwill. switches. but why not? So here’s how I tackled building this new cellar: 1. I determined the the room at the end of the hall was “just right”. I went down to the “space” and mapped out the would be wine cellar including the walls. outlets. ceiling heights T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S! A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes. One was to expand into a tall crawl space next to the basement. Then there’s that old oak antique roll top desk in the corner.000 bottles. The Plan Armed with a cup of coffee and a tape measure. I only had a little 52 bottle wine cooler and it was already full. The crawl space expansion sounded like the most work.
Planning the layout of the new wine racks needed to efﬁciently use the square footage of the room including corners. To do this in the design phase. the center of the room and little nooks and crannies. Reserves Gallery T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S! A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes. I designed individual ladder towers that turned the corner at 30º and 60º giving the corners a curved appearance. I liked the concept of vertical ladder style racking where each bottle gets it own little home. A Computer Aided Design program is basically an expensive piece of graph paper.! and other features on a sheet of graph paper. So the design would incorporate both style racks. as a basis for a new wine cellar layout. White Gallery. In order to maximize the inside corners of the room. This also allowed me to classify certain areas in the cellar as the Red Gallery. I also realized that I’ll be making large batches of the same wine which could be more efﬁciently stored in diamond racking. which would have worked equally well for designing the cellar. Sparkling Gallery. effectively making the room into a zig zag shape of wine racks. I was able to “pull” racks into the middle from two directions. Because there was so much useable space in the center of the room. And I measured a bunch of different types of wine bottles so I could be sure the racks will hold the odd bottle that we may end up with. 2010 3 . Then I laid this all out on the CAD program I use for my day job as a Construction Consultant. For the purposes of having clear space to move around in the cellar I allowed a minimum of 30”. I drew a 30” circle to scale on the ﬂoor plan and then just dragged it around the plan to be sure it can be moved without touching any racking or other obstacles. allowing me to select any bottle I want without moving bottles that may be on top of it.
3. The back wall of the cellar was a drywalled and insulated framed wall in front of a ten foot high foundation. a heat sink that transfers the heat of the warmer air in the room into the cooler ground on the other side. I designed a double-deep. For the racking I pulled from the north wall into the center of the room. I decided to try to get Mother Earth to provide the cooling. in effect. Conversely. I developed convection currents where the warmer air at the top of the room circulated down and across the foundation giving up the heat to the ground outside. stepped-down series of towers that create a wine-bottle-waterfall effect capped at the end with shelves cut from 1x4’s. The foundation and the earth behind it is.! and the Nouveaux Niche. Framing. 2010 4 . the latter being where my newly bottled wines will age for up to a year before being ready to drink. Then I simply pulled out the insulation through these strips and used a 12” x 12’ ﬁbercement perforated sofﬁt panel to cover the openings. Insulating and Finishing the Walls and Ceiling T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S! A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes. By doing this. Passive Cooling Having majored in Environmental Science in college and studied quite a bit about solar energy and earth sheltering. so instead. 2. The top vent was purposefully located a couple feet below the surface on the outside because the top couple feet of earth is subject to warming and cooling over the course of the year while the ground below the top two feet remains very stabile at 55ºF to 60ºF. I cut a 10” wide strip across the bottom of the wall and another eight feet above the ﬂoor. I was loathe to remove the drywall in order to get the air contact with the foundation. if the air in the cellar is cooler than our average ambient temperature of about 55ºF it will radiate its heat back and maintain a stabile temperature.
4. I rented an insulation blower and ﬁlled the wall cavities with cellulose insulation. but unfortunately it took four coats to cover the lighter paint behind it. including the new walls I built to close off the cellar. I reused the insulation from the foundation wall for the new walls. As it dries and expands it creates a little mushroom shaped cap that protrudes out of the hole.! The interior walls. 2010 5 . so rather than installing ﬂooring there. I was able to ﬁll the holes in the walls and ceiling with some expansive insulation foam (it comes in a can like spray paint). Milling the Rough Cedar Lumber T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S! A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes. Again. The ceiling was also ﬁlled in a similar manner. A couple coats of joint compound followed by a squirt of canned touch up texture to make the patches match the surrounding wall and we’re ready to paint. Once the insulation was ﬁnished. Next I mapped out the shape of the racking on the concrete ﬂoor. We selected a paint color called “Raisin”. except the holes needed to be elongated so the blower hose could be pushed to within about 4’ of the ends of the joist bays and drawn out as they ﬁlled in order to get them completely full. The concrete ﬂooring under the racks would also act as heat absorbers. Then with a serrated bread knife. so as to minimize additional drywall work (did I mention I really don’t like doing drywall?) I located the studs in the other interior walls with a stud ﬁnder and then drilled 2” holes near the top of each stud bay. I cut the hardened foam ﬂush with the walls and ceiling. I just painted the concrete a color matching the ﬂoor covering. which we thought appropriate. needed to be insulated to maximize the cooling efﬁciency.
