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Oh my, this is perhaps the most important step of all!  Don't blow it.

Every wine room, mechanically cooled or not, needs a vapor barrier.  You want to keep the humidity of the surrounding area out of your wine room and away from the walls.  If humidity is allowed to reach the walls, condensation will form on the walls, since they are cold, and mold and mildew will begin to form.  Yuck.  And if your wall is drywall, it will become "wetwall," and any racks mounted on the wall will eventually fall off.  Really.  Trust us on this.

Exactly where you put the vapor barrier is important.  It does not go on the inside of the wine room!  The vapor barrier belongs on the outside (warm side) of the wine room!  Here's why.

The danger point is where a cold surface meets humidity.  That's where the condensation forms.  So your objective should be to stop the humidity before it gets anywhere near the cold backside of the wine room wall.

If you put the vapor barrier against the wall, then the humidity can seep into the insulation and condense against the vapor barrier, forming mold there because it is trapped between the insulation and the vapor barrier.  If you put the vapor barrier on the outside of the insulation, then you have stopped the humidity from reaching the cold wall.  The outside edge of the insulation against the vapor barrier is not going to get very cold due to the very nature of insulation's purpose in life, so the humidity side of the vapor barrier is not going to be cold and will thus not form a condensate.

So put the vapor barrier on the side of the insulation away from the wine room!

Just to be clear, when we say "vapor barrier," we mean polyethylene film, as thick as you can buy it (typically 6mm).  You can staple it in place.  OR ... you can use closed-cell spray-on insulation.

Vapor barrier on backside of wine room wall

The following steps assume traditional insulation will be used.  If you are using closed-cell spray-on insulation, then you can skip this section ... except to take note of the text starting with baffles and continuing to the end of the page.

If you are doing all new construction or have access to the back side of the wine room wall, then it is easy.  Put up the vapor barrier (as shown above), stuff in the insulation from the other side, put up your wall, etc. 

But if you are working with existing construction, you usually can't get to the outside back of the wall to install the vapor barrier; so you must install it from the inside, by wrapping the studs.  This is a bit of a pain in the neck, but it is readily achievable.  Wrap carefully and thoroughly, in as long a continuous sheet as possible, and tape over any minor tears.  Cover everything, from ceiling to floor, no exceptions (except as noted below).  The vapor barrier should be like a balloon around your room.

Vapor barrier wrapped around studs from inside


You do the ceiling the same way -- wrap the joists, assuming you can't get to the ceiling from topside.  If the floor is open, wrap it too.  If you started with a concrete floor and built up a new floor, you should have put down a layer of vapor barrier first, as previously discussed.  If you can't get to the floor area via the floor itself, consider getting to it via the ceiling below, as shown earlier during the discussion of boxing in the ends of the joists.

If your wine room ceiling is against the roof, then it is essential that you use or maintain and don't obstruct BAFFLES that are mounted against the inside of the roof.  These baffles are essential for maintaining proper air circulation on the inside of the roof.  You can put a vapor barrier over them (but not between them and the roof), as shown here.

Roof Baffle

CAUTION:  If you are installing a basement wine room without a cooler, you should not completely wrap the ceiling.  In this particular case, you need to allow a small escape for humidity from inside the room.  Consult Richard Gold's book for more information.  Also, Tyvek is not an acceptable substitute for a poly vapor barrier, as water vapor (but not water) can pass through it.

If you are installing against poured concrete, we advise leaving a gap between the wall and the vapor barrier for air to circulate to help evaporate any seepage through the concrete.

When you have installed a vapor barrier on all four walls, the ceiling, and the floor, you are ready to insulate.

Want to protect against mold and mildew even more?  This is particularly useful if you are rebuilding a wine room due to a problem.  One of our customers recommended the following product, which they bought at Home Depot:  Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3 Primer/Sealer - "it touts its resistance to mold/mildew in high humidity ... and has good reviews on the web."  You may wish to use it on the wall behind the vapor barrier at this point.

And now, let's continue with Step 8:  Install insulation.

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