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How to build a home cellar

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Authored by: Anonymous

Dreaming of adding a walk-in wine cellar to your home? We talk to architects and designers to uncover the answers to your cellar-building questions.

Residential cellar by Matt Gibson architects. Image by Shannon McGrath.

On traditional underground cellars...

What is the minimum cost to build a traditional underground cellar? We would normally suggest a figure of $2000 per square metre for an unfinished basement, but it depends on the scale, complexity and methodology. Typically, the rate would be higher for a smaller basement. Fit-out costs are additional to that.

What other factors do you need to consider when building an underground cellar? In general, drainage, ventilation and flooding. The last one is problematic…undermining existing footings is a big issue if you are trying to excavate and build under your house.

If you don’t have a ready-made space for an underground cellar, such as a basement, how can you add one to your home? There are some great prefab drop-in cellars [a concrete pit of sorts, with four walls, a floor and a roof, which is dropped into an excavated space alongside your home] – perhaps logistically it's easier to drop one in the backyard if you are unable to include this feature in your initial architectural works.

Stuart Holmes, architect at Matt Gibson in Melbourne

Interiors at Milton Wine Shop by Jason Blake.

On custom fit-outs...

Do you have any smart tips for fitting out a home cellar? Firstly, you need to decide on the materials, be it timber, steel or terracotta. I haven’t used terracotta myself, but my understanding is that it’s a cheap solution to use terracotta pots [or terracotta drainage pipes] stacked on top of each other to hold your wines. It all comes down to your budget and how far you want to take it.

What kind of price range are people looking at for a custom fit-out? The price can vary greatly. We’ve done work between $5,000 and $15,000, and that’s changed according to the size, space and materials used.

You’ve fitted out a few wine bars and restaurants. What have those been like? The first one was all steel, which was fantastic – more of an industrial look. Some people are opposed to steel though, because there is the possibility it could chip your bottles. Another was timber, which is a simple and cost-effective choice.

Jason Blake, maker at I Am Not Mason in Melbourne

'Twin Peaks' by Luigi Rosselli architects. Image by Justin Alexander.

On building a cellar on a budget...

What is the most cost-effective way to build a home cellar? Choose the coolest part of the house in order to reduce the need for substantial and expensive cooling systems, and use a proprietary racking system rather than opting for custom-made joinery. In saying that, custom joinery would provide a more attractive solution and maximise the storage capacity of your cellar.

How much would it cost to build a 500-bottle cellar? The cost involved in building any kind of wine cellar can vary greatly depending on whether you're simply inserting storage into an existing room or excavating out under your house to build the whole thing from scratch. It also depends on whether you're after a basic storage space or somewhere to linger, taste wine and socialise. As much of our work is in high-end residential and hospitality projects, our cellars tend to have purpose-built joinery and often include a tasting table.

When building a house, where is the best place to locate a cellar? The best locations are either in the coolest part of the house or underground. Another alternative is to store most of your wine collection in this way and insert a small wine fridge for those special bottles.

Jane McNeill, project architect at Luigi Rosselli in Sydney

Next article: now that you have the cellar, here are some wines to consider putting down

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