With building any jig.400 of them. I planed off the rough face with a rented planer. About halfway through cutting the ladder rungs. I counted and cut the 1x2 uprights to length. A few knots and saw blade marks added character like a hand hewn beam rather than detracting from the elegance. Setting aside enough of the 1x2’s for the upright legs. materials and energy. I then ripped the rest of the 1x2’s in half again. So the jig plan T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S! A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes. Our cellar was not intended to be a place to sit and enjoy drinking wine but a tasteful wine storage room. Since the boards were rough sawn. some single. some double sided. qualiﬁes as a repetitive task. and replicate the ﬁnished product. If one nail can do the work of two. Building the Jig With very repetitive tasks. I wanted to have the ladder racks 11” deep as that’s slightly deeper than the typical wine bottle. you need to consider how to reduce any excessive movements. 2010 6 .some of the 1x1‘s laid crossways between each layer of wood -. making 1x2’s out of them. I ﬁlled up a garden cart and more than three of my 25 gallon plastic vineyard bins with them by the time I had them all cut. but if I cut the 1x1’s at 11”. And as a counterbalance to many of the formalities of our home and furnishings. making the 1x1 ladder pieces that will cradle the bottles. I nearly always ﬁgure out a jig to make that will simplify. I felt that a little more rustic approach to the racking was justiﬁed. I found a local lumber yard that was moving some green 8’ rough sawn tight knot grade cedar 1x4’s. So I would just hold the ladder rungs back 1/4” from the front and back of the uprights when assembling the racks. I’d get 8 pieces per 8’ stick. however.! In the interest of keeping costs down. accelerate. After planing. I realized I was cutting over 2. And building 94 ladders. essentially squaring up the ends but leaving them at about 95-3/4” long. horizontal face supports and nailers on the backs. I stacked all this cut and still wet wood on “stickers” -. I ripped most of the 1x4’s in half. then so be it. 5. Drying took about 4 months during the summer months.in the garage to dry. At 10-1/2” I’d get one more piece from each stick.
except the 1x1’s were cut at 1’ 10-1/2”. Then with a ﬁnish nailing gun I’d shoot 2” nails tying together the three pieces of wood. Along what would become the front of the ladder frame. Along the bottom edge of the plywood. Forty shots of the nailer. I played with the angle of several bottles so the corks would stay wet and found that 15º was just about right. So the block below the display bottle support was cut on that angle. then. This allowed for a bit of play to be able to lift out the completed frames without them binding up in the jig. Building the Ladder-style Racking Part of the plan was to have one row of display bottles in each tower. The space between the strip and the blocks was kept at 1-5/8” and the space between the blocks was 7/8”. and one ladder was assembled. three uprights were used to hold a double set of bottles and the display supports angled down in opposite directions.! was to build a framework where I could drop in the 1x1 rungs for one side of the rack. then lay the 1x2 uprights over the rungs followed by the 1x1 rungs on the other side while all being accurately laid out ready for nailing. 2010 7 . a block acted as a stop for the uprights. The ﬁrst. The jig consisted of a half sheet of plywood (2’x8’) to which I screwed 2” thick by 7-3/4” by 3-3/8” blocks that became the voids of the frames. I screwed a 2” thick strip 8’ long. The width. and then they were T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S! A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes. was 1‘-11”. The waterfall racking was built very similarly to the standard towers. tallest tower matched those of the others. 6.
installed the 1x2 facings across them at the ﬁfth bottle level.! reduced in height by 4-3/4” for each subsequent ladder. The rectangular frame was built with two 1x6 cedar boards for each side and three slightly spaced 1x4’s for the tops and bottoms. This keeps the ladders from spreading when loaded with bottles and gives a way to screw the racking to the wall studs. then again at the bottoms of the display supports. 10th row and 15th row. The diamonds were cut from 1x2’s at 21-7/8” and nailed together “pinwheel” fashion. Diamond Racking One of the racks that I “pulled” into the center of the room was going to be a 32” wide diamond rack. 2010 8 . allowing me to cut all the pieces the same length. The top 1x2 facing extended up above the tops of the vertical legs to keep enough room for a bottle in the top row. the next level above the display support. 7. To connect the ladders together. and using a 2x4 block for a spacer. The spaced 1x4’s allows for a little more air exposure to the painted concrete below the ﬂoor of the rack. The last ladder was reached when the top was at the level just above the display bottle. I laid them down on the ﬂoor. This way I cut 36 of T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S! A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes. The total rack stands 8’ tall. and above 5 more rows. with the bottom sitting 3-1/2” above the ﬂoor. Then I ﬂipped the whole rack over and installed 1x2 nailers at the 5th row.
