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5 Things you MUST Know about building an Understairs Wine Cellar
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5 Things you MUST Know about building an Understairs Wine Cellar

A popular trend currently is converting unused space under stairs into a beautiful wine display. A staircase in a home is generally central to the living space and the area below the stairs is commonly underutilized. With a little planning, you can convert this unused space into a functional, focal point.

Homeowners in Dallas, Texas converted empty space near their front entry into a show stopping wine display for their 200-bottle collection. Key to this concept was an intentional design that ensured the space didn’t look like an afterthought. View more of this project here.

Here are a few keys to overcoming the challenges of creating an understairs custom wine cellar.

Challenge #1: Opening a wall under the stairs

To add the visible impact you are looking for with placing a wine cellar under your stairs, it may be necessary to remove a wall. Stairs have a great deal of structural support and require extra care when opening the space up.

Key: Work with a qualified contractor who is familiar with the structural integrity of walls and stairs to ensure you don’t encounter bigger issues.

Challenge #2: Location and Sizing of Proper Refrigeration

Ensuring you have the proper size refrigeration for the space and where to locate the unit is challenging with understairs cellars. Using space under the stairs means no access above and minimal access from behind the walls for the mechanical equipment, duct work and line sets.

Key: Have a qualified wine cellar builder do a sizing evaluation and spec a system that will cool the room and fit in the available space.

Challenge #3: Sealing the space

The most important part of a functioning wine room is what happens behind the walls. Having proper insulation and a good vapor barrier is key. Understairs wine cellars pose a challenge with twists, turns and angles that are hard to insulate.

Key: Prior to starting, check to make sure you have access to every corner of the room for foam insulation. Don’t foam blind – if you can’t see the space, you can’t ensure there aren’t any voids in the enclosure that will cause moisture to collect down the road.

Challenge #4: Lighting your space

Understairs spaces are typically not lit for the purpose of displaying wine, so you’ll need to add ceiling lighting and/or incorporate lighting into the wine racks themselves.

Key: While you have the walls open for insulation and vapor barrier, don’t forget to have wiring run for lighting.

Pro Tip: We recommend having the light switch outside the cellar, so you don’t have to open the door to the climate-controlled space to adjust lighting

Challenge #5: Wine racks that fit the space

Not all wine racks are “one size fits all” but, due to the popularity of understairs cellars, many wine rack manufacturers are now making racks that follow the angle of the stairs.

Key: Look for a system that mounts floor to ceiling with an angled option that follows the line of the stairs. Or, another option is to utilized wall mounted racks in a range of sizes to accommodate the angle.

If you are looking for other keys to constructing a wine cellar check out our blog post “Constructing a Wine Cellar” here.

Vineyard Wine Cellars is the leading provider of wine cellars for enthusiasts seeking inspired solutions for the preservation and enjoyment of their collection. We source state-of-the-art products and materials in wine cellar cooling, construction, finishes, lighting, and racks to provide wine storage solutions for all applications and to suit any design style. Over the last 20 years, Vineyard Wine Cellars has earned a reputation as the premier wine storage provider by bringing ingenuity and quality workmanship to the process of designing and installing award-winning wine cellars.  Browse our gallery and contact us at 866-973-1100 or


About the author

Sarah Palmer, Vice President of Vineyard Wine Cellars, brings decades of consulting experience to Vineyard Wine Cellars. Her expertise in wine storage systems, refrigeration systems and design trends supports Vineyard's broad range of residential and commercial clients. She leads the design team with an emphasis on meeting the aesthetic and practical requirements of every project. Based in Dallas, TX, Sarah supports clients nationwide. Visit her LinkedIn profile here.

Sarah Palmer Author



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