Low-pressure, closed-cell spray foam helps maintain wine at its finest
Spray polyurethane foam and wine. Not necessarily a combination that readily comes to mind, and yet, as one Canadian design-build firm and their clientele of discriminating oenophiles have discovered, it is an unmatched combination.
The unlikely combination of spray foam and wine is very important to Robb Denomme, CEO of Genuwine Cellars. “Absolutely,” Denomme says. “Fine wine is a perishable investment and its protection should be a paramount concern. Given this, we absolutely use spray foam as not only a vapor barrier and an insulator, but also as an adhesive. It is integral to our design.”
Denomme and his business partner, Lance Kingma, are both graduates of the International Sommelier Guild. As part of that training, they have learned the craft of constructing wine cellars – by hand. Taking that knowledge and applying on a larger scale, together they run, Genuwine Cellars, a Winnipeg, MB-based company that specializes in designing and constructing subterranean spiral and above ground wine storage. As they have learned, spray polyurethane foam happens to play a large role in the design process.
Foaming A Subterranean Cellar
Denomme and Kingma have discovered that the ideal subterranean spiral wine cellar begins with a 10-foot hole in the ground. “We can install these cellars in the ground even below basements,” Denomme explains. “We just need to excavate approximately 10 feet to be able to accommodate the tower for the spiral staircase, which has a nine-foot diameter and ranges from seven- to nine-feet high.”
The cellars can be installed as part of new construction, or as part of a renovation project. Of course, the storage racking system can also be fitted aboveground within a basement or a crawlspace, if excavation work is undesirable.
One of the major factors with wine storage is keeping it at the correct temperature, and that is where spray polyurethane foam comes into play.
A key component of the storage cellars are the specially designed cooling units that are installed to maintain a constant temperature of 55°F/13°C and keep humidity levels within optimal ranges.
“If the bottles are kept at an incorrect temperature, they can go off,” meaning they can turn sour or simply not mature, Denomme helpfully explains the complex chemistry behind wine storage in simple terms. “Additionally, regular air conditioning can pull the humidity from the air and cause the corks to dry out.”
To prevent this, Genuwine pairs their cooling units with an insulating vapor barrier of spray polyurethane foam. The SPF acts as insulation, as well as a vapor barrier, ensuring that regardless of the cellar’s location, whether subterranean or freestanding, the wine will remain housed in a constant climate.
Installer Floriian Vorreiter, describes the process. “We use Versi-Foam’s closed-cell foam kits. So far, the jobs have required one kit per cellar.”
In addition to convenient measuring and lack of drums, the kits also include the application equipment. There is no need to worry about cleaning hoses and guns. Vorreiter testifies to the ease of application, “I love the fact that I don’t have to deal with hose cleanup, proportioners, etc.,” he says. “I simply put on my PPE, grab the kit, and go.”
That PPE consists of a disposable full-body Tyvek suit when spraying, eye protection, gloves, and a 3M respirator with organic vapor cartridges.
Although the Versi-Foam products do not contain any urea formaldehyde, VOCs, CFCs, or Penta-BDEs, proper PPE requirements – including confined space requirements – must be observed.
In addition to his respirator, Vorreiter says, “I’ll use an air mover with an attached ventilation system and ducting to circulate the air because some of these areas get really tight.”
The tightness of the areas make them confined spaces, which in turn require additional precautions, including that additional ventilation, as well as a spotter posted at the entrance of the cellar.
He continues, “I’ll be down in the hole, between the tower that we’ve built and the space that I need to foam, so it helps to have someone above me – not only leading the hose to wherever I need it so that it doesn’t dip into the freshly sprayed foam, but also for safety as well.”
“Uncorking” The Spray Foam
The average cellar installation takes approximately five days – with the foam installation occurring mid-way through the process, and taking usually a day to complete.
“We spray the foam onto the new concrete,” Vorreiter states. “There isn’t any need for surface prep because these are all new construction.”
Although the temperature in basements can vary, Vorreiter has yet to experience the upper end of the thermometer. “On my installs, the temperature has only ever been too low,” he says. “This means that I have to put a heater on the spray foam kit and heat it up so that the foam is at the proper working temperature. But fortunately, we haven’t had to deal with cooling or DH equipment – yet.”
The supplied gun sprays the low-pressure, closed-cell foam at a rate of approximately six pounds per minute, allowing for consistent, steady spray and texture. “I usually apply the foam at a thickness of two- to three-inches,” says Vorreiter.
No topcoat or thermal barrier is necessary because the foam is sandwiched
in between the walls of the cellar.
All of Vorreiter’s projects have been residential installations. Denomme and Kingma have worked with a wide-range of projects for residential and commercial clients. Each project is unique – reflecting the taste and wine collection of the client. But the winning combo that they all have in common is the unlikely pairing of wine and spray polyurethane foam. And that is a pairing that is likely to endure.
Photos courtesy of Genuwine Cellars
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