The metal channel was glued to the under side of the 1x1 rungs of the row above the display row. I strapped them to the rungs with zip ties. Three coats of latex polyurethane sealed the ﬂooring with a satin ﬁnish and gives it some resistance to moisture. The display row of bottles were highlighted using tiny. To hold these in place while the glue dried. the room is perfectly lit. so I used a track light with small halogen ﬂoods to light up each section of the racking.another reason to leave the ﬂoors under the racks exposed concrete since it has more insulative qualities than most other hard ﬂoor surfaces. The ﬂoor tiles abut the fronts of the racking and then I used a cedar 1x4 as a baseboard applied to the fronts of the racks to ﬁnish out the ﬂoor-to-racking transitions. 2010 9 . Flooring I chose cork ﬂooring for the ﬂoor covering -.! these pieces to make 9 squares and three stacked bins. 11” 1x1 sticks hold the squares together and it is through these 1x1’s that I fastened the diamonds to the rectangular frame and to each other. One of these light bulbs accents two side by side bottles and is placed under a pair of ladder rungs to conceal them. T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S! A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes. under-cabinet lights that snap over a wire set into a metal channel. With a dimmer switch set to about 1/3 level. The track and lights are black so they are virtually invisible against the raisin paint color. low voltage. 8. Lighting and Temperature Monitoring Over the years I’ve learned the effectiveness of using lighting to create ambiance as well as illuminating work areas. 9. The 1x4’s ﬂushed out with the lowest course of 1x1 ladder rungs. These lights essentially light up the racking but don’t draw attention to themselves.
I decided to build the door from select tight knot cedar 2x6’s that I hand selected at the lumber yard for straightness. and the one built in to the display gives the interior temperature of the house. and allows for readouts of three separate sensors. it also puts off a fair amount of heat. and getting as high in the house as mid 80’s from solar gain. One morning I noticed the temperature in the cellar was about 4 degrees higher than the night before. and realized I had left the lights on.! Monitoring the temperature and humidity in a new cellar is important to knowing how the passive cooling is working so I purchased a digital thermometer with wireless remote sensors. T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S! A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes. The doorknob edge was then planed slightly at a 5º angle to allow the door to swing past the jamb and keeping a close reveal when closed. I cut a small diamond shape hole at eye level in the door and inserted a burgundy color piece of stained glass. 10. another out near the vineyard. While the lighting creates the ambiance I was looking for. the cellar hasn’t changed more than a few degrees staying very constant between 57ºF to 60ºF. With temperature differentials on the exterior down to the high thirties. This gives readings of the humidity as well. 2010 10 . Sanding the door slab with several graduating grades of sand paper from 60 grit down to 220 grit prepares the door for sanding sealer and a couple ﬁnish coats of satin polyurethane. The Door Keeping with the more rustic cedar theme. outside of the cellar. I set up one sensor in the cellar. I ploughed a 1/4” groove along the edges and inserted a 1/4” plywood spline into the grooves to glue the 2x6’s together. An unanticipated beneﬁt to this is I can easily spot when I’ve left the lights on and take the long walk down the hall to turn them off.
The tile on the top represents our view of Mt. the quiet afforded by the insulation. on the right. the silicone effectively created rubber leveling buttons. then turning them over onto a piece of waxed paper on the counter. The piece de resistance of the cellar door was the application of some raku-glazed tiles my wife made with motifs of our winemaking lives. I glued and screwed some 1x6 oak straps to help hold the door together. I held my hand on the tiles while hammering the hooks into the door to ensure I would not smash her hard work over a hot kiln. our hillside vineyard and below the red glass diamond. Oak button plugs in the screw holes also embellished the door in the rustic theme. to the left a bottle and glass with our winery name. the trees of Three Tree Point. the near perfect humidity of 60 to 65%. Now stocked with the 2007 and 2008 vintages of our wines and the select commercial wines in our collection. I found that some copper plumbing pipe hooks worked perfectly driven into the door on each side of the tile. Then to secure them with a mounting hardware that was as inconspicuous as possible. the cellar is always an enjoyable space to enter.! On the inside of the door. where we live and the namesake of our little operation. and the soft lighting on the bottles of wines surrounds the senses like a warm blanket and a ﬁre on a frosty winter night and causes us to linger while we contemplate the perfect bottle to have with dinner or to share with friends. The aroma of cedar. I explored various options for mounting these tiles to the door and ended up applying a dot of silicone sealant to each corner on the backs of the tiles. Rainier. 2010 11 . T H R E E T R E E C E L L A R S! A Cool Cellar © Steve Hughes. When dry.
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