Vernot traditional wooden wine cellar

What are VOCs?

VOCs, which stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. Most scents or odors are of VOCs.

They are detectable to the human nose. VOCs can be found in many oil-based stains used to stain woods.

Where are VOCs present?

VOCs are actually present in many different types of household products, glues, repellants, air fresheners, and building materials.

The materials to take into consideration for your wine cellar would be the stains used on the wood for your cellar.

Why are VOCs bad for wine cellars and wine rooms?

Stains and finishes that have high Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) should not be used in a wine cellar, because they will give off gas, which will become a room vapor that can easily be absorbed into the wine bottles through the cork, and consequently ruin the wine inside.

Oil based stains, lacquer-based finishes, and even some brands of water-based stains have high levels of VOC. These types of finishes and stains continue to off-gas long after installation because the wine storage room is sealed, and thus, no fresh air is cycled into the room from the refrigeration system.

Any chemical gas that exists in the wine storage room or that is off-gassed over time will remain inside the room.

Do all wine cellars and wine rooms contain VOCs?

No, not all wine rooms and cellars contain VOCs. The key is choosing the right materials to avoid VOCs.

As mentioned above, oil-based stains contain VOCs. A reputable wine cellar company will only use water-based stains to avoid the high concentration of VOCs in your wine cellar. Water-based stains are much better overall for wine rooms and cellars for several reasons:

  • Water based products are more UV resistant than solvent products that will get hazy and lose their color clarity.
  • Water-borne products are “green” and environmentally friendly.


Want more reasons to avoid oil-based stains and the VOCs they contain? Consider this:

  • Oil-based stains typically have six times the VOCs of water-borne stains and finishes.
  • Oil based stains need up to 30 days to cure and must be well- ventilated during this curing time to avoid polluting the wine cellar with VOC’s.
  • Foreign countries have not regulated the use of oil-based stains as stringently as the U.S. E.P.A. Depending on where your product is from, that could be a real issue.
  • As part of the natural aging process of wine, your cork allows air into your bottle. If your wine is contained in wine room with high concentrations of VOCs, that will likely impact the integrity of the wine

Why wine cellar installation specialists only use water-based stains.

Obviously, all the reasons above are more than enough to influence any wine cellar builder to only use water-based stains. For anyone who thinks water-based is inferior to oil-based, consider this:

  • Water-based stains typically dry quickly.
  • Water-based stains are virtually odor-free.
  • Water-based stain products are largely composed of water, so their dry time is a fraction of that to oil-based products.
  • Water-bases stains penetrate deep into the grain of the wood giving a richer finish with only a single coat, saving time and money.

Does the VOC issue go away once the cellar is built?

Unfortunately, no. Stains that have high VOCs continue to off-gas long after installation because the wine storage room is sealed, so again, no fresh air is entering into the room from the refrigeration system. Any chemical gas that exists in the wine storage room time will remain inside the room. That’s bad news for wine and not worth the risk!

Here at Heritage Vine we only uses water-based stains when building custom wine cellars and wine rooms. If you’re looking to create a wine cellar that’s not only beautiful but safe, contact us to learn more. VOCs impact wine and therefore are never a part of our wine room fabrication process.

What would you like to create?

Let’s talk about your vision. Traditional or modern; cellar, room or wall - together, we will create a custom wine cellar that reflects your taste, and your heritage.